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Pathra -The Temple Village of Bengal

To most people, the subject of History is a set of ‘Dull facts’ but to the discerning and lively  mind it is a set of interwoven processes. History is dynamic and unchanging whom one  should explore and appreciate. India’s ancient past and her rich Cultural heritage stands as a  living example to pen down her glories and achievements. The most remarkable feature of  India’s history was her contribution to some of the best specimens of architectural wonders  that captivates attention of billions till date. The history of India’s temple building dates  back to thousands of years when the ancient Hindu Kingdoms rose into prominence. A long  period of peace and prosperity prevailed when the art of temple building reached its zenith.  The various powerful ruling dynasties of North and South India undertook massive projects  of temple construction and funded with their open hands in an attempt to surpass their  rivals. With the penetration of foreign invasions and their brutal attacks, the process of  temple building declined and often suffered devastation and demolition.

In this story, I will narrate the historical significance of Pathra a very small village, often  called the temple village located in the district of Paschim Medinipur, West Bengal. The  temple village of Pathra dates back to the medieval times when Bengal was being ruled by  the independent Nawabs. A remote Village located on the bank of river Kangsabati is itself a  beauty indisguise. The affluent rustic environment echoes through the scenic sensuality of  Bengal’s typical culture. The site is a celebration of art and a real treat to the eyes. With the  help of a local guide book we came to know about the place. After having a thorough  reading about every minute details we made up our minds. I and two of my friends finalized  this short trip on the 17th of February 2021. A four wheeler was booked from Jhargram  town(West Bengal) and we set forth sharply at 8:30 A.M. We reached the vicinity of  Midnapore town Via Kharagpur(which lies on NH-6). After crossing the Kangsabati Setu, we  took a right turn and followed the path leading to Pathra. It took exactly two and a half  hours to reach Pathra from Jhargram. On reaching the site, we noticed the ruins of history on both sides of the road. A good and heavy tiffin satiated our hungry bellies. Now it was  time for us to set out for exploration and capture the ruins lying for hundreds of years. As  there are no facilities of fooding nearby you have to make arrangements from Kharagpur or  Midnapore town. Basically a Panchayat area, the village is said to have witnessed the  construction of almost 100 temples out of which 34 survives today. A few temples are a  pathetic sight due to lack of conservation initiatives by the government, damaged by river  Kangasabati and the locals resorting to vandalizing approach. 

The temples are simplistic in style but enriched and accentuated with terracotta art.  The Archaeological survey of India has taken charge of 28 temples out of 34. Some of the  most prominent ones are – Nava Ratna temple, Kachari Mahal, Rasmancha temple,

Kalachand’s Dalan, Durgeshwar and Pancha Shiva temples. The temples were mostly built by  Ghosal and Bannerjee families. The Nava Ratna temple is a 250 years old structure  measuring almost 40 feet high. There is a Sitala temple popularly known as Burimar Than  which is more than 40 feet high alongside Sarvanangala, Das Mahavidya and Hansa temples.  The Rasmancha is a nine towered structure built in 1832. 

The Dharmaraj temple, the temples built by the Bandopadhyay family, the Sitala and  the Nava ratna temples are considered to be the monuments of National importance in  West Bengal. Majority of the temples are dedicated to Durga, Shiva, Krishna and Vishnu.  Some locals traced back the origin of Pathra to the Gupta era which served as a hinterland  to the Bengal’s ancient port of Tamralipta which was a major gateway to the South-east  Asia. Pathra was a thriving place of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain cultures. In the october of  1961, the discovery of a Vishnu statue hinted at both Hindu and Buddhist influences. 

The main story revolves around one man named – Bidyanand Ghosal who was  appointed by Bengal’s Nawab Alivardi Khan as the revenue collector of Ratnachowk  Pargana. Bidyanand started constructing temples one after another thereby making the  village a major centre of Hinduism and a tourist place for Hindu pilgrims. Bidyanand’s  activities didn’t please the Nawab who put him into prison and later sentencing him to  death. But the Ghosal family continued the tradition of temple construction till the end of  the 18th Century which was later followed by the Bandopadhyay family. It was at that time,  the land was used for cultivating Indigo. The decline was brought about by the base shifting  of affluent families from this area and indiscriminate practices by some local villagers. 

The efforts of a local resident named Yeasin Pathan and extensive research work  undertaken by some of the scholars of IIT Kharagpur has led to the formation of Pathra  Archaeological preservation committee – a non – government organisation which look after  the ruins and structures and help in restoring the 200 years old history. So what are you  waiting for? Take a train from Howrah to reach Midnapore or Kharagpur. Book your stay in a  good hotel and make a trip to Pathra the next morning.

Written By:

Subhajit Mitra

Subhajit Mitra, Student of Indian History and working as a Teacher. He likes exploring new places especially of History.

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