The charming village of Ghurisha, once an important seat of Sanskrit and literature is dotted with many fine examples of terracotta temples built in the traditional Bengali style of chala and ratna. The temples of Ghurisha and surrounding villages have been documented at length by Mukul Dey of Shantiniketan and David McCutchion.
One of the most interesting temples in this village is the Nabaratna Gopal Lakshmi Janardhana Temple built in 1739 by an affluent lac trader, Kshetranath Dutta. This impressive temple is built as a navaratna (nine pinnacles) and originally had nine metal chakras of which only three remain.
The temple stands on a platform of about 3 feet and rises to a height of about 60 feet. It has an open and closed verandah with the latter leading into the garbha griha. The triple arched entrance is intricately carved with large panels dominating the entrance. The central panel is divided into two with the top panel depicting Shri Nityananda Prabhu and Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu singing and dancing along with their disciples. One can clearly see their facial expressions of ecstasy and devotion. A great deal of attention has been paid to their garments and musical instruments. The lower panel has Sri Radha Devi sitting in the middle on a throne with the gopikas in attendance on either side. There is one male figure in this panel to her left who could be either a cowherd or perhaps Lord Krishna itself.
The panel to its left is a magnificent depiction of Sri Lalitha Tripurasundari as Pañcapretāsanāsīnā. Sri Lalitha Tripurasundari sits on a lotus emerging from the navel of Lord Sadashiva who is resting on a throne that is supported by Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma, Lord Eshwara and Lord Rudra who take the form of its legs. It would appear that she was holding a sugarcane or bow, lotus, noose and goad originally but these have seen disappeared.
The panel to the right is also divided into two. The upper panel has fallen off but the lower panel has the Ganesha Janani in the centre flanked by individual panels of Lord Krishna and Radha Devi, perhaps gopikas and stories from the Puranas.
The horizontal panel that runs above the main entrance has Sri Rama and Sita Devi seated on the throne in the centre surrounded by Lord Hanuman, Lord Jambavan and others. The panels on either side have Gods and Goddesses, figures and saints. There is a stunning figure of Kali Mata on the top left of the entrance in the corner. The wall panels also have British women in their traditional attire, social scenes, ships, soldiers, stories from the Puranas like Dashavatara and others.
The rear wall of the temple is quite bare. The sanctum sanctorum houses a Shaligram sila, Gopalji, Sri Tripurasundari Devi, Mangal Chandi Mata and Lord Ganesha.
Each and every terracotta panel in this temple is unique and weaves a story that will leave you enthralled. The quaint village of Ghurisha would benefit immensely if some effort is put in by the state government to preserve these beautiful temples that reveal the rich history 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)