Bengal temple architecture is about temple styles developed and used in Bengal, particularly the chala, ratna and dalan temples.


According to David J. McCutchion, historically the religious architecture in Bengal may be divided into three periods: the early Hindu period (up to the end of the 12th century, or may be a little later in certain areas), the Sultanate period (14th to early 16th century), the Hindu revival period (16th to 19th century). "The coming of the Muslims at the beginning of the 13th century marked a sharp break with the past. After an initial century of anarchy and consolidation, marked by iconoclastic destruction and militant 'sufi' proselytiising, Hindu chiefs and Muslim overlords settled down to some sort of compromise in a common front against Delhi... Bengal, as we know it today, became an independent entity for the first time. During the following two centuries a distinctive Bengali culture took shape."[1]

The temples of the pre-Muslim period have nearly all disappeared and from the few that are there the predominant is the tall curvilinear rekha deul, akin to the Odishan style. Another type that is similar to styles in Odisha is the pirha.[1]

"Between the earlier and later Hindu periods astonishing religious changes took place in Bengal: the worship of Vishnu gave way to that of Radha-Krishna, of Chamunda to that of Kali; Surya fell entirely out of favour; curious folk cults like that of Dharmaraja or Dakshina Raya arose." There have also been changes in temple architecture. The rekha deul continues, the pirha has become rare, other old forms have disappeared. Two new styles are predominant – the hut (chala) style similar to the mud hut with a thatched roof and the pinnacled (ratna) style which is closest to Islamic traditions.[1]

Evolution of Temple Architecture in Bengal
Evolution of Temple Architecture in Bengal

Chala temple

The ek-bangla or do-chala consists of a hut with two sloping roofs, following the pattern of huts, mostly in East Bengal villages. It was first adopted in Muslim architecture, a prominent example being the Maosoleum of Fateh Khan at Gauda. Two such huts, one forming a porch in front and the other being the shrine at the back constitutes the jor-bangla – “Bengal's most distinctive contribution to temple design”.[1][2]

In West Bengal, the hut roof generally has four sides and the char-chala temple is built on this model. When a miniature is built on the roof, it becomes an at-chala. The char-chala temples started coming up around the 17th century. Apart from the main shrines, nahabatkhana or entrance gateways also have char-chala roof.[1]

Ratna temple

The curved roof of a ratna temple “is surmounted by one or more towers or pinnacles called ratna (jewel). The simplest form has a single central tower (eka-ratna), to which may be added four more at the corners (pancha-ratna)”. The number of towers or pinnacles can be increased up to a maximum of twentyfive. The ratna style came up in the 15th-16th century. Muslim domed temples are very rare, except possibly in Cooch Behar.[1]

“Ratna style temples are the composite type of architecture… The lower part of the temple has all the features of the curved cornices and a short pointed spire crowns the roof and this will be adorned with the introduction of ratnas or kiosks.”[3]

Dalan temple

The flat-roofed (dalan) temples “with their heavy cornices on S-curved brackets they too have a long Indo-Islamic place and temple tradition” and then was influenced by European ideas in the 19th century. It was easier to build. In the long run, this style lost its special identity as religious architecture and got mixed up with domestic architecture.[1] In some temples a dome has been added,

Rekha deul

The traditional rekha deul is predominant in the western districts of Bengal. Some are smooth curvilinear and others are ridged curvilinear. In the smooth type, the sikhara is free of horizontal bars and in ridged type, it is closely ridged with bars. The ratha projections are generally deep and spaced, and sometimes decorated. The crowning amalaka is generally large and flat. There are large and small types of deuls. Many of the very small types dispense with the complicated styling. It went on developing from the late 7th century or early 8th century to around the 12th century, increasing its complexity and height but retaining its basic features.[1]

The Odisha temple is considered remarkable for its plan and elevation. The base is normally square in Hindu temple architecture. The structure of the temple is marked by vertical offset projections called rathas (on plan) and pagas (on elevation). The main temple (the rekha deul) rests on a high platform called pista. The assembly hall is called jagamohan, through which the devotees reach the main temple. The deity is placed in the garbhagriha, over which the sikhara rises.[4]

Old unspecified temples

Grouped temple

Temples of identical style and size are sometimes grouped together. Two identical Shiva temples are called a Jora Shiva temple. Groups of four, six and twelve Shiva temples are quite popular. The most elaborate groups existing have 108 Shiva temples.[2]

Nava Kailash housing 108 Shiva temples at Kalna City, Purba Bardhaman district
Nava Kailash housing 108 Shiva temples at Kalna City, Purba Bardhaman district


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h McCutchion, David J., Late Mediaeval Temples of Bengal, first published 1972, reprinted 2017, pp. 1–14, 19–22. The Asiatic Society, Kolkata, ISBN 978-93-81574-65-2.
  2. ^ a b Guha, Amit. "Bengal Temple Architecture". Amit Guha. Archived from the original on 2018-09-04. Retrieved 26 August 2020.
  3. ^ Akhter, Nasreen. "Temple architecture". Banglapedia. Retrieved 26 August 2020.
  4. ^ "Temple Architecture – Northern Indian". SlideShare. Retrieved 26 August 2020.