Thursday, March 6, 2014

Trip to West Bengal - Feb. 2014 - Part-1 : Kolkata-Kalna-Shantiniketan-Surul-Barakar

I have been fascinated by the pictures of brick temples of Bishnupur and its surrounding areas for years. I have been going through the Internet as well as some travel magazines to cull more information on the brick temples of West Bengal which seems to me as the unique to this  State. I was surprised by the fact that there are at least one thousand brick temples - major and minor in West Bengal. These were mostly constructed during the period ranging from 17th to 19th centuries. Somehow, my trip to Bishnupur always remained in the back burner. I had visited Calcutta (Kolkata) umpteen times on official work which gave me the opportunity to visit some of its well known tourist spots like Victoria Memorial, Maidan, Belur Math, Dakshineshwar etc. But it was difficult to link the work related visits to Kolkata with excursions from Kolkata for sight-seeing trip to Bishnupur.

My brother-in-law who has visited almost all the tourist spots of India during his annual trips for the last 5 decades, told me that during his trips to West Bengal, he missed out Bishnupur and other places famous for the brick temples with terracotta plaques. My wife has been often telling me that our next trip should include Kolkata.  So this culminated into a trip to West Bengal covering tourist spots in around Kolkata-Shantiniketan-Bishnupur-Kolkata route. After taking into account the mutual convenience and avoiding peak tourist season, we decided to undertake the trip during the second half of February 2014. Initially, we were four persons – I, my wife, my brother-in-law and his wife for the trip. However, one of my brother-in-law’s close friends wished to join us as it was his cherished dream to visit the birth place of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore in Kolkata and to visit Shantiniketan. Visiting these two places was like a pilgrimage to him. Considering that we were all senior citizens in the age group of 65-75 years, we decided to make our base at Shantiniketan  and Bishnupur for 3 days each to cover the tourists places around them. We also decided to hire a vehicle (SUV) from Kolkata which would remain with us and drop us back to Kolkata. The guest houses at both Shantiniketan and Bishnupur were booked in advance.

Mumbai-Howrah Mail (via Nagpur) reached Howrah at its scheduled time of 4.55 a.m. We immediately got a taxi (Rs.400/-) to drop us to Sunflower Guest House (6 kms) where we had reservation. Since the check-in and check-out time at the guest house was 12 noon, we had to wait in a reception area which fortunately had an attached toilet and bathroom. We did not wait for long as the Guest House caretaker was kind enough to allocate two rooms by 9.00 a.m. and another room by 11.00 a.m. (Semi-deluxe room with AC and TV @ Rs.1720/-including tax). The rooms and toilets were clean though bathroom cum toilet was very small. But for an overnight stay, it was good enough to serve our purpose. Furthermore, the Guest House is located at central place off Park Street. The staffs were polite and helpful. One of them arranged a vehicle (Tavera) for us to take us to a few tourist spots of Kolkata.

Day-1 : In Kolkata
(i) Science City
The driver of the vehicle (Tavera, Rs.2000/- for 10 hours) picked us from the Guest House exactly at 11.30 a.m. as promised. Our first in the list was Science City which none of us seen it in our previous visits. A few months back, I had visited Nehru Science Centre in Mumbai with my grandchildren and I was very much impressed by the number of exhibits and the manner of presentations. Also the centre was kept neat and clean with lot of greenery around. But after visiting Science City, Kolkata, I am now more impressed with it as it has more space for exhibitions, probably looks to me bigger both in terms of area as well as in terms of the variety and number of exhibits. Because of a lot of open and green spaces, it is an ideal place for a day picnic with children coupled with viewing the exhibits and other shows. To see the place in details, one would require at least half a day in Science City.
The side view of the Convention Centre, Science City, Kolkata.

