Bengal, the erstwhile capital of India, is a state endowed with a rich history in every aspect be it academic, learning and culture. Since the time of my stay here, I am astonished and delighted at the same time to visit the various gems in this state which exhibit these former and current glories. In this context, this post would be speaking about Ambika Kalna, the temple town of Bengal.
The pandemic has made sure that travel is constrained with a lot of restrictions and disruptions. However, I have used this opportunity to explore Bengal from time to time, something which maybe I would not have been able to give some other circumstances. This has helped me to get to you, my dear readers a window to peep into and get a glimpse of the rich heritage and history of Bengal in a simplified manner.
Ask those who stay in Bengal and they will definitely mention Ambika Kalna as a place to visit if given an opportunity considering the richness of the History that can be seen out here. Hence lets i.e. You & I ; explore Ambika Kalna the temple town of Bengal.
History of Ambika Kalna
Bengal has, I guess, multitudes of temples. I do even think that an estimate can be made of the number of temples in this land. The history of this land is soaked in belief and bhakti. Among the various famous towns, there is Kalna, known as the “City of Temples”. It gained prominence on account of the Terracotta temples and is closely and ably supported by the world-famous Terracotta temples for Bishnupur or maybe it is the other way around. But the point remains that both the towns are front runners when it comes to the magnificence of Terracotta temples.
Located in the Bardhhaman district, on the banks of the Bhagirathi river, Kalna is named after the Goddess Kali and hence called Ambica Kalna. The town gained prominence in the 17th century and has been at the forefront of trade and military significance.
What is my blog all about ?
My blog focuses quite a bit on ancient history, among other places of travel which I keep doing. The history posts come up because there is in ancient Indian History, so many monumental architectures created. Read through the posts on the Tiruchirapalli Tamil Nadu or Uttarakhand temples in Himalaya. I am sure a visit to them would be fascinating to just about anyone purely from an architectural magnificence prism of view. In case interested, read about HAMPI & Aihole here. How about some thoughts on Manikarnika Ghat, Varanasi.
In case reading blogs is tedious at your end, would you like to check the story posts out here
Day trips from Kolkata
So in the context of day trips from Kolkata or weekend trips from Kolkata. I would recommend you browse my journey to Mahishadal, Khirai, Baranti, Purbasthali, Bishnupur, Serampore, Bandel and Gongoni. There is so much to see in this state, similar to like the Northern Karnataka architectural circuit of Hampi and Badami.
Ambika Kalna, the temple town of Bengal
I have been exploring the various destinations in Bengal which have their own unique identity and allure. Hence, I decided to sync this with the desire of visiting Ambika Kalna, the temple town of Bengal. A day trip destination from Kolkata to get a first-hand feel of a slice of History.
What did I see in Ambika Kalna
The total temples of Ambica Kalna are prominent in number, which I don’t think so can be covered in a single day and might need 2-3 days to see in an unhurried manner. However, I will be listing down the ones that I visited, and this can be considered a good starting point to proceed further.
Ambica Kalna, the temple town of Bengal
Nava Kailash Temples
The most prominent of all the temples to be seen in Ambika Kalna, the temple town of Bengal is the Nava Kailash temples. It is indeed a fantastic constructional feature with a circular ring of 108 Shiva Temples constructed in 1809. The temples showcase some splendid terracotta carvings with episodes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata depicted on the panels.
Constructed in two concentric circles, with the inner circle having 34 temples, while the outer is complete with 74 shiva temples. The temples simple in construction have alternate Black and White Shiva lingams installed. It is said that the number 108 is very significant, and hence one can say that a lot of thought has gone in during the construction design of the Nava Kailash Temples of Ambika Kalna.
Kalna Rajbari Complex
Just opposite the Nava Kaisha temples is the Kalna Rajbari complex. A vast complex, beautifully maintained and is visited with heavy footfalls throughout the day. It is an important step in the circuit of exploring Ambika Kalna, the temple town of Bengal.
The very first temple seen inside the complex is the Odisha Deul structured Pratapeshwar Temple. It is said to have been built in 1849. Solitary in structure, it showcases some intricate engravings and sculpture on the Terracotta panels. There are stories and scenes enacted from the Krishna legends as well as from the Goddess Durga tales.
