The Flower decorations known as ‘Phool Bangla’ follow an ancient tradition of flower-art and are a hallmark of the temples of Braj. Among the various art-forms of Braj, Phool Bangla is considered one of the most unique and special.
As soon as summer hits, temples gear up for a special treat for the Lordships – exclusive arrangements of flowers often covering the entire temple. These elaborate flower decorations greatly please the Lord with their beauty, fragrance and the cooling effect they bring.
‘Bangla’ usually means a single storey house with a pyramid shaped roof covered with leaves and flowers and that is how the name originates as ‘Phool Bangla’ means house (or palace) of flowers. At some of the prominent temples like Sri Banke Bihari Ji, Sri Radharaman Ji and Sri Radhavallabh Lal Ji, these flower bungalows are often made up of two or three storey structures completely covered in various colorful and exotic flowers.
During the ‘phool bangla season’ a separate area called Phool Ghar is designated for the construction of these bungalows which. Here the sewayats or artisans work day-in day-out to construct these magnificent structures. The artisians are especially skilled in this type of work which is handed down through generations.
Lightweight wood or bamboo structures are made into different shapes as per the desired theme. Banana stems are sliced and cut to create beautiful motifs of leaves, flowers, and other designs for decorating the bangla.
Various items like sequined lace, glitter, appliqué, embroidery, ribbons, silk thread etc. are used to embellish the design. Mirrors, cut into various shapes and sizes, are bordered with mogra(Jasmine) buds and interwoven into the design, creating an entrancing effect. Beautiful creepers and fragrant flowers are hung from several tiers to give an even more exquisite look to the structures.
Frames and structures are joined to make beautiful decorations including animal shapes, doors, lattice, windows with tracery, door hangings, pavilions with 12 doors, poles and chandeliers. Peacocks, parrots and cuckoos are the most common animals included in the designs.
It is said that the phool bangla tradition dates back five thousands years to when flower bangalows were constructed for the Eternal Couple, Sri Radha Shyamsundar. The artisans were completely drowned in the loving mood of Sri Lalita, Sri Vishakha and the other Braj Gopis and their loving mood of service for the divine couple was clearly reflected in the masterpieces they created with elegant designs and intricate patterns.
Phool bangla is one of the most prominent traditional art festivals of Braj. This art-form has been kept alive by the temples of Vrindavan. The festival is most elaborately celebrated at prominent temples like Sri Banke Bihari Ji, Sri Radharaman Lal ji, Sri Rasik Bihari ji at Sewakunj, Sri Shah ji etc. These temple enthrall people with splendid beauty and opulence.
In Sri Rangnath Ji, a special multi-storey phool bangla is created every year in the traditional South Indian style. Here, the temple artists depict Shri Yamuna Devi in supurb style and arrangements are made to sprinkle cool scented water on the devotees who are taking darshan of Lord Rangnath, as if we are being blessed by Yamuna Devi.