Bangladesh Kantaji Temple

Kantaji Temple in Dinajpur, Bangladesh

July 5, 2016
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The architecture bears great impact on tradition, lifestyle and cultural life of a country. It is the identity of a country. Bangladesh has many architectural monuments and relics dating back thousands of years.

Dinajpur is historically rich and one of the most old districts in Bangladesh. Kantaji Temple shows one of that evidence of the history.

Kantaji Temple is a renowned temple in Bangladesh. Kantaji Temple, also known as the Kantanagar Temple is one of the architectural monument of Hindu religion in Bangladesh. It is finest Hindu Temple residing in the gorgeous countryside of Dinajpur. This is a spectacular block of religious artwork and one of the most brilliant and impressive Hindu monuments in Bangladesh.

It is the best example of Terracotta architecture which is located at Kantanagar village in Dinajpur. The Temple is an 18th-century brick temple. It is about a miles west of Dinajpur Tetulia highway and 12 miles north of the Dinajpur town. It is a wonderful architectural terracotta embellishment.

It was nine-spired or nava-ratna Hindu temple whose nine spires collapsed during the devastating Assam earthquake occurred in 1897.

Thakur-at-Kantaji-temple-in-Dinajpur

 

It belongs to popular Kanta or Krishna and popular with the Radha-Krishna cult (assemble of memorable love) in Bengal. It is dedicated to Krishna and his wife Rukmini.

The monument is built by Bengali artisans which rightly claims to bathe finest extant example of its type in brick and terracotta. It tells us the story of Krishna-Lila, Ramayan-Mahabharata, and Dev-Devies.

History of Kantaji Temple:

Entrance-west front-Kantaji Temple-John Henry Ravenshaw 1871-British Library

The information found about the Kantaji Temple is:

Name : Kantaji Temple

Creator : Maharaja Ramnath

Date built : 1752

Location : Kaharole PS, Dinajpur, Bangladesh

Architecture : Nava-ratna

Primary deity : Krishna

There is confusion about the date of construction. It was settled from a chronogram record inscribed in the Sanskrit stone fixed on a northeast corner of the temple. Here it is recorded that Maharaja Pran nath of Dinajpur started its construction about 1722 which was completed by his adopted son Maharaja Ram nath in 1752 AD. It was done to propitiate the consort of Rukmini. Later, Maharaja Girijanath Bahadur restored it in the early 20th century. But still, the nine spires are missing.

Architecture:

Archway on the south face of the Kantaji Temple at Kantanagar- with Thakurs canopied chair on the verandah-John Henry Ravenshaw -1871-British Library

This temple rose in 3 retreating terraces and had 9 ornamental spires or ratnas (jewels) which were crowned on the corner of the 3 terraces.

The temple of 52´-0´´ square stands in the centre of an oblong court (240´×120´). It is enclosed by pilgrim shed having a corrugated tin roof. Its chief fabric pivots around 10´-3´´ nuclear square cell, shooting up to a height of about 50´ above high plinth stone (3´-3´´). It is believed to have been digging out from the ancient ruins of Bannagar in Dinajpur. 3 other square outer shells have been added it to strengthen the central cella. The other eight ornamental towers which are missing now occupied the eight roof corners. The curved cornice of the ground floor rises in the middle to a height having 25´-0´´ from the plinth. At each of the four corners of the ground, there are small square cells. The temples have 4 rectangular corridors measuring 30´-8´´×5´-0´´ and 15´-6´´×4´-4´´. There are 3 multi- cusped arched entrances where each is  separated by two brick pillars that are richly decorated. The number of arched doorways on the ground floor is 21 and the first floor is 27.

Terracotta Decoration available in every inch of its wall surface both inside and out depict flora and fauna,
the exploits of Krishna, the stories of the Mahabharata (Mahabharata and the Ramayana ),favorite pastimes of the landed aristocracy. The amazing profusion, modeling have seldom been surpassed by any mural art of its kind in Bengal. One can observe here a carefully arranged thematic scheme at different levels and spaces on the temple wall.

Mythological scenes depict the nativity of Krishna, the demon King Kangsa; Krsna’s killing of the Putana ogress, attempts to kill the infant Krishna, the killing of Keshi, the lifting of Govardhana mountain, the quelling of the snake-demon, Kaliya, and Krishna’s pleasure ride on the boat with revelers.

