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Notes on the Geography of Northern India: Bishnupur: Photo 56

world pictures Northern India: Bishnupur

You might think that the temples built by the Malla kings would grow bigger and more opulent with each new monarch, but no: you can't find anything as pretentious as this early temple, the Syama-Raya, built in 1643 (a few years before the stone door) by a son of Bir Hambir, Raghunatha I (1626-1656).

It's a pancha ratna or five-tower Bengali temple, with minarets atop a square building whose form alludes to a thatched hut. O'Malley recognized that the form was not only unusual for India but much older than Bishnupur. He wrote, "The curved battlements of the roof, made in imitation of the roof of the ordinary village hut, certainly must have been peculiar to the architecture of Bengal before the Muhammadans took over [in the 1300s]...."

The rope keeps visitors out of the temple, not to mention out of the upper floor. What went on upstairs is hinted at by Ghosh, who writes that the Malla kings built "temples as pleasure grounds of the gods, where Krishna and his beloved Radha could rekindle their passion." An original inscription in proto-Bengali at the main entrance states plainly that the temple was built for the pleasure of those two.

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