Rajrajeshwar: the Largest Shiva Linga of Eastern India
Established by Maharaja Krishna Chandra Dev, a remote village near Krishnanagar called Shivnivas boasts the largest Shiva Linga of Eastern India.
The Bengalis are tourists by birth. Whenever it comes to large suitcases and food containers and swarming to picnic spots and popular tourist places, they are almost unmatchable. Nevertheless, they are very poor travellers at the same time. This may sound like a riddle; but by the attribute tourist and not traveller I mean that their journeys are mostly motivated by craze and not by a genuine interest to explore the country. Could not agree? Well, tell me where is the largest Shiva Linga of the entire Eastern India? I too was surprised when I discovered the fact; not in some far exotic place but only some 115 kilometres from Kolkata.
Deriving its name from the temple, Shivnivas is a small village under the Krishnaganj Police Station, and has a beautiful history related to it. During Gajapati Maharaja Krishna Chandra Dev's reign in Nadia, a notorious gangster Nasrat Khan inhabited the forests on the river Churni, and the King himself had to step in to stop him. The royal army camped close to the river. Now when one morning the King was refreshing himself in the water, a giant fish suddenly leaped up in front of him. The astrologers said it was a good sign, and Krishna Chandra decided to build up a second capital in that place. He set up his palace there along with a Shiva temple Shivnivas, which has given the locality its present name.
During the royal patronage, the temple shot to fame almost overnight. Bharatchandra Ray in his Annadamangal Kavya remarked that this place was no less sacred than Varanasi. Shiva here is known as Rajrajeshwar, though among the people the name Buroshib is more common. It has a unique design uncommon in the Bengal architecture, with an umbrella-like dome and eight columns in each corner. There are gigantic doors on all sides of it but north, and the arch-patterns remind of the Gothic style.
In the south wall of the temple there is an inscription which testifies it to be built in 1676 Shakabda (1754 C.E.). The rectangular base structure (Vedi) is 6 feet high, and the total height of the temple is 80 feet (24.4 metres). No temple of 19the century Bengal is perhaps that much high, except the Hangseshwari Temple at Bansberia which is even older(the Yogapith Temple at Mayapur and the Belur Math are no doubt very high but they are comparatively much recent structures). The height of the black Shiva Linga is 9 feet (2.7 metres) while its width including the spout is nearly 22 feet (6.7 metres).
Close to the main temple there is a smaller shrine of Shiva, perfectly square in shape, and built in the Charchala style. Its base is 4 feet (1.2 metres) high, and the total height measures up to 60 feet ((18.4 metres). The Linga here is 7.5 feet (1.2 metres) high and is known as Rajgnishwar. This temple was built six years after the main shrine, in 1684 Shakabda (1762 CE).
Eastward of these two, there is another shrine of Ram and Sita [length = 42 feet or 12.8 metres, width = 32 feet or 9.8 metres and height = 50 feet (15.2 metres)]. Its design is a curious blend of the Hindu, the Islamic and the Gothic styles of architecture. Along with Ram and Sita, there are other idols of Radha-Krishna, Mother Kali, Ganesh and Shiva in this temple as well. This too was built in 1762.
The ruins of Krishna Chandra's palace are just a few paces away from these three temples, though most of it has sunk under the soil. There is also a small shrine of Mother Shitala near the local Junior High School; probably it is the only stone-built icon of the deity in West Bengal. Such instances of medieval sculpture and architecture actually scatter over the whole village. Krishna Chandra had also built hundreds of tulsi manchas on both sides of the avenue from his capital Krishnanagar to Shivnivas, and some of them survive till date.
On 18th June 1824 Reginald Hebber, the Bishop of Calcutta, visited the temples and left an exalted description in his memoirs [Rev. Reginald Hebber, Narrative of a Journey through the Upper Provinces of India, Vol-I, 1824-1825, Published by John Murray, London]. He especially wondered at their elegant architectures and compared them to the celebrated Conway Castle and Bolton Abbey of his own country.
How to Reach Shivnivas
* Board the up Sealdah-Gede local and alight at Majhdia [Obviously, you can also board the train on its way; people coming from the west bank of Ganges may come to Naihati via Bandel and then catch the train]. Hire a van rickshaw. However, they cannot take you all the way as you have to cross the Churni. Reach the Mandir ghat (alternatively known as the Shmashan Ghat) and call for a ferry; the main temples are only a few steps from the other side of the river.
* The rail distance of Majhdia from Sealdah is 105 kilometers and takes quarter to three hours by all-stopping EMU local trains.
* There are several bus routes to Majhdia from Krishnagar; approximately the distance is 26 kilometers.
Please Note: All the measurements provided above are approximate values for amateur travellers and not for exact architectural or geographical calculations.
* Remember to have some refreshments in Majhdia as you may have difficulties in finding them in Shivnivas.
* Avoid the summer for your trip. As Shivnivas is close to the Tropic of Cancer you may find it scortchingly hot.