4 day trip including journey dates – 20/12/2017 – 23/12/2017
We decided to do the farthest first.
The next morning, a foggy one, we hired a taxi, an ambassador! I just love the car; the space, the height and the nostalgia. It has been ‘the car’ through most of my growing up years!
The target was to cover as much of the surroundings possible in a day. As the car rolled out of the narrow streets on to the highway we zoomed past many ruins, reminiscence of once a glorious kingdom.
Bahulara, the first destination is a village 25 km north-west of Bishnupur. The nearest railway station is Onda. We crossed the railway tracks to reach our destination, trains excite me so much whether am in it or just watching it.
…………….You mighty beast on track,
…………….Long or short, shiny or dull
…………….Your whistle at night, or as the dawn crack,
…………….Takes me afar whether or not am in your hull.
Archaeologists have found significant presence of Buddhism and Jainism till the 7th century CE in and around the place when the Malla kings turned the temple and the place into the seat of Lord Shiva. The temple, our destination is quite some way from the main road. We passed a couple of villages to reach this quiet site amidst another village by the pond.
The Siddheswara temple as it is known has a unique architectural style called the ‘brick Rekha deul’ style in line of the Kalinga architecture from the Pala (medieval) period. It is a fine specimen towering up to 19.2 m in height. The Susunia Hills nearby is famous for rock climbing and trekking.
We clicked and clicked and when we had all we wanted and more, we admired its beauty.
Next we headed for Dihar, its only 10kms from Bishnupur but for us it was 35kms as we were at Bahulara, but the guy driving us around was a local and knew amazing shortcuts. He took us through serpentine lanes, villages with thatched roof houses, someone’s courtyard and over such narrow bridges which one would think were only built for Maruti 800 but the ambassador went through miraculously unscratched.
At Dihar the temples are built of laterite stones, there are two of them Sareswar and Saileswar, both dedicated to Shiva the enchanting God and are protected monuments under ASI. Not much to click there, it is more of a place for serious devotees and could also double up as a day outing for the locals and picnic party, with a huge mango groove surrounding the area.
Moving on, we crossed the Dwarekaswar river, not by an over or an under bridge but one that is on the river bed. In winter the river is so shallow that people can walk over it and thus the indigenous idea of building a motorable mud road, which can shorten the distance to the other-side considerably. In summer a ferry would have to be used to cross the river at that point.
In a short while we emerged on the other side of the river, went through a part of Joypur forest, where the mighty elephants reside and parked at the Banalata forest resort which is gaining popularity as an upcoming hospitality centre on state highway 2, WB.
The resort is built on a vast area and is quite picturesque with a pond, loads of flowering and ornamental plants scattered around. It had thatched huts alongside two storey staying quarters. We had a straightforward lunch, which we generally do, if on a day trip. The staff and arrangement are new and will need a lot more grooming up before the service can equalize that of a professional establishment. We heard the staff comprise of local village woman and that is indeed a great initiative towards their employment and empowerment.
Gokulnagar, the next stop is difficult to reach if one is self-driving. One has to know the area or else there is every possibility of falling into a ditch or going off track at the next turn.
The journeys through these settlements that have been sitting here unchanged year after year are in themselves monumental to city dwellers like us. Here, life goes at a pace that we only read in books and call them fiction, but it is the reality of millions of living breathing people, for whom nothing changes, year on year, millennium to millennium.
Yet development is happening, many undaunted individuals are working towards the upliftment of the society at large, many bright young minds are fighting their way through hardships and attaining their goals.
The Gokulchand temple at Gokulnagar is considered as the largest stone temple of Bankura District, and hence the endeavour to reach it.
This handsome structure had been plundered by locals and contractors for its stone for many years and yet it stands tall, 64ft with five pinnacles and is worth a photographer’s effort.
The sun had been merciful towards these two hapless photographers, who had come all the way from Bangalore to Kolkata, ditched their friends and relatives there to document these beauties through their lenses.
We still had time and urged on our transport to take us to Kamarpukur and Jairambati, famous for being the birthplace of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa and his wife Maa Sharda respectively. They are the pillars of Ramakrishna Mission, the charitable institution famed for serving humanity across our country and the globe to an extent. By sundown, we were on our way back having had a glimpse of the bearings of the great saints. Though the premises are kept clean and well maintained, the surrounding needs a huge makeover both to enhance the quality of life and to lure tourists other than devotees