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Terrakota Tales


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  Terracotta is the term, which means ‘baked earth’. During revival of Hinduism, after a long-term reign of the Muslim ‘Nawabs’, there flourished a new style of architecture in the form of temples in the then undivided Bengal. They were made of burned earthen bricks, covered with baked earthen plates and panels of elite art. It was during the sixteenth century ad, based on the devotion towards lord Krishna, there evolved a ‘hybrid’ form of architecture, which was a conglomeration of the Islamic form, the local Bangla style and some form were adopted from the classical design of the adjoining areas. Initially the terracotta plates covering the temples showed geometrical figures and artistic forms derived from flowers, leaves and plants. During the seventeenth century the theme of the terracotta plates and panels changed dramatically and depicted stories from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata as well as from various Hindu religious folklores. They also spelled stories from the then social activities, wars, games, local customs, festivals and rituals as well as the gorgeous life styles of the royals and the simple daily activities of the common. The plates and panels also adorned the temple with exquisite geometric artistic designs, birds, animals, gods and demons. A vivid description of the history of Bengal during the sixteenth and seventeenth century can be derived from these terracotta temples. Once patronized by the powerful rulers these temples boomed in almost every village of modern districts of Bankura, Birbhum,Hooghly, Howrah, Purulia and adjoining districts of Bangladesh. Grown in thousands the terracotta temples of Bengal have become the icon of the state.
Now these marvelous architectures are at the brink of destruction.
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