Science Park, Science City, Kolkata

(ii) Jorasanko Thakurbari
Jorasanko Thakurbari (Rabindranath Tagore’s ancestral house) was constructed sometime in the 18th century by Dwarkanath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore’s grandfather. In my previous visits to Kolkata, I did not visit the place as I was then not aware of the history behind this thakurbari which I thought to be like any other mansions of landlords of the Raj period. After knowing the history behind this thakurbari, this time I made it a point to visit this place. The beauty of this calm and serene place was marred by a narrow and dirty lane. However, once we were inside the complex which is now a part of Rabindra Bharati University, there was a stark contrast to what we had seen outside the complex. The garden and buildings have been maintained neatly. There is museum dedicated to the life and works of Rabindranath Tagore. It is located in a part of the mansion where Rabindranath Tagore was born and breathed his last. A part of the museum has dedicated Chinese and Japanese sections which exhibit the photographs of Rabindranath Tagore’s visits to these countries as also his paintings connected with these visits. The museum is very nostalgic as it rewinds the history of a bygone era. Cameras, mobiles and big bags are not permitted to be taken inside the museum. There are lockers available at the entrance to the museum to deposits these items. 
Jorasanko Thakurbari, the birth place of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, Kolkatta.
Jorasanko Thakurbari. This portion which has now been converted into a museum was the residence of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore.
(iii) Dakshineshwar Kali Temple
This was my third visits to one of the largest temples of Kolkata which has been associated with Ramkrishna Paramhansa and Swami Vivekanand. The sun was already on the western horizon as we reached the temple. There was a large crowd both inside the temple complex as well as at the banks of Hooghly River. Probably local people prefer to visit the temple in the evening, pay their obstinate to Maa Kali and spend some time at the banks of Hooghly River to watch the movements of boats with passengers and the setting sun.
There was a big queue for the darshan of Maa Kali. So we took the darshan from one of the side doors where the idol was clearly visible. There are 12 Shiva temples facing the Maa Kali temple, with each one having a black marble shivling. The atmosphere inside the temple complex was serene without any chaotic condition generally associated with popular temples. This is one of those temples in India which I like to visit again and again where there is a perfect blend of nature and spirituality. We spent some time at the banks of Hooghly River to watch the sunset. However, due to hazy conditions, the sun just got eclipsed before it was to set in.
Dakshineshwar Kali temple
Evening sun with Hooghly river flowing by the side of Dakshineshawar Kali temple, a 'confluence' of spirituality and nature.
(iv) Belur Math
Like Dakshineshwar, this was my third visits to Belur Math. By the time we reached the Math, it was quite dark and some arati (evening prayer) was going on inside the Math with hundreds of devotees and visitors sitting and watching the arati with pin drop silence. Since there was no place to go inside, we watched the arati as well as the idol from a side opening and returned to the gate where there was a exhibition on the life of Swami Vivekanand on the occasion of his 150th birth anniversary year. Photography is prohibited inside the Belur Math complex.
Electronic statue of Swami Vivekanand inside Belur Math on the occasion of his 150th birth anniversary.
We returned to Guest House at around 8.30 p.m. After freshening, we decided to eat at a hotel on a walking distance from the Guest House. As claimed by the Guest House staff, the food was good and cheap too.

