The temples of Pathra are located at about 20 km from IIT Kharagur, and about 15 km from Midnapore town, in a small village called Pathra. The village seems to have been lost in the shadows of history. However, it was recently awakened by the efforts of primarily one man called Yeasin Pathan.
The village has many old temples,total 34 of them, of very high heritage value. Much of them had been converted to ruins due to neglect of the villagers and the administration. However, Pathan took the initiative to restore the temples to their old glory. He faced stiff resistance from the villagers in the beginning and from some influential people who had their own vested interests.
He was finally successful to convince the villagers about the heritage value of the temples and to conserve it. Once, he got local support, many other organisations came up to help and funds slowly started coming by from organisations like IIT Kharagpur and planning commission. Soon after, Archaeological Survey of India took these temples in its own control and began the conservation and restoration works of the temples. Today, many of these temples are restored to their old glory. The news of these temples are slowly getting known to many and with the passage of every week , the number of tourists is increasing.
While, I was studying in IIT Kharagpur, I also came to know about these temples while I was searching on the internet for some off beat places near Kharagpur to explore. Once, I saw some of the pictures on the web, I decided instantly that it was going to be the next one in my bucket list.
So, one evening, when my classes got over a bit early,I decided to start my voyage to Pathra village on my bicycle. I must say,I had hardly attempted anything so far away before on my bicycle. So, the trip seemed to be very adventurous.
How to reach…
I started from the IIT main gate (Puri Gate) and set off towards the railway station. Once reaching,I headed further straight towards Inda parallel to the railway line. Going further, I crossed the railway track through the underpass near Inda. Moving ahead on the same road, I reached chowringhee. I continued moving ahead to reach Birendra Sasmal bridge near the Midnapore town on the kangsabati river. After crossing the river, I headed for the first right turn at Amtala More, and took a U turn to reach near the cross road below the bridge. The path at the right lead to Midnapore town while the left one lead to my destination, the Pathra village.
I stopped for a little time to have some snacks from one of the shops and then moved ahead. The road was a typical village road with very few vehicles and narrow. But, it was fun riding on this road on a pleasant evening. Slowly, I moved ahead enjoying the gentle breeze crossing over my forehead. The scenery of the village with relaxed people involved in various activities felt pleasing to the heart. Soon, wandering and lost in my thoughts for about 7-8 kilometres, I reached Pathra. From here, I had to take further left for about a km to reach the temples.
I took the left turn to find myself surrounded by large trees and the road which I was enjoying till now, was gone. Instead, there was a very narrow pathway on which cows were meandering. I moved ahead and got the sight of the first temple, a temple of Lord Shiva. Feeling rejuvenated by the sight,I paddled quickly to see another temple of the lot, the Dharmaraj temple. I moved ahead and very soon, I could see the other group of temples.
On reaching there,I was tired a bit after riding for a long distance. I parked my bicycle in front of the temple where there was a large open ground. This ground is also used by the people who come here for picnic. I then started exploring the temples one by one. There are two groups of temples here on each side of the road. After exploring these temples, I moved ahead in the interior of the village by a left turn ahead, to explore another group of these temples with a Rajbari and a Raasmanch.
This region held a prominent position since Gupta period,about 3000 years ago. At that time, it was the hinterland of Tamralipta,a port town,what is now known as Tamluk. Pathra had been a very important place for both the Hindus and the Buddhists. The history of these temples at Pathra began to be written soon after Alibardi Khan became the ruler.
The story of the temples started in 1732 when Bidyanand Ghosal was appointed as the revenue collector of Ratnachawk pargana by Nawab Alivardi Khan. Bidyanand started constructing temples in Pathra which started attracting the Hindu pilgrims. This angered Nawab Alivardi Khan and he sent Bidyanand to prison and ordered him to be killed under Elephant’s feet. However, as per legends, the elephant did not kill him.This legend seems to be the foundation of naming of this place as Pathra which means escape from (elephant’s) feet.(Pa= foot,uthra=escape)
However, even after his death, his descendents who later adopted the surname of Majumdars with another branch of family, the Bandopadhyays , continued constructing temples. However, after their era, the temples started getting into ruins owing to neglect by other ignorant people. The temples were then revived by Yeasin Pathan. Now, most of the temples are looked after by Archaelogical survey of India and some by a non-government organistaions called Pathra Archaeological Preservation Committee set up by Pathan in 1990.
Most of these temples in this village are devoted to various Hindu Gods like Lord Krishna, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. On reaching the place, the first temple you will notice is the small Shiva temple. Just near to it,on the banks of Kangsabati river is the Dharmaraj Temple. It was built in 19th century. It has a porch in front of the sanctum. There are three arched entrances which are resting on engaged columns.On the plan, The main Sikhara of the temple is Saptaratha and corner sikharas are triratha. The ceiling of the sanctum cella is shaped like a dome and vaulted above the verandah.
Going ahead,on the main temple site, at the right side of the road along the bank of the river Kangsabati are a group of temples which belongs to the Majumdar family. It is a navratna temple and is the most striking of all the temples.It is about 40 feet high with nine towers. The walls of this temple are decorated with many beautiful terracotta panels adding to its grandeur. In this complex, also called the navratna temple complex is also another temple in atchala style and three other temples with flat roofs.
Opposite to this complex on the other side of the road is the Kalachand Temple complex. It has a rectangular Durga Dalan type flat roofed temple of Kalachand constructed of bricks. There is also a roofless structure made up of laterite stones with a verandah in front and is known as Durgamandapa. Near to it is the mansion of Zamindar which is in ruins.The complex also has a Panchratna temple built of bricks called Shivalaya with three atchala temples adjacent to it. There is another Panchratna temple near to it with a atchala temple. All of these temples have beautiful terracotta artworks on them.
The temples and other structures on the interior of the village belong to the Bandopadhyay family and are also built in the typical Bengal style. This complex has three Panchratna Shiva temples built with bricks, a Rasmanch, a Kacharibari and two other small Shiva temple. Some temples also show some adaptations of Islamic styles and are built with Stucco lime and seashells. Most of these temples are intact and with shivlingas. These temples also have terracotta artwork on them with images of various Hindu gods like Shri Ram,Shri Krishna etc.
The Kacharibari is now in a ruined condition with only its wall remaining. It has now become a home for various reptiles and insects. Just opposite to it, is the Rasmanch, built on an octagonal plan with nine towers in 1832.
There are also few other temples in the village,the prominent among them is the Shitala Mata Mandir built in Rekha Deul style. It is also known as Buri Marthan and is located adjacent to the road, just after the left turn going to Rasmanch and Kacharibari. It is the second largest temple in the village rising to 40 feet.
The Sun was slowly setting in and it was time to leave. The peace and tranquility of the village was dragging me to stay there for few more minutes. After exploring the villages, I started my ride back to IIT Kharagpur on the Hathihalka-Pathra road.