Bashberia is located in the Hooghly District of West Bengal, between Bandel and Tribeni. Bansberia is under Chinsurah and Mogra Police stations in Chinsurah division. Previously, it was included as a village in ancient “Saptagram”, an important port town in medieval Bengal. It served as a main port and commercial complex of the area. The Ancient place belongs to the age of Shah Jahan. It was captured by the Mughal dynasty and Raghab Datta Roy of Patuli was the Zamindar of the region. The name of the place has been derived from the myth that Raghab’s son Rameshwar built a fort here by clearing a bamboo grove.
Bashberia’s importance in pre-Muslim Bengal was religious, owing to its location at the Tribeni or confluence of three rivers (Ganga, Jamuna, and Saraswati). After Muslim occupation in the late 13th century (by Zafar Khan Gazi) it continues to be an important city under the Tughlaks, as a military base, and port. After the Mughal conquest of Bengal in the mid-16th century, the city started to decline due to the loss of royal patronage, but some areas such as Bansberia continued to prosper up to the 19th century, sponsored by semi-independent Zamidars who built several temples in the area.
The 21-metre high five-storeyed Hangseshwari temple has 13 domes shaped like lotus buds. The structure has similarities with St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, which is also known as the onion dome church. The Hangseshwari temple was constructed in 1814 by the wife of Nrisinghaadeb (Rani Sankari), the grandson of Rameshwar. With its unique shape, it stands out among Bengal temples. An arched gateway leads to its sanctum sanctorum, where an idol of Hangseshwari is placed on a lotus.
The Hangseshwari temple is a five storied structure exhibiting a distinct architectural style. The temple was three “Minars” of the shape of a lotus bud and the inner designs resembles human anatomy. “Goddess Kali” was the presiding deity of the temple. Raja Nrisinhadeb Roy had initiated the construction of this temple which was completed by Rani Sankari, his wife in the year 1814. The Zamidari, Raja Rameshwar Dutta inherited was already quite wealthy based on earlier estates and sanads (imperial land grants). Rameshwar was further enriched by a sanad from the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, as well as the title of Raja. Besides the temple the remains of Duttaroy Palace are also located here. Fragments of arches and broken walls of the palace are still found around temple complex.
The large Vasudeva temple was built by Raja Rameshwar Dutta in 1679 to express his devotion to Vaishnavism. The temple is a large ek-ratna temple with triple arched entrances on each side and a sharply curving cornice. The octagonal turret is in a chala-style and with carved cornice. Raised on a low platform on the roof, the turret has single arches on each of its eight faces. All expect the east and west arches are false entrances.
The main attraction in this village is two temples with intricate terracotta works that inspired Rabindranath Tagore. Moved by the art, the poet had asked Nandalal Bose to document the panels on the temple walls. Intricate terracotta carving on the walls of the temple show cases scenes of love, war, everyday life and gods. Especially the arch panels were filled with densely packed figures from the great Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata as well as the Lilas of Krishna ( Krishnalila), juxtaposed with fascinating social courtly scenes.
Sources : 1. “Hoogly Jelar Itihas” by Sudhir Kumar Mitra.
2. “ Paschimbanger Sanskriti ” by Binoy Ghosh.
3. “ Rupmanjari” by Narayan Sannyal.
Research & Picture Courtesy- Santanu Roy