Bishnupur is a sub-divisional town of Bankura district in the state of West Bengal, India. The main soil of this region has been derived from laterite rocks with intermittent alluvial deposits. In the early stages of the British rule, this region was known as the Jungal Mahal.
The main town of the sub-division is Bishnupur which is situated (23°5 N and 87°20 East) five km to the south of the river Dwarakeshwar. Bishnupur Municipality was established in 1873. The town is connected to Calcutta via the Howrah-Gomo railway line on the South-Eastern Railway. It is at a distance of 201 km from Calcutta. The river Birai flows three km away from the town. The weather of the town is of the dry type, with little humidity.
Bishnupur is a famous centre of business and cottage industries. Bishnupur is well-known for the manufacture of Tussar and silk cloth as well as decorated silk scarves. Silkworms are cultivated in the town. Among the other cottage industries, brass, bell-metal, conch shells, garlands made of the holy basil are worth mentioning. Amburi and Balakhana tobacco of Bishnupur are well-known.
During the times of the Malla kings, Bishnupur was a big centre of Sanskrit studies. The Bishnupur gharana (school) of music is appreciated all over India.
According to traditional texts Bishnupur’s Malla kingdom was established in the Eighth Century A.D. At that time this region was known as the Mallabhum. When the kingdom of the Malla kings was transferred from Laugram to Bishnupur (probably in the 14th Century), the Malla kings came to be known as Bishnupurraj or the kings of Bishnupur. Members of the royal family were Shaivites, although later on they embraced the Vaishnava cult.
King Bir Hambir (c.1591-1616), famous in history, was initiated into Vaishnavism by Srinivas Acharya. It is said that he was the first to establish the worship of Madan Mohan in Bishnupur. The later kings belonging to the Mallas have been Raghunath Singha (c.1616-1656), BirSingha II(c. 1656-1677), Durjan Singha (1678-1694) etc. The construction of the famous temples of Bishnupur was done during the reign of these kings and the two queens of Bir Singha II namely, Shiromoni and Churamoni. Bishnupur had seen the days of strong kings. In the eighteenth century during the reign of Gopal Singha, the kingdom was devastated by the attack of the Bargis and the fall of the kingdom can be traced from that era.
The town of Bishnupur is surrounded by a wall that is approximately 11 km long and the historical monuments and temples of the town carry in them many stories of their past glory.
(Translated from Bharat Kosh, Bangiya Sahitya Parishad)