Halisahar is known as the birth place of Ramprasad – a famous devotional poet and lyricist of Bengal. Devotees from across Bengal come to this town and pray. But the suburban town possesses excellent pieces of terracotta temples.
This pre-medieval town is believed to have existed during Bakhtiyar Khilj in the 13th Century. Then the name was Kumarhatta. In Bengali, “Kumar” or “Kumor” means potter and “Hatta” means market. The town was probably the home and market of potters. In Khalji’s regime, lots of havelis (mansions) were constructed here and the name changed to Haveli Shahar. In “Ain-E-Akbai”, Abul Fazal – the grand vizier of Akbar the Great, mentioned this town as Halishahar. Unfortunately, no pre medieval haveli now existed in this town. But the terracotta temples, home of Ramprasad Sen and lovely view of the river Hooghly still attract travellers and devotees to come here.
Located on the east bank of the River Hooghly, Halishahar can easily be reached by train from Sealdah, Dum Dum or Naihati. If you like driving, then It will take 2 hours from Kolkata via Kalyani Expressway.
I like public transport so the train journey was opted by me. My friend Subhadeep who was waiting outside the rail station, suggested taking a Toto (a motor driven three wheeler) to Baranda Galir Mor.
Reaching at Barendra Golir Mor, we left Toto and entered hardy 15 yards we saw a terracotta temple complex – locally famous as Barendra Golir Shiv Mandir.
The complex houses four terracotta temples. While entering the complex, the first left temple is the famous Nandakishore Temple.
Built by a local landlord Nandagopal Roy in 1743, the temple’s outer wall is decorated with intricate terracotta panels. The base panels, covered by overgrown grasses, contain palanquine, British soldiers and court scenes, the arch panels above the archway is decorated with the war scene from Ramayana. A lovely panel of Nandi (Bull of the lord Shiva) and Garuda are aesthetic treat to eyes.
Unfortunately Nandakishore Temple is the stem of a giant banyan tree. Cutting the stem, the temples might be broken.
The temple opposite to Nandakishore Temple is the only maintained architecture in the complex but contains no interesting panels except some floral one. Other two temples are almost covered by overgrown vegetation and on the verge of collapse.
Though under the maintenance of State Archaeology, the entire temple complex looked unattended for centuries.
We came out of the temple complex and went to Craig Park on the bank of the river Hooghly – A well maintained amusement park where local couples enjoy their intimate time. An Open Stage in this Park is dedicated to Saint Ramprasad Sen.Personally, I was not interested to see others PDA (Public Display of Affection), so we headed towards the next destination – we went to Ramprasad Ghat – the most famous ghat from where Saint Ramprasad started his last journey.
Leaving Ramprasad Ghat, a 5 minutes walk past a twin Shiva Temple took us to Ramprasader Vite – the house of Ramprasad Sen.
Ramprasad spent a major time of his life in Halishahar and devoted himself in practising sadhana, meditation, and prayer. Traditional accounts tell of several esoteric sadhanas that he performed, including standing neck-deep in the river Ganges, singing songs to Kali. Ramprasad would regularly practice his sadhana in a panchavati: a grove with five trees—banyan, bael, amalaki, ashoka, and peepul—all regarded as holy in Tantric tradition. He would reportedly spend hours meditating on a panchamundi asana (an altar inside which are interred five skulls–that of a snake, frog, rabbit, fox, and man).According to popular stories he had a vision of Kali in her form of Adyashakti Mahamaya.
A flat roofed Kali Temple is present in the place. Adjacent to the temple, a meditation room is present where Ramprasad is believed to meditate. The Panchamundi Asana and the grove of five trees are still present.
I was feeling goosebump to see the original grove of five trees. All the famous “Shyamasangeet”(songs devoted to goddess Kali – the hindu goddess of power) were written under the tree. The songs are really an asset of the Bengali literature and music.
We took a Toto from Ramprasader Vite, crossed the crossing “Bagh More ” and finally reached Rathtala Temple – Shree Krishna Jiu Temple.
Built in 1785, the huge “Atchala” style temple is standing at the center of a huge complex. The complex is surrounded by boundary wall and devotees are always found in the temple complex.
The front surface of the temple contains terracotta lotus motifs. Also a terracotta foundation plaque can be found in the temple.
A nine chronicled chariot is kept outside the temple complex that runs only on the week of “Rathyatra”.
Halishahar is also known as “Pancha Satir Shahar” (town of five devotee ladies). The town is enriched by the dust of 5 ladies – Jagadishwari, Siddheshwari, Shyamasundari, Rani Rasmoni and Sudhangshubala. All of them devoted their spiritual lives to Godess Kali. Bathing Ghats have been named after them. All of the Ghats will give the Traveller nice views of the river Hooghly.
The city is blessed with the foot-dust of prophet Chaitanya – the founder of the religion Vaishnava. Chaitanya Dev’s Mentor stayed here. Once Chaitanya Dev came to this town in absence of his guru Ishwarpuri. A small pond was formed as he and his followers dug the soil to take the foot dust.
I did not visit there. Instead, I was more interested to witness the sunset from the Ramprasad Ghat. So, we went there again. While dust was almost set in suddenly a melodious voice of a beggar touched our ears. He was singing a famous Ramprasadi devotional song – “Mayer payer Jaba hoye oth na phute mon”.
Trains from Sealdah, Dumdum, Naihati, Ranaghat are the cheapest and most comfortable options. People interested in driving need to avail Kalyani Expressway.
There are plenty of restaurants in Bagh Mor. Also the taste of local sweets are a must to experience.