The Terracotta Temples of Dubrajpur

Situated 35km north-west of Bolpur and only 4km from the unique Chandranath Shiva Temple, the small town of Dubrajpur in West Bengal is home to a couple of terracotta temple clusters, both located in the west of the town. If you’re using a car you can forget about driving directly to them as the lanes are simply too narrow, these temples are best accessed on foot having parked somewhere near the main street through town.

Namopara Cluster of Temples

These are three east-facing Shiva temples sharing a common platform. The northern temple is a rekha deul, the middle appears to be a navaratna, and the southern one is a charchala. Sukhamay Bandopadhyay in his book “Temples of Birbhum” mentions that old people of the village say that the central temple was originally a trayodasratna (thirteen pinnacled) temple, but some of the ratnas have crumbled away. He also states the temple was constructed by Ram Chandra Nayek, sometime in the mid 18th century.

The main terracotta panels above the doorway of the central temple depicts the marriage of Shiva, plus Mahishasurmardini Durga, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Kali standing on Shiva, and others I’m not entirely sure of. Unfortunately the state of these terracotta panels is not good at all, many of the images have been obscured by a splattering of yellow paint that has been applied around the doorway in a very haphazard way.

There are other terracotta panels on this temple, it’s hard to know for sure if these are original or part of a badly executed restoration. They seem a little out of place to me, but they do show signs of severe weathering which suggests they have been around for a long time, be it on this temple or some other now destroyed temple.

Quite a lot of stucco decoration still survives on the upper third of the front elevation, but much of it has crumbled away. It’s sad to see a temple get into this state, and nobody appears to be too concerned towards doing anything about it.

The southern charchala temple has the best preserved stucco with creepers, flowers and geometric motifs. The northern rekha deul temple is completely plain.

Ojhapara Cluster of Temples

180m north-west of the Namopara temple cluster, here we have five north-facing Shiva temples, three sharing a common platform to the west, and two quite recently painted and undecorated temples sharing another platform on the east side. The first three temples were founded by the Mahato family, the remaining two by the Ojha family, both from the same village. Descendants from the Ojha family still maintain the temples here, all of which were constructed in the middle of the 19th century.

The main temple here appears to be a true trayodasratna (thirteen pinnacled) temple, and is in a slightly better condition than it’s alleged counter-part in the Namopara cluster. The terracotta panels above the entrance depicts the court of Rama.

But I was more taken by other the motifs on the front elevation, including battle scenes, many occurrences of horses and horsemen, elephants, and depictions of the avatars of Vishnu.

The two flanking temples have little terracotta work, but some nice stucco decoration does still exist. I didn’t photograph the remaining two undecorated and restored temples founded by the Ojha family.

None of these temples are under ASI or State Archeology protection. Sukhamay Bandopadhyay in his book “Temples of Birbhum” comments that “Immediate effort is needed for preservation of these beautiful monuments”. He wrote that in 1984, and here we are 40 years later and nothing has changed, just further decay and deterioration.

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