Features and Origins
The earliest temples in Bengal are deuls, a name given to a Hindu temple style that evolved and became standardized in north India, Orissa, and the Deccan between the 6th and the 10th centuries. The particular type of deul that is common in Bengal is called rekha deul (an Orissan nomenclature), and is characterised by a square sanctum, vertical projections (rekha) on the walls, a curvilinear tower (sikhara), chaitya (mesh) decoration on the facade (on both walls and tower), and surmounted by a large amalaka and kalasa finial. Few of these early Bengali deul temples remain, but among them the later brick-built examples are of significant complexity and size. When the rekha style reappeared during the 16th-19th century Hindu revival, it was completely transformed by Islamic constructional features such as internal domes, arches, and terracotta decoration on the facade. Such temples, particularly in a substyle characterized by ridged rather than smooth tower, were built in considerable numbers in the 19th century although they were mostly much smaller than the pre-Islamic deuls. Rehka deuls both in the rigded and smooth styles can also be seen as turrets of ratna temples, especially the central towers of pancharatna and navaratna temples.
The earliest example of the early rekha deul style is the 9th century stone Siddheswara temple at Barakar in Bardhaman. Later (11th century) examples of massive brick-built deuls can be found at Satdeulia (Bardhaman), Bahulara (Bankura), and Jatar Deul (24 Parganas). The examples from the Hindu revival period can be grouped into deuls with smooth towers as the Siva temples Rajnagar (Medinipur) and Krishna and Balarama temples at Bishnupur. Small rekha temples with ridged towers were built in large numbers in 19th century Bardhaman and Birbhum. Terracotta decorated and well-preserved examples are the Pratapesvara temple at Kalna, a Siva temple at Ilambazar, and several examples at Mankar in Bardhaman. A few large deuls were also built in the 19th century as at Debipur in Bardhaman.