Monday, 25 March 2019

Orange and Blue: Terracotta Temples and Indigo Factory of Supur

With the possible exception of districts which are an extension of the Chhota Nagpur Plateau, West Bengal is mostly lacking in stone. It is because of this that builders in the region have favoured brick, and also why terracotta has become the dominant style of the region. The English word “terracotta” comes from the Italian words terra, meaning earth, and cotta meaning cooking. Terracotta, thus, means cooked or baked earth. In Bengal, terracotta was always a folk art form, before being elevated to a fine art through the patronage of the Sultans of Gaur and Pandua, who used terracotta on their mosques. 200 years after them, an explosion of terracotta temples happened across Bengal, and most of the surviving terracotta temples that we can see today, are from the 16th and 17th centuries. Unfortunately, lop-sided promotions on the part of the government and private tourism bodies have meant that most people identify only Bishnupur with terracotta temples, when in reality, terracotta temples are spread across multiple districts in West Bengal, especially in southern West Bengal. Located approximately 9km south of Shantiniketan, in the Birbhum district of West Bengal lies the village of Supur, home to no less than 6 terracotta temples, only one of which has been chosen by the state for preservation.