Day-2 : To Shantiniketan via Kalna (210 kms)
(i) Brick temples at Kalna
We were impressed with the driver and the condition of Tavera which prompted us to engage him for the remaining 7 days of our road trip. Another advantage with this driver was that he was fluent in both Hindi and Bengali. After negotiation, we agreed for Rs.155/- per hour (all inclusive except parking and toll charges) without any restrictions as to the daily kms run as well as the number of hours of driving. Of course, we ensured that we completed our road journey before dark almost all days.
After checking out, we commenced our journey to Kalna (92 kms) around 8.30 a.m. The journey was smooth as SH-6 was well maintained. However, somewhere in the mid-point to Kalna, there was a traffic jam. It turned out that there was a road blockade by the workers of a political party as one of their worker was said to have been murdered. Without wasting time, our driver drove through an alternate road. Calling it an alternate road would be a misnomer as the it was more of a narrow dirt lane just sufficient for a vehicle like Tavera to push through. After driving through the serpentine lanes for about 20 kms, we finally reached the main road bypassing the blocked portion of the road. In this process, we nearly lost one hour. Rest of the journey was once again smooth. At Magra ‘Y’ junction, the road to the right goes to Kalna while to the left goes to Bardhaman. We reached Kalna by noon.  
Kalna town, also known as Ambika Kalna because the town has a holy  temple of Siddheswari Devi, a form of Maa Ambika or Kali was once part of Bardhaman royalty. Being located at the banks of River Bhagirathi, it was a flourishing port town with maritime trade. Most of the temples were constructed during 18th century under the patronage of Maharaja of Bardhaman. There are many temples in the town, but we concentrated on terracotta temples located on either side of the road in Rajbari area. These temples are all within the walkable distance from each other. On the one side of the road is a temple complex having Pratapeshwar temple, Lalji temple and Krishna Chandraji temple as main temples. All the three temples have delicate terracotta ornamentations but Pratapeshwar temple though smaller in size has the most elegant terracotta ornamentations all over it. This brick temple was constructed in 1849 in duel type with curvilinear shikara like Odhisa temples. The terracotta plaques depict the stories from Ramayan, Mahabharat and the social activities of that time. A roofless octagonal Ras Mancha also made of bricks is located on the right side of this temple.
Pratapeshwar temple, Rajbari temple complex, Kalna

 Intricate and delicate terracotta ornamentations on a side wall of Pratapeshwar temple, Kalna.
Delicate terracotta ornamentations above one of the arched doors of Pratapeshwar temple, Kalna.


 Delicate terracotta ornamentations above one of another arched doors of Pratapeshwar temple, Kalna.
The roofless octagonal Ras Mancha, Rajbari temple complex, Kalna
 The next in order of elegance (in my view) is Lalji temple.  It is the oldest brick temple in this complex, having constructed in 1739. The temple is equivalent to three story structure having 25 spires. The front view of the temple is obstructed by a Mandapa of four sloped roof also constructed in bricks. The terracotta ornamentations on this temple is very delicate and the styles differs from those in Pratapeshwar temple. However, the terracotta plaques depict the stories from Ramayan, Mahabharat and aspects of social activities as seen on Pratapeshwar temple. One of the unique aspects of this temple is the terracotta works at the meeting points (corners) of two walls. There is a Goverdhan temple in front of the Mandapa.
The next in importance from the terracotta ornamentation point of view is Krishna Chandraji temple located in the next compound. The entry to the temple is from the complex itself. This temple is said to have been built sometime during 1750-55. The architectural style of this temple is more or less matches with that of Lalji temple. It is also a three story structure having 25 spires. However, this temple does not have terracotta plaques on all the walls. Another minor difference with Lalji temple is that the Mandapa of this temple is small, more like a varandah and it has three arched entrances.
In addition, there are five smaller temples without much of terracotta works located in the complex. These are called Pancharatna temples which are brick build temples on low platforms.
A general view of Lalji temple, Rajbari temple complex, Kalna

Lalji temple archways leading to sanctum of the temple with delicate terracotta plaques above.
Terracotta plaques on the side walls of Lalji temple, Kalna.
Terracotta sculptures like this type adorn the corners of two walls of Lalji temple, Kalna.
Terracotta plaque depicting the war bugles at the base of a wall of Lalji temple, Kalna.
A palanquin inside Lalji temple, Kalna

Goverdhan temple in front of Lalji temple Nat Mandir, Kalna.
A general view of 25 spire Krishna Chandraji temple, Rajbari temple complex, Kalna.
Side view of three arched doors with terracotta plaques of Krishna Chandraji temple, Kalna.
Terracotta plaques depicting the social activities at the base of the front wall of Krishna Chandraji temple, Kalna.
On the opposite side of the temple complex is the famous Naba Kailash temple complex. This temple complex of 108 Shiva temples in two circles – outer circle (74 temples) and inner circle (34 temples) was constructed by Maharaja of Bardhaman Tej Chandra Bahadur in 1809. Shiva temples of outer circle have alternate black and white marble shivlings while the temples of inner circle have only white marble shivlings. The two circles are separated by a nicely maintain lawn and garden.
It was around 2.00 p.m. when we completed the temple circuit around Rajbari. It was lunch time for us and to our utter surprise,  we found that almost all of the shops, hotels etc were closed. We came to know that in the rural areas of Bengal, it is a practice to close the shops between 12 noon and 4.00 p.m. Luckily, we had carried enough food for such an eventuality. We stopped our vehicle just at the outskirt of Rajbari where we found that one tea shop was still open. We had theplas (thin rotis mixed with fenugreek leaves) and sweet grated mango pickle to fill our belly followed by tea from the shop.
Naba Kailash temple with  a part of 74 Shiva temple in the outer circle, Kalna.
A panoramic shot of a part of 34 Shiva temples in inner circle of Naba Kailash temple, Kalna.
Sarbamangala temple complex, Raiganj, (Bardhaman)