The south face of the temple reveal stories from the Ramayana but it is a little bit in confusing manner. Ramayana stories continue on the east face. Here contains the exile of Sita, Ramachandra, Laksmana  and in the Panchavati forest, the abduction of Sita by Ravana from Dandakaranya, Laksmana’s striking off the nose of Shurpanakha; Jatayu’s futile attempt to obstruct the chariot of Ravana; the abduction of Sita by Ravana from Dandakaranya; the fight between Bali and Sugriva with their monkey followers for the throne of Kiskindhya; the captivity of Sita in Ashoka Forest; Ramachandra’s sapta tala veda and Sugriva with his monkey followers and their palaver with Ramachandra etc.

The north face portrays scenes of Balarama and Krishna. So, Krishna’s various marriages, curd pots in shika, cowgirls carrying milk etc are shown. In the second register, it depicts European battleship in great details with soldiers and a cannon which seem interesting.

terra-cotta-kantajitemple-dinajpur

The entire western face of the third register portrays various episodes from the Krishna legend, ending with the demon king of Mathura, the slaying of Kangsa. It comprises the monstrous murderer elephant of Kangsa, the destruction of Kuvalayapida; Radha’s fainting fits for failing to dissuade Krishna from taking part in Kangsa’s ssportstournament in Mathura. Of others contain a group of cowherds carrying milk and butter in string bags which are suspended from a pole on the shoulder. This is a familiar scene in rural Bengal.

The folk artists who gave masterful touches to the temple were superb storytellers. In one panel, a demon portrayed swallowing monkeys, which reappear from his ear. There are domestic scenes like a wife massaging her husband’s legs or a lady combing lice from another woman’s hair. These harmonious scenes are like a richly embroidered patchwork of Bangladeshi culture, society, and mythology.
The elaborate panels over multi-cusped arches demonstrate animated battle scenes from the great epics and rasa-mandala too, with dancing Radha-Krsna couple within circles etc. The spirited battle scenes of Lanka and Kuruksetra are depicted with great invention and vitality by the folk artists.

One delightful aspect of the wonderful terracotta ornamentation of the Kantaji Temple, which is distinct is its restriction in depicting erotic scenes.

Base of one of the west pillars of the Kantaji Temple at Kantanagar, taken by John Henry Ravenshaw around 1871-British Library

The endless panels of terracotta art adorning the wall surface of the Kantaji temple have a life of their own. They are deeply inspired by the spirit nourished for thousand years in Bangladesh. The development of an indigenous terracotta art was a logical consequence because of enormous volumes of fertilizing soft alluvium available here. This plastic art came from the early historic period and it is traditional , especially during the Pala-Chandra period. But Buddhist temples at Sitakot, paharpur, mainamati, bhasu vihara,   and other monuments were enflamed with floral terracotta art. Though these plaques are large and usually archaic but terracotta of the Kantaji is of totally different nature. They show very sophisticated mature art. This temple was composed of several individual plaques which are integrated into an extended composition in order to maintain a rhythm. It is more like decorated embroidered tapestry than an architectural structure.

According to the British historians and local, it stands on an old fort of great antiquity. It is said that here Virat Raja used to keep his herd of cattle. He was a very powerful monarch. The space covered by the fort is about a mile square and surrounded and intersected by high ramparts now covered with jungle and the ruin seems like no bricks or stones are found.

The Visitors can no longer go inside the inner sanctum of the temple where contains a Krishna shrine but due to the intricate detail of its exterior, it will keep you engaged.

Do you want to have a look on Kantaji Temple in a video? The thing that I said till now you can have a better look in the video in a minute.  It will give you a better understanding and clear view of the architectural monument with the depiction beautifully seen in the wall of the temple.  For better view check out Kantaji Temple, the best Hindu monument of the ancient period located at Dinajpur.

