Located approximately at a distance of about thirty-five kilometres from the district headquarters of Bankura, Bishnupur has a legendary historical significance, going back pages in the timeline of history. Bishnupur, as the name suggests, is a place revered to the Lord Vishnu, the Vaishnavite tradition.
A visit to Bishnupur is a must, for it is where the pages of the books find visualisation and expression. Bishnupur boasts of being the cultural capital of Bengal.
Bishnupur has an efficient road communication and links various cities of Bengal. A drive from the capital city of Bengal, Kolkata would take around four hours.
Bishnupur Gharana of Music: History informs that, when Srinivas and Narottam, two leading mystic saints, had visited Vrindavan, they learnt the art of Dhrupad style, which symbolises the Raas or Leela of Shree Krishna and Radheya. The Hindustani vocal spread in the 18th century, at its peak, under the royal patronage of the Malla rulers. Narottam and Srinivas used the medium of Padavali Kirtanas, also called the Raskirtanans.
Baluchari Silk Sarees: Balucharis are silk woven sarees, which contain stories from The Ramayana and the Mahabharata imprinted. This adds to the taste of traditional Indian vigour. The Baluchari silk saree is popular amongst womenfolk throughout India and the saree is always up for grab!
Folklores: It is believed that the first Ruler, Adi Malla, was an abandoned son of a Rajput, and that he was named Malla because of his stupendous wrestling skills. The land was thus named Mallabhum, or the land of the wrestlers. The descendants who preferred to call themselves, the Mallas, ruled over the land of Bishnupur for nearly a millennium.
Temples and Architecture: Raas Mancha, the cultural motif of Bengal, provides an inexorable feeling of a traditional belonging. The Pyramid type architecture is probably the finest of its kind in India. This could both be compared to a Mesopotamian Ziggurat or an Egyptian pyramidal architecture. The light and sound show at the Raas Mancha, seemingly revive the glorious days it possessed. This has added to better visualisation and tourist attraction. Bishnupur boasts of fine monumental landmarks like JorBangla temple, the Pancharatna temple, the Raghunathjiu, Laalbandh, the Dalmadal Cannon and other exemplary places of interest. Incorrigible in the architectural brilliance is the Do chala of the JorBangla temple. This architecture during Hambir Malla’s time was taken by the Mughals in their mosques, an instance being the Naulakha pavilion at Lahore Fort in Pakistan. The Dalmadal Cannon was the one used to repel the Maratha invaders of 1742, under leadership of Bhaskar Rao, the Maratha chief of the army, himself. With a bore of 29.2 cm and a length of 3.8 m, this was perhaps the biggest iron cannon used by the Mallas. Today, one can see the iron cannon, resplendent with the glory of the bygone days! A drive to the Lalbandh is a must for anyone who wants a thrilling experience. After the popularity of the Bishnupur Gharana, a renowned dancer Lalbai, reached Bishnupur. The regal emperor was King Raghunath Singh II. He was obsessed with her beauty and fell for her charm. The people accused Lalbai of being responsible for the untimely demise of the king. Chandraprova, the reigning queen and wife of Raghunath, accepted voluntary burning after the death of the king. This made the people enraged. And as the folklore goes, Lalbai and her son were thrown into the Lalbandh, chained and killed. Other places of interest include the Raghunath Jiu, The Maa Chinnamasta, the Hawa Mahal, another spooky type tall structure, The Remanants of the King’s castle and the Madanmohan temple, built in ekaratna style of architecture by King Durjan Singha Deva, in 1694. The Garh gates add to the regal glory of Bishnupur, startling the tourists with the majestic backdrop.
With a stupendous number of tourists from all over the world, Bengali tradition apparently, is incomplete without ‘Bishnupur’. Bishnupur is not only about the traditions and the cultural heritage it possesses. It is much more than that! It is the heartfelt emotion of the 300 million Bengali speakers around the world.
The author is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society