Architectural Landmarks of West Bengal

  • Post last modified:23 February 2023
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Architectural Landmarks of West Bengal

After a long phase of uncertainty and rule by different dynasties within and outside Bengal, the region experienced a period of peace and prosperity under the Pala Kings, for the 8th to 12th centuries.

In the early 13th century, a Turkish general, Muhammad Bhakhtiyar, invaded Bengal. In the 15th century, Sri Chaitanya, the great Vaishnav prophet, appeared on the scene.

In the 16th century, Bengal came under direct Mughal rule. In 1757, the young Nawab of Bengal, Siraj–ud–daulah, who was disgusted with the behaviour of the British East India Company, clashed with it one on the field of Plassey. Later the rich province of Bengal came under the rule of Company.

Some of the famous places in West Bengal are Kolkata, Murshidabad, Durgapur, Vishnupur, Shantinekatan, Darjeeling and Kalimpong. Kolkata is known for the Victoria Memorial, Fort William, Howrah Bridge and Dakshineshwar Kali Temple.

Shantinekatan is known for the Vishva Bharati University, founded by the Rabindranath Tagore in 1921. Darjeeling and Kalimpong are the two famous hill stations in West Bengal.

Architectural landmarks of Gour

Gaur was the capital of King Sasanka in the 7th century, followed by the Buddhist Pala and Hindu Sena kings. Gaur became famous as a centre of education, art and culture during the reign of the Hindu Sena kings in the 12th century.

The Fakhr-ud-din, founder of the Afghan dynasty, captured it in the 14th century and transferred their capital to Pandua, plundering the temples to construct their own mosques and tombs and destroying most of these buildings.

The Muslim monuments of the Sultanate period displaying various architectural styles can be seen around Gaur. The Fort, Tantipara Mosque, Lattan or the painted mosque, Firuz Minar, Bara Sona Masjid and Ramkeli are the various places situated near Gaur.

Fort, Gour

The fort is situated on the bank of the Bhagirathi River where only the remains of the embankments can be seen. The Dakhil Darwaza, the main gateway to the fort with its five-storied towers in the four corners, was constructed in the early part of the 15th century out of small red bricks which were embossed with decorations.

The facade is broken up by turrets and circular bastions, producing a striking contrast of light and shade, with decorative motifs of suns, rosettes, lamps and fretted borders. The Biasgazi wall is situated in the south-east corner of the fort.

This wall enclosed the old palace and got its name from its height of 22 yards. This high brick wall is 5 m broad at its base and decreases to about 3 m at the top. Kadam Rasul is also situated within the area of the fort. This domed

square building with the Bengali thatched style roof was erected in 1513 to house the relics of The Prophet, a footprint in stone. The Royal Eastern Gate or Lukochuri Darwaza is a large two-storied structure about 20 m long and 13 m wide. This gate was built by Shah Shuja in 1655 in the Mughal style.

Tantipara Mosque, Gour

Tantipara Mosque is situated near the fort. This mosque was built in 1475 in the tanti or weavers quarters of the town. This mosque is superbly decorated with red brick with five entrance arches and octagonal turrets in the corners

Firuz Minar, Gour

Firuz Minar is situated about a km from the fort. Firuz Minar was built as a victory tower by Sultan Firuz Shah in 1486 and was also used to call the faithful to prayer. This tower is about 26 m high with 5 storey and 19 m in circumference.

The lower 3 storey’s are 12 sided while the upper 2 storey are circular. The main feature of the tower is the introduction of blue and white glazed tiles which are used in addition to the terracotta and bricks.

The crude quality of the tiles contrasts with the excellence achieved by the Hindu craftsmen in producing terracotta decorations. A spiral staircase inside the fort leads to the top chamber with its four windows.

Bara Sona Masjid, Gour

The Bara Sona Masjid, also known as Baroduari is situated outside the fort. This is the largest mosque of all the monuments and built in 1526. It is an enormous rectangular structure built of brick with stone facing with a large open square in front.

There were arched gateways on three sides and one of the gateway is 8 m high and 2 m wide. There are 44 domes over the four arched colonnades and the quality of marble carving can be seen in some of the minarets.

Dakshineshwar Kali Temple, Kolkata

The Dakshineshwar Kali Temple is situated on the opposite side of the river from Belur Math alongside the Vivekananda Bridge. This temple was built in 1947 by Rani Rashmoni. Rani Rashmoni received divine directions in a dream to build the Kali temple at Dakshineshwar.

The saint Sri RamaKrishna lived and worshipped here. The Kali temple has 12 spires and 12 other smaller temples in the large courtyard are dedicated to Shiva and Radha Krishna. Non-hindus are not permitted inside the temple.

Nakhoda Mosque, Kolkata

Nakhoda Mosque is the largest mosque in the city of Kolkata. This mosque can accommodate 10000 worshippers. This mosque was built between 1926 and 1942 of red sandstone.

