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Introducing Kantanagar Temple

Set in the graceful heart of gorgeous countryside, the rouge sandcastle of Kantanagar Temple, known locally as Kantaji, is a stunning block of religious artwork, and one of the most impressive Hindu monuments in Bangladesh.

Built in 1752 by Pran Nath, a renowned maharaja from Dinajpur, it is the country’s finest example of brick and terracotta style. Its most remarkable feature, typical of late Mughal-era temples, is its superb surface decoration, with infinite panels of sculpted terracotta plaques depicting both figural and floral motifs.

The folk artists did not lack imagination or a sense of humour. One demon is depicted swallowing monkeys, which promptly reappear from his ear. Other scenes are more domestic, such as a wife massaging her husband’s legs and a lady combing lice from another’s hair. Amorous scenes are often placed in obscure corners. These intricate, harmonious scenes are like a richly embroidered carpet.

The 15-sq-m, three-storey edifice was originally crowned with nine ornamental two-storey towers, which collapsed during the great earthquake of 1897 and were never replaced. The building sits in a courtyard surrounded by offices and pilgrims’ quarters (now occupied by several Hindu families), all protected by a stout wall. Visitors can no longer go inside the temple, which houses a Krishna shrine, but the intricate detail of its exterior will keep you engaged. The centuries-old Hindu festival of Maha Raas Leela – which celebrates a young Lord Krishna – takes place here around full moon each November, attracting up to 200,000 pilgrims!

Almost as much of an attraction is the utter peace and tranquillity of the site; after you’ve finished fawning over the temple take a stroll through the fields down to the nearby river. In the dry season the sandbanks exposed by the dropping water levels make a handy cricket pitch for local children.