The story of Eleven Shiva Temple and a wretched princess

Dhaka, Tuesday   07 April 2020


The story of Eleven Shiva Temple and a wretched princess


 Published: 08:30 PM, 7 October 2019   Updated: 08:31 PM, 7 October 2019

11-Shiva temple complex at Bhatpara village in Abhaynagar upazila, located 45 km southwest from Jashore town

11-Shiva temple complex at Bhatpara village in Abhaynagar upazila, located 45 km southwest from Jashore town

Grouped temples constitute a very important part of Bengal temple architecture. Usually, such temples are identical in style and size that are grouped together and arranged in a geometrical pattern. There are a few varieties of grouped temple styles, notably 4-Shiva temple, 11-Shiva temple, and 12-Shiva temple, in Bangladesh. The most prominent examples are 4-Shiva temple (straight line pattern) at Dhakeswari in Dhaka, 11-Shiva temple (rectangular pattern) at Abhaynagar in Jashore, 12-Shivalaya temple (square pattern) in Joypurhat, and 12-Shiva temple (two parallel straight line patterns) in Satkhira. There was another 12-Shiva temple at Dhulgram in Jashore, on the bank of Bhairab River, which was washed away by the river.

Among the heritage sites of Jashore, the key attraction is the 11-Shiva temple complex at Bhatpara village in Abhaynagar upazila, 45 km southwest of Jashore town. The grouped temple is a large brick complex, with clay terracotta plaques. The 11 temples are arranged on four sides of a rectangle setting, with an uncovered courtyard in the center. The eastern and western sides of the rectangle have a row of four single temples each, while there is a row of two single temples in the south and a single large temple on the north.

Story behind the grouped temple 

There is a story behind the construction of the grouped temple. According to legend, Raja Nilkantha Roy of Chanchra Raj had a daughter, Devi Abhaya. Later, the area was named ‘Abhayanagar’ after her. Raja Roy married his daughter to Nilambar Roy, son of a Narail zamindar. Within a few days of the wedding, Nilambar died of an incurable disease. As a result, Abhaya became a widow at a young age. Hindu widows were not allowed to remarry at that time. So, the princess expressed her wish to spend the rest of her life in the worship of Lord Shiva. The Raja then ordered his dewan (chief minister) Hariram Mitra of Baghutia to construct a new royal palace and a Shiva temple for his widowed daughter.

Upon instruction from the Raja, Mitra built a new royal palace and a grouped Shiva temple at Bhatpara in Abhaynagar. Apart from this temple complex, Raja Nilkantha Roy also built separate temples for different deities at different locations in Abhaynagar, including a 12-Shiva temple complex at Dhulgram.

Location of the site

The site is located in Bhatpara Bazar, Abhaynagar, Jashore. The site, 11-temple complex dedicated to Lord Shiva is partially destroyed; the place still shows the majesty of the glorious past of Bengal.

The characteristics of the temple are At-Chala with triple entrance and rich terracotta façade which we can be found in the 18th century Hugli-Bardhaman temple. If the temple is preserved and renovated with tourist facilities, the 11-Shiva temple will attract tourists from home and abroad for its greatest archaeological and spiritual value. The impressive Abhaynagar is that a place where a visitor enchanted by the aesthetic beauty, Mother Nature portrayed here but on the other, the magnificent antiquated architecture, reminds of our glorious past, must make him curious. 

Description of the grouped temple

The construction period of the temple was 1745-64. In the construction of the temple, lime-surki and bricks of the British era were used. The shape of the brick is thin and square. The bricks have been kept the emollient of the lime-surki. There are eight temples in each of the four east and west rows.

On the south side of the entry path, there are two temples on either side. The main temple is on the west side. In total, there are eleven temples. The length of the main temple is 24.4 feet and the width is 22.3 feet. The width of the wall is 3.4 feet.

Each temple had a Shivaling (Lingam) before, and later it was stolen. Now, only one Shivaling remains in the main temple. The main entrance is located on the south side of the temple. There are arched entrances and subways for entry to each temple, corners of curves and angles and there is an incredible craft, among these are several image motifs including the Padma. 

The specialty of the temple is that it was built in the local style. It carries evidence of the advanced architecture of Bengal at that time. The holes were made of the vertical type of dome. So the roof was built in two levels and rounded. All the temples match the imprints of local materials, style, and skill.

There was once a wall around the temple. There was a pond in the northwest corner. Now it is in the possession of the occupants. And the palace? Now there is the water barge!

Raja Nilkantha Roy donated 200 bighas of land for each temple. The cost of the temple would come from this land.

In 1947, the then zamindar of the area left for India. Since then, the temple complex has become abandoned. Once, the 11-Shiva temples were adorned with beautiful terracotta plaques. The temples, in their peaceful natural setting, have lost much of their charm over the course of time due to a lack of attention from the authorities. The situation got worse when the roofs crumbled, the corners of the temples were badly damaged and the ruins were overgrown with foliage. The Department of Archaeology (DOA) has declared the temple complex as a protected monument. Though they started some sort of restoration, the work had to be suspended due to financial problems.