Monday, November 18, 2013

Hanseswari Temple

Biker’s quest for salvation wasn’t over yet with Monuments at Pandua, Bandel Church and Hooghly Imambara, as last hunt for the day was still waiting. I bid a reluctant adieu to the imambara and geared up for Bansberia. The town of Bansberia lies on the bank of River Ganga and hardly five kilometres from where I had started. My destination site was Hanseswari Temple, a five-storied Hindu temple, more than 200 years old, housing the idol of Goddess Kali (Hanseswari) as the main deity. Hanseswari Temple seemed to be the most valuable treasure of the otherwise modest looking town Bansberia. With easy guideline I could reach the renowned temple and from the fast impression it resembled more like a European castle!

This enormous 90 feet high Hanseswari temple, presently under the preservation policy of Archaeological Survey of India, was constructed by Raja Nrisingha Deb and Rani Shankari in the beginning of the 19th century. The five storied temple was constructed based on Tantric principles on the structural anatomy of human body... quite intriguing right? You’ll find thirteen tall towers/minars with blooming lotus bud over their summits, which gave me the illusion of Western castle. The chief deity, Hanseswari (another form of Goddess Kali) is blue in colour with four hands and the idol is made up of Neem wood. The presiding priest told me that the idol was 300 years old which I couldn’t verify from any second source though. The temple also houses a white-marbled Shiva linga. There you’ll find a second temple in the same complex- Ananta Vasudeva Temple, which was constructed in traditional ekaratna style with curved cornices and an octagonal tower and displays exquisite terracotta designs.

Hanseswari Temple along with Ananta Vasudeva Temple appeared in the healthiest state compared to other things I had visited in the day, except the Bandel Church which was even better maintained. While I was photographing the terracotta works it started drizzling, giving me some time to relax by those archaic pillars and watch the grassy lawn turning greener with every drop of rain. The return ride to Bardhaman was uneventful as expected except the yummy noodle in a motel (I know hunger is the best sauce). At the end of the day I happily joined my family for dinner clocking around 175 kilometres in the day, with the satisfaction of exploring few tourist-jewels of Hooghly district and most importantly riding after a good gap. See you in my upcoming travel post... till then travel hard and take care.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hooghly Imambara

Surprisingly it took less than ten minutes to reach my third destination for the day, Hooghly Imambara from Bandel Church! Yea, all credit goes to my ‘Mustang like pony’ and off course ‘less than two kilometres’ distance between those two spots. As presumed from the name ‘Imambara’ it turned out to be another majestic Islamic architecture with an extravagant entrance and a colossal clock-tower over that. If it all sounds real grand then pardon me for breaking your piece of regal imagination... You’ll be dismayed by the sheer lack of maintenance that has pushed this architectural elegance to inevitable decay, as evident from plaster torn out mossy walls, rough floors and broken glasses. A nominal five bucks was charged as entry ticket. Seeing no information board when I asked for any available booklet about the Imambara the gatekeeper cum ticket collector old fellow coughed out loudly expressing his helplessness quite clearly. The courtyard is large with a rectangular tank in the middle filled with greenish stagnant water and non-functioning fountain system, and fortified by archaic two storied building on all the four sides. If you walk straight from the entrance you’ll reach the prayer hall and the stairway at your right will take you to the zenith of the clock tower. There were separate stairs for ladies and gents which I appreciated whole heartedly only after reaching the top (guess it my friend). There were missing pieces of coloured glasses, half broken chandeliers and sleeping lanterns all throughout the building but failed to conceal the fact that it had its day!

As I took the twisted stairway to the top of the three storied clock tower which is about 150 feet high and contains around 150 steps! The huge clock with two dials, working uninterrupted since it was bought in 1852 by Syed Keramat Ali with 11,721 rupees from London perhaps from the same manufacturer that had manufactured the Big Ben, is the main attraction of the Hooghly Imambara. This marvellous clock is winded once a week with a key that weighs around 20 kg! While climbing the stairs you can peep through the locked glass doors of three bell rooms and witness the background instruments and mammoth bells working flawlessly till date. Once you put your maximum effort like a stressed steam engine and reach the top you can’t really go out on the pen roof to relax as the door is locked for safety, but still you can enjoy the beautiful panorama comprising Hooghly river, surrounding greeneries, cityscapes, Jubilee bridge and the bird’s eye view of Imambara just lying below you from multiple mini vents on the wall. Like every other monument in India you’ll find engraved names of all sick Romio-Juliets spoiling old walls and wooden structures... I know I’ll sound like a beast but honestly I feel like kicking their back and then make them write 10,000 times “I won’t ever write on any monument walls”. The surrounding vista as visible from the top of the clock tower stabilised my ‘out of breath’ state and then I came down to explore other parts of the Imambara.

Most of the rooms on both side of the courtyard were locked. They are used for official and Islamic teaching purpose. The upper floor seemed inaccessible to tourists as used by a number of Muslim families whose roots are somehow attached to the history of the structure. The ceiling of the prayer hall (Zaridalan) is ornamented with chandeliers, coloured lanterns and its walls inscribed with holy words from ‘Hadish’. My semi-agnostic nature never allows me to sit and meditate under any religious roof. I went beyond the Zaridalan and the path took me to the river bank at the back of the Imambara where few young boys were bathing. The rail age-old rail bridge over Hooghly River appeared closer from there. A boat ride if available would have been bonus but there was no such facility. You’ll find an abandoned concrete sundial on the backyard. It was my time to say goodbye to the lofty institution. Later after returning home, on web-searching I came to know, that the Hooghly Imambara was constructed by Hazi Muhamad Mohsin from 1841 to 1861 with an overgenerous sum of 8.5 lacks rupees, over the debris of the older structure built by Muhammad Aga Motahar in 1717. I seriously doubt how many more days it’ll be possible to keep it erect with the small revenue collected through entry tickets, unless it’s declared as a protected monument by UNESCO. Let me keep my hope alive and come up with my riding tale to Hangseswari temple at Bansberia in the next travel post... See you readers.