Though terracotta carvings were extremely popular as
decoration for Buddhist shrines, stupas and temples, it was during the 17 th
and 18 th centuries that the art reached its high watermark. This explains not
only the surprising beauty but also the professionalism of the terracotta
decoration on the temples Vishnupur, built during this period. After the advent
of Sri Chaitanya, Vishnupur had become a major center of the Vaishnava cult and
most of the temples are Vishnu or his incarnations.
The Vishnupur temples are of four distinct types. The first,
which has a square tower, is exemplified by the oldest of these temples: Maheswara.
The second type, characterized by a single tower resting on a square building
with the curved roof typical of Bengal, is
best represented by the Madan Mohan and Laji and Radheshyam temples. The Shyam
Rai temple, which has the finest specimen of carvings on bricks, is considered
the best example of the third type, with five towers. The fourth type resembles
two huts joined by small tower at the
In Ras Mancha is another ancient structure recalls the power
of the Malla kings, whose capital was Vishnupur. It is an imposing pyramid-like
structure typical of the Malla age. The ancient fort is surrounded by a high
earthen wall ringed by a broad moat. Eight kilometers from Vishnupur, in a
place called Dihar, are the Rekh Deul, built in the indigenous temple
Apart from its renowned terracotta toys, it is also noted
for silk, tussore, brass and bell-metal work and conch shell ornaments.