I was introduced to the concept of Rasmancha after visiting many of the temple structures and complexes in Bengal. The Rasmancha structure is where the plays and drama used to be enacted during the reign of the Kings featuring themes from the life and tales of Lord Krishna and Radha.
The Rasmancha out here is a twin sectioned dome-shaped structure with 24 pillars in the outer section and 8 pillars in the inner chamber. The structure is partially demolished. However, the pillars still stand strong.
Laljiu Temple of Ambika Kalna, the temple town of Bengal
Out of the five Panchabingshati ( 25 pinnacled ) temples in West Bengal to date, Laljiu is one. The oldest of all in Kalna itself, the pinnacles are a sight to see indeed. Pinnacles are distributed in 12+8+4+1 style in the 4 floored temple.
The temple was built in 1739; there is a Naatmandir in four sloped roof design in front of it. This structure, with its embellishments, add more beauty to the entire theme of the Laljiu temple and is a must-visit indeed as a part of Ambika Kalna, the temple town of Bengal.
Giri Gobardhan Temple.
In the same complex of Lajiu temple stands the Giri Gobardhan temple built in the year 1758. The temple is quite interesting in construction and simple in design. The roof is made like that of a mountain with several human and animal sculptures on it. I have no idea what they signify, but I found this to be quite unique indeed.
Vijay Vaidyanath Temple
The Aatchala styled temple within the Raajbari complex is the Vijay Vaidyanath temple. The presiding deity is Lord Shiva, and the temple was built at the same time as the remaining temples within the Rajbari.
This is also one of the five Panchabingshati ( 25 pinnacled ) temples in West Bengal. I did not go inside the temple because, if I remember correctly, some constructional work in progress, like the Laljiu temple, also has 25 pinnacles in the same formation and floors an Ekchala temple in front known as the Jagmohan temple. The exploration of Ambika Kalna, the temple town of Bengal continues and I found this post by Amitabha Gupta very helpful. These 25 pinnacled temples are truly a magnificent structures and one cannot help but feel awed by the them.
Ratneswar & Jaleswar Temples
Panchratna temples, dedicated to Lord Shiva and adjoining the Rajbari complex built in the prevalent styles of that time ( 17th century ). These temples are easy to miss as they are situated in narrow lanes and do not draw too many footfalls.
Siddeshwari Kali temple
One of the most famous temples, the Siddheswari Kali temple, is reputed as the oldest temple in Ambika Kalna and was established in the 16th century. There are three other atchala temples also in the temple complex.
This temple is one of the most sought after temples in Ambika Kalna, the temple town of Bengal, There are a host of local fables and tales associated with the temple’s divine powers and how the present temple came into existence.
Just across the Siddheswari Kali temple, there is a small ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Kali known as Sadhana Kali temple. Do not miss visiting this temple, for it had a compelling vibe of the Goddess emanating from within.
Next to the Siddheswari temple, a street away, I came across the temple dedicated to Anantabasudev. The temple was closed for the afternoon by the time I reached, so got a chance to only see the temple from the outside. Brightly painted, I guess this was also a terracotta panelled temple; however, the bright paint has obliterated most of the exquisite carvings. This is presumed to be a very auspicious temple, and one should make it a point to visit this temple when visiting Kalna.
In addition to the above, I would recommend visiting the following temples l, which I could not owing to time as well as ignorance
- Mahaprabhu Bari
- Jagannath Bari
- Gopaljiu temple at GopalBari
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FAQ on visiting Ambika Kalna, the temple town of Bengal.
How to reach Ambika Kalna . Either one can take the local trains from Howrah, which will take two hours to reach Kalna. There one needs to hire the local rickshaw to take a tour of the places mentioned above
Else one can use the NH2 to go via Singur, Gurap and then Boinchi-Kalna road to finally reach Ambika Kalna. It is easily a three-hour journey. Once you reach the city, take a local rickshaw to see the places. Do not use the vehicle.
Eateries & Hotels. I did not find anything good, but then maybe I was not checking this aspect. I remember eating lunch as a small roadside eatery serving traditional Bengali lunch fare.
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