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Malancha: Dakshina Kali Temple
Malancha is a village on the outskirts of Kharagpur town, about 5 kilometres from the Kharagpur railway station. Hidden in its bylanes is an unexpected and well-preserved atchala temple to Dakshina Kali, built in the early 18th century. The temple is at one end of a walled compound and raised on a high plinth. A dedicatory marble plaque within the porch mentions that the temple was built by Gobindaram Roy of the Mahasaya zamindar family of Jakpur in 1712. Terracotta temples to Kali are quite rare. Most 18th century temples are dedicated to various forms of Krishna, and some, especially from the late 18th century, to Siva.


Arch Panels
Although located in central Medinipur, the architecture and decorative scheme of this temple are closer to 18th century temples of Hugli and Howrah. This atchala style is characterised by a triple-arched entrance porch and a fully decorated facade, with terracotta panels arranged in a standardized configuration above the entrance arches, walls, porch columns, base friezes, and corners. In the temple at Malancha, the central arch panel has a relatively uncrowded Ramayana battle scene where the main figures face each other from within their personal ridged rekha chariots with banners. Rama, Lakshmana and Ravana point their bows to the sky while Kumbhakarna (rightmost) devours soldiers. The horses drawing Rama's chariot leap over the arch finial. Below the chariots are large medallions with lotuses surrounded by rasmandalas (circles of dancing gopinis). The entire composition is placed on a background of scrollwork and bordered by foliate panels upon which stand kinnaris playing musical instruments. The other arch panels are only have the lotuses on a background of scrollwork. The cusped arches are bordered by a series of miniature kalasa finials with flags while the arch panels are separated and framed by a triple band of rosettes.


Left Porch Column
The twelve-sided columns in the porch are exuberantly carved. The capitals have stepped horizontal moldings each with a different design (scrollwork, patchwork, inverted petals). Below this, at the corners of the column, are crouching figures usually, humans and yalis. Next is a row of panels with figures such as pairs of dancers, and seated Radha and Krishna. This row is framed by horizontal mouldings below which is the centre-piece of the column: a central figural panel surrounded by smaller panels with figures. On the left column this is Mahisamardhini with her family (Lakshmi-Ganesh on the left and Sarasvati-Karthik on the right).


Right Porch Column
On the right column is victorious Ram and Sita are seated on the throne surrounded by Lakshman, Hanuman, Bibhisan, and others. Below this are two more horizontal mouldings and further down the column widens out to a square base with figural terracotta friezes on the front and decorative panels on the sides.


Krishnalila Early Scenes
Base panels on the facade follow the normal scheme of Krishnalila in the upper register and social scenes in the lower register. On the left wall some of the panels are damaged but scenes from Krishna's childhood remain, including killing the whirlwind demon Trinavarta and stealing butter. The social scenes below this show various processions: a barge on the left, Europeans on horses, a chariot, and riders on an elephant and camel.


Column Base Panels
The panel at the base of the right column shows a crowded battle scene with warriors on prancing horses facing a warrior on a leaping Yali. A man with a shield and sword crawls from beneath the horses while a crouching tiger appears below the Yali. Other fighters and observers stand behind.


Krishnalila Later Scenes
The base friezes on the right wall are more well-preserved. Krishna scenes here start with the Brahma's submission to Krishna, and Krishna killing the demons Bakasura and Aghasura. Amongst the social scenes below are a palki procession, captured animals suspended from poles, and a nobleman seated on a throne with an attendant. In the next group is Krishna’s departure for Mathura. Krishna and Balarama leave for Mathura in a chariot while the gopis bid them farewell, some wave goodbye, others sit despondently while others faint. The procession to Mathura continues on the right as Krishna defeats animals sent by Kamsa, before finally killing Kamsa on his throne. The social compositions below include a circus scene where several horses with riders leap over an obstacle course. This is a rare scene that I have not seen on any other temple. To its right, hunters ride leaping horses and spear animals while others with swords and shields follow.


Wall Panels
The large, square wall panels above and along the sides of the entrance arches are well-preserved in this temple. The panels above the entrance arches follow the curve of the cornice and are grouped into sets of four by short pilasters with horizontal mouldings and figures at the base (such as kinnaras and a composite figure in the centre). On the side walls the panels extend to the base frieze, flanked by full-height pilasters with large roundels at the base.


Wall Panels
Each recessed wall panel contains a small figure at the centre framed by wide scrollwork and a projecting petal border. The figures are beautifully modeled and include divinities, sadhus, and women. On the side walls the panels include scenes where Kali steps forward, Krishna plays the flute, a woman holds a bird, and a sadhu practices yoga.


Wall Panels
Panels below the cornice show divinities that seem to be viewing the Ramayana battle scene unfolding in the central arch panel. They include Vishnu avatars (Varaha and Narasimha), Dikpalas (Siva, Indra, Nirutti) and Brahma.


Corner Panels: Sadbhuja Gouranga
The corners of the temple have six rows of vertical terracotta panels separated by ornamental horizontal moldings. Each row has three panels on each face: a central recessed panel flanked by two projecting ones. The corner panels on the facade have images placed within spired rekha deuls with parrots perched on the sides of the finial. In one set of panels yogis are shown meditating or with a pestle preparing bhang. The panels above this include an embracing couple, an image of Sadbhuja Gouranga (six-armed Gouranga), and a sadhu with a rosary.


Corner Panels: Durga
Other panels show divinities, such as a set with Mahishamardhini in the centre flanked by Lakshmi on the left and Rama piercing his eye on the right.


Corner Panels: Kali
A set of corner panels on the right wall have Kali in the centre, with a Yogi on the right and a musician left.


Nandeswar Temple
Amongst the other temples at Malancha, the most important is the laterite Nandeshwar temple built in 1719. The temple consists of a rekha deul and an attached pirha jagamohana porch, a style derived from Orissan temples and very common throughout Medinipur. The temple has been renovated several times, its sculptures now obscured.


Balaji Temple
More modern temples include the Balaji temple built by the large Telugu community in Kharagpur who primarily work in the railways.


Jagannath Temple
Between Malancha and Kharagpur is a modern Jagannath temple built in the Orissan style with a rekha deul preceded by two pidha jagamohana halls.



Photos and Text © Amit Guha