Saturday, 8 February 2014


The earliest reference to the geologic-geographic region, of which the present district of puruliya forms a small part, is found in one of the earliest of the Jain sacred books, Acharanga Suttra”. The sutra tradition, according to Herman Jacobi, dates from the 5th century B.C., that is, approximately from the time of Varddhamana Mahavira. But it was probably not codified and written down before the Christian era. According to this text, Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara, travelled in Subha(=Suhma)-bhumi and Vijja(=Vijra)-Bhumi in the country of the Ladhas(=Radhas). The country was pathless and rugged, the terrain was heavily forested, villages were few and far between and the people were in hospitable. They would not give alms to the monks and would instead fierce dogs on them.

There are a number of places in the valleys of Kangsabati and the Damodar, where literally sores of temples at various stages of dilapidation exist even today as apparently the mute evidence of six hundred years of history from the ninth to the fourteenth century A.D. Among this sites special mention may be made of Deulghat under Arsha police station where more than 15 temples have been sighted. On the basis of the epigraphy of an inscription found on a slab, J.D. Beglar had in 1873 (A Tour Through Bengal Provinces in 1872-73, in “A report of the Archaeological Survey of India, Vol-VII, Calcutta 1878).

If we shift our attention from the valley of the Kangsabati to the valley on the east bank of Suvernarekha, we find that here, too, there had been important settlements. Dulmi was one such settlement , Deoli and Suissa are also two other important sites in the Suvernarekha valley.  From these place too, architectural and sculptural remains have been found, which on stylistic considerations can be ascribed to the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

On going back once again to the kangsabati valley there are two interesting sites at Pakibirra and Buddhapur; two more significant sites around Pakhibirra are Dhadki Tanr and Tuisama. These are ruins which can, on stylistic considerations, be dated variously between the 12th and the early 17th century. From Chharra, not very far from Purulia town, a Jaina Tirthankar image has been found, which bears an inscription on its pedestal. In kashipur in the Darakeswas valley, Devid Mccutchion had located and old temple, which to him appeared, on stylistic grounds, to be of the 12th century. In Para, are two temples, one of which appears, on stylistic grounds, to belong to the 15th century, while the other is definitely not older than the second half of the 16th century.

From the sculptural finds, it seems that Deulghata was a Sivaite settlement; amoung the icons found are a Siddhesvara Siva Linga, an image of Pravati flanked by Ganesa and Kartikeya, a lonesome Parvati, the image of an eight arm Durga slying Mahishasura and an image of Uma-Maheswara. Stylistically, all of them are reminiscent to the Pala-sena period. From Kashipur, too an Uma-Maheswara image dwarapalas holding Sivaite symbols and Ganga Jamuna figures carved in the 12th century idiom have been found. But the finest of all finds is an image of the ten armed Siva dancing on the back of Nandi- the bull. Suissa probably was a Vaishnava site. The icons found here include a four armed Vishnu accompanied by Saraswati.
Para in its early days was either a Sakta or a Vaisanava site, from this site a ten-armed Durga image as well as Gaja Lakshmi image, both stylistically akin, have been found. All other settlements seem to have been cultural medley of not only Sivas, Vaishnavas and Saktas, but also of Sauryas or Sun worshippers.

Telkupi provides us with the example of a settlement from where Sivaite, Vaishnavite, Sakta and Saurya Icons have been found. But more interesting are the sites which have yielded Jain and Buddhist icons. Pakbirra happens to be a site which have yielded a very little besides Jain images. It seems that Pakbirra had been a flourishing Jain settlement during the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries. Cheliama, under Raghunathpur police station, seems to have been a Jaina place of worship before it become a Brahmical one; that is confirmed by the find of a number of small sculpted Jaina icons from around the late Brahminical temple of Cheliama. Similarly from the discovery of numerous votive chaityas from around the completely ruined temple at Tuisama near Pakbirra, Baglar inferred this to be either a Jaina or a Buddhist site. But Mccutchion believed that, Since practically nothing connected with Buddhism has been found from the region, Tuisama like Pakbirra was also a Jaina Site.

It is evident from such an array of architectural, sculptural and epigraphic finds that along the courses of Damodar, the Kangsabati, the Dwarakeswar and the Subarnarekha their existed some very populous and possibly very prosperous settlements from the 9th to the 13th century. Whether these were big villages or towns nobody could say. In any case, temple building was, as it is now, an expensive activity. Only kings appropriating a considerable portion of the produce of the land as revenue, or merchants making profits from trade in surplus produce, could afford to invest money in temple building activity.

During the time of Rampala, that is in the beginning of the 12th century, Telkupi of Tailakampi was the seat of a powerful chief. Apart from the kings, the merchants and traders were also in the habit of constructing temples in market places, which incidentally were also the places where they lived and worked. In Telkupi and other places, inscriptions have been found, which testify to the truth of above statements.

It is also almost certain that from the 9th to the 11th century Jainism was flourishing religion and continued to be a force till about the 13th century in this western-most part of West Bengal. Puranic Brahminism overshadowed all other religions. It seems that more merchants and traders had been a demographically in significant community, but in so far as wealth, power and prestige were concern, they were significant community. With the decline of trade and Commerce, however, their wealth and power shrunk and in course of time Jainism become a moribund force in the district. The early medieval Jain merchants of Puruliya have left behind a community called the SARAK – meaning Jain laity. The Sarak’s of Puruliya are Jains in their faith and practice and most of them are in trade, commerce and in business.

Compared to the evidence relating to Jainism and puranic Hinduism found in Puruliya very few artefacts can be held up as evidence of the prevalence of Buddhism in this parts between the 9th and the 12th centuries. This by itself can be taken to be an indirect evidence to prove that the Buddhist Pala emperors did not have effective control over the tracts now comprising Puruliya district. Stylistically, the temples and the sculptures provide evidence of the cultural and technological intercourse the local artisans, sculptors and architects had with Bengal heartland comprising northern Radha, Varendra and Vanga, on the  one hand, and with Orissa, on the other. While the majority of sculptures found from Puruliya unmistakably bear number of nagara-sikhara temples remind one of Orissan temples of that age.

We do not, however, know the names of many local and tribal chiefs who flourished in different parts of Puruliya region from the 9th to the 13th centuries. Nor do we have any knowledge of dynasties that divided the present day Puruliya district among themselves. The firm reference to a ruler we come across, is one Rudrasikhara of Tailakampi. Sandhyakaranandi, the court poeit of the Pala king Rampala (1077-1120), has given a list of Chiefs and feudatories-vassals, semi-independent and nominally independent-who had helped Rampala to rain his ancestral kingdom from the rebel Kaibarttas. The list in the Ramacharita(Manas) includes, inter alia, the name of Rudrasikhara of Teilakampi. From the reference it appears that Rudrasikhaa was a powerful ruler who perhaps nominally accepted the pala overlordship.

On the evidence of archaeological remains of Telkupi, the supposition is fairly tenable. Before the place got submerged by waters of the Panchet dam, it had more than twenty temples of various sizes. On stylistic grounds and on the evidence of a few inscriptions found, the temples seem to have been constructed between the 11th and 13th century.

Sources : 1. Bengal District Gazetteer, Manbhum ,1911.
                 2. Bengal District Gazetteer, Purulia  Edited by N.N.Sen.
                 3. Bengal District Gazetteer, Purulia  Edited by Barun Dey.
                 4. A Tour Through Bengal Provinces in 1872-73 - J. D. Beglar ( A report  from
                     Archaeological Survey of India, Calcutta, Vol-III,1878)
                 5. Pashimbanger Sanskriti by Binoy Ghosh.

Research : Santanu Roy.

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