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250-year-old Temple in Bengal Village Faces Wrath of a River, Administration Remains Indifferent

The famous 'Char-Bangla' Temple in Murshidabad district in Bengal, built nearly 250 years ago by Rani Bhabani , faces an extreme threat of being washed away by a nearby river

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Char Bangla temple
Terracotta Art In Char-bangla Temple - Baranagar, West Bengal. Wikimedia
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  • The well-known ‘Char Bangla’ temple was dedicated to Lord Shiva by a Hindu queen more than 250 years ago
  • Rani Bhabani the queen of Nator, a province that became part of Bangladesh post-1947, constructed the temple
  • The local people fear that the temple, situated at Baranagar in the district’s Azimgunj area, may soon be wiped away by the choppy waters of the Bhagirathi river

Kolkata, July 15, 2017: A river in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district that is fast eroding its banks is on the verge of washing away a priceless part of history. The well-known ‘Char Bangla’ temple was dedicated to Lord Shiva by a Hindu queen more than 250 years ago. The sad thing is, the temple administration is very much aware of the serious situation but local people can only rely on praying for a miracle. The temple is still a famous tourist spot and it even finds mention in several popular tourism websites.

A number of exquisite terracotta temples had been built in Murshidabad by Rani Bhabani, the queen of Nator, a province that became part of Bangladesh post-1947. Incidentally, the district used to be the capital of undivided Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa till Siraj ud-Daula, the last independent ruler of the state, was defeated by the British East India Company in the Battle of Plassey in 1757. The Char Bangla Mandir was definitely one among the most unique and well-constructed temples the queen had built.

The local people fear that the temple, situated at Baranagar in the district’s Azimgunj area, may soon be wiped away by the choppy waters of the Bhagirathi river. Around 1760, when the temple was built the river used to flow at least a kilometre away. But since then the river has changed its course several times and eroded its banks, causing the loss of life, property, and farmland. Today, the mandir is barely 10 feet away from the river and its boundary wall has been damaged already.

Many historians say, Rani Bhabani reign was so vast that she used to be addressed as ‘Ardha Bangeshwar’ (lord of half of Bengal). It is also believed that after the death of her husband she became a devotee of Lord Shiva and built several temples dedicated to the god of destruction. After she passed away, her daughter used to offer prayer at the temples in Baranagar.

According to the Secretary of Murshidabad Zilla Itihas O Sanskriti Charcha Kendra, Arindam Roy, “One can find several ‘Ek Bangla’ or ‘Jor Bangla’ temples in Bengal but there is no other ‘Char Bangla’ temple.” The temples are exquisite because of their intricate and detailed terracotta sculptures that beautifully depict either daily village life or tales from Hindu mythology. The number of structures that were built in the form of a typical Bengal village is indicated by the terms Ek Bangla, Jor Bangla, and Char Bangla. In Bengali ‘Char’ means four, indicating that there are four houses.

ALSO READ: Ancient Hindu Temple Changu Narayan in Nepal Possesses Historical Significance

Roy said, “Terracotta originated in the Bankura district of Bengal and became famous across the country. Most people are not even aware that the temples at Baranagar are the finest examples of terracotta art. The Char Bangla temple is part of India’s history. Thousands of people come here every year.”

According to HT reports, the Bhagirathi began eroding its banks at Baranagar a few years ago. Many homes and several hectors of land have already been engulfed by the river. Yet, no serious action has been taken to save the Char Bangla temple. Roy mentioned that they had informed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the custodian of the temple, about the erosion a year ago.

Babulal Sardar, pradhan of the local Trinamool-run Mukundabagh gram panchayat, told the reporters: “I am aware of the danger the temple faces. If no action is taken immediately the river will destroy it. But the panchayat cannot set up embankments on its own.” When asked whether he informed the district administration, Sardar added: “We haven’t yet formally informed district administrative officers. We will write a letter to the block administration in a day or two.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior district administration official stated, “We were completely in the dark. We will take every possible step to save the historic structures.”

