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Located in the Rajshahi division of the country, Puthia has been a place steeped in tradition and history; a shrine for Hindu temple architecture. The ancient city of Puthia was situated in the heart of three river tributaries -- the Narod in the south, the Musakha in the west and the Hoja streams along the city's northern belt. The first mention of Puthia has been found in the late fourth century AD or around early fifth century AD.
Shashadhar Pathok, a Brahmin, was born in Puthia -- a descendent of five generation of saints. Bothshacharjo was Pathok's only son who lived in the monastery. Renowned for his practice of yoga and meditation, Bothshacharjo was esteemed for his expertise in astronomy.
In 1576 AD the Mughal Emperor Akbar captured Bengal and further succeeded in expanding his great empire. Bengal was divided into five provinces and selected governors, Subedars were reportable to the seat of the Mughal Empire.
In time the Subedars proclaimed independence and refused to send taxes to the court of Delhi. This infuriated the Mughal Emperor who sent his general to Bengal so that such mutiny may be neutralised.
The Mughal general camped at Chandrakala, not far from Puthia. Here, through a single mission, Bakhar Kha was defeated and his mutiny nullified. It was during this expedition that the general consulted Bothshacharjo and upon his advice succeeded to deliver his conquest.
The legend of this momentous engagement remains a mysterious secret of the era. The general was very pleased with Bothshacharjo and decided to gift him large domains of land.
Bothshacharjo was not keen as such in mortal worldly lifestyle and continued to lead a virtuous life. On his behalf, his son, Pitambor received the expanse of land and in turn became a significant landlord.
To this day, the founder of kingdom of Puthia, Botshacharjo is admired and revered for his deeds. The people of Puthia idolise him and his wooden footwear is still symbolically worshipped.
After the death of Pitambor, his son Nilambor inherited his rule and all the kings of Puthia are ascertained to be his direct descendants. It is famed that during Nilambor's lifetime his youngest son Anondoram, by a decree of the Mughal emperor, received the title of a king while upon his eldest son Ratikanto was bestowed the title of a Thakur. This was due to his irredeemable acts against his subjects and, which were not taken lightly by his father. Thus the kings of Puthia are also acknowledged as Thakurs.
The city of temples
In Puthia, at present, nine temples stand upright in fairly good condition, four partially while two have ceased to exist. There were sixteen temples in total and it is estimated that fifteen may have been built at some time between 1810-1840 AD.
Puthia Shiv Mandir
This temple is also widely renowned as the Bhubenshori Temple as it is patterned in the architectural style of Bhubeneshwar, a city located in Bihar, now in India. On the first floor of this impressive structure a single room is located with extended balconies on two levels and located at the central median is the large Shiv Lingam. It is the largest black basalt linga in Bangladesh.
Five cupola domes crown the temple in an array of splendour. The cubicle is winged by twenty-meter long walls and each consists of five decorative arched doorways. Prayer sessions and other religious services are held here while the Shiv Chaturdarshi also known as Maha Shivratri -- the night of the worship of Shiva (on the 14th dark night of the new moon in the month of Falgun) is held sometime in March. Special prayers are offered to Lord Shiva, the powerful God of destruction.
Alongside the Shiv Mandir on the east lies the two-storied domed temple, which, in the past, belonged exclusively to the royal family. Pilgrimage journeys of Goddess Radha and Lord Gobindo on chariots were customarily held from this temple. There was a carnival of journeys with festivities held after a brief eighth-day stay of the Gods at this temple.
Most Dol Mandirs have unique characteristics. The distinct feature is defined by pyramidal construction of floors that are a size smaller than the one below. A classical dome embellished with fringes tops the fourth floor of the temple and open extended balconies with arched entrances square each floor.
On the ground floor there are twenty-eight such doorways; the first floor has twenty, third twelve and the fourth floor has four entrances. The shades and parapet of the building are in parallel length with the central structure. This twenty metre high temple is indeed grandiose and faces the majestic royal palace on the eastern perimeter. The temple was constructed in the late nineteenth century by the endowment of Queen Hemonto Kumari Debi of Puthia.
The temple is a symmetrical, three-dimensional shape of six equal sides of 14.6 metres in length. The roof is concave, topped by five domes. The central dome is in an imposing scale compared to the others. The domes are located in close proximity to the roof and aligned parallel to its sides.
The architectural plan suggests the temple is a squared cubicle in three levels of objective themes that projects the image of a large chariot.
The entire body of work that surmounts the temple walls as ornamentation is an exquisite representation of terra cotta art. Epic tales portraying heroic deeds and adventure from Ramayan and Mahabharat is represented well. Imaginative, fantasy and mythical animal forms as well as realistic images of royal journeys of the Mughal Emperor are masterfully transformed on the terra cotta.
This temple is a complex and carefully designed structure in red terra cotta, fashioned in the architectural style with identical features of the Kantoji Mandir of Dinajpur. It can therefore be stated that Gobindo Mandir has no such original characteristic.
The terra cotta work of this temple is identical to Kantoji and constructed in an indistinguishable pattern. It is built in the manner of the late medieval Bengal style but is an outstanding piece of architecture for its remarkable and exceptional terra cotta plaques.
Vedic gods and goddesses and mythological heroic characters are the main elements and essence of the artwork. Brahma, Shiv, Vishnu, Ganesh, Laxmi, Narayan, Chandi, Meneka, and Parboti are some of the deities that are distinctly exhibited.
The devotees of this temple are believers of Vedism or Brahmanism that is the precursor of the Hindu religion. They exclusively worship fire, water, heroic gods, and perform many sacrifices for an afterlife in the heavenly worlds of their ancestors. The temple shows no reverence or admiration towards any other religion.
The craftsmanship of this Gobindo Mandir is a monumental accomplishment as it intelligibly balances Indo-Persian genre of surface designs. It reflects legendary tales and sagas of Vedic mythology and is a discerning, imaginative work of art.
By Maheen Khan and Selim Ahmed
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