Dr. A K Chatterjee is a seasoned writer with more than 330 blogs in English and Bengali and 10 books mostly on travel, trekking and temples.
Nrisinghadeva : Lord Vishnu in His Man-Lion form
Key words (Vernaculars are in italics)
Nrisingha; temple; Avatara; Dashavatara; Mandapa; Charchala; Pancha Ratna; Shivalingam; terracotta.
Nrisingha (Narasingha/Narasimha) Deva is the 4th Avatar of Lord Vishnu. He is half-man half-lion (Nara = man; Singha/Simha = lion). His head and upper limbs are of a lion, the torso and lower part of the body is human.
As per Hindu scriptures, Lord Vishnu appeared in 9 different ages in 9 different Avatars or reincarnations/manifestations, and the 10th one (KALKI AVATAR) is yet to come.
These 9 Avatars of Lord Vishnu who had already appeared are as follows maintaining the following order :
Meena or Matsya (Fish), Kurma (Tortoise), Varaha (Boar), Nrisingha (Half-man half-lion), Vamana (The dwarf), Parasurama or Bhargava Rama, Lord Rama or Dasharathi Rama, Balarama, Krishna and Buddha.
Though this the standard list of the 10 Avatars (Dashavatara) of Lord Vishnu, there are some controversies. Though it is generally accepted that Lord Krishna is the 9th Avatar of Lord Vishnu, some believe that Lord Krishna was Lord Vishnu Himself and not one of His Avatars. They include Lord Jagannath as the 9th Avatar of Lord Vishnu. Yet another school gives this place to Lord Buddha.
There are innumerable Vishnu (or Krishna) temples not only in India, but in almost every country where Hindus live. In most of these and other temples dedicated to different deities, either there are smaller shrines housing the 10 Avatars of Lord Vishnu, or the Avatars are depicted in temple decorations.
It is an interesting fact that separate temples for these Avatars are not very common (except those dedicated to Lord Krishna and Jagannatha), and temples dedicated to Nrisingha Deva, the 4th Avatar is rather rare.
There are only few temples dedicated to Nrisingha Deva in India, a list of which is given in the appendix.
Here in this article a discussion will be done on a particular Nrisingha Deva temple from the Indian state of West Bengal.
The ten Avatars of Lord Vishnu (Dashavatar) in temple decorations of West Bengal
Nrisingha Deva temples in West Bengal
There are few temples dedicated to Narasingha Deva in West Bengal. These include :
1. Nrisinghadeva temple, Nrisinhapalli, Navadwip, Nadia district.
2. Nrisinghadeva temple, Gokarna, Murshidabad district.
3. Narasingha temple, Talbagan South, Hanapara, Kestopur, Kolkata.
4. Ugra Narasingha temple, Mayapur, Nadia district.
Here in the present article a discussion will be done on the Nrisingha Deva temple of Gokarna village, Murshidabad district, West Bengal.
Nrisingha Deva temple; Gokarna; Murshidabad, West Bengal
Gokarna is a village in the Kandi Community Development block in the Kandi subdivision of Murshidabad district, West Bengal. Its Geographical co-ordinates are 24.0541 degrees North, 88.1176 degrees East. It is 18 km from Baharampur, the district headquarters. It is situated on State Highway 11, popularly known as the Badshahi Road.
Nrisinghadeva temple, Gokarna, Murshidabad
Nrisinghadeva temple of Gokarna village is situated in a temple complex with 12 temples in total, of which the temple dedicated to Nrisinghadeva is the main temple. Other temples may be called satellite temples, of which 8 are Shiva temples, 1 is dedicated to Lord Krishna and his divine consort Radha, 1 is a "Mandapa" (pavilion) and the last is a small roofless "temple' dedicated to the goddess Varahi.
These temples are arranged around a rectangular central space, with the main temple facing west.
All but two of the temples are structurally similar, being "Charchala" (4-roofed) type of temples, except the "Panchashiva" temple (which is a "Pancharatna" type, i.e. with 5 spires or pinnacles) and the "Mandapa", which is flat-roofed.
