Wednesday, 17 September 2014

THE ENDANGERED TEMPLE VILLAGE



Maluti (also Malooti) is a small Village located in the Dumka District in Jharkhand and situated at the border of the Birbhum District,in West Bengal. It is just 18KM away from Rampurhat. Maluti village is known as the “Temple Village” as it has around 72 temples of intricate terracotta work belonging to the period between the 17th and 19TH century. Initially there were 108 temples clustered in a radius of just 350 meters. Out of these 36 temples have crumbled to dust over passage of time. The remaining ones are in various stages of decay.


Maluti used to be inhabited in pre-historic times. This fact is corroborated by the discovery of certain pre-historic stone tools found in the river bed of Chila River, (which is also called Chandan Ghat Nala) confirm that Maluti used to be inhabited by our pre-historic fore-fathers, though the area was never excavated. The River Chila is flowing at the southern edge of the village and marks the boundary of Jharkhand and West Bengal. The river originated from Banspahari, a highland in the Dumka  district. The stone –tools found are hand-axes, scrappers and blades. Primitive weapons are found on the river bed at different place.


The architectural style of the temples is predominantly the regional Bengali style which flourished all over Bengal in that period. People offer daily worship in many temples in the form of flowers, incense burners etc. The temples have intricate carvings depicting scenes from Mahabharata and Ramayana and the battle of Durga and Mahishasura. At some places social scenes are also depicted like tilling of land, worship in progress, sacrifice of goat, harvesting etc.


Some temples have inscriptions which help in construction the history of the temples as well as the socio-politico scenario of the period. The inscriptions are in early Bengali script which is a mixture of Sanskrit, Prakrit and Bengali. The dates are generally mentioned as per “Shaka” era.

Maluti  village come into limelight in fifteenth century as the capital of Nankar raj (tax-free kingdom). The kingdom was awarded to one Basanta Roy of village Katigram by Sultan Alauddin Hussan Shah of Gaur (1495-1525). Son of a poor Brahmin Basanta managed to catch the pet hawk of the Sultan and gave it back to the Sultan. In lieu of the hawk (Baj), Basanta was given the kingdom. Hence, the king was called Raja Baj Basanta. The capital of Baj Basanta dynasty was in Damra. Later it was shifted to Maluti.


Basanta became a king in lieu of a Baj(hawk) by the help of a Dandi Sanyasi of Sumeru Math, Kashi may be true to a great extent because of the word Baj has been pre-fixed with the name if Basanta to commemorate the event. The name Baj Basanta is comparatively prominent because it can be found both in local history and government records. Swamiji , the head of Sumeru Math, Vananasi, was the preceptor of Basanta. Since then the Head of Sumeru Math who is called Rajguru becomes the preceptor of descendants of King Baj Basanta. Even today Rajguru from Sumeru Math, Varanasi spends some time at Maluti every year.

How Maluti- the capital of Baj Basanta dynasty- turn out to be a “Temple City” is also an interesting story. Instead of constructing palaces, the Rajas built temples. The dynasty was broken into parts (tarafs) but each taraf kept building temples, competing with the others. In the end, it turned out to be a unique temple village. Inscriptions in Proto-Bengali on the temples show they were named after women. 

Around 1857, Swami Bamdev ( or Bamakhyapa), one of the Bengal’s spiritual leaders, come here to be a priest but failed because he couldn’t memories Sanskrit mantras. During his 18 month stay in Maluti, Bamakhyapa used to spend most of his time at Mauliskhya temple (Goddess Mauliksha is believed to be the elder sister of Goddess Tara of Tarapith). Here he was first blessed. Then, he moved to Tarapith. His trident is still preserved at Maluti.

But Maluti, may not be in this name, existed long before being the kingdom of the tax exempted capital of Baj Basanta dynasty. It was once revered as a great seat of learning. Mention of Maluti-known as Gupta Kashi in ancient times- is found as early as the Sunga dynasty (185 BC- 75 BC), whose founder was Pushyamitra Shunga. It was at Maluti that the king of Pataliputra performed Ashvamedh Yajna (Jagya ). Later Vajrayana Buddhusts, followers of Tantik rituals, settled here. So, Goddess Mauliksha is the most ancient idol ever found in Maluti.


It is said that Adi Shankaracharya, on his way to Varanasi, had stopped over at Maluti. And it is here that he launched his mission against Buddhism. Some historians say Maluti is the first place where the Vedic upheaval started. Dandiswami of Varanashi’s Sumeru Math still comes here once a year as part of the ritual that began with Adi Shankaracharya.


It is suspected that the King of Nankar state originally constructed 108 temples, but later generations could not maintain such a gigantic number of temples deteriorated and finally collapsed completely. On October 2010, the Global Heritage Fund published a report named     “ Saving our Vanishing Heritage : Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage Sites in the Developing World.” It highlighted five accelerating man-made threats facing global heritage sites in developing countries: development pressures, unsustainable tourism, insufficient management, looting, war and conflict. The report has generated much attention from major media, including National Geographic, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, USA Today and more.


The Global Heritage Fund identified the Maluti Temples in India as one of 12 worldwide sites that are irreparable, cutting insufficient management as the cause for the loss and damage.

 Research  -Santanu Roy.