Bishnupur – A place worth admiring

by Subhechcha Ganguly

In the Indian state of West Bengal, the municipality of Bankura district includes the city of Bishnupur. It serves as the Bishnupur subdivision’s administrative centre. It is renowned for its historic Radha Krishna temples constructed between 1600 and 1800 CE, its terracotta temples constructed by the Malla rulers, and the Baluchari sarees.


Local Hindu kings in Bishnupur ruled the city during the Gupta era and were subject to Samudra Gupta. After a protracted period of obscurity, during which the region alternated between being a vassal state and a minor independent principality. Mallabhum is another name for the region that honours the Malla kings who once ruled it. The famous terracotta temples were constructed here during the 17th and 18th centuries by the Vaishnavite Malla kings. The Malla Kings of Bishnupur are mentioned in the legends of Bipodtarini Devi.
It served as the capital of the Malla kings of Mallabhum, of which Bankura was a part, for almost a thousand years until their influence diminished during the period when the Mughal Empire was at its weakest under the last dynasty monarchs.

Bishnupur became one of Bengal’s major cultural hubs under the patronage of Malla king Veer Hambir and his successors Raja Raghunath Singha Dev and Bir Singha Dev. During this time, the majority of the exquisite terracotta temples for which the town is justly renowned were constructed. The Mrinmoyee Temple of the Kings is revered as a significant historical site. The Bishnupur school of painting and the Bishnupur Gharana (school) of Hindustani classical music both emerged under royal patronage in the late 18th century. The Bishnupur temples have been listed as a Tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.

Here, the Bishnupur Gharana school of music was founded in 1370 AD and flourished under the support of the Malla kings. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the school was at its height. In nearby music academies, this Dhrupad-inspired musical genre is still being preserved. The primary instruments are the pakhwaj, sitar, and esraj. One of this gharana’s classical pieces is the Bengali Ragpradhan.

Architecture Importance

Terracotta is characteristic of Bishnupur. Apart from the temples, terracotta pottery, artifacts and even jewelry made in this very traditional material are famous. The most famous of the terracotta products are the hand made beautiful jars, disks and the more famous of them are the terracotta horses, elephants, Ganesha, and Nataraj. But nowadays the skilled artists and potters are not present and also they make different products like faces, men, wall hangings and also the mini-sized Dal Madal Canon.

Terracotta horses known as “Bankura horses” were once used for religious rituals but are now used as decorative objects. These horses are renowned for their symmetrical shape and rounded curves, and this art form has its roots in Bankura district. Since it was portrayed in paintings by M. F. Hussein. .

By Subhechcha Ganguly


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