Chandranath Shiva Temple, Hetampur, West Bengal
From Ilambazar we drove to Hetampur, a dust covered, sleepy, remote town just to see two forgotten terracotta temples. This post is on Chandranath Shiva Temple. While it features in the ASI list of protected monuments in West Bengal, I am sure not a single Indian Rupee is spent on its maintenance. Almost the whole of its surface area is covered with black dried moss, with patches of reddish brown tiles peeping from here and there. The monument badly needs a face scrub and a good coat of terracotta touch.
Chandranath Shiva Temple, Hetampur
Chandranath Shiva Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Soon I overcame the disappointment of seeing its dilapidated state. I was fascinated and full of admiration for the brilliant art work on the facade. So much of it is hidden; there is good scope for wonderful pictures here. It is the 9 pinnacled, navaratna style of Bengali architecture. Each pinnacle is topped with woman’s figure with arms stretched out.
Chandranath Shiva Temple, Hetampur has a good fusion of Bengali and English art style and subjects. The façade has a mix of stories of several themes and subjects.
Some of the panels had figures depicting English dressing styles of 19th century. The depiction of English women in the walls hints at their presence and their influence on local art. There is a portrait of Queen Victoria, European nuns, hat wearing men and priests. The architects and artists of those days were definitely impressed by their styles or were they forced to depict them on temples? Nobody was around to answer any of our questions.
There is hardly any space on either side of the temple; a shop on one side and double storied house on the other. Though a double courtyard enhances the entrance. Inside is a white Shiva Linga, it did look like prayers were being offered here. I just felt like praying, “O! Lord Shiva, please protect your own abode from the land sharks!”
Other terracotta temples of Hetampur
Dewanji Temple is another terracotta Temple of Hetampur that is wearing away and succumbing to time. Gol Mandir, another terracotta temple no longer exists. Thankfully its memory survives in photographs. Mukul Dey had photographed these terracotta Temples in 1940s.