Chandranath Shiva Temple is one of the smallest standalone temples in West Bengal, there is a white Shiva Linga inside the temple. A piece of history wrapped in antiquity, art, and architecture – this is the essence of Hetampur in the Birbhum district of West Bengal. When we talk of Birbhum, the world and Bengalis will always talk of Tagore’s Shantiniketan.
But rarely have we shed light on the lesser-known cultural heritage of Hetampur. The concept of cultural heritage has gradually evolved to include all evidence of human creativity and manifestations—from photographs to documents, books and manuscripts, and even tools.
History of Chandranath Shiva Temple
Hetampur is undoubtedly a tourist destination and a pleasure trip for the history lover to the past. About 200 km from Kolkata, you will be taken to Hetampur, a small village that in the past developed as a zamindari, while walking through the picturesque forests of Ilambazar. Earlier known as ‘Raghabpur’ after Raghab Roy, who was a local zamindar, Hetampur also changed hands and names. After the revolt of the zamindars under the Rajnagar royal family, the ruler sent General Hatem Khan to curb it. Hatem Khan conquest and the region was named ‘Hatampur’ after Hatem Khan but later came to be known as Hetampur.
After the death of Hatem Khan in 1755, Chaitanya Charan Chakravarti arrived and under him, Hatampur Raj prospered and became ‘Hetampur Raj’. He started ruling the region. Hetampur granted royal status by the British Raj in 1877. It still houses a treasure trove of exquisite buildings including the Ranjan Prasad or Hetampur Hazarduari, which built by Maharaja Ramranjan Chakraborty in 1905 as the family’s royal residence.
The architecture of Chandranath Shiva Temple
The palace has a magnificent structure, a mixture of Victorian style and Gothic architecture, as well as red in color. Brick entrance. The hallmark of the palace is the Corinthian pillars holding the porch. The architecture of the haveli heavily influenced by the Gothic style and arched windows. These ornate pillars have their history in ancient Greece and are classified as one of the classical orders of architecture.
The 1000 Darwaza or ‘Hazard Duari’ resembles the ‘Hajarduari’ palace of Murshidabad. At the top of the mansion is a royal emblem of the Hetampur royal family, which shows an antelope and a unicorn. There is a hollow circle in the middle of the symbol. The frescoes inside the palace on the first floor depict scenes from Vishnu Purana and Ramayana. Ramranjan Chakraborty’s son Kamala Niranjan Chakraborty was a connoisseur of art. The royal chariot inside the palace is definitely another tourist attraction. The brass chariot imported from England by the family.
The Navaratna (nine peaks) is quite common and is found in many temples in remote villages of Bengal, which were built by the rich zamindars who ruled those lands, but the octagon-shaped shikharas are highly unusual. At each summit, there is a figure, whose hands are positioned to convey some message, which no one has yet understood.
It is the ninth pinnacle, the Navratna style of Bengali architecture. On each shikhara are outstretched hands with figures of women. The Chandranath Shiva Temple, Hetampur has a good blend of Bengali and English art styles and themes. The mask features a mixture of stories from several themes and themes. The most striking feature of this temple is the richly decorated panels on its façade. It is a unique combination of Hindu symbols and British figures. The main gate has terracotta panels of stories from scriptures and Puranas, Lord Krishna, Goddess Durga, Gajalakshmi, floral motifs, vines and distinctive horizontal and vertical geometric patterns.
Intricate details on the walls of Chandranath Shiva Temple
A palace with a rich heritage that attracted the attention of great filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Tarun Majumdar, and Mrinal Sen who used the palace as a backdrop in their films. Renowned filmmaker Satyajit Roy had Hetampur Palace in the background of his film. The palace was filmed in detail during Sandeep Roy’s telefilm ‘Gosainpur Sargaram’. Built-in 1847, the Chandranath Shiva Temple, unlike its terracotta counterparts, reflects British architecture.
An octagonal Shiva temple, Chandranath Shiva has eight bastions around a central dome. The front of the temple has terracotta plaques with images of Goddess Durga, Lakshmi, and Krishna and depictions of Hindu mythology. While plaques displaying the coat of arms of Queen Victoria, British men, women and the British East India Company on the other side of the temple bring out the uniqueness of the temple. Another temple that is a must-see is the Diwanji Shiva Temple, built in the Rekha Deul style with elaborate terracotta sculptures on its walls.
How to Reach Chandranath Shiva Temple
Though there are convenient rail links from Howrah station to Dubrajpur, the nearest station, but looking at the present scenario the best option is to take a road trip to Hetampur. The roads are in excellent condition, and the distance is about 200 km.
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