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In the little-known village of Vishnupur, 200 km from Calcutta are the terracotta temples built by Malla rulers  between the 7th and the 18th centuries. It is also the centre  for tussar silks and ethnic symbols like the Bankura horse.

Vishnupur, the seat of power of the Malla dynasty who ruled over a large part of Bengal for nearly a thousand years before the British came. The Mallas ruled till the advent of the Muslims and relics of their reign survive till today.

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Among the later Hindu kings of Bengal, the Malla occupy a place of distinction not only or their military prowess but because of their patronage to the development of distinctive styles of arts, architecture, sculpture, and music. During the reign of Veer Hambir and Raja Raghunath Singh and Veer Singh, Vishnupur became one of the principal centers of culture in Bengal.

The Architecture

The distinct style of temple architecture with a single tower resting on a square building with the curved roof of a Bengali hut has been the most characteristic feature of Vishnupur temples. Most of the temples here are in two big concentrations- the Shyam Rai, Jore Bangla, Radha Shyam, Lalji, Krishna Balram, Nikunja Bihari, and Kesari Rai within the fort area and the Kalachand, Radha Madhav, Radha Govinda, Jore Mandir, and Nandalal temples over an area to the South and South West of Lalbundh. The Malleswar, Madan Gopal and Madan Mohan temples are to the North of the fort. Besides, there is the Ras Mancha, the earliest extant religious edifice at Vishnupur built by Veer Hambir, representing an architectural style all its own.

There are a number of ‘bundhs’ or water reservoirs, namely, Lalbundh, Krishnabundh, Shyambundh etc. A number of cannons are there, exposed to weather for centuries and yet free from rust. One of these is ‘Dal Madal’.

Vishnupur developed a distinct style of music, i.e. Vishnupur Gharana of which perhaps the most famous exponent was Jadu Bhatta.

History of this Cultural Background
In the 17th century A.D., King Nrisinghadeb was ruling in Pradamnapur. Jotbihar in Indas PS was under Pradamnapur. But its ruler, Pratapnarayan, declared independence against the King. After failing to conquer, the King sent for Raghunath, his loyal warrior, whom he already made a feudal land lord to fight him. Raghunath, who had his capital in Laugram, defeated Pratapnarayan and the King rewarded him with Jotbihar. Thus Raghunath became feudal king under Nrisinghadeb. After the tragic death of Nrisinghadeb, his widow married her only daughter, Chandrakumari, to Raghunath and established him on the throne. In 695 A.D. Raghunath was crowned as first king of Malla dynasty at Pradamnapur. To commemorate his ascending of throne a new calendar, 'Mallabda' was started in 695 A.D. or 101 Bengali calendar. King Raghunath became known as Adi Malla and the land he ruled came to be known as 'Mallabhum'. It was in 994 A.D. King Jagat Malla shifted his capital from Pradamnapur to Bishnupur because of better geographical safeguard as Bishnupur lies surrounded by hilly terrain. During King Veer Hambir's rule from 1565 to 1620 A.D. Bishnupur flourished. It was the 'Golden Era' of Malla dynasty. During his reign, King Veer Hambir met his future mentor, Srinivas Acharya, in a very curious incident. The meeting of the two great minds turned out to a magnificent culmination of Vaishnabism. The King with his first Queen, Shiromani and his eldest son, Dhari Hambeer were initiated in Vaishnabism and became disciples of Srinivash Acharya. As Siddhartha became Buddhadeb after coming in contact with dacoit Angulimala, as Chandraashok changed into Dharmaashok under the influence of Upagupta, so the bandit King, Veer Hambir, turned into an ascetic Vaishnava. He became a benevolent king who built that wonderful Rasmancha - a unique structure in Bishnupur in 1600 A.D. Soon after that he built a Dalan mandir for Mrinmayee, the royal deity, in 1601 A.D. His successor, Raghunath Singha, built Malleshwar mandir in 1622 A.D. and dedicated the temple in the name of Veer Hambir (mentioned on the dedicatory stone slab as Veer Singha). King Raghunath Singha built some of the most exquisite temples in Bishnupur, like Shymaraya, a pancha ratna temple, in 1643 A.D., Keshtaraya (Jorbangla type) temple in 1655 A.D. and Kalachand temple, an ek-ratna mandir in 1656 A.D. First two are built in brick and entirely covered with terracotta artworks. Kalachand temple was built with laterite stone, but some relics of artworks are still found on the temple walls.After Raghunath Singha, his son Veer Singha II built Lalji temple, an ek-ratna temple in laterite stone in 1658.Raghunath Singha I built Radhavinod aatchaalaa mandir in brick in 1659 in Kharbangla. In 1665, the Queen of Veer Singha II built two exquisite temples, Madangopala, a Pancharatna mandir and Murulimohana, a laterite temple. He is also credited with the building of Tejpal temple in 1672. In 1694 A.D., Durjan Singha built Madanamohana ek-ratna mandir in brick.King Gopal Singha built number temples in Bishnupur. In 1726 three ek-ratna laterite temples came up, which are known as 'Joramandir'. Then in 1729 he built Radhagobinda ek-ratna temple in laterite. In 1734-35 came up Mahapravu mandir, a Jorbangla type brick temple and 1737 he built another ek-ratna mandir in laterite, Radhamadhaba temple. In 1758 King Chaitanya Singha built Radhashyama mandir, an ek-ratna laterite temple and another similar temple in Patpur near Bishnupur. In the early nineteenth century the Bosu family of Bishnupur built an exquisite temple, 'Sridhar mandir', the only Navaratna temple in Bishnupur with plenty of terracotta artwork. Though the Malla kings shifted their capital from Pradmanpur to Bishnupur in 994 A.D., it was only from 17th century onwards Bishnupur started to flourish. But this great Kingdom, an independent Hindu Kingdom in the eastern India could survive there after only for a little more than 150 years (1600-1758). Though during this period, they built innumerable temples in Bishnupur, which are still in existence and can be visited.
Similar Temples in Bankura
Temples built by King Raghunath Singha in between 1643 A.D. to 1660 A.D. :
Gokulnagar: Gokulchand -1643 A.D. by Raghunath Singha Or Chandra Malla -Laterite Pancharatna
Balsi: Lakhshminarayan -1652 A.D. by Malla dynasty king of Jamkuri -Laterite Aatchaalaa
Bikrampur: Gopaljiu -1659 A.D. by Raghunath Singha I -Laterite Deul w Jagamohan
Baital: Jhagrai Chandi -1659 A.D. by Raghunath Singha I -Laterite Deul
Baital: Shyamchand -1660 A.D. by Raghunath Singha I -Laterite Pancharatna
Yadavnagar: Yadavarai -1650 A.D. by Raghunath Singha I -Laterite Ekratna