Sunday, 3 January 2016


‘Jatileshwar’, a name which will be an object of wonder even for those who are very cunning about history and heritage of Indian subcontinent as this has never been in limelight of conscious minds. When we talk about history of Bengal we usually thought of days when Kolkata, once an ordinary rural settlement, became an urbanized town; we romanticize moribund days of Gaur and fine arts of terracotta temples. But there is abundance of living histories, which are now dwelling in the darkness and nonetheless, they hold a very rich content to cultivate. There are some documentations and popular histories about those past days. What we would like to share is a little more than glimpses of the age old ‘bricks and stones’ of North Bengal region. The manner in which temples and small fortifications were built in this region and how popular stories grew around the making of those structures are yet to be clarified. Yes we need to consider popular perceptions to have a glance of past and to look forth in future. 

Early British surveyors like Hamilton Buchanan, James Rennel and D.H.E Sander have worked out on the regions of Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar and they noticed the presence of such temples and Deuls of that region. Based on the reports of these writings later historians drown a picture of those temples buildings. But to which we should give more importance is the process of acculturation around those temple buildings. We should also aware of any kind of fabrication which can overwhelm our perception. Though there is no known date of the construction of Jatileswar temple but popular perception says this temple is old as her neighbor Jalpesh temple which resides in the vicinity Jatileswar.  

The surrounding place of this temple is popularly known as ‘Purbo Dahor’. Though there is a popular hindu myth behind the name ‘Purbo Dahor’, but what comes when we spell it in Bengali is Purbo (East) and Dahor (swamp). So it can be concluded that Purbo dahor means ‘swamp area in the Eastern side’. Now it left the most interesting question that is, ‘Eastern side of what?’ we don’t know what it exactly implies but we know that there is exactly a swamp area in the eastern side of Jatileswar temple. An unusual thing will attract traveller’s eyes as one can see in the front face that there is no doorway to go inside of the temple, but on the contrary we have such entrance in the western and southern side. If you are curious about the interior part then surely the doorkeepers, made of black stone, are not the right match to go with. 

Figures from the interior part revealed the process of acculturation of Shaivite and Buddhist culture. The manner in which those figures were furnished led us to think of socio-cultural trend in Bengal in Gupta reign. So the figures are also valuable to trace the date of construction of this temple. What art historian Edith Tomory argued in his book on the history of Indian fine arts is that there are certain sections of a hindu temple respectively Vimana (the main shrine), Sikhara (the finial), Mandapa (pillered assembly hall), Antarala (a small vestibule) and Garbhagriha (a rectangular cella,the core body). But in this case we can find the absence of Gupta style of Mandapa and Antaral but Garbhagriha and Vimana remain in their place. Thus it can be said reflection of Gupta culture or legitimized of Vaishanav traditions are there but particularly this region of Bengal had its own process of socio-cultural changes gave rise to Shaivaite culture. But that did not replace Vaishnav or Buddhist influence which was also patronized by Gupta kings. Here in this site we can hear resonances of the period of Gupta-Pala junction.
Though figures from this temple do not tell us about the fineness of sculpture like their successor figures from Pala period but those female figures, Ganesha, Buddha, Chandi, Shiva and Vishnu compelled us to think about the excellence of the workers who were nevertheless advanced than the other contemporaneous achievements. There is no doubt that beyond the royal patronization they had their own thoughts about the popular perception of religion to put it into its final implementation. 
According to its art, architecture and sculpture we can conclude this is an excellent combination of Hindu, Buddhist and Vaishnav traditions. Section division according to foods and offerings given to the deity and reconstructions of relief works speak lot about both royal and popular concern for this temple. Well it is very hard to trace the original deity of this temple on the contrary there is no need of any anesthesia to trace it as it carried all the objectives over the year which came into contact with it.

Now-a-days when India is once more hurled by some extremist forces and thoughts then we should not forget that we have a long tradition of acculturation and Jatileshwar is not an exception of it. Today this temple is an established Shiva Temple but it has Vaishnavite and Buddhist heritage in its vein. Centuries of negligence and environmental changes thrown it into the darkness but Jatileshwar lives with the echoes of time. Time knows the best and so it grabbed past characters; temple stones remain silent but Jatileshwar wakes up everyday in our popular notion; History takes her own way, and memory goes along with it. 
1.      Pradip Bagchi, Jalpaiguri Jelar Pratna Nidarshan Jatileshwar,Kirat bhumi, 1994.
2.      Tarapada Santra,Jalpaiguri Jelar purakirti, Tathya Sanskriti Bibhag, 2005.
3.      Nihar Ranjan Ray, Bangalir Itihash, Adi Parva.
4.      Rakhaldas Bandopadhyay, Banglar Itihash,Vol I.
5.      Edith Tomory, Introduction to history of fine arts in India and the west.
6.      Jalpaiguri District Gazetteer, 1986.
7.      John F. Grunning, Eastern Bengal and Assam District Gazetteers, Jalpaiguri, 1911.
                Research - Sritam Mukherjee
               Picture Courtesy - Ranadeep Choudhury.

No comments: