Why You Must Visit Pathra At Least Once In Your Lifetime- Experience the Anatomy of Terracotta That gets Overlooked





Shades of brown terracotta temple-relics put together in the middle of a continuous green- the panorama you get to see, as soon as you deboard your car at Pathra, a rather unknown name, even to the neighbourhood. The village block houses the age-old vintages alongside river Kansabati, while the village road abuts the temple zone. At dusk, the lighting sets the view into a delightful canvas. Just the right amount of colours for your eyes! The sky blue whooping down onto the rippling Kansabati, separated by a line of soothing green. Over and above, the terracotta architecture itself kindles the dormant painter in you.  Given its anonymity still, this place is totally an off-the-beaten the destination for the weekend.


pathra west bengal @doibedouin
pathra blog @doibedouin
Shades of brown terracotta temple-relics put together in the middle of a continuous green- the panorama you get to see, as soon as you deboard your car at Pathra. The road bifurcates the temple zone. On the left, a Durga dalan roll out the green carpet of grass, with a far away Pancharatna temple and an Atchala temple. While on the right, a 40 feet high Nabaratna temple stands with its head held high.



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 Take a visit to this hitherto untrodden trail withholding the anecdotes from the past. The terracotta blended architecture together with the rustic beauty form a typical Bengal's easy on the eye countryside. Step into this wormhole where the present connects to the past, and walk through the archives of time-worn temples.



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    Reaching Pathra

    It is 25 km from the nearest towns of Midnapore or Kharagpur of West Bengal. A ride through the rural roads would get one onto a Temple Run to this classic display of terracotta. And worry not, the village road runs right through, so finding the cluster is not of much ado. However, there is a second set of temples hidden amidst the village huts. The best way to find them is by asking the locals out.

    There is no hotel in Pathra. Neither is there an eating outlet. Hence it is advisable to carry your own food. However, littering is strictly not expected here.


    pathra @doibedouin
    A classic temple run to the top of the ruins. 


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    We started off on a spring afternoon, from Kharagpur. After a few detours and a bridge, the first white of the temple peered through the plenty of bamboos. Just round the road, we knew we had arrived. Driving along with the usual rural scenes Bengal so willingly offers, we almost dashed off the main group of the temples. Another set of temples are a few minutes away from the main road, into the village, through the ruddy roads.


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    The History of Pathra

    Absolutely an unknown gem in the outskirts of Midnapore, (West Bengal, India) Pathra is yet to set sails on the touristy map. Even to the natives of the surrounding towns, it is not heard enough a name. There are 34 temples in the village, each over 200 years old. Barely 10 km from Midnapore town, these Terracotta temples of Pathra were built two centuries back. History has it linked to a zamindar named Bidyananda Ghoshal who built these mass of terracotta temples with the then vernacular architecture. 


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    The origins of the village though, could be traced back to the Gupta age, being in the neighbourhood of Tamralipta. Between the 8th and 12th Centuries, the vicinity flourished with rich knowledge under the combined influence of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.


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    pathra @doibedouin
    A part of history, lies there, devoured by time. This particular one once buzzed with the rhythmic sound of the anklets of then Nartakis.


    The recital of Pathra getting its name is sure to whet one’s interest. It is rightly said, that the tiniest villages hide the most fascinating stories of the forgotten times. In 1732, Nawab Alivardi Khan appointed Bidyananda Ghoshal as the then Jamindar of Ratnachawk Pargana (then Pathra). Bidyananda reformed Ratnachawk as a hub of Hindu pilgrimage by building several terracotta temples. This, however, did not go well with the Nawab. As it were, to the Nawab, an offense carrying the death penalty. Baidyananda was sentenced “crumbled by elephants”. Folklore has it, that the elephant that was supposed to, refused to do so. And hence the name, Pathra, meaning “escape from elephant’s feet”.


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    The Ghoshal family changed its surname to Majumdar and continued building temples till the end of the 18th Century. Another branch of the family, with the surname Bandopadhyay also started constructing temples. With indigo cultivation and silk trade boosting the family’s fortunes, funds were not difficult to come by. The decline started as the families shifted its base and the locals started plundering the temples.



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    Renovation of Pathra

    Lately, Pathra has been undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India and the rehabilitation is being taken care of.  With the Government intervention, IIT Kharagpur is also participating for the renovation, since the last few decades. An NGO, Pathra Archaeological Preservation Committee, is also looking after the structures. All the same, none of these would have been possible without Yeasin Pathan, whose innate love for these temples and staunch determination to protect them as well, bore fruits.

    I did not have the luck to meet him, however, The Hindu did a thorough interview long back.




    A Look Into the Then Temple Architecture of Bengal

    Bengali temple architecture is predominantly
    • Traditional style or Deul. These structures were mainly referenced from the Gupta Period Architectures. With a characteristic slender structure and curvilinear shikhara (tomb like roofs), these were consistently heavier structures as to when serviceability, in the long run, was concerned.
    • Hut style or Chala. This is one of the vernacular architecture of Bengal. They portrayed the simple thatched roof of the huts of then Bengal. The baseline design was referred to as “ek-bangla” or “do-chala”, with the arch of the roof curving in two planes at the ridge. When two adjacent do-chalas were constructed, it was a “jor-bangla”, meaning conjoined-huts. Likewise, a four-way curved sloping was “char-chala”. Now as storeys were added, stacked over the other, with doubling the four slope, was “At-chala”. As the number of storeys added on, the slopes were increased as multiples of four. However, the most acknowledged was the at-chala.
    • Pinnacled style or Ratna. This type of roofing was an aesthetic modification of the Chalas. The sloped chalas were made to flatten towards the center, with a centrally placed Ratna surrounded by smaller ones at each corner. With the increase in the number of storeys, ratnas could now multiply in odd-numbered geometric progressions like one, five, nine, seventeen or even twenty-five. Temples would, respectively, come to be known as eka-ratna, pancha-ratna, nava-ratna, saptadasa-ratna or panchavimsati-ratna, corresponding to the number of towers arrayed up in the designs.
    • Flat-roofed style or Dalan. These were mostly flat-ceilinged porch resting on walls tiled with terracotta designs. The most common to date is the Durga dalan.


