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

Shades of brown terracotta temples sprouted like mushrooms in Pathra, in the middle of the numerous tones of green. At dusk, the ambiance of the deep cyanic sky by the sapphire Kansabati, the terracotta architecture spotlessly kindles the dormant painter in you.  In the vicinity, known as the village of temples, this place is totally an off-the-beaten destination for the weekend.


 Take a visit to this hitherto untrodden trail enveloped in the colors of nature, art and the architecture blends together to form an exquisite yet antique world. Step into this wormhole where the present meets the past, and capture the Keeper of the Ancient Temples.


    Reaching Pathra

    It is 25 km from the nearest towns of Midnapore or Kharagpur of West Bengal. A scoot off through the rural roads would get one onto a Temple Run to this classic and secret display of terracotta.

    The road is not very smooth and I am sure it gets worse during the rainy season. 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.

    We started off on a trippy wintery morning, boarding down at Midnapore station, followed by a ride on an e-vehicle through the ruddy village roads. After a few detours and a way through a dilapidated bridge, the first brown and white of the temple peered through the plenty of bamboo greens. Walking past it opens to an assembly of the temples. Another set of temples are a bit away from the main road and not by the river and requires a bit trek through the muddy roads.

    The History of Pathra

    Absolutely an unknown gem in the outskirts of Midnapore, (West Bengal, India) Pathra is not a familiar name. Even to the public of the surrounding towns, it is not good enough a destination. There are 34 temples in the village, each over 200 years old. Barely 10 km from Midnapore town, these Terracotta temples of Pathra date back to two centuries; history has it linked to a zamindar named Bidyananda Ghoshal who built these mass of terracotta temples with typical Bengal architecture of Navratna style. 

    The history of Pathra goes back to the Gupta age. This place was literally the neighborhood of Tamralipta port, access to southeast Asia. From the 8th to the 12th Century, it was a key hub for Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists. Pathra flourished with rich knowledge under the combined influence of Hindu and Buddhism. 

     In 1732, Nawab Alivardi Khan appointed Bidyananda Ghoshal as the then revenue collector of Ratnachawk pargana. Bidyananda drew the attention of the Hindus by building a number of temples. This, however, did not please the Nawab very well. And the Nawab sentenced Baidyananda to death- being crumpled by elephants. Legend has it that the elephant that was supposed to, refused to do so. And hence the name, Pathra, meaning “escape from elephant’s feet”. The decay started as the riches got erased from the village and the locals started vandalizing the temples. Many of the structures were reduced to ruins.


    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 surname Bandopadhyay, also started constructing temples. With indigo cultivation and silk trade boosting the family’s fortunes, funds were not difficult to come by.


    Renovation of Pathra

    Lately, Pathra has been undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India and the rehabilitation is being taken care of.  

    It all started with a local named Yeasin Pathan took the initiative in the rehabilitation of the structures. In the mid-1960s the efforts finally bore fruit as the government grants. IIT Kharagpur also participated in researching and saving the temples. A slice of Bengal’s glorious past was salvaged in the nick of time.
    Today, 28 out of 34 temples in Pathra are under the supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India. It has repaired 18 temples. An NGO named Pathra Archaeological Preservation Committee also looks after the structures.

    The Temple Architecture of Pathra

    The Navaratna temple on the western bank of the river is the grandest. The 250-year-old, 40-ft high structure has nine towers and many terracotta panels on its walls. A small atchala temple established in 1816 stands in the same compound.
    Just to the opposite, a group of three Atchala temples and a small Navaratna temple called Shivalaya is located. Terracotta artworks adorn these temples, too. Behind them is a Durga dalan, a temple-like structure made of stone.
    Some distance away is another group of Pancharatna temples, built in the typical Bengal style and enriched with terracotta sculptures.

    Most of the temples offer glimpses of Islamic architectural styles. Stucco lime and seashell were the main materials used.

    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.

    The second biggest temple of Pathra is a Sitala temple popularly known as Burimar Thhan. It, too, is 40 ft high. The other important temples are Sarba Mangal, Kalachand, Das Mahavidya and Hansa.

    There’s also a simple yet attractive rasmancha, built in 1832. It has nine small towers.

    The Specialty of Pathra

    The relaxed ambiance of the place is embroidered with an excess of sophisticated and vintage artistry. Be it the murals. as testimonials to the historic episodes. or the statues outside the temple structures. Wandering through the decorated relics of the past, one could easily sense the soft echo of this unsung repository of art.

    A closer look at the wall panels delivered the architectural finesse of the bygone period, standing against the odds of time. Some wall panels have carvings of godly figures while some have developed human features. A day spent amidst the crafts of this ancient terracotta is undoubtedly crisp nourishment to the wanderer's yearning.

    Through the Photos || The Terracotta Trail in Kharagpur

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

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

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

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

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    Pathra West Bengal
    Pathra West Bengal

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