Puthia, now an Upazila, is only 23 kilometres away from Rajshahi city and has the largest number of historical temples in Bangladesh. Some of these temples have the finest terracotta decoration in all of Bengal.
As I was born and raised in Rajshahi, I have known Puthia since childhood. This gave me the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful terracotta and diversity among all the temples.
But later, when I started to explore all the archaeological sites of Bangladesh, I discovered that this temple complex is unique.
Amidst all the historical temples, there is another place called the Puthia Rajbari. It was built in 1895 by Maharani Hemanta Kumari. The palace is surrounded by ditches and there is an open field right in front of it.
Although this palace is currently being used as a college, many of its rooms are not in good condition.
Sometimes it may not be possible to enter the palace to enjoy the lovely view from the balcony and rooftop, and explore, unless you find the caretaker on the spot.
But the temples are usually open. The wonderful Pancha Ratna Govinda temple, situated right next to the palace, is the most famous one.
At first glance you would think that it is a smaller version of the famous Kantaji Temple of Dinajpur as they share many architectural similarities.
The terracotta also depicts the tales of Ramayana and Mahabharata as well as local life, dances, hunting and wildlife - the latter depicting one giant looking animal which may be the extinct Rhinoceros among all the tiger, deer, camel and few birds we could not recognise.
Immediately as you enter Puthia, the first temple you will spot is the Bhubaneshwar Shiva Temple - built in 1823 and the largest Shiva temple in Bangladesh. On the way from the Shiva temple to Rajbari, you will find a Dol Mandir (also known as Rash Temple), which has the largest dol stage in Bangladesh.
The complex is filled with multiple water bodies and legends surrounding them still roam the minds of the locals.
Behind the palace stands a very small Ek Bangla Temple, which was mentioned by David McCuthchion - the pioneering terracotta expert and photographer as his most favourite decorated temple in all of Bengal.
Indeed, when you look carefully, you can discover the extreme details in those tiny terracottas, many of which are only 1.5 inches in size and this was all the space they needed to craft out a whole scenario with people, proper embellishments, and dresses.
Walking around, you can visit a few other temples and see the Chauchala Choto Govinda Mandir, Boro Anhik Mandir and Choto Anhik Mandir - the three special and beautifully decorated temples.
But you will be sad and disappointed, like many others, as you will be able to see clear damages on these invaluable temples and missing terracotta and clearly there is no grand plan for popularising this grand temple complex to tourists.
A lot of the land has been illegally occupied by other people. On top of that, unpleasant looking buildings and other constructions are scattered across the complex.
No wonder Puthia is unknown to many people, but proper long term plans can help this must-visit historical destination of Bangladesh claim back its lost glory and thus save our heritage.
How to go there
Visiting Puthia is very easy as it falls almost on the Dhaka-Rajshahi highway. The milestone for Puthia is placed 23 kilometers before reaching Rajshahi, where you can get off from the bus. Easy bikes and other buses are also available from Rajshahi which usually take only 30 minutes to reach Puthia.
From Natore city, it is only 30 kilometres away. You can always hire a rickshaw or walk for a kilometre to reach the palace complex from the city's main road.
The Puthiya Rajbari
This palace belonged to the first landlord of Puthiya named Laskar Khan Nilambar. It is said that in 1895, Queen Hemanta Kumrari, who was from Natore, repaired the earthquake ravaged palace for her mother-in-law. The palace has a balcony which is reminiscent of the old days with multi-coloured glass pieces still intact in the windows.
The Bhubaneshwar Shiva Temple
Inside the temple stands the largest Shivling of Bangladesh, which the Pakistani military tried to remove during the Liberation War, causing some damage as a result. Once you circle the corridors of this interesting architecture, you will be astonished to see that almost all the idols were heavily damaged and vandalised by the Pakistani Army in 1971.