After looking around the Naba Kailash Complex where 108 Shiva Temples were arranged like rosary beads; we went across the road to the Rajbari Complex. Yet another set of stunning temples (5) displaying terracotta art sprawled across a well maintained lawn. The temples were built around the 18th and 19th century by the Bardhman Raj zamindari estate with roots in distant Punjab.
As soon as you enter, you will see Pratapeshwar Temple on the left built in the 19th century presumably by Pratapchandra Rai, the descendant of Tejachandra Rai who had built the 108 Shiva Temple complex across the road. The temple is seated on a high podium with a curvilinear Shikhara and a single entrance which gives it a slender look.
The terracotta art on the temple is detailed and absolutely stunning; it conveys so much about life then. The most notable one is the Mahishasur Mardini which simply breathes life.
A little ahead is the roofless Rashmancha which was perhaps used as a hall for dance and other cultural programs by the zamindars.
On the right are 5 Aat Chala Temples of varied sizes standing in a row better known as Pancha Ratna Temples. These are probably dated to 19th century but appear too spartan compared to the others making me wonder of they are incomplete. The lofty arches of the KrishnaChandra Temple can be seen behind.
The oldest in this complex is the Lalji Temple; very intricate and almost poetry in motion. This is built around 1739AD. The Radha and Krishna idols in the inner sanctum radiate with compassion while the outer walls have ornamental carvings depicting animals, scenes from regular life which are pretty erotic at times.
KrishnaChandra Temple next to it is pretty similar to Lalji Temple for the spire “Panchabimsati Ratna” which essentially means 25 decorated spires. This temple is characterized by an extended atchala type verandah with 3 decorated entrances.
The last temple in the complex is Vijay Vaidyanath which is dedicated to Shiva. This Aatchala type temple has an embellished exterior depicting Shiva Temples.
The next stop was at the Gopalji Temple for a brief while. This temple also is characterized by 25 spires on top. This is located in a busy residential area and is a functional temple where locals throng to pray. The wooden chariot in the temple is taken out through the streets with the idol on Ratha Yatra day in June-July.
Our final stop in Kalna was at the Siddheshwari Kali Temple from whom Kalna derives its name. The idol of Kali – is made of a single neem log and the power in her gaze was palpable. It was nearly 2pm when our rickshaw dropped us at Priyadarshini in Kalna for lunch. Kalna is famous for “Makha Sandesh”; walk into any local sweet shop and taste some and let me know if you did not feel the urge to pack some for home.
- Day trip to Kalna, Gutipara and Shantipur to explore the lost temples and the Bengal Tant Weave. It gets quite hot in this part so better done in the Ist half of the day.
- Drive to Kalna from Kolkata – 80 kms in about 2-2.5 hours. Alternatively take the suburban train from Sealdah or Howrah Station @ 8am and reach Ambika Kalna by 9.30am
- The round Trip Rickshaw Ride around town will be around Rs 150/- (2014) based on your negotiation skills. Complete the temples of Kalna (108 Shiva Temple; Rajbari Complex, Kali Temple) in about 3 hours and lunch at Hotel Priyadarshini near the bus stand. Their mutton curry still lingers on my tongue.
- Head to Guptipara – this is slightly tricky if you dont have your own transport. Avail auto’s which will drive through bamboo groves and remote villages and take you there in about 20mins. Negotiate with the guy to drop you back at the ferry ghat or station.
- From the station; you can return to Howrah or Sealdah as convenient. The return train is at 4.20pm and 5.30pm.
- From the Ferry Ghat you can cross over to Shantipur to see the Tantis or the weavers in action. This is a chance you will need to take; since there is no organized tour. I so wish they had one; to eat in a local home; to see the local art !!