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Joypur
This village, located about 15 km east of Bishnupur, has several brick temples from the 19th century. Remarkable amongst these are the terracotta-decorated navaratna Vishnu temples of the De and Datta merchant-zamindar families. Navaratna temples with their elaborate superstructures were associated with wealth and prestige of patrons and were therefore popular amongst merchant-zamindars throughout Bengal in the 19th century. In Bankura district there are examples in medieval trade centres such as Bishnupur, Patrasayer, Sonamukhi, Barjora, and Hadal-Narayanpur. The two navaratna temples in Joypur have very similar architectural styles. Both the temples are situated in the courtyard of family houses and are used in daily and ceremonial rituals. However, they are both in significant need of conservation.


Dattapara Vishnu Temple
This temple is situated next to the ruined mansion of the Datta family. It has a sharply curved cornice and the ratnas are built as miniature ridged rekha deuls with straight-cornices. The temple is raised on a low (perhaps sunken) plinth and has covered porches with triple-arched entrances on the east and south sides. A single-arched entrance with carved wooden door leads from the porch into the sanctum. The entrance arch panels on the east and south facades have richly terracotta decoration while the single row of wall panels have figures in deep relief.


Dattapara: East Facade
On the east facade, the left arch panel has the Mahabharata battle scene identified by Krishna as the charioteer on the right. The central arch panel shows Krishna playing the flute at the centre surrounded by gopis. Below is Krishna again, seated on the left and enthroned with Radha on the right. Further below, parrots, peacocks, and geese climb the arch frame.


Dattapara: East Facade
The right arch panel has the Ramayana battle scene, with the ten-headed Ravana on the right. Amongst the melee in the other scenes is Hanumana carrying the Gandhamadan mountain. The pancharatna structure on the upper story also has terracotta decorated facades. False entrances have guardians and waiting maidens while arch panels have Krishnalila scenes and in one instance a Mahisamardhini image. Just below the cornice is a remarkable row of seated musicians, modeled in the round.


Dattapara: South Facade
On the south facade of the temple, all the arch panels show Krishnalila scenes. The main scene on the left arch panel is mathuragaman with Krishna and Balarama departing for Mathura on a chariot (right) while gopis despair, throwing their arms in air, fainting, and one clutching at Krishna's feet. Below this is a line of portly hamsa, while stepped panels on either side of the arch finials show parrots.


Dattapara: South Facade
The centre arch has two panels showing a kirtan with devotees dancing and playing drums and cymbals while a recumbent Krishna is surrounded by attendants.


Dattapara: South Facade
The right arch also has two panels. The top panel shows Krishna and Balarama as cowherds blowing horns preceded by their charge. The panel below this shows Krishna (with flute) and Balarama (with plough) as four-armed divinities and then a large Vishnu Anantasayini image.


Dattapara: Varaha
A single row of wall panels surrounds the facades. On either side of the entrance these panels are framed by plain, full-height pilasters. The panels have images of dieties in high-relief, placed on a floral background, within an arched frame. Although many panels are damaged, they are remarkably artistic, especially on the main east facade where a dasabatar series is depicted amidst other deities such as Indra.


Dattapara: Krishna-Radha
Also unusual and impressive are the series of arched rectangular panels between the top row of wall panels and the arch panels. Here too the panels have figures carved in deep relief and placed on a background of floral and vegetal scrolls. In the centre are Krishna and Radha playing a game of dice, waited upon by women attendants. On either side of this are musicians with various instruments including the table, violin, drums, and sitar. Panels to the left of this show Krishna as boatman (naukalila), Krishna killing Bakasura, and finally a grotesque human-yali figure. On the right, a group of women offer curds to Krishna, including an elderly bent woman on the left. This is the dana-lila scene. Next is the climactic scene of Krishna and Balarama killing Kamsa. Finally Garuda sits with folded hands next to a figure of Kamale Kamini swallowing an elephant. The south facade has a similar series of wall panels and arched rectangular, but they are largely damaged and faded.


Depara Vishnu Temple
The Depara Vishnu temple is similar to the Dattapara temple in many ways. It too faces the inner courtyard of the patron's house with only the temple's superstructure visible from the street. It is also a navaratna with ridged rekha turrets, and it has triple-arched entrance porches on two sides with both these facades containing rich terracotta decoration. The temple is placed on a high plinth, with steps leading up to the the entrance.


Depara: Upper Story
Minor ornamental variations from the Dattapara temple include a decorative parapet on both levels formed of a series of leafy motifs and a second series of wall panels framing the arched entrances (unusually, one of these panels contains the temple's dedicatory inscription). Also different and innovative are the seated figures placed at the entrances and turrets of the upper story. Unfortunately, the terracotta decoration on the Depara temple is less intricate and far less aesthetic compared to the Dattapara temple, pointing to a much later date of construction.


Depara: North Facade
On the north facade, the left arch panel has the mathuragaman scene, shown here (strangely) in two rows with Krishna and Balarama departing in a chariot in the panel above amidst disconsolate women, while in the panel below, another row of women look up and despair.


Depara: North Facade
The centre arch panel has Krishna playing a flute accompanied by Radha and other gopis amidst some rather unnatural looking trees in Vrindavan. The panel below this has the naukalila scene with Krishna as boatman collecting taxes and being scolded by barai-buri.


Depara: North Facade
On the right arch panel, all three registers are devoted to the Kamale Kamini scene with the deity shown seated on a lotus at the centre-top while the merchant Samanta and others with their guardians and attendants witness the scene from as many as six boats. Interestingly the merchant in the boat on the top register smokes a hookah carried by attendants on another boat in the middle register. A preference for the Kamale Kamini story and boat-scenes from the Krishnalila seems to imply that both the Datta and the De family relied on riverine trade and probably owned and maintained boats of their own.


Depara: East Facade
On the east facade, the left arch panel has the Ramayana battle scene on the top register surrounded above and in the register below by a melee of fighting monkeys and demons. Below this on either side of the arch finial, Rama and Lakshmana chase the golden deer.


Depara: East Facade
On the central arch-panel the top two registers show Rama and Sita enthroned attended by sages (left), musicians (right) and monkeys (Sugriva and Hanuman) and even an elephant below. The next register below is a rather confusing forest scene containing archers (perhaps Rama and Lakshmana) attacking a sage while on the right monkeys, humans, and other creatures seem to be tied to some strange-looking trees. Two fantastic, disproportionate yalis on either side of an elaborate arch finial are embedded in flowers and leaves. The right arch panels are damaged but seems to have scenes of noblemen being carried in palanquins amidst musicians.


Temple Complex
There are several groups of ruined and abandoned temples in Joypur. A short distance from Dattapara is a small compound with a plain rekha deul has been renovated. Next to it is an unused at-chala temple in the Bishnupuri style with sharply curved cornice and narrow separation between upper and lower chalas. A triple arched entrance leads to a narrow porch.


Atchala Temple Facade
There is a significant amount of stucco vegetal and scrollwork decoration on the facade but brick ornamentation is sparse except for a series of crude terracotta panels framing the entrance. A sinuous kalpalata surrounds these panels and images of dieties are placed within including Mahisamardhini and a series of Dasavataras with Jagannatha as the ninth avatara.



Photos and Text © Amit Guha