During one of my trips to Achipur, I made a quick detour and visited a small village called Bawali. I have been told about this village by one of the guys working in our office pantry. He knew that I often venture out on weekends and I have a special interest in old and heritage structures. On knowing that I was planning to visit Achipur he had requested me to visit his village of Bawali. According to him, this place was special as it had a couple of old dilapidated temples and also a small palace owned by the once-powerful and rich local landlord of Bawali.
Location of Bawali
There are two ways to reach Bawali, you can take the road from Behala that goes towards Thakurpukur/Joka or you can take the road to Budge Budge and reach Bawali. I have traveled both ways and I prefer the road via Budge Budge considering the less amount of traffic and less congested crossing.
I also prefer the road via Budge Budge because in this way you can visit other interesting sites around Budge Budge and Achipur. If you, however, come via Joka then you will have to pass Boro Kachari Temple in Raypur which is a very famous temple in this region especially on Saturday you will find a huge number of devotees coming to worship here.
The best and the most comfortable way to visit Bawali is with your vehicle. If you come by train then get down at Budge Budge and take a shared auto going towards Bawali and this might require you to change autos few times. If you are coming via Joka then there are many buses from Kolkata coming towards Raypur and you can then proceed with the rest via shared auto.
There is a parking spot next to a school building at Bawali which can easily accommodate quite a few vehicles thus you can easily park there and stroll around the village.
Short History of Bawali Village
Bawali Village was the home front of the Mondol family who established then Zamindari around this part of Bengal. As per the local villagers, the Zamindari is over 350 years old but various websites mention the foundation of this Zamindari from different sources thus I am not going into that. As with any Hindu landlords they usually build their own luxurious palatial house and then follow it up with a temple. In this case, the Mondol family built quite a few temples all dedicated to Krishna. At a later stage, they also expanded their temples to the city outskirts of Calcutta.
The temples were built one after the other by different generations of the Mondol family.
Temples At Bawali Village
The best part about this village is that all the things that you can visit as a tourist are within a radius of hundred meters. The temples that were once built by the Mondol Zamindars are now mostly in ruins. Some villagers have come together and formed a society that is trying to restart the worship and also to repair the damaged temples.
Unfortunately, the locals with limited knowledge of restoration have resorted to repairing the temple with cement and concrete which were originally built using lime mortar with terracotta bricks. Lime mortar has the benefit of not letting water stay trapped within instead it allows perforation of water through minutes pores. In the long run, the temple will have a problem of water seepage, and their life drastically reduced requiring patchwork repairs often.
They have got construction workers from Krishnagar which specializes in intricate temple design works. So the design is almost that of any modern temple but the aesthetics of a brick terracotta temple is very much missing.
Radha Gopinath Jiu Temple
This is the very first temple that you will see as you reach Bawali. Visually this is the most stunning with terracotta bricks still visible. Luckily no cement patchworks have been started yet on this temple thus you can see the temple at its full glory.
This was the second temple constructed by the Manik Chandra Mondal (son of Harananda Mondal) in the year 1794 (Georgian).
This type of temple is classically known as Navaratna Temple which means it has nine pinnacles. In this temple, you can see the 4 + 4 + 1 style of pinnacles.
The front portion of the temple (Nat Mandir) does not have any roof-like structures, what stands now are only brick pillars. When entering this temple keep an eye for snakes as these old temples are infested with snakes.
The main temple building however remains closed and you can see around the temple. No regular prayers take place and the access to the interior chambers remains closed. You cannot access the upper sections of the temples also.
Off late, the local villagers have put metal bar barriers (which can be easily crossed) to stop visitors from entering the temple premises. This according to them is to stop selfie seekers and video makers from using this place as a shooting spot.
Right opposite to Gopinath Jiu Temple is the foundation of Ras Mancha. Nothing on top is visible but the brick foundation is still visible next to the pond.
Radhaballav Jiu Temple
This temple is right next to the Radha Gopinath Jiu Temple is the Radha Gopinath Jiu Temple. If you are facing towards the front of Radha Gopinath Jiu Temple then this temple is on the left side. This temple was constructed in the year 1858 (Georgian) by Ramkamal Mondal.
