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Halisahar: Nandakishore Temple
The town of Halisahar is situated about 40 km north of Kolkata on the eastern bank of the Ganga. It was a medieval river settlement and trading centre and was prominent in the pre-Mughal era. Its name is probably a corruption of 'Haveli-sahar' or 'City of Palaces'. Several terracotta temples were built here in the 17th and late 18th centuries in the at-chala and ratna styles but most of these, especially the 17th century ratna temples, are now ruined. The best preserved temples are in a walled complex of four small, single-entrance at-chala temples built in 1743 by Madangopal Ray and currently protected by the State Archaeology Department. The most ornate of the group is the Nandakishore temple whose facade is completely covered with figurative terracotta panels.

Siva Temple
A Siva temple next to the Nandakishore Temple has a decorative scheme similar to the Nandakishore temple, but its terracotta panels contain intricate floral and vegetal scrolls rather than figures. The two other temples in this complex are now ruined and overgrown.

Nandakishore Temple: Arch Panel
The cusped entrance arch is framed by engaged pilasters and the panel above it has the Ramayana battle scene in three registers. The centre panels show Ravana and his army on the left (including Kumbhakarna devouring vanars) and Ram, Lakshman and the vanars on the right. A decayed image of Garuda separates the armies.

Wall Panels
Wall panels arch above the entrance following the curved cornice and along the two sides of the temple. They show figures of musicians, sadhus, or dieties, and are framed by medallions and flowers. The panels at the top are separated by small pilasters faced with figures while full-height pilasters along the sides are faced with rosettes and geometrical patterns. Multiple friezes of very ornate vegetal scrolls (kalpalata) frame the entrance.

Siva on Nandi
At the centre of the left wall, is a large panel with an image of a multi-headed Siva on Nandi.

Base Panels
Along the base of the facade are a series of fairly well-preserved terracotta panels. These are in the standardized format, i.e. in two rows with with small Krishnalila scenes above and larger social scenes below of battle, hunting, and courts. The Krishnalila frieze shows events from Krishna's life: starting with Vasudeva's escape from Kamsa's palace with the baby Krishan, bypassing the sleeping guards, across the Yamuna, and finally with Yashoda.

Krishna slays demons and a European Ship
The Krishnalila panels show Krishna slaying Aghasura and Kesin. The panel below has a has a European ship.

Kuvalayapida and a tiger hunt
In one of the final Krishnalila scenes, Krishna kills Kamsa's royal elephant Kuvalayapida. Below a mounted hunter spears a tiger.

Some of the panels in the lower frieze are varied and well-preserved. A European sits on a chair being entertained by dancers and musicians (a nautch).

Two warriors on horses attack each other with spears.

Zamindar on Chariot
A zamindar's horse-drawn chariot. Musicians and dancers perform on the moving chariot.

Photos and Text © Amit Guha