It is a four-storey structure that reminds of the Akbar’s tomb in Sikandra. The mosque has huge blue and white painted domes flanked by the 246 m minarets.

Fort William, Kolkata

The British built a massive fort in 1756 to replace the original fort at Calcutta and renamed as Fort William after the King William III. This fort was completed around 1781 on the site of the old village of Govindapur.

This fort was designed to be impregnable in the shape of a roughly octagonal plan, about 500 m in diameter. This fort was built so as to make it large enough to house all the Europeans in the city in case of an attack.

One of the five entrances of the fort was a water jetty. The St. Peter’s Church, the barracks and stables, arsenal, prison and strong rooms still remains in the fort.

Victoria Memorial, Kolkata

Victoria Memorial is a grand white marble building planned by Lord Curzon and inaugurated by the Prince of Wales in 1921. This building has tree-lined walks, splendid parks, lakes and superb statue including that of Queen Victoria.

This building was designed in the Italian renaissance cum saracenic style and built of white Makrana marble from Rajasthan. This building is often known as the Taj Mahal of the British Raj and built in the memory of Queen Victoria. This memorial is surmounted by a crowning dome, a huge bronze revolving Angel of Victory which functions as a weather cock.

The memorial has collection of the items of the British Raj, piano and desk of the Queen Victoria, books, portraits and paintings of Reynolds, Zoffany, Daniell and Emily Eden, miniatures, Persian manuscripts, portraits of national leaders and reminders of the military conflicts.

Howrah Bridge Kolkata

Howrah Bridge or the Rabindra Setu was opened in 1943. This single span cantilever bridge replaced the old pontoon bridge which joined the city with its main railway station and the industrial town of Howrah. This bridge is also the main landmark of Kolkata.

To avoid affecting river cuurents and silting, the 280 m high piers rise from the road level and the span between them is 450 m. The Howrah Bridge is one of the longest and busiest bridge in the world. There are 8 lanes of traffic and 2 foot paths which are always packed with vehicles and pedestrians.

Eden Garden

The Eden Gardens are the famous cricket grounds in India and often referred as the Cricket’s Madina. The enthusiastic and excitable temperament of the Bengali fan that descends in herds has probably helped it gain this reputation.

This garden was named after the Lord Auckland’s sister, Eden. The Eden Gardens used to be a lush green area covered by trees and gardens. The area also has a tiny Burmese pagoda set in a small lake.

Architectural landmarks of Vishnupur

Vishnupur is also famous for its Bengal terracotta temples. The ornamental temple architecture in the temples is distinctive of the Malla’s reign that survives today. The temples have walls built on a square plan, but topped with a gently carved roof like Bengali thatched huts, which are made of bamboo and mud.

This style was taken across India by the Mughals and later by the Rajputs and was used to great effect in forts such as that in Lahore and Agra. The temples are usually built of brick and laterite. The terracotta tiles depict episodes from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, but there are also scenes from daily life.

The interior consists of a single hall and has a platform for the image on one side. The upper storey has a gallery topped by 1, 5 or 9 towers. There are more than two dozen temples dedicated to Krishna and Radha in Vishnupur. Most of the temples are built inside the fort, while others are built outside.

Rasmancha Temple

The Rasmancha temple is situated at a distance of 3 km in Vishnupur and dedicated to Lord Vishnu. A squat, stepped pyramid and the main shrine is surrounded by passageways.

This temple was built by Bir Hambir in 1587 to provide a place for all the local Vaishnavite deities to be brought together in a procesion from the other temples during the annual Ras festival.

Jora Mandir

The Jora Mandir is situated at a distance of 5 km from Vishnupur. The Jora Mandir is a pair of hut-shaped structures with a large shikhara and built of brick in 1655 by Raghunath Singh.

This structure is highly ornamented and of architectural interest. The panels illustrate battle scenes from the epics, hunters with wild animals, maritime scenes and life at court.

Shyam Rai Temple

Shyam Rai Temple is situated at a distance of 7 km from Vishnupur. This temple was built by Raghunath Singh. This temple is the earliest example of the pancharatna style with five towers built together in brick with a fine shikhara.

Each facade is triple arched and the terracotta panels depict stories from the life of Lord Krishna and Ramayana.

Malla Kings Fort

The Malla Kings Fort was built by Bir Singh. But now, only the remains of this fort can be seen. The gate of laterite or pathar darwaza has holes drilled in different directions through which the king’s soldiers would fire shots.

A stone chariot is believed to date back to the 13th century. The moat which used to be served by seven lakes is partially dry, although the water reservoirs can be seen still.

Ghoom Monastery, Darjeeling

Ghoom Monastery is situated about 8 km from Darjeeling. Accorsing to some people, the railway climbs to a height of 8000 feet at Ghoom Monastery, making it the highest railway station in the world.

This monastery, also known as the Yiga-Choling Gompa is the Yellow hat Tibetan-Buddhist monastery and the most famous monastery in the area. This monastery was built in 1875 and has a five metre high gilded statue of Maitreya or the future Buddha.

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