The district of Hooghly consists of a number of old temples symbolizing the Bengal school of architecture and representing the form of Terracotta art that the region was once famous for. Sukharia, is one such place we contemplated to visit on a leisurely Sunday morning.
The most convenient way to reach Sukharia is to take the Howrah-Katwal local train in the morning and get down at the Somra Bazaar station. We took the 7:53 AM train and the journey to Somra Bazaar took less than two hours (and the train was running late). The station is a small one and there are very few means of communication. I noticed a single auto rickshaw, a couple of cycle rickshaws and a few van rickshaws throughout my stay at the place and they may not be available outright. After inquiring at a local stationary shop we had an idea about the place and started afoot towards the temples. There is an asphalt road circling the place and there are some proper houses (including many two-storied ones) and a high school alongside it but once we sidestep it and enter the deeper tracts, the mud roads are predominant with a few brick paths in between running around small huts providing a rural flavour to the place.
It took us about 15 mins on foot to reach the Anandamayee Kali Temple complex. The temple complex from the other side of the nearby pond makes a great view for the shutterbugs.
The temple, dedicated to Goddess Kali, was built by a local zamindar, Bireswar Mustafi, in the year 1813. The main shrine features 25 pinnacles which is not very common and we marvelled at the terracotta decorations. The images that adorn the walls are primarily of gods and goddesses and mythological in nature and some floral designs but if one looks intensely one will find references to daily life as well such as people sailing on a boat, babus taking their food and being fanned by women and even soldiers marching with arms.
The Kali temple is flanked by two parallel sets of smaller temples, featuring six temples in each row. Two out them are pancha-ratna (5 pinnacles) and the rest are aat-chala (8 roofed). One of the pancha-ratna temples is dedicated to Lord Ganesha while all the others are dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple has been renovated during 1994-97 and may be it was painted afresh at that time but the terracotta is still preserved. Most probably regular worships are still carried on as we observed a priest silently chanting his hymns and performing some puja.
One has to walk along the banks of the pond to reach the temple and on the way pass by the ruins of a zamindar-bari named Radhakunja. The house is in shambles now but the lofty columns and the courtyard and thakur-dalan inside speak of the architectural masterpiece it once must have been. I believe this is where the acclaimed director Mrinal Sen shot for Aakaaler Sandhane in 1980s and most probably the house belongs to the Mitra-Mustafi family. We entered the dilapidated house to take some snaps thinking it as abandoned but to our surprise we found that some people still reside in the first floor of the house. An old lady who is one of the residents chatted with us for a while from the verandah of the first floor and asked us where we came from.
Another temple of significance is the Harasundari Temple complex. This nava-ratna (9 pinnacles) is similar to that of the Anandamayee Kali Tample although it might not have any intricate terracotta decorations. However, here, two parallel sets of seven smaller temples (two pancha-ratna and five aat-chala) each are on either side of the main shrine. This temple was constructed by Ramnidhi Mitra Mustafi in the year 1814. The complex is now closed for the general public and is in the process of renovation. Unfortunately, as part of renovation, the temples are being cemented freshly and they are losing all the charm and art work of the bygone era.
Close to the Harasundari Temple, stands the colourful Nistarini Temple, another nava-ratna temple. It was probably constructed in 1847 by the Mustafi family. This temple is also in shambles and cannot be approached.
Another temple in the vicinity is the Siddheswari Kali Temple which is located beside an old banyan tree. Probably this temple has been renovated in recent years and is now a popular one but in its current form it looks like any other temple of the time with no special features to talk about. It is believed that the river Ganges once flowed beside the temple but with time it has moved away and all around we could see only green farm lands.