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Maluti Temples: The Vanishing Cultural Heritage

Maluti Temples are a group of 72 temples, which earlier used to be 108. These temples are situated in Maluti village in Jharkhand and now both the temples and village are now declared as one of the world’s 12 most endangered cultural heritage sites by Global Heritage Fund.

I am pretty sure that many of you had no idea about this place cause these temples remained unknown to the outside world until 1979, when A.K. Sinha, the Director of Archaeology for the Government of Bihar, first brought them to public attention.


The history of these temples is tied to the gift of the Maluti kingdom, once known as “Nankar Raj”. This kingdom was granted to a Brahmin named Basanta by the Muslim ruler Alauddin Husain Shah of Gaura (1495–1525) as a reward for saving and returning his hawk. Basanta was honored with the title Raja, becoming Raja Baj Basanta. Being a devoutly religious man, Basanta chose to build temples rather than palaces. His family, later divided into four clans, continued constructing temples in their capital, Maluti, inspired by their family deity, goddess Mowlakshi. The name Maluti is believed to be derived from Mallahati, named after the Malla Kings of Bankura. According to the Indian Trust for Rural Heritage and Development (ITRHD), these temples were built between the 17th and 19th centuries.


Initially, there were 108 temples built in the village within an area of 350 meters (1,150 feet), all dedicated to Lord Shiva. Today, only 72 of these temples still stand, but many are in poor condition, and 36 have been lost. While many temples are dedicated to various gods and goddesses like Shiva, Durga, Kali, and Vishnu, the main deity is goddess Mauliksha.

In addition to the Shiva temples, there are eight temples dedicated to Goddess Kali. There is also a temple for a saint named Bamakhyapa, where his trident is worshiped. Another important temple is dedicated to Manasa Devi. The Baj Basanta dynasty’s family deity, goddess Mauliksha, is widely worshiped, and devotees visit her temple throughout the year. The goddess is depicted facing west and is believed to be the elder sister of goddess Tara.

The temples, built in various styles popular in Bengal at the time, were designed by Bengali artisans. These styles are grouped into five categories, none of which are in the architectural styles of Nagara, Vesara, or Dravida. According to McCutchion, these temples follow the Cara-cala design, featuring a square chamber with an internal dome built over pendentives, and corbelled cornices that make the roof look like a hut.

The temples are decorated with sculptures depicting episodes from the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, as well as the battle between Durga and Mahishasura. Some temples also have carvings of village life. There are a few inscriptions on the temples that provide information about their construction and the socio-political history of that time. These inscriptions, written in early Bengali script, combine elements of Sanskrit, Prakrit, and Bengali, and are dated according to the “shaka era” (Indian national calendar).

Steps takes for conservation

Efforts to conserve the Maluti temples began with an NGO called “Save Heritage and Environment (SHE),” which sought help from the Global Heritage Fund (GHF). Together with the Indian Trust for Rural and Heritage Development, GHF conducted a study to develop conservation plans for the temples. This study outlined the specific needs and threats for each temple and identified potential international organizations for funding and expertise. It emphasized preserving the traditional terracotta tiled roofs and recommended involving the local community through education and awareness to ensure their active participation in the conservation process. The GHF has now listed Maluti and its temples among “the world’s twelve vanishing cultural heritage sites,” with Maluti being the only site from India on the list.

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