February 8, 2016

Shyamrai Temple

Site Name: Shyamrai Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Bishnupur, West Bengal state, India
Highlights: Terracotta at its best 
Nearest Railway Station: Bishnupur
Nearest Airport: Kolkata 
How to reach: Easily reachable from Kolkata, which is around 160 kms away
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Kolkata; Bishnupur too has many decent options for stay
Restaurants: Limited mid-range options in Bishnupur

Bishnupur is a town located in Bankura district in West Bengal state of India. It is located at a distance of around 160 kms from Kolkata, the capital city of Bengal. It is famous for the 17th and 18th century Terracotta temples and balucheri sarees. Let us explore an outstandingly beautiful temple called Shyamrai Temple in Bishnupur in this article.


The area around Bishnupur was called as Mallabhum region in the olden days. The region, which can also be called as Bishnupur Kingdom was ruled by Malla dynasty for many centuries. The Muslim or Mughal invasion did not affect this region much. Adi Malla was the founder of the dynasty. 

Bishnupur rose into prominence during the reign of the King Bir Hambir. He introduce the worship of Madan Mohan (Lord Krishna). During his period as well as during the period of another King named Bir Singha, many beautiful brick temples were built. 

Stone was in short supply in Bengal. Probably, this lead to an alternative in the name of elaborately decorated terracotta temples. The Malla Kings built many such terracotta temples in the 17th and 18th centuries CE in Bishnupur. 

Shyamrai temple was built by the Malla King Raghunath Singh in 1643 CE.

Temple Architecture and Layout:

Shyamrai temple is one of the most beautiful temples of Bishnupur. The temple is entirely built of brick. It has profuse terracotta ornamentation on both interior and exterior walls.

This temple is the best example for a brick temple in Pancha Ratna architecture style. It has five sikharas (pinnacles) on a typical Bangla style curved Chala roof. The central sikhara is octagonal and the remaining four sikharas are square shaped. The four sikharas are of Pidha type resting on curved roof in the four sides.

The sanctum sanctorum is square and is surrounded by triple arched gateway on its four sides. Not only the interior and exterior wall, but even four of five sikharas have extensive terracotta artworks.

One of the sikharas fell down and it was rebuilt by ASI Hence, it does not have any artwork. You can easily make out of difference. Instead of making the sikhara curvilinear form, the ASI had made it straight.

The intensively carved sculptures include the hunting scenes, battle between Ram and Ravan, Krishna romancing Radha, Krishna playing flute, different scenes of Krishna Lila, various animals, birds, floral designs, scenes from the Puranas and epics, etc. There is a huge Ras chakra which is the major highlight among all terracotta works in this temple. It depicts Krishna and Radha in the middle surrounded by Gopis in many concentric circles.

The temple is dedicated to Radha and Krishna, but there is no deity found in the temple currently.

A visit to Bishnupur without visiting this temple which displays terracotta at its best is meaningless.

Happy travelling.

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