One of the lesser-known and earliest examples of the char chala style of architecture is the centuries-old brick temple at Palpara. Though there is not much information about the date of construction, this temple is deemed to have been built in the 17th century. Locals and historians differ over the builder of this temple with the former suggesting that credit should be given to Raja Raghab Ray of the Nadia Raj while the latter has chosen to name Gandharba Roy as its builder.
This mystery only adds to the allure and intrigue of this majestic temple. This south facing temple sits on a raised platform and has a multifoil arch with a brick pillar on either side. The spandrel has an intricately detailed battle scene of the Ramayana with Lord Rama and his army on one side and the ten-headed Ravana on the other. There are smaller decorative panels of the monkey army fighting the enemy, stunning floral motifs, a striking pattern of a chakra on either side and fragments of other carvings.
There are floral and geometric motifs on either side of the main multifoil arch and interestingly a dragon motif at the corners. There are beautiful panels of the auspicious lotus in different sizes on the façade. Even the corners of the temple have linear markings and remnants of carvings.
The main shrine is square in plan and rises to a height of 12 metres. There is little or no information about the deity that was seated here originally. Some locals say it was a Shiva Temple while others say it was dedicated to Kali Ma. As this temple has spent many decades in obscurity, a considerable part of its relief work has fallen prey to the ravages of the weather.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has put in a lot of effort in recent years to restore this ancient temple to its former glory. Sadly though, this temple does not feature in any of the heritage tours the state has to offer and continues to lend an air of neglect.
Like most of the terracotta temples seen in Bishnupur, Ambika Kalna and Hooghly district, this temple also has a richly embellished frontal façade which gives you a peek of the architecture of Bengal at its zenith.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)