HISTORY OF BANSBERIA
This town located about 50 km north of Kolkata in the Hooghly district was once part of a large urban settlement called Satgaon, an important port town in medieval Bengal. Its importance in pre-Muslim Bengal was religious, owing to its location at the Tribeni or confluence of three rivers (Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati). After Muslim occupation in the late 13th century (by a Ghazi or warrior-saint named Zafar Khan) it continued to be an important city under the Tughlaks, as a military base, mint-town and port. After the Mughal conquest of Bengal in the mid-16th century, the city started to decline due to the loss of royal patronage, but some areas such as Bansberia continued to prosper up to the 19th century, sponsored by semi-independent zamindars who built several temples in the area.
Bansberia was one of the important villages of the Saptagram (a unit of seven villages). The history of Bansberia dates back to the days of Shah Jahan. In 1656, the Mughal emperor appointed Raghab Dutta Roy of Patuli as the zamindar of an area that includes the present-day Bansberia. Legend has it that Raghab’s son Rameshwar cleared a bamboo grove to build a fort, inspiring the name Bansberia.
HISTORY OF THE FAMILY
In the 6th decade of the 17th century, when Patuli was on the verge of demolishing into the Ganges, the zamindar Rameshwar Roy left Patuli for Bansberia. He received 401 bighas of land from Aurangzeb and inherited the title of “Raja Mahashaya”. They started to settle there after they were eligible of constructing the forts and also when they were able to exercise their own rights and views. At that time, the ruler of Bengal was Nawab Shayesta Khan (1664-78 & 1679-88), The “Hangsheshwari Mandir “and the “Basudeb Mandir” are the two invincible works of art of this Roy Family.
FOUNDATION OF THE MANDIR
In the late 18th century, Raja Nrisringhadev, son of Govindodev who was the great grandson of Raja Rameshwar Roy brought efficient artists from Kashi who were engaged to build up Hangsheshwari Mandir in the “Shat Chakrabhed” method of Tantra Shastra.In 1799; he laid the foundation of the stone of this eminent “Temple of 13 gems”. But unfortunately, he passed away before the completion of the same in 1802 after the completion of the 2nd storey and the pending job was successfully completed by his youngest wife –queen Shankari in 1814, as a tribute to him. On the body o the Mandir, the beneath Sanskrit slokas is inscribed, bearing the details of the date and time of the establishment of the Mandir:-
Ganit srimandirang mandirang
Tatpatni Guru pad padma nirata
Sri Shankari nirmame.” 1736
DESCRIPTION OF THE MANDIR
The structure is thirteen-pinnacled and each turret is multifaceted with a pointed conical tower that represents a closed lotus. The structure has similarities with St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, which is also known as the onion dome church. It is heavily influenced by European architecture. The interior structure and overall design are also said to have Tantric symbolism (the name and appearance of the deity is also tantric) reflecting of Nrishinghadeb's spiritual education in Benares. Nrisringhadev was a follower of a Tantric cult and had spent his last seven years (1792-99) in Varanasi practicing its rites. The Hangsheshwari temple deserves special mention for its architecture. The temple is 70 ft in its height with 13 spires shaped like lotus buds and it is a 6 storied temple. And its inner precincts follow the design of the human anatomy. There is an elaborate explanation of these spires and stories given here. These 13 spires symbolize 5 sense organs, 5 work organs, mind, intelligence and boast of human beings. . On its highest storey, in its main spires there is a huge white marbled Shiva lingam that is the ultimate symbol of “Param Purush.” And Mother Hangsheshwari dwells in the stalk of the “garbha-griha” (centre of the womb i.e. the temple) who symbolizes the strength of the Kulakundalini Shakti. An arched gateway leads to its sanctum sanctorum, where an idol of Hangsheshwari is placed on a lotus. The inner chamber is connected to the domes through narrow passageways, said to represent the nerves in a human body. Entry to the passageways is restricted for tourists. With its unique shape, it stands out among Bengal temples.
The idol of Debi Maa is made from neem wood. Lord Shiva is lying on a triangle shaped yantram and a stalk of lotus comes out from His naval. This lotus has one thousand petals and on it Debi Hangsheshwari Maa is seated in lalitasana. She is blue in colour. Her left leg is kept on Her right shank. Her two upper left and right hands are having kharga (a large falcon) and abhay-mudra (denotes blessing), and the lower left and lower right hand is having skull of human being and conch respectively. Puja is still performed in this temple.
On everyday, Bhog is offered to Debi twice. In the noon, “aana-bhog” (rice with other vegetables) is offered for all the Gods and Goddesses. Only fish preparation is given to Debi Maa. After their in taking of the Bhog, it is given to the devotees as Prasad but the fish is not given to others. Again in the evening, the “Sheetal-Bhog” is offered to Debi Maa.
The year round, we can see the quiet appearance of Maa and she is worshipped in this way only. But in the Kali Puja, She is made to wear a musk where Her tongue is out. On the Kali Puja, 3 animal sacrifices are offered twice the day.
Mahisha Mardini was established by Raja Nrisringhadev in 1788. It was previously worshipped in a different temple near this temple. Later as it was ruined with the time, the deity was brought in the main temple and is worshipped here only.