A Visual Journey of Kolkata’s Jain Temples: Temples of Mahavirswami and Chandraprabhaji and the Manicktala Dadawadi

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Published on: 21 November 2020

Sritama Halder

Sritama Halder is an independent researcher-writer. Her work involves interdisciplinary studies of communities and their cultural practices, the history of illustration in Bengal, and Hindu myths with focus on visual-textual representations of the Ramayana. She is also a bilingual translator and has worked with the Oxford University Press, India, among others.

Apart from the Parsvanath temple, the Calcutta Jain temple cluster include three more temples that reflect the sociocultural practices of colonial Calcutta. Built over the second half of the nineteenth century, these temples are not as lavish and densely adorned as the Parsvanath temple. Though the interior of the Mahavirswami temple is almost as exquisitely decorated as the Parsvanath temple, the exterior appears almost austere; especially subdued is the Chandraprabhaji temple because of the absence of any ornamentation. 

The Kushal Ji Maharaj temple and dadawadi (Jain shrine), however, is entirely different from the rest of the temple cluster. Originally built in 1810, this is the same dadawadi that inspired the famous Kolkata Jain businessman, Raibahadur Badridas Mookim to build the Parsvanath temple in the vicinity. The current architecture replaced an older one much after the other three temples were built, thus it is significantly different in its appearance and use of materials. Built predominantly of marble, the dadawadi is marked by an absolute absence of coloured glass that was such an integral part of the Parsvanath and Mahavirswami temple’s ornamentation; it also lacks any visible signs of European influence. With its slender columns and large open verandas surrounding the sanctum, the dadawadi appears to be lighter and less squat that the other three temples.

This photoessay highlights the architectural elements and the overall designs of the Mahavirswami and Chandraprabhaji temples along with the dadawadi.