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Bhalia: Raghunath Temple
The small village of Bhalia is located a few kilometers south of Arambagh town. The Raghunath temple here was built in 1772 by the Sarkar family. The temple is located in a secluded part of the village. The Sarkar family lives in a raised house nearby. The temple is a large atchala in the rich terracotta tradition with a fully decorated facade including ornate arch panels, base friezes, columns, wall panels, and corner panels.


Central Arch Panel
The arch panels are have seven registers, each crowded with figures, with many interesting Ramayana scenes in the central and right arch panels. But many panels are damaged, especially on the left arch. A frieze of small panels frame each entrance arch with figures of warriors, dancers, and yogis within ornate vegetal borders.


Bhishma
Above this is a curved frieze containing battle scenes, including the Mahabharata scene of Bhisma on a bed of arrows. This curved frieze above the arch panels is rare, found only in a few temples such at Joypur in Bankura and on the Lakshmi Janardan temple at Debipur in Bardhaman. Below the curved cornice is a double row of figural wall panels separated into groups of four by pilasters. The double frieze extends along the sides of the facade. The corner panels are traditional with sets of three figural panels separated by wide mouldings.


Base Panels
The base panels are also traditional with Krishnalila panels above and social scenese below. There are some excellent Krishnalila panels here and some beautiful depictions of ships. The octagonal entrance columns also have extensive decoration, although these panels are quite damaged. Although the diety is worshipped daily, the temple suffers from significant structural and surface damage due to neglect and vegetation. The right side of the temple is damaged by tree roots to such an extent that the corner and base panels here are completely lost. The plinth on which the temple stands also seems sunken and broken. The quality of artwork on individual panels is exquisite but at risk as many panels are broken due to neglect or defacement. Immediate action is needed to restore and stabilize this important monument.



Photos and Text © Amit Guha