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.
Vrindavan Chandra temple, Gobarhati, Murshidabad
Key words (vernacular words are in italics)
Temple, terracotta, Nagara, Dravida, Besara, Odishi, Chala, Ratna, Deul, Dalan, Chandni
India is a land of temples, and the state of West Bengal is no exception. It is dotted with thousands of temples dedicated to various gods and goddesses belonging to Hinduism. These temples vary in size, shape and architecture.
Architecturally, temples of India usually fall into 3 broad classes - "Nagara" (the North Indian style), "Dravida" (the South Indian style) and "Besara" (an intermediate style). But there are many regional as well as cultural variations, one of the most important being the "Odishi" or "Kalinga" style originating from the state of Odisha (historically "Kalinga").
In Bengal, apart from the classical Nagara style, there is a distinct school of temple architecture, called the Bengal style, which is a little different from the Nagara or North Indian style.
The Bengal style of temple architecture includes several types like :
1) CHALA (meaning Roof) style, the subtypes are called as per the number of roofs :
EKCHALA (with one roof), DOCHALA (with two slanting roofs meeting along a line at the top), JORBANGLA (two DOCHALA temples fused side by side), CHARCHALA (4-roofed, where 4 slanting roofs meet at a point at the top), AATCHALA (8-roofed, 4+4 roofs in two stories) and BAROCHALA (12-roofed, 4+4+4 roofs in three stories).
Temples with more than 12 roofs are very rare. An example of a very rare temple with 20 roofs (4+4+4+4+4) is the Bhramari Devi temple in the Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal.
2) RATNA (meaning turret or spire style) with number of the turrets determining the name of the subtypes :
EKRATNA (with a single turret), PANCHARATNA (with 5 turrets), NABARATNA (with 9 turrets), TRAYODASHRATNA (with 13 turrets), SAPTADASHRATNA (with 17 turrets) and PANCHABINGSHATIRATNA (with 25 turrets).
3) DEUL type : here the temples are characterized by a tall and usually curvilinear conical turret called SHIKHAR which may be ridged or nonridged.
4) DALAN or CHANDNI type of temples resembling regular pucca dwelling houses.
In the present article, we'll discuss about the biggest and tallest PANCHARATNA temple of Murshidabad district of the Indian state of West Bengal.
The temple is the Vrindavan Chandra temple in the village of Gobarhati in the Kandi tehsil of Murshidabad district.
Photos of different types of temples of Bengal style
This village is under Gokarna II Gram Panchayet. Previously known as Gaurangahati, Gobarhati village is situated about 16 km from the district headquarters Baharampur and can be approached by Baharampur-Rangamati-Chandpara road. The nearest rail station is Karnasuvarna, which is about 5 km away.
Vrindavan Chandra temple, Gobarhati
Vrindavan Chandra temple
This big temple is situated at the centre of the village, at one end of a big field.
The square base of the temple measures about 8 metres x 8 metres and it is about 12 metres tall, thus making it the largest and tallest PANCHARATNA type of temple in the district.
The temple was founded by a local rich man named Brajo Mohan Das in 1694 AD, and was renovated in 1994 AD by one Sukumar Das, son of Kalipada Das.
The brick-built temple, as already said, is of PANCHARATNA type with 5 turrets arranged in 4+1 pattern on a curved roof. The main turret is placed centrally, and the other 4 smaller turrets are paced at the four corners of the roof.
The turrets are REKH DEUL (ridged turret) type.
The entrance is through a triple-arched doorway. There is a small veranda, beyond that is the sanctum.
Vrindavan Chandra temple : structure
Decoration on the exterior
There are extensive terracotta decorations on the outside of the wall, specially on the front. The chief decorations are of floral, vegetative and geometric patterns, though some figures of gods and goddesses like Lord Shiva, Lord Krishna with his divine consort Radha etc. and birds are also there.
Terracotta decorations of Vrindavan Chandra temple, Gobarhati
Vrindavan Chandra temple : the deities
The sanctum houses black stone-built idol of Lord Madanmohan (a form of Lord Krishna) and a clay idol of his consort Radharani. The idol of Radharani was originally of metal (Ashtadhatu - an alloy of 8 metals), but that was stolen some years ago.
Puja (ritual worship) is conducted daily, but during the festivals like Holi and Janmashtami large numbers of devotees gather here.
An old yet beautifully maintained temple, the Vrindavan Chandra temple of Gobarhati should be in the tour itinary of all history and temple lovers.
I'm grateful to the very friendly villagers of Gobarhati village for their kind co-operation during my visit there.
* All photos are by me (the author).
At Gobarhati village
© 2022 Dr A K Chatterjee