Maluti is a small village on the border of Jharkhand and Bengal. Green and hilly, it still reminds one of the great architectural heritages of our country. From the town of Dumka, it's just about 60 kms away and some hundred tourists visit it daily.
Such is the historical and religious significance of the sites in the Santhal Parganas, the numbers could have been much more. Especially, after the much-talked about religious tourism programme initiated by the then chief minister Arjun Munda last year.
In spite of the neglect and decay, it's quite an experience to walk through the village sites, for associated with the magnificent structures are tales of historical and religious significance. The one hundred small temples are said to have once been the seat of the followers of the tantric path.
Pala structures discovered during excavations help to date it archeologically. According to mythology, goddess Mowlakshi, the deity at Maluti, is considered the elder sister of goddess Tara.
Kings of the Pala dynasty were devotees of the goddess. Maluti, which consists of 108 terracotta temples, is said to have been established by Raja Baj Basant in 1720. It is said that saint Bamakhapa attained siddhi at Maluti and his trident is still preserved in the village. What makes a visit to Maluti even more significant is the easy distance from other religious sites like Tarapeeth, just 13-km away. Tarapeeth, too, figures as the seat of tantric learning.
Long years of apathy shows in the structures, some of which are hardly traceable now. But those which remain speak of beliefs dating back centuries. Many of them are dedicated to the gods Shiva, Durga, Kali, Vishnu, besides the goddess Mowlakshi.
The sheer number of them makes it clear why the villagers chose to declare their village as Gupt Kashi. While some of the terracottas are of shale stone, the rest are of burnt clay. The temples built on square and rectangular plinths have small semi-circular arches at the entrances. The inscriptions, in proto-Bengali, say that the structures were built by the successors of Raja Baj Basant.
An interesting story associated with the place says that the village was once under the kingdom of Gowur, near Malda in Bengal.
Once, the king of Gowur, Allauddin Hussain (1493-1519), while on his way to Orissa, set up a camp here. His wife had a pet falcon, which somehow escaped. A shepherd boy brought it back to her, which made the king very happy. As a reward, he gifted the shepherd Maluti and some other villages. It is said the shepherd went on to be Raja Baj Basant.
It is not as if earlier governments have not taken any interest in the place or funds not been sanctioned, but somehow, things don't seem to have picked up.
In 1986, the then chief minister of united Bihar, visited Maluti, and sanctioned plans for electricity. But even now, the local people have no clue to what happened thereafter. "Poles and wires were installed. But we didn't get power," said Rajiv Kumar, a resident of the area. According to sources in the local district administration, over Rs one crore have been spent on the welfare of Maluti after the formation of Jharkhand.
Tourists still continue to suffer bumpy rides on the Surichuha road to Maluti. "Constructing one chabutara (sitting place) and repairing the broken stairs of the pond are some of government's response," rued Babudhan Besra, a villager. But it is also pointed out that during recent months solar lamps have been installed at Maluti.
"We have to sent our wards to Mallarpur for getting education in Bengali medium since the middle school in the village does not have Bengali teachers," said people of the Bengali dominated Maluti village.
"Alkalisation of terracotta, too, is a serious damaging factor. Besides, seepage of rain water through the cracks and fissures has also contributed to weakening the stability of the temples at Maluti," said Lalit Mohan Roy, an artist.
He hoped renovation measures are undertaken soon to preserve these historical sites.
Excerpt from Telegraph, Thursday, April 12, 2007