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The Garhbari of Bansberia with its unique Hansheswari Temple – GetBengal story

6 June, 2024 17:19:21
The Garhbari of Bansberia with its unique Hansheswari Temple – GetBengal story

Is it a Russian palace or a Hindu temple? Experts have differing views regarding the Hansheswari Temple of Bansberia and its architecture, which is rarely seen in any other part of Bengal or India. The Rajbari, which stands next to this temple, is locally known as Garhbari, or moat house. The name is a reference to the deep moat and high embankments that surround the property. Built in the early 19th century, the palace has a high wall and a guardhouse in the front and rear, fitted with watch towers and cannons. Raja Rameshwar, who started building this Rajbari, also built a terracotta temple of Vasudeva, which can still be seen from the roof of the palace. Even though it was built in 1679, it still stands today and is famous for its murals. The nearby Hansheswari temple was built in 1815 in the ratha ratna, or pinnacle style, with six stories and thirteen turrets in the shape of lotus buds.

The palace is home to the descendants of the Deb Roy family. 

The temple has the presiding deity of Hansheswari, a form of Maa Adi parashakti jagatjanani dakshina Kali in Hindu mythology. Rani Hansheswari was the mother of Raja Nrisingha Deb Roy; hence, the deity is worshipped as Maa Hansheswari.


In December 1799, Raja Nrisingha Deb Roy laid the foundation stone for this temple. But after the completion of the second storey in 1802, the founder died, leaving the temple incomplete. The temple complex is home to the Ananta Vasudeva temple. The Hansheswari temple is known for having a very distinctive style of architecture, consisting of 13 minars, or Ratnas, each built as a blooming lotus bud. The inner structure of the building resembles human anatomy. The architecture of the temples is a representation of ‘Tantrik Satchakrabhed.’ The five-story temple represents the five parts of the human body, namely, Bajraksha, Ira, Chitrini, Pingala, and Sushumna.

Between 1810 and 1817, Raja Nrisingha Deb Roy’s widow, Queen Shankari, steered the completion of the temple. Many argue that King Nrisingha Deb was an ardent practitioner of the Tantric cult, which led to the unusual architectural pattern of the Hindu temple. It has thirteen towers levelled at five different tiers, each tapering to a lotus dome. Others say it was his queen Shankari, a lady of liberal outlook, who brought in the blend of Russian architecture during the completion phase. There is a stark similarity between this temple and Moscow’s Pokrovsky Cathedral

The governing deity of the temple is Hansheswari (‘Han’ means Shiva and ‘Saa’ means Shakti), an incarnation of Goddess Kali. Surprisingly, Nrisingha Deb’s mother, a dark-skinned woman of substance, also bore the same name and persona. The idol is painted blue and made of neem wood, a curious decision as metallic casting was prevalent in that era. Even today, regular prayers are offered, and animal sacrifices are performed daily. The idol is placed on a lotus stalk arising from the navel of a supine Shiva. The inner chamber is linked to all 13 domes by thin tunnels that are thought to mimic human nerves. Forming a complex maze, access to the passages is restricted to tourists and pilgrims.

While the Ananta Vasudeva Temple is topped by an octagonal spire, the temple facade is covered with intricately carved terracotta tiles showing stories from the epics and the life of Krishna, as well as scenes from life, including those of royal courts, hunting, boat journeys, etc. As you explore the intricate details of the Hansheswari temple and its unique architectural style, it will leave you in awe.

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