Thursday, January 14, 2016

Bishnupur: Land of Terracotta and Rich History

bishnupur west bengal terracotta temples

A quaint village once, the first impression of Bishnupur was totally surprising because the richness of heritage wasn't reflected on the overall ambiance of the place. When I first came to visit the place, it was no different from regular sleepy town in West Bengal. People out there took the heritage matter very nonchalantly as I could easily see houses were built on the same spot where these ancient terracotta temples and remnants of erstwhile rulers had embellished the place. People dipped in the same heritage lake where once Mallah kings built dam and other things. Most of these wonderful work of art was neglected for decades, suffered vagaries of weather and stolen.

Bishnupur boasts of a rich history, though during the passage of time the glory somewhere lost in oblivion. The ancient terracotta relics were no doubt wonderful, a treat for any history or archaeological student, or matter-of-fact any creative person, but somewhere I felt the sweet spot was missing, which I found in Agra, Rajasthan and other ancient and medieval historical places.

History of Bishnupur

bishnupur terracotta temples
@ Radha Madhav Temple
The history of this ancient town is mired in stories, myths, certain fantasized tales. Legend says in 7th century BC, the king of Jayanagar, a small province near Vrindavan, went for pilgrimage to Puri (modern day Odisha) with his pregnant wife. On the way to Puri, his wife experienced a labor pain, so they stopped at Laugram village near modern day Kotulpur, and bore a boy in a hut of a Brahmin family. After spending sometimes there, probably provided enough wealth to Brahmin family, they went to fulfill their pilgrimage ambition.

In those days it took years to reach one place to others, so the boy started to grow in the village with Brahmin family. One day while grazing his cows, the Brahmin saw an incredible scene where the little boy fell asleep on the field, and a big snake protected his head from scorching heat with its big hood. After seeing this, the old Brahmin realized that it was not a regular incident, and the boy had some extraordinary caliber, so then onward he took special care of the child. He had initiated special training for the boy including wrestling, sword fight and in-depth study on Hindu scriptures. In the premature age of 15, the boy got fame as a wrestler, and the local king titled him with ‘King of Wrestler’. We don’t know anything about his real father though, but we learned that in the later years he was crowned as the local king and famous as ‘Adi Mallah’ or first ‘Raghubir’. Later, he had shifted his capital to Bishnupur and created famous Mrinamoyee Temple. The successor of the king, Raghubir the 2nd had transformed himself into a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu and created lots of temples in that region. The name Bishnupur was given in respect of Lord Vishnu and idolized the God everyone in the province.

There are number of festivals and fairs organized in Bishnupur. You can enjoy the trip more if you land at the right time.

April 14 – Lord Shiva Festival where from different people from nearby villages come to here to enjoy few days of Lord Shiva festival.

August 16 – Jhapan Utsav is popular in Bishnupur and also known for its uniqueness in Bengal. Here snake charmers come with their pets and show different snake stunts.

December 23-27 – Bishnupur Mela, the famous one where artisans, singers, baul artists all come to the place and exhibit their talent.

Journey to Bishnupur

joypur forest road bishnupur
Winding through Joypur Forest road
The journey to Bishnupur was one hell of a ride! It took more than 5 hours to cover 145 km because of bumpy road all throughout till Joynagar. I and my friend had started early morning from Kolkata in his hatchback. The road till Dankuni was relatively smooth but things turned into ugly sore when we crossed Dankuni flyover and took Ahalabai Holkar Road. The road till Champadanga was so pathetic, we had to drive at a speed of 20k/h. From Champadanga to Arambagh we were relieved a bit, but again, from onward till Kotulpur, we again experienced bumps every minute.

While returning from Bishnupur, we took a different route, and realized that it was the route to be chosen in the first place. We take Champadanga to Tarekeshwar and via Haripal, Singur reached Durgapur Expressway and reached Kolkata in less 3 hours.


If you are going by road on your own car, never trust Google Map because it shows the shortest route, which is Dankuni to Champadanga via Ahalabai Holkar Road.

