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Aknapur
This village is located in Tarakeshwar block of Hugli district, and is 3 km from Baligori train station, on the banks of the Kana Damodar river. There are two mid-18th century temples in the village and both are in need of conservation and protection. The first is an abandoned temple built by the Kundu family in 1758. This temple is an atchala temple with triple-arched porch entrance and a richly decorated terracotta facade. The roof of the temple is overgrown and the whole structure is in danger of collapsing unless it is protected soon. The facade of this temple has highly artistic vegetal and some figural terracotta decoration.


Central Arch Panel
The central arch panel has battle scenes separated by a column of finials surmounted by a peacock. Rama and Ravana in their chariots are shooting arrows in the top panels. Below this the left panels show the vanara army. The panels on the right are quite unusual. One shows jackals feeding on a dead rakshasa. The other shows two vultures feeding on another decapitated dead rakshasa.


Left and Right Arch Panels
The left and right arch panels are filled with ornate and very artistic vegetal and floral scrolls. Hidden amongst the flowers and buds are images of birds, including peacocks, eating flowers and fruit. Large lotus roundels are placed at the middle of all arch panels, and the panels are framed by double raised bands of rosettes with a band of kalpalata in between. A single row of figure wall panels is on either side of the entrance frame and arches above it, below the cornice. The large corner panels contain very elaborate and artistic vegetal decoration. Raised bands of kalpalata and rosettes separate the wall and corner panels. Panels on the octagonal porch columns also contain vegetal decoration.


Raghunath Temple
The second 18th century temple in this village is the Raghunath temple built in 1760 by the Mullick family. This is also an atchala temple with triple-arched porch entrance and a richly decorated terracotta facade. The temple is hidden, crowded on all sides by houses of the Mullick and other families. The temple, although still used for worship, is broken, overgrown, and in danger of becoming ruined. The owners of the temple expressed interest in its conservation but said they were without the financial means to save or restore the temple.


Arch Panels
There are many similarities between this temple and the temple of the Kundu family, including the prominence and very high quality of vegetal decoration on the temple facade. The left and right arch panels have large lotus roundels against a background of scrollwork. In the central arch panel are three registers containing figures from the Ramayana battle. The bottom register has large lotus roundels. The top register of the central arch panel shows Kumbhakarna devouring vanaras, with regiments of armies on either side. Below this are three panels: Ravana on the left, Rama and Lakshmana in the middle, and Bali and Sugriva fighting on the right.


Wall and Base Panels
Although some parts of the temple are crumbling, the terracotta work on the remaining portions is clean, and look almost new. The best preserved panels are the wall panels around the entrance arch, containing figures of dasavataras and other deities. The temple basement and plinth are subsiding and covered with earth but brushing off some of the earth revealed excellent base panels including scenes from the Krishnalila such as the killing of Bakasura, the killing of Arishtasura the bull demon, and Krishna stealing butter. A panel at the base of one of the columns containing images of boats.



Photos and Text © Amit Guha