MALUTI (Temple Town)

Maluti is a unique heritage village in Dumka district, 55 kms from Dumka town, that boasts of exquisite terracotta temples, the village was once known as ‘Gupta Kashi’ or hidden Varanasi. In fact, it originally had an auspicious number of 108 temples, of which only 72 survives today.

The village is situated on the banks of river Chila, at the far end of the Chhotanagpur plateau, surrounded by lush forests, hillocks and rivulets. The name ‘Maluti’ is derived from the Malla kings of Bishnupur in Nankura district of West Bengal, who ruled over this area in the 17th and 18th centuries. In fact, it was the master artisans of Bishnupur who created the exquisite terracotta temples here.

The village gained some prominence in the 15the century as the capital of non-kar raj (tax-free kingdom). The story goes that a fiefdom was awarded to Basanta Roy from katigram village by Sultan Alauddin Husain Shah of Gaur (1495-1525). The son a poor Brahmin, Basanta had managed to catch and return the sultan’s pet hawk and the fiefdom was the grateful sultan’s reward.

Exquisite carvings on the outer walls of a temple depict scenes from the Hindu epic Ramayana How Maluti became a temple village is also an interesting story. It is said that the Basanta kings were highly pious and instead of bulding palces they built temples. After the royal family split into four branches, each branch of the family began building temples in competition with each other, creating what turned out to be this unique little temple village.

Inscriptions in the early Bengali script found on the temples reveal that they were named after female deities. The most ancient temple in Maluti- over a thousand years old – is that of goddess Maulikshya, also the presiding deity of Bajasanta’s dynasty.

Maluti’s temples have survived four centuries of nature’s vagaries. In 2009, an NGO called Save Heritage and Environment (SHE) along with the Global Heritage Fund (GHF) became actively involved in conservation efforts here. The GHF has declared Maluti as one of the world’s twelve vanishing cultural heritage sites, and the only one from India.

Mauliskhya comes from the words, mauli (head) and iksha (vision). Today, only the goddess’ beautifully carves stone head, with a benign smile remains. Made of laterite stone, originally the sculpture was beautifully chiseled into the shape of the goddess. The goddess Maulikshya is worshipped here as singha Vahini Durga or the goddess riding the lion. However, as the deity bears no resemblance to Durga’s description in various Hindu text, and the name Maulikshya too is not common among either Hindu or Buddhists deities, she remains something of a mystery.

According to another legend, Maulikshya is said to be the elder sister of goddess Tara of Tarapith (in West Bengal). The renowned yogi (ascetic) Bamakhyapa (or Bamdev) is believed to have attained enlightenment first by the grace of Maulikshya and then from Tara.

Around Maluti

Hot water springs: There are several hot water springs in Dumka district, most of which are located in peaceful environs and are said to have medicinal properties.

Set amidst the picturesque Ramgarh Hills near the Bhurbhuri river, the hot water spring of Tatloi is 15 kms from dumka, near Barapalasi. Its waters contain helium, which is believed to hold a cure for a many of diseases, Dapat Pani hot water spring is a little futher 10 kms from Dumka on the left bank of the Mor river, near Dhadakiya.

Another hot water spring, ThariaPani is about 40 kms from Dumka on the Dumka-Pakur road, near Gopikandar. Nunbil hot spring is about 60 kms south of Dumka. “SusumPani” hot water spring is near Baghmara village, on the banks of the Mayurakshi river

Massanjore Dam:

Situated 35 kms from Dumka town, Massanore Dam is a much loved tourist destination and a popular spot with the locals. Constructed over the temperamental Mayurakshi river, the dam was built in the 1950s to boost irrigation, generate electricity and control flooding. The dam is 50 m high has 21 lockgates. Since the project was supported and aided by the Canadian Government. It is also known by the sobriquet of ‘Canada Dam’. The HizlaMela, formally called Hizla Janajati Mela, is a week-long fair held in February every year. Special performances of dance and music by folk artists from across the state draw large crowds. Besides this, all kinds of local produce and handicrafts, are bought and sold in the Hizla Mela grounds.

The fair began more than a century ago on the banks of the Mayurakshi river, just 4 kms from Dumka town. The brainchild of a British administrator called John R Carstairs, ‘Hizla’ derives, in fact, from ‘his law’. Due to the success of Hizla Mela, the fair has been held annually ever since with great enthusiasm.

Massanjore Dam is located on Jharkahand’s border with West Bengal, and is 48 kms from Bolpur in the neighboring state. The large water body attracts a large number of migratory birds during winter. The vast blue reservoir of Massanjore dam is a popular location for outings with both tourists and locals.

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