You can make a true picture of any ancient culture from the carvings of the temples of that era. Welcome to Guptipara, the land of mediaeval Vaishnavite culture and more.
Guptipara is a village situated under Chinsurah Sub-Division, West Bengal, India. The name Guptipara has been derived from Gupta Vrindabana, which the place used to be called during the period of Vaishnavite culture between 16th – 18th century. It was a citadel of Vaishnava culture.
Guptipara is mostly famous for its late mediaeval terracotta temples. The temple complex at Guptipara hosts four Vaishnava temples namely Krishnachandra, Chaitanya, Brindabanchandra and Ramachandra respectively. The Ramachandra temple holds many exemplary terracotta works and the structures bear characteristics of the Bengal School of Architecture, with carvings depicting scenes from the Ramayana and Puranas.
Guptipara is also famous for Rathayatra. Every year thousands of devotees participate in the festival. Bhandara Loot is a popular event during this time.
Temples of Guptipara
In late mediaeval Bengal, long after the practices of Islamic art of architecture, Bhakti Movement brought great changes and developed syncretisation.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the chief Proponent of the Achintya Bheda Abheda and Gaudiya Vaishnavism, ventured against caste barriers and social discrimination, transformed the culture, preaching love, affection and spirituality; Bengal temple architecture – the culmination, expansion and contraction, flourished like never before.
The group of four at Guptipara ie Krishnachandra,Vrindabana and Ramachandra and Chaitanya are built on elevated platforms and interconnected through narrow passages to each other.
Entering the temple complex the first temple you set your foot onto is Krishnachandra temple. It was constructed in 1745 during the rule of Nawab Ali Vardi Khan and was built in aatchala form. It is said that inside the temple there was an astha dhatu (eight metals) idol, but, the original idol was stolen and replaced by a similar one.
Chaitanya temple, built by Bishwar Roy in the mid-sixteenth century, is the oldest and used to be the Nahabatkhana. Its construction is very simple without any miniature tower. The temple consists of two thatched hut-shaped structures. The structure was adorned with some of Bengal’s earliest terracotta carvings, but they did not survive the march of time.
The 60-feet high Brindabanchandra temple, built in 1810, dominates the temple complex. The aatchala temple doesn’t have terracotta works but that is compensated by the colourful paintings on both the outer and inner walls. The Brindabanchandra temple is flanked on the left by the Ramchandra temple and on the right by the Krishnachandra temple.
Fresco paintings inside Vrindabanchandra temple
The terracotta plaques and artworks are important historical evidences of external trends, religious or territorial characters, day-to-day life and folk cultural segments; which are elaborately revealed. Such is the example of Ramachandra.
The Ekratna (single pinnacled) Ramchandra Temple was constructed in late 18th century AD by Harishchandra Roy, the king of Seoraphuli. The single towered ratha temple has only one tower at the centre. It may be called the most elegant temple in the complex. The single-storey temple with an octagonal turret contains rich terracotta work on the walls and the turret. The carvings depict war scenes from the Ramayana, royal processions, voyages and glimpses of everyday life.
Carvings on the wall of Ramachandra temple
Google Maps of the Temple Complex
Food, Culture & Festivals
Guptipara is a delightful destination for Bengali sweet lovers. Gupo Sandesh, made of Chhana is said to be Bengal’s first branded sweetmeat. Guptipara is the birthplace of sweetmaker Bhola Moira (primarily known for his folk singing).
Durga Puja is celebrated widely in Guptipara. Guptipara has the credit for hosting Bengal’s first Barowari Durgapuja, which was introduced by Sree Bindhabasini Jagaddhratri Puja Committee(worshipping Devi Dura introduced by Lord Ram). In 1760, a group of 12 men formed a committee and organized a modern club culture and introduced Barowari Puja to the common Bengali community and it is still performed with the same enthusiasm till this day.
Guptipara is famous for its Rathayatra. The chariot is Nabaratna-styled wooden temple(Height 36″ Base 34″ X 4 Sq ft & Wheels 16″). The deity in the chariot is of Radharaman. It is said that Guptipara Rathayatra is the second only to the Puri in terms of the distance covered. It is a month long fair in Guptipara on the occasion of this festival and every year thousands of devotees take part in the festival. According to some, the Rathayatra is more than 400 years old. Some say it started somewhere between 1735 and 1740.
Bhandar Loot is one of the unique attractions of Guptipara Rathayatra, which is held a day before the Purnayatra. On that day the deity is held behind closed doors at Masir Bari. The priest opens all the three doors of the store room at 5 pm and the devotees rush inside the store to loot the Prasada. Many of the locals don’t cook at home that night and even on the following day.
The best way to reach Guptipara is by road. Having a cab with you for a day is the best option. The journey takes about 2 to 2.5 hours from Kolkata and you can cover the place easily in a day trip.
By train, it can take upto 2 hours to reach Guptipara from Howrah by Howrah-Katwa Local. Then from Guptipara station, you can take a Toto (Rs.20/-) to the temple complex or you can take a walk, it may take 15/20 minutes.
Keep one full day for the tour no matter where you are coming from.
Food options are very limited at Guptipara. Its better to carry food and water with you.
The property belongs to the Math and the temple complex is protected under Archaeological Survey of India. So, you have to take prior permissions before the concerned authorities for Videography.
Photography is not an issue here (But you cannot use any tripods or rails as per ASI guidelines).
When to go
You can travel Guptipara at any time of the year.
Location: Guptipara, India
- Late Mediaeval Temples of Bengal: DAVID J. McCUTCHION(THE ASIATIC SOCIETY, KOLKATA)
- Temple Art Of Late Mediaeval Bengal by Nihar Ghosh
- Paschim Banger Mandir-Terracotta (Vinodbihari Mukhopadhya, Amio Kr Bandapadhya, David J McCUTCHION, Tarapada Santra, Hiteshranjan Sanyal, Mohit Ray, Julekha Haque) Bangio-Sahitya-Parisat
- Bengal Temples by Bimal Kumar Datta, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
- Anandabazar Patrika, July 6, 2016.
Special thanks to
Sovon Lal Khamaru