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One of the finest terracotta temples that has stood the test of time is the Lakshmi Janardhana temple in Debipur village in Burdwan district in West Bengal built around 1844 CE by Narottam Singha, a Zamindar of Debipur. A gigantic arched ornate doorway frames the impressive shikhara and the spectacular terracotta relief work that is considered to be one of the best in Bengal.
The sheer height of the shikhara (60 feet high) lends an air of majesty and past glory. The temple is built in the rekha deul style often seen in neighbouring Odisha with a towering spire (deul) and distinctive horizontal markings (rekh) on it.
The front part of the temple has a dochala (two roofed) mandap and a triple arched entrance that leads you inside the temple. The lovely terracotta panels are mainly of Krishna Leela depicting scenes of his childhood like makhan chor, Ma Yashoda, Kaliya mardhanam,gopis and journey to Mathura. There are also war scenes, rural social life, dance scenes and men on elephants and horses.
It is quite amazing to find every square inch of the façade adorned with sculptures that reveal the masterly skill of the craftsmen of Bengal. The decorative floral patterns, dresses, jewellery designs and facial expressions are breathtaking.
Debipur also has other exemplary examples of centuries-old terracotta temples that can rival those seen in Bishnupur. One of them is the famous Sat Deul built in the rekha deul style. This magnificent temple is built on a plinth with ridged outer walls tapering upwards. Though some of the stucco is still there, a large part of the temple detailing like the amalaka and kalasa are lost.
There is a lone charchala (four roofed) Shiva temple and twin Shiva temples along with a Deul built on a platform forming an unusual three temple structure a few metres away from the Lakshmi Janardhana temple complex. This aatchala (eight roofed) Shiva temple was built in 1836 CE and has an open dol mancha on an elevated platform and beautiful terracotta ornamentation on the façade.
Debipur indeed has a lot of heritage that has been tucked away from prying eyes for centuries. The terracotta panel detailing seen in these temples are extremely rare and worth visiting.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)
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