How to go there

There are buses available all the time from Dinajpur’s main bus stand to the village of Kantanagar ( 7am to 7pm, Tk 30, 30 minutes). The more efficient and comfortable alternative is to grab a return CNG ride from Dinajpur which will cost you Tk 1000 with the waiting time. When the bus drops you, it’s a more 10 minute of walking to reach the destination passing the farmland, over a river bridge and through a couple of mud-hut villages. In the dry season, due to the decrease of the water level , sandbanks are exposed and become the perfect place for the cricket pitch for the kids.

From Dhaka, you can go by Bus, train or even in a plane.

For bus – You will get the bus from Gabtoli, Uttara or from Kollanpur. You can go by all buses which go to Thakurgoan, Panchagar or Dinajpur There are a lot of bus services like – Hanif, Shamoli, Nabil etc. If you go by Thakurgoan or Panchagar buses you take off from the buses to Kantanagor then take Easybike which is available at the intersection which will cross the newly built Dhapa River Bridge and you will reach your destination at Kantaji Temple. If you go by by Dinajpur buses you take off from bus to Dosh Mile from where you will get vehicles like easybike, nocimon, bus etc to reach the Kantaji temple

Some of the bus services are:

  1. Bablu Enterprise
    Contact: Shymoli: 01716 932 122, 8120653
    Fair: BDT 600 (Approx.)
  2. Keya Paribahan
    Contact: Gabtoli: 01193-255 944. 01193-255 943, 88-02-9000812,
    Uttora: 01197-435 092

Shyamoli: 01193-255 941
Arambagh: 01711-704 171

  1. Mim Paribahan
    Contact: Gabtoli: 01734422971, 01911013694
  2. Nabil Enterprise
    Contact: Asad gate: 02-9007036, 02-8012136
    Fair: BDT 600 (Approx.)

Where to Stay

The accommodation facilities are now better in Dinajpur compared to before. List of some places are given below:

  1. Hotel Diamond
    Contact: 64629
  2. Hotel Unique
    Contact: 01736 335264, 0531 52203
  3. Al Rashid Hotel
    Contact: 01716 535956, 0531 65658
  4. Caritas Guest House
    West Shibrampur, Dinajpur,
    Phone: 0531-65673, Email: cbdinaj@btcl.net.bd
  5. Parjatan Motel
    Contact: 64718
  6. Dinajpur Circuit House
    RK Mission Road, Dinajpur.
    Phone: 0531-63112, 63377

Things to do

You can start your journey from Dinajpur town or Sayedpur by any kind of motorized vehicle for the monument. I will suggest hiring a rickshaw van to take a ride by ‘Nosimon’ from “Das Mile”. It will take 10-20 taka per person for a ride.

 Eating Facilities

The food management is also quite good. It won’t give you that much trouble to get a suitable restaurant for you. The foods are very delicious and you can have a variety of food.

Travel Tips

There is a small market where different items related to this place are available. The place is nice and charming.

Raas Leela Festival

Maha Raas Leela, the centuries-old Hindu festival takes place here around the full moon in late November or early December. It celebrates the life of a young Lord Krishna and attracts up to 200,000 pilgrims. A rural fair takes place around the temple complex where the stalls sell objects of daily village life and folk artists engaged in music and dance performances, much to the delight of the attending pilgrims and in keeping with hospitality. It begins on Friday and the inaugural ceremonies are held under tight security. The temple authorities deliver food and entertainment.

During this celebration, the Kantajiu idol (Radha-Krishna Bigroho) is  brought at the Rash altar (Rash Bedi) in the presence of thousands of devotees. The devotees come from all over the subcontinent. The rituals are performed accordance with a tradition connected with Rajas of Dinajpur.
The festival itself changes the look of the region. Veritable human sea swells and pulses around the Kantanagar Temple area from Nepal, India and Bangladesh because as pilgrims from Dhaka, Rangpur, Faridpur, Magura, , Madaripur, and Bhola flood in for the festivities.

Along with the religious rituals, the organizers also arrange a month-long mela at the temple premises. Here hundreds of traders arrive with their products from different parts of the country.

The Kantaji Temple is a late-medieval Hindu temple whose detail and intricacy of the designs show a skill of workmanship which is really impressive for the 1700’s

The Archaeology department is trying to do the conservation and restoration work of Kantaji temple since 1960, when it was declared a protected monument by the Government. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site.

Did you ever visit Kantaji Temple? You can share your experience.

 

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