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Daspur: Gopinath Temple
Daspur is a mid-sized town in north-western Medinipur. In the 18th and 19th centuries it had a thriving sutradhar community who built many temples in Medinipur and adjoining Hugli and Bankura districts. We know this from inscriptions on some of these temples identifying the architects as from (sang) Daspur. Naming the architect alongside the patron in temple inscriptions shows how important temple building was in this period. Daspur too had several terracotta temples of which only a few remain today. The earliest of these is the ekratna Gopinath temple built by the Sinha family in 1716. The ek-ratna style is rare outside Bankura and this temple is one of the best preserved early examples in Medinipur. The temple is within a large open courtyard and has a fully decorated terracotta facade. The ratna above is a fine structure, built as a fully formed tri-ratha ridged rekha deul with an amalaka, ghanta, and kalasa finial.


Arch Borders
The temple has a triple-arched entrance porch. The narrow cusped entrance arches are framed by miniature deuls with fluttering banners. Above this on the arch panel are lotus-roundels amidst fine scrollwork but the Ramayana scenes in two registers at the top are unremarkable. The arches are framed by rosettes and are separated also by fine scrollwork. At the top of the facade, below the curved cornice, is a single row of wall panels, while a double column of vertically elongated panels runs along the sides. These panels have miniature figures within wide borders and are framed by rosettes. The corner panels have vegetal ornamentation only.


Base Panels
At the base of the facade is a double row of panels containing Krishnalila scenes above and social scenes below. Although many of these panels are damaged some fine scenes remain including a long procession of gopis presenting curds to Krishna and below this, Europeans reclining on elaborate boats next to a hookah-smoking nobleman on a palki. The heavy octagonal porch columns have square bases and panels at the top containing scenes of dancing couples including one of Radha-Krishna playing on the same flute. Within the porch is a narrow arched entrance to the sanctum with a carved and painted wooden door. The door panels have lotus-roundels in a style very similar to that on a false door on the north wall. Elongated vertical figural wall panels cover the rest of the sanctum. Although this temple fairly well preserved it does need conservation. Many panels on the facade are worn-out or missing, and most of the base panels are affected by salinity and have lost their sculptural detail. There is overgrowth on the cornice and the courtyard of the temple is also overgrown.


Lakshmi Janardan Temple
In a much better state of preservation is the pancharatna Lakshmi Janardan temple of the Pal family built in 1791. The architecture and ornamentation of this temple is very different from the Gopinath temple. Much of the facade is plain, including corner panels, octagonal columns and base panels. But this is compensated for by the detail and quality of the figural sculpture on the wall and arch panels. There is no scrollwork on the panel borders or frames, and this makes the figures more prominent.


Wall Panels
A double row of rectangular wall panels runs along the top and the sides of the facade. These show yogis in various dispositions, dasavatars, Krishna scenes, and musicians and dancers. But the best panels are above the arches.


Central Arch
Above the central arch, Ramayana scenes include early events such as Lakshman cutting off Surpanakha's nose and Rama hunting the golden deer (lowest registers). Above this Ravana is shown carrying away Sita as Jatayu attacks him. Further up are war scenes including an arrow being pulled out of Lakshman and attempts to wake Kumbhakarna, culminating in the final duel between Ram and Ravan in the topmost register.


Left Arch
Above the left arch are Krishnalila scenes. The central registers show Kaliyadaman, crossing the Yamuna, vastraharan, and gopis presenting curds: all well known stories from Krishna's boyhood. Surrounding this are pastoral scenes such as Krishna milking a cow, or driving cattle as a cowherd, or with Balarama carrying food strung from poles.


Right Arch
The right arch panels are unusual in not being Krishnalila or Ramayana scenes. Instead they show various dieties including the dasavatars, a register with Brahma-Siva-Vishnu and some more uncertain scenes such as, perhaps, Shakuntala. Bands of intricate kalpalata scrollwork frame the arch panels. Inside the porch, the sanctum entrance is flanked by terracotta dvarpalaks with turbans, belts, and folded hands.


Wooden Door Panels
The wooden door to the sanctum is finely carved with images of dieties within elaborate frames. The south facade of the temple has a false arched window flanked by circular pilasters. Within the shell-like cusps of the arches are unusual stucco birds, now damaged, while above this there is floral scrollwork on the arch panels. This was once painted, perhaps but is now discoloured and damaged.



Photos and Text © Amit Guha