Heritage in Sandstone: Unique temple needs care
Collective memory in Kharshuti village says that in the first decade of the twentieth century, there came a day when sandstone slabs were loaded aboard a ship in Kolkata, bound for Faridpur. Available in various corners of the subcontinent, the precise origin of the sandstone is unsure. If the slabs did indeed arrive by ship rather than from some nearer source, none can say if the sea-and-river journey was smooth or wracked by storm. To imagine slabs being laboriously shifted from a Faridpur river port by ox-cart is only to speculate. Not much is known. What is certain is this: the sandstone was used to build the Kharshuti Shiva temple.
Located in Moyna union of Boailmari upazila and 37 kilometres from Faridpur town, the roughly ninety-square-metre temple is to be found in the grounds of Kharshuti Chandra Kishor High School. “The temple had a black stone shiva linga,” recalls freedom fighter Rofiuddin Mollah, 70, who was a teacher at the school. “There was the figure of an ox in white marble and a trident on the apex of the roof. At some time in the 1960s these items were stolen.”
The temple was constructed by Ishan Chandra Ghosh, a local who at one stage worked as headmaster of a Kolkata school. Ghosh was a landlord. He was a powerful businessman and ultimately an assistant director of public instruction. To him the British granted the title 'Roy Bahadur'. He built the temple in front of his now-abandoned house.
The building's doorways are of wood, engraved with snake figures and the image of Lord Shiva. Its octagonal pillars and pilasters, each set upon a square plinth, feature inverted lotus designs at the top. Cornices meanwhile are decorated in flower, leaf and spear patterns. But the temple's most unique quality is inevitably its sandstone.
Until at least a decade ago with the encouragement of a Hindu teacher, puja services were observed; nowadays the temple is unused. There isn't any Hindu community close at hand.
Kharshuti Shiva temple is the story of a precise history lost, of adornments plundered, of religious services fallen silent. And now, through a lack of maintenance, the future of the very building is at risk. Could there come a day when all one will see are a few broken sandstone slabs?
Many in the local community are attached to the building. They hope it can be preserved. “Archaeology department officials have visited the site several times and promised to take care of it,” notes the school's current headmistress Shalina Parvin. “But no repair work has been undertaken. If the archaeology department wants us to relocate our school so the temple can be saved, we will do that.”
“This sandstone temple is an asset in our locality,” says the chairman of Boailmari upazila council, MM Mosharof Hossain. “I want the archaeology department to preserve it so future generations can admire our architectural heritage.”