West Bengal is a land dotted with ancient temples. There are temples built across the length and breadth of this land. While few of them have achieved prominence and thus care, as the temple complexes of Bishnupur and Kalna, many more are at the mercy of mother nature, slowly eroding them. Pathra, the temple town of West Medinipur is definitely a worthwhile visit. This nondescript town boasts nearly 34 Bangla temples with crumbling terracotta work. Situated on the banks of the Kangsbati river, the temple Complex at Pathra Medinipur is a must-visit for the history buff and those who love to explore the history of this land.
About Pathra Medinipur
Pathra lies 14 km from Medinipur town. While Medinipur has many tourist spots, the nearest tourist spot from Kharagpur is Pathra. The temples in Pathra village range to more than 200 years old. These were primarily built by the Ghosal and Banerjee families, the prominent zamindars in this region. History says that these were constructed under the reign of Nawab-Ali-Bardi Khan by Bidyananda Ghosal. The construction of these temples dates back to the beginning of the eighteen-century, ending around the early nineteenth century.
The Pathan who saved the Hindu Temples
Currently, the temples are under the custody of the ASI, India. In addition, the Pathra Archaeological Preservation Committee has also been working hard to preserve these homes and help draw enthusiasts and tourists to visit these temples to maintain their history and legacy.
I should not fail to mention the tale of Md Yeasin Pathan, a resident of the village of Pathra who, for the last three decades, has been struggling against everyone, including rigorous differences between communities and government and administration bureaucracy, to safeguard these temples. Only through his efforts did ASI takes over these temples. For his effort, he was awarded the “Kabir” award by the President of India for preserving Hindu temples despite being Muslim Pathan.
Pathra, the temple town of West Medinipur
For those unaware of the richness of Bengal’s ancient heritage, Pathra temple town is a must-visit. Once, you can drive down from Kolkata, which will take around 4 hours, or catch a train. If one wants to stay at Pathra, the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation runs the Mrittika Tourism Property.
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The temples of Pathra
The temples of Pathra are classified primarily into –
- Nabaratna Temple Complex
- Kalachand Complex
- Rasmancha Temple Complex
The Kalachand Complex consists of a temple complex comprising Shiva Mandir, a Durga temple. In addition to these, there are numerous other shrines, including a rectangular courtyard with decorative pillars.
There is no idol and hardly any complete structure standing. The temples are relics, and though ASI maintains the temples, there are hardly any guides to educate the visitors.
I tried to understand what the temples stood for as I wandered through them. There was no other traveller other than me all the while when I visited Pathra. The locals were not forthcoming in providing any details as they went about their everyday work.
The opposite Kalachand complex lies the Nabaratna Temple complex, which consists of a nine-pinnacle (Naba Ratna) temple. The tallest temple in the entire Pathra region. The complex houses four flat-roof Shiva temples also. This complex is in a better state than the Kalachand complex though not very elaborate.
Rasmancha Temple Complex
The temple complex consists of three Shiva temples, an Octagonal Rasmancha and the Kacharibari. I found this complex to be the most well-preserved of all three. The Shiva temples still display terracotta ornamentation, while the Rasmancha stands in all its glory among the surrounding fields.
Out here I met some locals who were helpful in trying to make me understand the history of the place and recite some local folklore that would have happened in their time.
What is my blog all about ?
My blog focuses quite a bit on history, art in India, among other places of travel that I keep doing. In addition to exploring offbeat places, I am also interested in increasing my awareness of Historical institutions and places within India. Read through the posts on the Kerala folklore Museum in Kochi which showcases the cultural heritage of Kerala. Then we have the reclusive Panch Kedar Trek into the Himalayas to see a slice of timeless History and legends. I am sure, visit to them would be fascinating to anyone purely from a visitor’s inquisitive to say the least. In case interested, read about the lonely vigil of St Augustine’s Tower in Old Goa or on the churches of Goa.
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How to reach Pathra
A three-hour drive from Kolkata can reach Pathra. The roads nearing the village are narrow and need careful navigation. Pathra can also be achieved using the local train network from Howrah station. I did not see any significant hotels around there; hence food needs to be packed and taken s as a backup.
My take on visiting Pathra, the temple town of West Medinipur
The terracotta Pathra temples are definitely a must-visit for the history buff who wishes to know the glory of Bengal history. The place is to be combined with a visit to other tourist spots in Paschim Medinipur.