History is a deceitful story teller. You can never trust what it says.
Let’s take an example from the romance capital of the world. It is hard to imagine anyone having any negative thoughts about the Eiffel Tower. But, when it was being built, the artists of France revolted against the construction and did all they could to stop it. Here are excerpts from a petition written to the then Minister in charge:
“We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection…of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower … To bring our arguments home, imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour Saint-Jacques, the Louvre…”
It was reviled and hated. Be it the Sun temple in Konark or the Taj Mahal, stories abound of the cruelty that was inflicted on the workers and strain these structures put on the economy of those times. But we don’t remember that. In collective memory, grand structures can elevate chieftains to kingship and kings become emperors.
Seen in that light, Mayawati’s grand new Lucknow may actually become her claim at immortality. She knew we won’t matter and she traded us for her admirers from the future. We are just too close in time to see her genius.
Even Jayalalitha is smarter than she is paid credit for. Her planned statue of ’Tamil Thai’ (No, it does not mean a it’s not a pad dosa dish, it means Mother of Tamil) to be built at cost of 100 crores is her ticket to posterity.
Anyhow, what where we are taking you today is a quiet little place that could not be so close to Kolkata, yet so away from all the bustle. The name is Bansberia. It’s a small town. This small town has the Zafar Khan Ghazi Mosque and Dargah and a beautiful terracotta temple.
First, the mosque. Zafar Khan Ghazi Mosque is one of the earliest Muslim monuments in Bengal, it was built in 1298 AD. It is said that the Mosque is built on the foundations of some Hindu temple. It can also be seen that it is built from stones from temples, quite a few of them have Hindu deities on them. So, you can drop that burning tyre, see it as a beautiful coming together of two religions and postpone that riot you are planning for some other day. And, some other reason.
There is this huge ancient tree that stands above all other structures in the compound. It is probably older than all of them too. If you are one those weird freaks who is interested in what stone was used, what school of architecture influenced it, its state of preservation and arches and finials and motifs, please go and stick your head here. I have no patience to write about things I know nothing about.
All I know is that it is beautiful place, it’s on the banks of Ganga, it’s close to Kolkata and it has a very interesting history that you can read about elsewhere. The structure has been a pain for architects to classify as it does not conform to Hindu temple style or a Muslim temple one. We will be glad if you are nearby and pay a visit to the mosque, it’s totally worth it. Unless, you are one of those headless Hindu extremists. If that is the case, you should just stay home, never venture out, eat pakodas and deep fries and die an early unnatural death.
Now, a few miles from the mosque is a beautiful terracotta temple. It is a lost form and you need to see this before the next heavy downpour. The tantric influenced, Moscow-tower-influenced-buena-vista-inspired Hangseshwari temple closeby is the more famous of the Bansberia structures.
But Sid fell for the terracotta Ananta Basudeba temple and rightfully so. The temple walls are filled with carvings of war, life scenes and of course, love (making). The temple is unique, even in our land of temples and you should see it for real. For now, make do with this.