Bishnupur is a town in the Bankura District of West Bengal and located at about 132 km from Kolkata. It is famous for its terracotta temples and Baluchari sarees. The town has a glorious past that is reflected in its rich architecture, music and handicrafts such as pottery and weaving. It prospered in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Ruled by a line of Hindu Rajas of the Malla dynasty, Bishnupur developed a unique form of architecture and has perhaps the most brilliant and detailed terracotta work in Eastern India that has withstood the ravages of time. The Terracotta tiles depict stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. The Temples like the Shyam Ray Temple, the twin shrines of Jorbangla and the Rasmancha are a must visit. Apart from its heritage, Bishnupur is also known for its traditional handloom sarees. Pottery, artiefacts and even jewellery made of terracotta in Bishnupur are also very popular. Bishnupur is also famous for the School of Hindustani Music which flourished under royal patronage along with the Bishnupur School of Painting. This style of music is still being kept alive in local academies of music. The history of Bishnupur can be traced back to 694 AD, when King Raghunath founded the Malla dynasty. However, it was much later in 994 AD that the place was named Bishnupur. The name is derived from the name of the Hindu God Vishnu. The most powerful king of the dynasty was King Raghunath Singh Dev II, who ruled from 1626 AD. At that time the administration of Bengal was in the hands of Shah Lahan and his son Shuja. He developed a close friendship with the king and there followed a period of peace when art and music already flourishing, reached great heights. It was during this period that the Jorbangla Temple was erected.
The most famous art form of Bishnupur is terracotta work. Apart from the temples, terracotta pottery, articrafts and even jewellery are popular. One of the most exquisite sarees in India called the Baluchari Sarees is created by craftsmen of this place. The silk strands are dyed separately and then put into a loom. One sari may have an entire episode from the Mahabharata woven into its border and Pallu. Bishnupur is also famous for the metal craft, popularly known as 'Dokra'.
The Rasmancha pavilion used for housing the idols of Lord Krishna from other temples during the Rash festival was built in brick by King Veer Hambir in 1600 A.D. This is the oldest brick temple in Bishnupur and is shaped as an elongated pyramidal tower surrounded by hut-shaped turrets. The outermost gallery is elegantly surrounded by Bengal hut-type roofs. The floor is paved with bricks. The entire structure stands on a high platform made up of laterite blocks. Good quality clay is locally available in plenty for making the bricks and terracotta plaques used in the construction of the temples and decorative images.
The Jorebangla Temple resembles two thatched huts joined together and a single tower. This Temple in brick was built by the Malla King Raghunath Singh in 1655. The structure was erected on one metre high platform using laterite bricks. The entire outer surface is decorated with terracotta plaques displaying various aspects of human life and culture, gods and goddesses, animals, floral and geometrical designs.
Madan Mohan Temple
The Madan Mohan Temple of Bishnupur is a Hindu temple situated in Bankura district. This temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna. 'Madan Mohan' is another name of Lord Krishna. This temple was built by King Durjana Singh Deva of Malla Dynasty in the year 1694. It is one of the largest temple of Bishnupur. It is made up of brick with terracotta tablets cladding the walls, portico and pillars of the temple.
The cannon named as Dal Madol was built by the Malla kings to fight the Maratha invasion. This Cannon is near Chinomasta temple and is significant for the people of Bishnupur as well as Bengal. The cannon measures about 3.8 m in length and has a barrel of 28.5 cms. It was built in the year 1742 under Raja Gopal Singh to protect Bishnupur from Marathas. The Cannon is built with iron materials and doesn’t have any rust, though it is exposed to rain and sun since 18th century.
The Bishnupur Mela is held every year around the last week of December, near the Madanmohan Temple. This fair stretches over four days and people from all the nearby villages come together to celebrate the end of the agricultural season. A recent addition is the Bishnupur Utsav, held immediately after the Mela. It is a classical music and dance festival in recognition of the ‘Bishnupur Gharana’ in music.