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Bangladesh: Kantanagar temple

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Kantanagar temple | Bangladesh | Asia

[Visited: April 2010]

There were several good reasons to make an early start that day, like not wanting to be at Kantanagar when it was already too hot, but also to still have some soft light to see it with. I was particularly lucky: when I approached a corner of the main street of Saidpur, I could just jump into a bus that was already moving in the right direction. I disembarked on the T junction, and from there, took a local bus heading north. Soon, I could get off, paid a fee to cross the rickety bamboo bridge, and walked west on the sandy road. Apparently, farmers were successful at irrigation here, as I saw several rice fields, as well as fruit trees - full of the beloved mango that was, unfortunately, not in season yet. After a pleasant walk, I reached a small car park and a walled area. There was no mistake: I had arrived at Kantanagar temple.

Picture of Kantanagar temple (Bangladesh): Close-up of decorations right above an arch of Kantanagar temple

This is supposed to be one of the major sights of Bangladesh, and I was almost shocked to find that I could just walk in. Once inside, I stopped at the first sight of the temple. I had read about the beauty of the temple, but had not seen any images of it, so its appearance surprised me. This truly is a gem, a beauty - and part of that beauty, I guess, is the very fact that Kantanagar, or Kantaji, is freely accessible, simply standing in a courtyard, with older people murmuring with each other in a corner, but otherwise perfectly quiet, void of all the tourist mess that would surround such a star sight in most other countries. To begin with, I sat down for a while to soak in the impressive grace of this Hindu temple. Built in the first half of the 18th century, Kantanagar is a sample of a Nava-ratna temple. Originally, it counted four sikharas - tower-like structure - on each corner of the ground floor, four more on the second floor, and a central tower crowning the whole structure. Unfortunately, Kantanagar was badly hit in a 1897 earthquake which effectively removed all towers.

Picture of Kantanagar temple (Bangladesh): Frontal view of Kantanagar temple

Indeed, you can easily see where those sikharas should have been; Kantanagar looks amputated as it is. At the same time, the missing towers also give the temple a more serene impression, and make you concentrate on the essence of the beauty of the temple, which is still intact. That attractiveness is, without doubt, the terracotta plaques that can be found on all sides. After I got up and started circling the temple, I got lost in the many stories told through the finely sculpted scenes on the outer walls. Since it is no longer allowed to enter the temple, or even climb the platform, you have to keep a distance. But it is still perfectly possible to see all those scenes, to marvel at the artistry of the sculptors who had depicted mythological scenes, flora, fauna, and scenes from the daily life of 18th century Bengalis. Walls, pillars, doors, plinths, arches: every space of Kantanagar counts with ornate decorations. Oh, how much I had wanted to enter the temple, climb to the second floor, and see up close how those walls are also embellished! When the sun was getting hot, when the light was getting harsh, I knew it was time to go. I stopped circling Kantanagar and its amazing appearance - and left the court in which it stands, to walk back to the main road.

Picture of Kantanagar temple (Bangladesh): Close-up view of scene on the outside wall of Kantanagar temple
Picture of Kantanagar temple (Bangladesh): Heavily decorated door of Kantanagar temple, unfortunately only visible from a distance
Picture of Kantanagar temple (Bangladesh): Close-up of one of the terracotta pillars of Kantanagar temple
Picture of Kantanagar temple (Bangladesh): Shadow and light playing on a corner of Kantanagar temple
Picture of Kantanagar temple (Bangladesh): Two of the many scenes of Kantanagar temple
Picture of Kantanagar temple (Bangladesh): Detailed view of a scene on the outer wall of Kantanagar temple
Picture of Kantanagar temple (Bangladesh): One of the thousands of scenes in Kantanagar temple
Picture of Kantanagar temple (Bangladesh): Intricate carved figures in a wall of Kantanagar temple
Picture of Kantanagar temple (Bangladesh): Arches in Kantanagar temple
Picture of Kantanagar temple (Bangladesh): Looking at Kantanagar temple from a corner
Picture of Kantanagar temple (Bangladesh): Sculpted figures: detailed view of a pillar of Kantanagar temple
Picture of Kantanagar temple (Bangladesh): Lower part of Kantanagar temple
Picture of Kantanagar temple (Bangladesh): Some of the carvings at the lower part of the temple

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