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter @dubumerang

 

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Durga Puja in Bengal to showcase its cross-cultural and trans-boundary influences

Months of protests and violence in the Darjeeling hills has failed to dampen the spirit of the Nepali population in Siliguri and in state capital Kolkata

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Durga Puja in West Bengal
Durga Puja. Wikimedia
  • Durga Puja in West Bengal has evolved into a platform of its cross-cultural and trans-boundary influences 
  • Months of protests and violence in the Darjeeling hills has failed to dampen the spirit of the Nepali population in Siliguri and in state capital Kolkata
  • In Kolkata, the Nepali consulate is expected to host around 100 to 150 members of the community from different parts of Bengal on Dasain

Kolkata/Siliguri, September 22, 2017: From goddess Durga draped in traditional Nepali attire for the grand celebration of Dasain, to the resplendent White Temple of Thailand to glimpses of London and the US — Durga Puja in West Bengal is not only a showcase of the state’s artistic heritage but has also evolved into a platform of its cross-cultural and trans-boundary influences.

Geopolitical tensions notwithstanding, slices of soft diplomacy and globalisation are on show in a clutch of pandals (marquees) in the state.

Take Dasain celebrations in Siliguri, for example.

Months of protests and violence in the Darjeeling hills has failed to dampen the spirit of the Nepali population in Siliguri (located at the base of the hill) and in state capital Kolkata where they are gearing up to celebrate the Nepali version of Durga Puja with pomp and splendour.

Recognised by the splotches of vermillion, rice and curd (“tika”) on the foreheads and the prominent sprigs of barley sprouts (jamara) tucked behind one’s ear, Dasain or Vijaya Dashami — Nepal’s biggest festival — has been observed in Siliguri for 25 years by its oldest social organisation, Bhanu Bhakta Samiti.

“Dasain is celebrated with the participation of all communities: Nepali, Bengali, Marwari, Bihari and others. Everyone is welcomed and people, cutting across political party lines, join in the revelry. The Bengalis even offer ‘anjali’ (floral offerings). The Gorkhaland issue is a political one and we do not let it affect our celebrations,” Krishna Lama (Pemba) of the Samiti told IANS.

“We have been having the Durga idol since the last three years. From Sashthi (September 26), we will begin the worship of the protima (idol). She will be dressed in traditional attire and we have roped in designer Alka Sharma for the costumes. Jamara (pot with wheat sprouts) is indispensable to the festival,” Lama said.

Parents and older members of the family apply tika and place the jamara as blessings for the younger ones. The jamara also signifies “shakti”.

In Kolkata, the Nepali consulate is expected to host around 100 to 150 members of the community from different parts of Bengal on Dasain.

“Every year, for over 25 years, we have a Nepali Durga puja in front of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation building. Cultural programmes are organised and representatives of around 32 samitis (clubs) across Bengal join in,” an official of the consulate told IANS.

Also readDurga Puja Pandal Decoration Catches Cinema Style, Baahubali Palace Will Be In Cruise This Year In Kolkata

Meanwhile, the Deshapriya Park committee, which registered the highest footfall for a pandal last year with five million visitors, has in store a slice of Thailand — a popular tourist destination for travellers from east India, served well with 2.5 hour-long flights.

It has recreated the 20th century Wat Rong Khun temple (or the White Temple) located just outside Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. The detailed all-white exterior with mirror trimmings stands out in stark contrast against the grassy park lawns.

Organisers have also replicated the temple’s piece-de-resistance: A mural depicting the burning Twin Towers as Angry Birds, Michael Jackson, Spiderman and other pop culture icons look on.

At Bhowanipore 75 <https://maps.google.com/?q=Bhowanipore+75&entry=gmail&source=g> Palli puja in south Kolkata, a stone’s throw from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s residence, a 40,000 square feet area has been converted into a typical London street. The theme is aligned to Banerjee’s vision of transforming Kolkata into London.

With 2017 being the Indo-UK Year of Culture, the club has tied up with the British Council and London Sharod Utsav.

“Big Ben and Westminster will also be replicated in the area. The idol is crafted from mahogany and brass and decorated with dokra art. Post-puja we are planning to install the idol permanently in any one of the famous institutions of the UK like the British museum or University of London,” Club Secretary Subir Das said.

The Star Spangled Banner is prominent at Badamtala Asar Sangha in south Kolkata. The club is calling its celebration ‘West Wind’ in consonance with the Year of US-India Travel and Tourism Partnership.

“Visually the pandal resembles a street in a hi-tech American city at night. The design is complete with skyscrapers and multi-hued buildings and lights,” said Snehasish, one of the artistic heads. (IANS)