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
  • 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.

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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