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KANTAJEW TEMPLE THE NAVARATNA STYLE

Kantanagar Temple, commonly known as Kantaji Temple or Kantajew Temple at Kantanagar, is a late-medieval Hindu temple in Dinajpur, Bangladesh. The Kantajew Temple is one of the most magnificent religious edifices belonging to the 18th century. The temple belongs to the popular Hindu Kanta or Krishna and this is most popular with the Radha-Krishna cult (assemble of memorable love) in Bengal. This beautiful temple is dedicated to Krishna and his wife Rukmini Built by Maharaja Pran Nath, its construction started in 1704 CE and ended in the reign of his son Raja Ramnath in 1722 CE. It boasts one of the greatest examples on terracotta architecture in Bangladesh and once had nine spires, but all were destroyed in an earthquake that took place in 1897.

The temple was built in a  navaratna  (nine-spired) style before the destruction caused by the earthquake of 1897. The characteristic features of the erections are the four centered and wide multi-cusped arches, the plastered surface of the walls having immense rectangular and square paneling, prominence of the central archway and the central mihirab by making the slightly larger and setting in a projected fronton in the outside directions, the use of ornamental turrets on the either side of the fronton, the semi-octagonal mihirab apertures, the archway opening under half-domes, the Persian muquarnas work in stucco inside the half-domes over the entrance arches and mihirab niches, the bulbous outline of the domes with constructed necks, domes on octagonal drums with lotus and kalasa finials as the crowning elements, the round pendentives to make up the phase of transition for the domes and the multi-faced corner towers rising high above the horizontal merloned parapets.

In the seemingly inexhaustible store of terracotta mural decoration on the temple wall, the folk artists, mostly from Krisnanagar, often have left behind the imprint of their keen awareness of the environment in which they lived. The deities they depicted in panels were sometimes treated with an astonishing sense of reality and as intimate and familiar members of their society. For instance, an extremely interesting series of upright western panels on the bottom register of the western face depicts Krishna plucking coconut from the tree and handing them over to one of his companions climbing halfway up the trunk, who, in turn is delivering these to another companion waiting on the ground. It is a familiar scene in Bengal where the deity is intimately shown as one of the members of society. Individual plaques often display idiosyncratic compositions such as the one found at the inner face of the corridor on the south face where Radha-Krsna are shown dancing on an elephant very cleverly composed of a dozen human figures. Again, on the northern face, Krishna is depicted with one of his newly wedded bride seated on a pidi (low wooden stool) under a canopy where she is coyly holding her veil with one hand over her head and bashfully peeping at her lord. This, of course, is an endearing familiar wedding scene in rural Bengal. In the bewildering crowd of friezes, one may even find Krishna squatting nonchalantly with folded knees, tied with a gamchha (a strip of cloth) round the knees and back, in a posture altogether uncommon among Bengalees, but common among the working classes in adjacent Bihar.

However, one distinctly delightful aspect of the fabulous terracotta ornamentation of the Kantanagar Temple (Kantaji Mandir) is its restraint in depicting erotic scenes. In this, it is unlike Orissan and South Indian temples.