The west facing main temple, dedicated to Lord Nrisinghadeva, was founded in 1580 AD. It has little terracotta decoration, mostly geometric and vegetative designs. The quantity and quality of the terracotta work is poor if compared with the more famous temples of nearby Baronagar or Bhattabati which have grand terracotta decorations.
The temple houses an idol of Lord Nrisinghadeva made of black stone in sitting posture. The lion-faced god with a human body has the upper limbs of the beast, and he is seen killing the demon Hiranyakashipu with his sharp claws by placing the demon on his left knee.
Nrisinghadeva temple complex; Gokarna, Murshidabad
Other temples in the complex
As already said, there are 8 Shiva temples, and all but one of these are built in the "Charchala" (4-roofed) style. 7 of these temples house a Shivalingam each, but the 8th temple, situated along the north arm of the rectangle, is called "Panchashiva" temple (meaning the temple of 5 Shiva-s) and it houses 5 Shivalingams arranged linearly.
Interestingly, this is the only temple which is structurally different from the others - while all the other temples are "Charchala" (4-roofed) style, the Panchashiva temple is a "Pancha Ratna" temple (temple with 5 spires).
The remaining Charchala temple belonging to Radha-Krishna is on the southern side, and it houses idols of Lord Krishna and his divine consort Radha.
The flat-roofed Mandapa has beautiful murals on its wall depicting Lord Krishna with Radha on one side and Chaitanya Deva with his disciples on the other.
The "temple" dedicated to Goddess Varahi is intriguing, as there is no actual temple there. Only a small tile-covered masonry structure is there at the place where a dedication-plaque bears the inscription that it is the temple dedicated to Goddess Varahi.
Other temples in Nrisinghadeva temple complex, Gokarna, Murshidabad
As temples dedicated to Lord Nrisinghadeva is rare, especially in West Bengal, the Nrisinghadeva temple of Gokarna village is definitely important and worth visiting.
Gokarna is well connected with Baharampur, the district headquarters with good road (State Highway number 11). Baharampur is well connected with other main cities of West Bengal including Kolkata by good road and rail.
Baharampur is an important tourist hub with many tourist attractions including nearby Murshidabad which was once the capital of Bengal.
Photos : Author
Appendix : a list of important Nrisinghadeva temples in India
Here is a list of important temples dedicated to Lord Narasimha / Nrisingha (source : Wikipidia), but there may be more.
1. Narasimha Swamy Temple, Ahobilam, Andhra Pradesh (In Ahobilam there are 9 Narasingha temples, and Ahobilam is considered the most important site for Nrisingha worship)
2. Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, Mangalagiri, Andhra Pradesh
3. Vedadri Narasimha Temple, Vedadri, Andhra Pradesh.
4. Prahlad Ghat, Hardoi, Uttar Pradesh
5. Narsing Thakur Temple, Imphal, Manipur
6. Shri Laxmi Narsimha Temple, Maharashtra
7. Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha temple, Simhachalam, Andhra Pradesh
8. Iskcon (Hare Krishna) Golden Temple, Telangana
9. Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, Yadadri, Telangana
10. Narasimha Temple, Puri, Odisha
11. Narasimha Temple, Bhubaneswar, Odisha
12. Guru Narasimha Temple, Saligrama, Karnataka
13. Narasingam Yoga Narasimha Perumal Temple, Tamil Nadu
14. Narasimhaswamy Temple, Namakkal, Tamil Nadu
15. Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, Thalassery, Kerala
16. Narsinghji Temple, Rajasthan
17. Nrisingha Temple, Nadia, West Bengal.
18. Narsingha temple, Narsinghpur, Madhya Pradesh.
19. Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple - Nallagondla Village, Vinjamur Taluk, Nellore District, Andhra Pradesh.,
20. Shree Narsingh Dham Mandir, Ghagwal, Samba district, J&K.
21. Narasingha Jharna Cave Temple Bidar Karnataka
22. Ugra Narasingha temple, Mayapur, Nadia, West Bengal.
23. Nrisinghadeva temple, Joshimath, Uttarakhand.
© 2022 Dr A K Chatterjee