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Bolpur’s Laxmi Janardan Temple demonstrates that an artist’s religion is known by his work

11 July, 2022 16:54:01
Bolpur’s Laxmi Janardan Temple demonstrates that an artist’s religion is known by his work

Image Courtesy : West Bengal Heritage Commission

Restoration work of the famous 350-year-old Laxmi Janardan Temple of Santiniketan has commenced recently. The Sarkar family has been the caretaker of this historical 18th century temple since its inception. The Laxmi Janardan Temple is unique as it is one of the rare temples outside Bishnupur, that depicts exquisite terracotta art-work with detailing that is usually found in the terracotta town of Bishnupur in Bankura.

The Sarkar family is still the custodians and they have decided to preserve the art work along with sending a message of communal harmony that is so intrinsic to the ethos of Bengal. Do we ask in this land of Tagore who tied a rakhi on the hands of every Hindu and Muslim when the British tried to partition Bengal in 1905, ‘what is the religion of the restoration workers of a temple?’ In this land we probably do not ask. 

Muslim restoration artists at work

The Sarkar family is no exception. They have handed over the restoration work of the temple to a group of Muslim artists from Murshidabad district working under the supervision of the chief artisan Tajem Sheikh. This endeavour showcases that whatever religion an artist might follow; his dharma is to focus on creation of something new. That new form might be a temple or even a mosque or any architectural specimen and once again stresses on Bengal’s united social fabric. 


The Laxmi Janardhan temple is not only a tourist attraction for its exceptional design but also steeped in history. In the 18th century the zamindar of Nilpur in Burdwan district, Bharat Chandra Sarkar came to Surul in Birbhum district. His son, Krishna Hari Sarkar was spiritually inclined and along with managing the estate, he commissioned the project of building several terracotta temples in his zamindari. Laxmi Janardan Temple was one of them and probably the most famous. The terracotta designs depicted on this temple represent historical events such as excerpts from the Ramayana, many mythological tales and also anecdotes of trade and cultural aspirations. The descendants of the erstwhile zamindar family have informed that the restoration of the temple’s architecture which is in ruins is also aimed at protection of the cultural heritage of Bengal and the rich legacy of their ancestors. “It was essential to get the services of the best artisans as the preservation of the intricate designs require the highest level of skill and craftsmanship,” pointed out one of the members of the Sarkar household. 

Exquisite Terracota architecture

This was one of the considerations for entrusting Tajem Sheikh with the responsibility based on his experience and his widely known skills as a restoration architect. Sheikh is ecstatic at the assignment. Talking to the media he said: “I am highly obliged to serve in the upkeep of the temple. And this is no new temple assignment for me, I have worked on many Hindu religious sites before.” Tajem has indeed worked on many assignments previously for Belur Math, restoration of Swami Vivekananda’s ancestral house and even for mosques and churches. So, it is irrelevant to him if it is a temple or a mosque he works on, as both are equal in the eyes of a sculptor. It must be noted that even famous artisan from Bolpur, Lakshman Bagdi has given a hand in restoring this unique and iconic temple. As we move into the 21st century, it is a matter of pride that Bengal’s art and architecture from the unique blend of terracotta, wall paintings to clay statues of Hindu deities such as Goddess Durga has been successful in upholding the religious harmony as artisans from every religious background or diverse religious beliefs have contributed towards the emergence of Bengal’s rich cultural diversity on the global stage in a collective manner. Laxmi Janardan Temple is one such example and is not an exception.            

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