A comparatively new immaculate red-and-white temple stands beside the ruins of a 1000-year-old shrine overtaken by nature. Muslims take active part in Hindu puja rituals. A temple roof is made combining Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu architectural styles. Welcome to Kiriteshwari village in Murshidabad district of West Bengal, which has recently been selected by the Centre’s Ministry of Tourism as the Best Tourism Village of India.
The village was named after the Kiriteshwari temple, one of the ‘Shakti peeths’. Legend has it that the upper part of goddess Sati’s skull had fallen here. Several other new temples and ruins of older shrines co-exist here. The village, also known as Kiritkona, located around 20 km from district headquarters Berhampur, is a sleepy hamlet with just a little more than 1,200 voters, whose main occupation is farming.
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The place is a classic example of communal harmony. Here, the temple committee has members from the Muslim community, and they participate actively in various rituals related to the Hindu religion and culture. The Muslims have also given a piece of land to the Hindus since a portion of a temple was there.
“My grandfather wanted to donate a piece of land for the temple and that was given according to his wish. The paperwork was completed around two years ago,” said Sirajul Islam, a member of the Kiriteshwari Temple Committee.
A grand feast is organised on the day of Ashtami during the Durga Puja festival every year and 7,000 to 8,000 people including many Muslim families participate in it, said 62-year-old Islam who has been taking part in temple rituals since he was in his early 20s.
According to Dilip Kumar Bhattacharya, a priest of the Kiriteshwari temple, the shrine was built by Rani Bhavani of Natore, around 300 years ago, and pujas are performed every day. Later, Maharaja of Lalgola, Yogendra Narayan Roy, repaired it around a century back, he said.
“But very little is known about the other temple which is 900-1000 years old. It is now in ruins. We also don’t know much about the other ancient temples around the village. Some say those were Shiva temples,” Bhattacharya said.
The speciality of the 300-year-old Kiriteshwari temple lies in its structure as its roof has the influence of Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu architecture, the priest said. The design of the ‘garbha griha’ (sanctum sanctorum) where a black stone is worshipped as the goddess, also reflects Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim architecture, he said.
After the village got the honour last week, tourists from other areas have started coming. A tourist from Kolkata, Madan Mohan Mitra, said, “I have heard about the temple earlier. But the zeal to visit the place increased after it bagged the Centre’s award a few days ago. I liked the place.”
Villagers Hemanta Mondal, Paban Das and Uttam Das who run small shops selling puja items near the temple feel their lives are about to change in the coming future as the award will bring more tourists. “We are happy to hear about the award but a lot of infrastructure development is required to boost tourism. We will need lodges, a hospital and a police station,” the priest said.
The village now has a small lodge that can accommodate only a few pilgrims. Murshidabad District Magistrate Rajarshi Mitra said that the award has been given considering the immense potential of the place to grow into a tourism hub. “The temple here is very old yet functional. The state government has sanctioned funds for restoration of the ruins,” Mitra said.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.