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Daspur: Radhakantapur
Radhakantapur is a small village near Daspur. The Gopinath temple here is a richly decorated eka-ratna temple built in 1844 by the Das family. It has significant architectural differences with the eka-ratna Gopinath temple built about 150 years earlier at Daspur. Most notable is its plain octagonal domed tower set at the back, compared to the more elegant ridged rekha tower at Daspur.


Genriburi Temple
Eka-ratna temples with octagonal towers were not uncommon in this region and period. There are other 18th century examples at Baliharpur (Genriburi and Brajaraja-Kishore) and at Baikunthapur (Madana-Mohana).


Gopinath Temple: Entrance Porch
Of these temples, only the Gopinath temple at Radhakantapur has or retains a richly decorated facade with terracotta panels above the triple-arched entrances, on the octagonal columns, wall panels around the entrance, and panels along the base and the corners.


Inscription Panel
An unusual feature of this temple is its terracotta inscription panel, possibly the longest amongst terracotta temples in Bengal. Most instription panels on Bengali temples are short dedications mentioning the diety, the patron, and the consecration date. In late 19th century examples the name of the sutradhar also appears in nearly all inscriptions. On this temple, however, the inscription is nine lines and nearly sixty words long and occupies a large section of the wall below the cornice. The dedication starts with the establishment of the original temple in the 17th century when the deity Radhakanta was brought from Bardhaman to this village by a member of the patron family. This is followed by a miraculous story about an enmity between the patron family and the Nawab of Bengal due to non-payment of taxes, and some miraculous events that occur when the nawab orders the zamindar to be executed. The story then moves on two hundred years when the temple became overgrown. In 1844, Jogeswar Das from one of the successors of the original patron met with others to debate if the temple should be restored or reconstructed. Interestingly, he mentions that he could not bear to destroy something his forefathers built and therefore decided to restore it even if that was risky and expensive. So he employed the sutradhar (mistri) Hiru and with the blessings of the diety Gopinath, the temple was restored. (Many Thanks to Saibal Kanti Guha for deciphering this inscription).


Left Arch Panel
The entrance arch panels are elaborately decorated with episodes from the Ramayana and the Krishnalila. Makara heads at the base of the arches spout a series of recessed shell-like cusps culminating in finials consisting of large, oval medallions filled with flowers and vegetal scrolls. The space above this is divided into a somewhat random sequence of mythological scenes interspersed with warriors and animals. Above the left arch, a couple is shown enthroned in the top register with attendants holding parasols, weapons, and musical instruments. This could represent the patron family implying that the are perfect rulers like Ram who is similarly depicted, enthroned in the next panel. Below this is an eroded climactic battle scene of the Ramayana but also, unexpectedly, the vastraharana scene from the Krishnalila with Krishna on a tree and the pleading gopinis below. Below this are scenes of meditating yogis with attendants, and finally at the bottom, Rama hunting the golden deer.


Central Arch Panel
Above central arch are more Krishnalila scenes. On the top register is kaliyadaman and naukalila or Krishna and gopis crossing the Yamuna. The next register shows Rama and Sita enthroned above a kneeling Hanuman. Next to this is the infant Krishna being bathed by pots of Yamuna water by Yasoda and other women of Gokul. The images below this are worn out but are possibly of Kali, Siva, and perhaps Krishna with Brahma. The register below this shows Krishna dancing with gopis on the right and placating a seated Radha on the left, the manbhanjan episode. The panel below this has scenes from everyday life including a scene from the Charak festival, a ritual of being pierced with iron hooks and hung from a pole, still practiced. Next to this a tapper is shown climbing a tree and collecting palm-wine.


Right Arch Panel
Above the right arch, on the top is a crude figure of Durga on her lion mount, then women standing with pots and fans and finally a sleeping figure with woman attendant. The central register has the Kamale-Kamini episode, a favourite amongst merchant patrons, indicating that perhaps the Das family were traders. The deity is seated on a lotus that has emerged from the water with Ganesa on her lap and attendants also standing on lotuses. She is being seen by spectators on boats, including the merchant Dhanapati (smoking a coiled hookah) on the right. The register below this has more yogis, some blowing curved horns. Further down, a seated figure (perhaps the patron again) is shown surrounded by women attendants bearing parasols, fans, and food. Next to this is the mathuragaman scene where women weep and faint as Krishna departs for Mathura in his chariot.


Wall Panel
Large square wall panels arch along the top and down the sides of the facade. The panels contain a small crude figure of a dancer, musician, yogi, or avatar set within wide wide borderd and framed by rosettes. At the corners are the usual series of triple recessed panels separated by mouldings, however, they are filled with scrollwork only.


Left Base Panels
At the base of the facade, are double friezes. The lower shows processions, starting on the left with a chariot, then a palanquin with a retinue, and finally men on horses and elephants.


Column Base Panels
They continue on the columns with a river boat and a more elaborate ship.


Right Base Panels
On the right wall a hunting procession emanates from a palace. There are men on camels, Europeans wearing hats, and men on horses spearing tigers. The upper frieze starts with a series of cows on the left wall, complemented by walking geese on the right wall. The only Krishna scenes are on the columns and show Krishna seated with gopis (left column) and Krishna being offered curds by gopis (right column). Animal processions instead of Krishnalila scenes is somewhat rare, however, the 18th c Raj Rajesvara temple at Dwarhatta also has a similar scheme.



Photos and Text © Amit Guha