Written by Jhilik Chakraborty.
Bishnupur or Vishnupur is a little town in the Bankura district of West Bengal. The town was the administrative capital under the reign of the Malla kings. It is believed that the town derives its name from the Hindu God, Vishnu.
Bishnupur has a rich cultural past, and much of this is evident in the architecture and intricate handicraft that the town boasts of. The town is especially known for its intricate terracotta work. Jewellery, artefacts and pottery made of terracotta are particularly known.
Bishnupur is also known for its wide variety of Baluchari sarees, a distinct musical Gharana, distinctive art of making Dashavatar and Naqsh Tash, articles of conch cells, coconut shell carving, bell metal craft, lantern etc.
The most interesting remains found in Bishnupur are a number of terracotta temples as well as stone temples representing the most complete set of specimens of the Kalinga school of temple architecture as well as the typical Bengali style of temple architecture.
The best season to visit Bishnupur is winter. The temperature remains comfortable and is apt for sightseeing. The best months to visit are October, November, December, February, March. August marks the beginning of the Monsoon season and lasts till early October.
There are many tourist spots in Bishnupur, out of which I will discuss the top tourist places of Bishnupur.
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 AD. This is the oldest brick temple in Bishnupur and is shaped like 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. However, this heritage site is protected under the Archeological Survey of India(ASI).
2. Radha Govinda Temple
Radha Govinda Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu located in Bishnupur town in Bankura district of West Bengal. The temple was built by Krishna Singh, the Malla king in 1729 CE. The temple is situated right opposite Radha Madhav Temple.
The temple is located about two km from Bishnupur bus stand,4.5 km from Bishnupur Junction Railway Station and 2.5 km from Bishnupur new bus stand. There are seven Eka Ratna (meaning single pinnacle)temples located in Bishnupur. Radha Govinda temple is one of them.
It is a beautiful laterite temple built as per Eka Ratna temple architecture style dedicated to Lord Krishna. The temple has a sloping roof surmounted by a single shikhara thus making it as Eka Ratna. The temple is made of rust-coloured laterite.
The roof of the temple is a typical Bengali ‘Chala’ type surmounted by a shikhara or tower. There are covered porches on three sides around the sanctum. Except for the rear wall, on each of the three sides of the temple, there are three arched openings.
3. Madan Mohan Temple
The Madanmohan temple was built by king Durjana Singh Dev by the late 17th century. The architecture of the temple is Eka Ratna style, has a square flat roof with curved cornices and a pinnacle over the top.
Madanmohan temple is one of those temples in Bishnupur where the deity is still worshipped. The terracotta temple was constructed within the fort complex in 1694 AD. It was built in the Eka Ratna style of temple architecture with a square flat roof, cornices that are curved and a pinnacle on the top.
This temple is even more ornately carved and sculptured than the other famous terracotta temples in Bishnupur. Anecdotes and stories of the legend of Lord Vishnu, also known as Madan Mohan are quite famous in Bishnupur and also during the rule of Malla kings. Stories from the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Puranas, adorn the ceilings and walls in the form of paintings and carvings.
4. Jorebangla Temple
The Jorbangla temple resembles two thatched huts joined together and a single tower. This temple and brick were built by the Malla King Raghunath Singh in 1655. The structure was erected on a high 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. The architecture includes two skeuomorphic construction that depicts the conventional thatched huts of the region, both the huts are connected together and are surmounted by a single tower.
In the local language, such huts are known as the porch. With the help of laterite bricks, the entire temple is erected on a high elevated platform which is one metre in height. Moreover, the roofs of the temple boast a classical Chala architecture along with the terracotta works that are unequally enthralling.
5. Gum Garh
The word “Gum Garh” can be translated to “torture tower”.It is said that if one enters inside this tower, he cannot return. This little known monument is located in the interior of Bishnupur. It is situated on top of a small mound.
Nothing is known about the construction period or even the purpose of this structure. The structure has no door or window. It is square in shape. Few people believed that it was used as a prison and the others believe that it was used as a granary.
6. Garh Darwaja
Garh Darwaja is a Terracotta gateway situated in Bishnupur. This gateway is also known as the “Chota Patthar Darwaja “ or “small gateway” of Bishnupur. Garh Darwaja is an arched terracotta structure with a plain exterior.
At a short distance from this gateway lies another gateway which is larger in size and is known as the “Bara Patthar Gateway” or “Main Gateway” of Bishnupur.