The locals have done heavy restoration of the main temple and even painted it. The temple remains open from 11 AM to 12 Noon and from 5 PM to 6 PM for worshipers.
As you enter the temple compound you will come across the Nat Mandir which is in its original form with any restoration or paint. The smaller rooms around the temple compound have all been demolished and are being modified at will which I do not approve of.
As the names suggest the deities inside the temple are that of Radha and Krishna. Unlike the Radha Gopinath Jiu, this one is a simple Atchala temple which means it has a two-tier roof with four-pointed drop downs on each corner at each level. These four plus four-pointed sections make it an Ath which means eight.
For the next set of temples, you need to go to the back of Radha Gopinath Jiu Temple. Take the lane on right next to Radha Gopinath Jiu Temple and after around twenty meters you will reach a gate with a compound consisting of old temples and other old structures.
At the very center of this compound is the large Nat Mandir which was originally built as a part of Radhakanta Jiu Temple which was the first temple to be built at Bawali.
Radhakanta Jiu Temple
This according to the locals was the first temple that was constructed by the Mondal Zamindar family. Harananda Mondal built this temple in the year 1771 (Georgian). Similar to the other temples in this locality is also in Atchala style.
Very soon the villagers will start the restoration of this temple and I was lucky to see this temple in its original form.
Phul Dol Bari
On the left side of the Nat Mandir is a two-storied brick building. This building is in complete shambles and beyond repair. The Mondol family used to play Holi with flowers instead of colors thus according to the locals this building was built primarily for the household members of the Zamindar family to play Holi and enjoy private time amongst family members.
Gopal Jiu Temple
This temple is right behind Radhakanta Jiu Temple and has been fully restored by the villagers. The only sad part is that the indiscriminate use of cement instead of lime. However, something is better than nothing and it’s good to see that the villagers have managed to gather funds on their own and have managed to clear the vegetation and then restored the temple.
Raj Rajeshwar Shiv Temple
This is a small Shiva temple on the left of Radhakanta Jiu Temple. Unlike the rest of the temples, this is a really small five feet structure.
Radha Gobindo Jiu Temple
This is temple is under renovation and the scaffolding is yet to come off, the villagers plan to complete the restoration process soon and get it painted very soon. Again out here you will see the indiscriminate use of cement for the restoration process instead of traditional lime-based plasters.
Jol Tungi Bagan
Apart from these temples, there are other smaller structures spread around the village which were built by the Zamindars. One of them which still survives is the Jol Tungi Bagan. This is like a huge garden with a pond. There is a structure that has been built at the center of the pond where the family members of the Mondol Zamindar family used to spend a leisure summer afternoon with water and water lilies surrounding. This concrete structure in the middle of the pond is known as Jol Tungi. There is also a concrete Ghaat that can be seen at a distance but that now has been converted into a makeshift home by covering the sides.
Bawali Raj Bari
If you are coming to Bawali for a day trip then make sure to visit Bawali Raj Bari. This was the original palatial house of the Mondal family. Over the last few decades, this building had completely got damaged due to no maintenance. Luckily this place has been restored and converted into a luxury resort.
So if you are going there on a weekend then you can enjoy traditional Bengali hospitality mixed with the grandeur of Zamindari architecture. If you are doing a day trip then you can always stop here for a traditional Bengali lunch buffet.
I will put up a separate blog dedicated to Bawali Raj Bari soon.
Keeping in mind the location of temples within a short periphery you can easily cover it within half a day.
The local villagers restrict photography and sometimes demand money for restoration work against which they allow photography.
There is no fixed money so you need to bargain and see what seems best.
Carry water bottles as walking around the temple complex under the sun can make you dehydrate very fast.
Park your vehicle next to the ground adjacent to the school building.
If you have a booking stay or lunch at Bawali Raj Bari then you can directly park at their premises.
You can club nearby places like Achipur and Budge Budge along with Bawali.
The old temples are infested with snakes thus keep an eye when you move around.
The best time to visit the temples will be before noon.
Avoid the monsoon season as vegetation often covers up the old temples.