Most of the buses from Kolkata also come through that road, so if you go on public transport, it is recommended to take train from Kolkata. Or come at Kharagpur/Midnapur/Bardhman/Durgapur by train form Howrah.

For more about rail timing and other information, check the below link:

What to see in Bishnupur?

Bishnupur is known for India’s first and the largest terracotta temples. The whole area is sprinkled with numerous temples, relics, gates and other stuff made of terracotta. Terracotta word originated from Latin word, which means Terra = Earth or Clay and Cotta = Dry Coating or Upper Garment of a man. Terracotta means Baked Clay Work.

terracotta crafts on the wall of bishnupur temple
Exquisite Terracotta craft
You have to stay for at least couple of days to explore the place fully. To understand the significance temples, you need to study and see the place from a deeper perspective.


Don’t miss the Joypur Forest, which is probably the biggest stretch of forest in that region. The forest stretches nearly 120 square kilometers with a watch tower to catch a glimpse of early morning bird watching, cheetals and if lucky wild elephants.

Jorbangla Temple

This wonderful art of clay was built in 1655 AD by King Raghunath Singha Dev II. The walls are carved with stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. The roof and temple represents the classical Bengal village huts, and the rooms and walls are carved with medieval battle scenes.


This is claimed to be the oldest pyramidal tower shaped terracotta temple. The temple is surrounded by turrets ideated by King Bir Himbira in 17th century. 

There are number of other exquisite temples to visit in Bishnupur such as:

  • Radhamadhab Temple
  • Kalachand Temple
  • Radha Govinda Temple
  • Mrinmoyee Temple
  • Chinnamasta Temple
Official Information

Department of Tourism , Government of West Bengal 2, Brabourne Road Kolkata - 700 001 Phone: +91-33-2225-4565/8183/4723-25 Fax:+91-33-2225-4565 E-mail:

Tourism Centre , 3/2 B.B.D. Bag (East) Kolkata - 700 001 Phone: +91-33-2248 8271/5168 2210-3199, 2243-7260 Fax: +91-33-2248 5168

Tourism Centre, M-4 Building, Hill Cart Road Siliguri, Dist: Darjeeling Ph: +91-353-2511974, 2511979, Telefax: +91-353-2517561

West Bengal Tourism Office, 1, Nehru Road, Darjeeling 734101 (WB) Phone: +91-354-2254050/2254102

West Bengal Tourism Office, State Emporia Building (1st floor) Baba Kharak Singh Marg New Delhi - 110 001 Phone: +91-11-2374 2840

West Bengal Information Bureau, West Bengal Youth Hostel, 18, Wallajah Road, Chennai Phone: +91-44-2841 1046

West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Ltd, Netaji Indoor Stadium Kolkata - 700 021 Phone; +91-33-2248 7302/8256/8242/7318/9416, 2210 3194 Fax: +91-33-2248 8290 E-mail:

What to buy?

terracotta gifts bishnupur

Bankura Horse is famous of its unique terracotta sculpture. These horses are available both in terracotta and wooden versions.

You can also find rich and exquisite Baluchari Saris in Bishnupur. The traditional sarees are crafted with Ramayana and Mahabharata symbols. These days artisans are creating new contemporary designs for tourists.

You can find cheap and variety of conch shell items including beads, decorative pieces, pen stand, incense holder etc. Also, you can buy terracotta conch shells, which is dart cheap.


Although it is now rare to find Dashaavatar deck of cards in the market, still you can find it in Bishnupur. You go to Shankhari Bazaar (near Madan Mohan temple), Manshatala where Fouzdaar family continues with their traditional craft of this unique Dashavataar cards. 

Where to stay

Well, the best place is to stay is near Joypur Forest where you can find a two resorts with sprawling campus surrounded by lush green ambiance. The atmosphere is pristine, food is good and accommodation is decent. 

If you want to stay in Bishnupur, there are number of lodges ranging from budget to luxury. 

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