    Why You Must Visit Pathra At Least Once In Your Lifetime- Experience the Anatomy of Terracotta That gets Overlooked @doibedouin
    Vernacular Architecture of the Temple Structures in Bengal






    The Temples of Pathra

    After Bishnupur, Pathra is one place to have a display of a set of temples. As the road winds through, with temples on both sides. On the left, a Durga dalan rolls out the green carpet of grass, while on the right, a 40 feet high Nabaratna temple stands with its head held high.


    pathra from kharagpur @doibedouin
    A Durga dalan rolls out the green carpet of grass.


    The Durga dalan does not stand unassisted though. On its greener side, it has three Atchala temples, a Pancharatna Radha-Krishna temple and an almost-dilapidated staired structure (the one with the temple-run reference), the only remains of the main building. On the other end of the green field was a Naachghor, although tumbled-down bearing the footprints of the past. Along the road, on the same side, is a Pancharatna and another Atchala, placed at a few distances from each other and the Durga dalan as well.


    the temples of pathra @doibedouin
    pathra blog @doibedouin
    The Naachghor, although tumbled-down but bearing the footprints of the past. And the Pancharatna Radha-Krishna temple.

    atchala temples at pathra @doibedouin
    The other face of the Durga dalan, adjacent to the three Atchala temples.


    The Navaratna temple on the western bank of the river is the most outstanding amongst all. The 250-year-old, 40-ft high structure many terracotta panels on its walls. A small atchala temple established in 1816 stands in the same compound, just by the roadside. Also, three flat-roofed temples accompany the duo. The terracotta panels that still exist bear images of Ram, Balaram, Radha and Krishna, Dashavatar, Hanuman, Durga, and hunting. The majority of the temples are dedicated to Krishna, Vishnu, and Shiva.



    Navaratna temple at pathra @doibedouin
    The Navaratna temple on the western bank of the river is the most outstanding amongst all. 


    The 250-year-old, 40-ft high structure many terracotta panels on its walls.



    The Other Architectures of Pathra: Jamindarbari and Rasmancha

    Deep into the village, the remains of the Jamindarbari still stands along with a hexagonal Rasmancha, built in 1832. We were lucky to come across a few kids who were more than happy to guide us. They showed us the shabby Kacharibari, with its almost non-existent tunnels. Foliages grew all over the structure, taking it in. 


    The shabby Kacharibari at pathra @doibedouin
    The shabby Kacharibari


    pathra buildings @doibedouin
    pathra walls terracotta blog @doibedouin
    The dilapidated house structure with a closer look at the pillars made solely with stucco and lime. 



    Three Pancharatna Shiva shrines ushers in your attention on the way. Both the Rasmancha as well as the Pancharatnas has human figurines carved out as wall motifs. Although few had their heads missing. Rasmancha’s roof remarkably has a peacock tail engraved out with the minute details, even though the head fell off.


    A trio of Pancharatnas on the way to the Kacharibari @doibedouin
    A trio of Pancharatnas on the way to the Kacharibari


    The human figurines on the wall at pathra @ doibedouin
    The human figurines on the wall at pathra @ doibedouin
    The human figurines on the wall




    rasmancha at pathra @doibedouin
    Rasmancha’s roof remarkably has a peacock tail engraved out with the minute details, even though the head fell off. @doibedouin
    Rasmancha’s roof remarkably has a peacock tail engraved out with the minute details, even though the head fell off.



    The Specialty of Pathra

    The rustic mood of the place simply cloaks down the historical connection, being the sole reason for the widespread apathy amongst the people. Although most of the structures caved in, they are still antique bearers. Be it the motifs outside the temple structures, or the terracotta plaques, all having authentic architectural worth. A closer look at the wall panels speaks up for the then architectural finesse, standing against the odds of time. Some wall panels have carvings of godly figures while some have developed human features. Wandering through these decorated relics of the past, one could easily sense the soft echo of an unsung repository of art. Few hours spent amidst the crafts of this ancient terracotta is undoubtedly crisp nourishment to the wanderer's yearning.


    A day spent amidst the crafts of this ancient terracotta is undoubtedly crisp nourishment to the wanderer's yearning, and definitely to the camera lenses.
    A day spent amidst the crafts of this ancient terracotta is undoubtedly crisp nourishment to the wanderer's yearning, and definitely to the camera lenses.
    Few hours spent amidst the crafts of this ancient terracotta is undoubtedly crisp nourishment to the wanderer's yearning, and definitely to the camera lenses.





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    Why You Must Visit Pathra At Least Once In Your Lifetime- Experience the Anatomy of Terracotta That gets Overlooked @doibedouin


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    7 comments

    1. I would love to visit that place. IT looks stunning and it really remind me of Lara Croft's Tomb Raider.

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    2. What a beautiful place the building structures are beautiful and amazing. I will add this on my list to visit Awesome photos!

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    3. Waw great, I love to visit historical places, Thanks for sharing the history of Pathra Temples.

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    4. I've never heard of this place but it looks beautiful. Lots of history.

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    5. It looks incredible! It's definitely on my list to see.

      ReplyDelete
    6. Looks like a village for fairies and other cute creatures!

      ReplyDelete
    7. Now this is magical! I pinned this for future references I would love to travel here.

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