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Kidderpore’s historic Bhukailash Temple: Hidden in plain sight

The 200-year-old complex, rarely visited by people from other parts of Kolkata, houses two huge Shiva lingas in two ‘aatchala’ temples

Rangan Datta | Published 11.01.22, 03:00 PM
The temple complex dates back to 1781

The temple complex dates back to 1781

Rangan Datta

Kidderpore, located in the south part of the city, is home to India’s oldest river port. Apart from the dock, the area also houses Fancy Market, known for cheap electronic goods and not to mention the amazing Mughlai food. But hidden in the labyrinth of the neighbourhood, unknown to many, is a huge temple complex housing two of the biggest Shiva lingas in eastern India. The lingas are housed inside large temples spread over a large complex, complete with a waterbody. 

One of the two massive Shiva lingas

One of the two massive Shiva lingas

Rangan Datta

The temple complex dates back to 1781 and was constructed by Raja Joynarayan Ghosal. Ghosal was born in 1752 and received the ‘Raja’ title from a Mughal ruler. A prolific trader, he made a fortune by doing business with the East India Company. Apart from Bengali, he mastered several other languages — including English, Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic and Persian. He was closely associated with the great reformer Raja Rammohan Roy and played an active role in social reforms in Bengal.

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The temple is approached from the Kidderpore Tram Depot. A gate opposite the depot welcomes visitors to the temple. A winding road leads to the temple complex through a drum house or ‘nahabat khana’. The complex once covered an area of 108 bighas, but now most of it has been heavily encroached. The rajbari and the temple complex is now separated by a road.

The complex once covered an area of 108 bighas

The complex once covered an area of 108 bighas

Rangan Datta

Sadly, the temple and rajbari witnessed years of neglect, and several structures have collapsed over time. It was only in 2013 that the Kolkata Municipal Corporation took up the job of restoring the two century-old temples. The temples, pond and the surrounding area was revamped, but it hardly followed any restoration guideline. The structures were rebuilt rather than restored. On September 25, 2013, the complex was opened to public in the presence of the Bollywood ‘Dream Girl’ Hema Malini.

The family deity of Shri Shri Patita Paboni — an idol of Mahisashurmardini — made with an alloy of eight metals

The family deity of Shri Shri Patita Paboni — an idol of Mahisashurmardini — made with an alloy of eight metals

Rangan Datta

Both the temples follow the aatchala style of architecture and houses towering lingas, considered among the tallest in eastern India. The linga on the east is named Raktakamaleshwar and the western one is called Krishnachandaneshwar. The temple has no terracotta work, but traces of stucco ornamentation can be seen.

The interior once contained a beautiful fresco, but most of has been given a new look, and in the process, lost its elegance and grace. Between the two temples is a large statue of Nandi the bull, which was installed recently. The pond lies on the southern end and beyond that is a domed pavilion housing a bust of Joynarayan Ghosal, which sadly remains under lock and key most of the time. 

A statue of Nandi the bull was installed recently between the two temples

A statue of Nandi the bull was installed recently between the two temples

Rangan Datta

Across the road is the Bhukailash Rajbari, housing the family deity of Shri Shri Patita Paboni — an idol of Mahisashurmardini — made with an alloy of eight metals. The rajbari complex built by Joynarayan Ghosal dates back to 1782 and some portions of it are still occupied by the Ghosal family. Today, the rajbari is let out for shooting purposes and several Bengali serials have been shot out here. It helps to keep the place clean and provides valuable revenue. The shrines and the living space is centred around a small courtyard, which leads to a dilapidated dancing hall, whose roof has long collapsed. 

The dilapidated dancing hall in Bhukailash Rajbari

The dilapidated dancing hall in Bhukailash Rajbari

Rangan Datta

Although the temple is rarely visited by people from other parts of Kolkata, it attracts a lot of local residents. In the mornings and evenings, local kids play cricket and badminton in the complex. The temples attract a huge crowd during Shiva Ratri.

 

Rangan Datta is a mathematics and management teacher by profession and a travel writer and photographer by passion. He has been addicted to discovering off-beat places since his undergraduate days at St. Xavier's College. Blogging and contributing to Wikipedia are his other passions.

Last updated on 11.01.22, 03:00 PM
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