Ilambazar : A cultured and sublime terracotta township near Shantiniketan

On a fine winter morning, we planned for a trip to the beautiful terracotta village of Ilambazar located amidst green forests along the highways. Ilambazar is a small town in Bolpur in the Birbhum District in West Bengal and is popular for being the traditional weaving and trading centre.

Simple as day trip, rewarding as a full tour

The visit to Ilambazar is a sightseeing day trip during your stay at Shantiniketan. We hired a vehicle from Bolpur and started our journey in the morning. After passing through the Choupahari jungle and experiencing a beautiful drive on the highway, we finally reached Ilambazar.

Bhairavnath Shiva temple in Bamunpara

Mahisasurmardini

Our first destination was the Haat tala market which houses the unique octagonal shaped Mahaprabhu temple, currently protected by the State Archaeology department of West Bengal. First we had kachoris and jalebis from the bustling flea market vendor.

Kachoris , Samosas and Jalebis

The said temple is located in the middle of the market. A makeshift roof of the temple has been made with tin. The temple houses idol of Gouranga and Mahaprabhu. The walls of the temple is richly decorated with terracotta sculptures and is a sight to behold. The Dasmahavidyas and Dasavataras are vertically placed from top to bottom. Besides them, sculptures of European ladies and sahibs, Rasmandal, Camel rider, Tiger, Peacock,etc. are easily identifiable among many.

Octagonal Mahaprabhu temple

Idols inside the temple

Our next stop was the Pancharatna style Lakshmi Janardan temple of the Bandopadhyay family. As per the foundation plaque , the temple was constructed in 1846 A.D. When we visited , the local priest was performing the Pujas and he showed us around the Durgadalan and dilapidated mansion of the Bandopadhyay family.

Beautiful terracotta sculpture

Poetry in burnt clay

This temple is also rich in terracotta decorations. Some of the plaques depicts episodes and figures of Rasmandal, Giri Gobardhan saga,Gosthalila , Mahisasurmardini, Shiva Durga, Ram Ravana war , Ram Sita.etc. The one I liked the most was that of the scenes of Krishna and Balaram going to Mathura.

Central plaque of the Lakshmi Janardan temple

Durga Dalan of the Bandopadhyay Family

Further back tracking on the road, we come across a deul style terracotta temple of Rameshwar Shiva constructed by Ramdhan Chattopadhyay. The Saranan temple is also located beside it. This deul style temple is rich in terracotta decorations. The most prominent among them is the huge Mahisasurmardini ten handed Maa Durga. Sleeping Vishnu, Horse, Lion, Nandi Vringi along with Shiva, Lady carrying vessel and many more sculptures are also exquisite.

Contemporary attire

Deul style Rameswar Shiva temple

Mahisasurmardini

Lady carrying vessel

The final temple in Bamunpara area that we came across is that of the Deul of Bhairavnath Shiva. It was founded by Bhairav Chattopadhyay in 1846. This temple has almost no terracotta sculptures and is plain vanilla in nature.

Bhairavnath Shiva temple in Bamunpara

It was a mesmerising trip exploring the beautiful village of Ilambazar enriched with varied types of temple architecture that are rich in terracotta decorations. This trip is a must visit sojourn if you are in Santiniketan.

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