Apart from the terracotta temples and monuments, there are some places not very far away from Bishnupur which gives us immense scenic beauty.
Susunia is a 1500 ft high hill of Southern West Bengal, situated at the northwestern part of Bankura district. It is often believed that Raja Chandra Varma had once built his fort on this hill. With plenty of natural beauty in the form of cascading waterfalls, plenty of greenery and river Gandheshwari flowing down the hill.
Susunia is a picture-perfect look with the rock faces meant for mountaineers. Susunia has rich resources when it comes to medicine. It is well known as an archaeological and fossil site. The fossil of lion, giraffe, hyena and many other animal species was discovered from this area.
The oldest rock inspiration of West Bengal is located here. There is an ancient curved monolith standing at the point where the spring water is coming out of another stone curved project. The top of the hill is tough to climb because of the stony path through the forest. But it can be a thrilling experience for mountaineers.
Rock climbing and camping are organised in the winter season. Netkamla and Bindya Jam are the villages near Susunia which houses the famous Dokra art craftsmen.
Mukutmanipur is 80 km from Bishnupur. It’s a place of relaxation, far away from the crowded and busy life. The 86 sq Km giant lake with blue deep water, formed by the Kangsabati water reservoir provides an irresistible temptation to take a boat ride. The special attraction point is Deer Park,5.5 km away from the main place.
9. Dal Madol
The cannon named Dal Madol was built by the Malla kings to fight the Maratha invasion. This cannon is near Chinnamasta 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 cm.
It was built in the year 1742 under Raja Gopal Singh to protect Bishnupur from the Marathas. The cannon is built with iron materials and does not have any rust, though it has been exposed to rain and sun since the 18th century.
Dal Madol cannon is massive, measuring about 4 meters in length and having a barrel of approx. 30 cm. Due to its enormous size, large wheels and elephants were required to move the cannon to battlefields.
10. Acharya Jogesh Chandra Purakriti Bhawan
The Acharya Jogesh Chandra Purakriti Bhawan in Bishnupur is a museum related to art and archaeology. In the archaeological gallery, there are tools from the Mesolithic and Paleolithic era, metal ornaments, terracotta structures etc.
This Museum accounts for the coins and artefacts from the ancient days of Bishnupur, starting from the Gupta kings to the Pal kingdom. Also, there are contemporary art and paintings, manuscripts and rare photographs.
A section of the Bhawan is dedicated to the musical culture of Bishnupur Gharana and has many instruments and photographs displayed. The Bhawan remains open on Saturdays and Sundays for the tourists.
11. Bishnupur Fair
The Bishnupur fair (mela) is held every year around the last week of December. This fair stretches over four days and people from all the nearby villages come together to celebrate the agricultural season. A recent addition is the Bishnupur Utsav, held after the mela.
It is a classical music and dance festival in recognition of the ‘’Bishnupur Gharana’’ in music. Nowadays every year, many celebrity singers also attend the fair to increase the speciality of the fair.
12. Shopping In Bishnupur
Bishnupur is also the place for shopaholics. Bishnupur is widely famous for its Baluchari sarees, shawls. It is a unique sari which is handwoven in richly dyed silk. They depict stories from epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Some designs include kings, noblemen and graceful dancing girls with celebratory scenes and ceremonies. Many sari retail shops are available on the streets of Bishnupur. Terracotta products like handmade jars, disks, horses, elephants and Ganesha are also popular buys. Bellmetalware and conch-shell jewellery are also worth buying.
13. Joypur Jungle
It’s a dense forest located 10KM away from Bishnupur. It’s a thick forest stippled with sky crapping Sal, Palash, Kusum, Mohua, Neem and Teak trees, which does not allow the daring sunlight to touch the bottom at some places.
Staying in an exceedingly dense forest with noticed deer herds crossing the lush forest path every now and then. One can also find elephants crossing the roads but very rare. There are also some resorts which are located focussing on the forest itself. Adventurous people can have a thrilling night stay there.
Apart from the above-mentioned places and things to do, there are many other places to visit in Bishnupur. One can have a great travel experience in this small city especially people who love to do photography, art and craft lovers and shopping lovers.
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Jhilik Chakraborty is a Masters student (English Language and Literature) of St Xavier’s University, Kolkata, a contributor at The Strong Traveller. She is a fun loving friendly person who likes to make new friends, meet new people. Although a bit health conscious, but loves to eat, travel, make new experience with life, loves to read, love for photography. Her hobbies are singing and painting.