At around 3.00 p.m., our journey to Bardhaman, our next destination, commenced. By now, the sky had become cloudy. About a week before the commencement of our journey, I had seen the weather forecast for Kolkata, Shantiniketan and Bishnupur on, which had predicted rains or thunder showers in the evening for the last two places for two days followed by drop in night temperature to a single digit. The prediction seems to be coming out true now as it started drizzling. We reached Sarbamangala or Durga temple near Raiganj (Bardhaman district) at around 4.45 p.m. As soon as we alighted from our vehicle, there were chorus of shouts from the shopkeepers in the vicinity of the temple to buy offerings to Sarbamangala from their shops. Some street dogs relaxing on the side of the shops seemed to be bemused by the shouts of the shopkeepers as it disturbed their siesta. We did not oblige them which infuriated the shopkeepers uttering some words in Bengali which appears to me to be in bad taste.
We entered the temple complex and found that we were the only visitor at that time. There was no force from priests to do some poojas as it generally happens in some of the popular temples in India. After the darshan of the main deity of the temple, all of us put cash in donation box in lieu of purchase of offerings from the shopkeepers as we usually follow during visits to other temples in India. The temple complex has five Shiva temples – Rameshwar, Kamleshwar, Mitreshwar, Chandaneshwar and Indreshwar with white marble shivlings. There are terracotta plaques on all these Shiva temples on the front side walls. Unfortunately, these plaques have been coated with maroon colour paints depriving these terracotta plaques of the aesthetic values.
Sarbamangala temple, Bardhaman.
Three Shiva temples, Rameshwar, Kamaleshwar, and Indreshwar in Sarbamangala temple complex, Bardhaman.
Another Shiva temple, Mitreshwar in Sarbamangala temple complex, Bardhaman.
We drove towards the main street of Bardhaman city passing through the Curzon Gate. It was already dark at 5.30 p.m. The light showers with associated traffic jams made us to abandon the visit to another temple and instead we started the return journey out of Bardhaman city heading for the NH-2B for our final destination of the day, Shantiniketan. We reached Rater Tara Diner Rabi (RTDR) Guest House located near Vishwa Bharati Campus at around 7.30 p.m. in a damp atmosphere. The Guest House was pre-booked and it did not take much time to settle in our respective rooms (non-AC double-bedded room with TV @1500/- and 4 bedded AC room @2750/-, morning tea and breakfast included) which were clean and spacious. We had dinner in the Guest House’s dining room. The lunch and dinner are prepared in their kitchen with prior orders.
Day-3 : In Shantiniketan
After travelling for almost the whole day in the previous day, we had a leisure sight-seeing programme in Shantiniketan. There was intermittent rains in the night bringing down the temperature to a single digit in the morning. Though the rains had stopped, the weather was still a bit cloudy. After breakfast, we commenced our sight-seeing tour of Shantiniketan. At the bazaar area, we were told that hiring cycle rickshaws would enable us to pedal through the complex.  In the event, we found later that it was all wrong information. Neither vehicles nor cycle rickshaws are permitted inside the any complex of Shantiniketan. We could have very well travelled in our own vehicle up to the gates of the various complexes. Another thing we learned about the sight-seeing trip to Shantiniketan was that except for Uttarayan complex,, all other complexes can be viewed only from outside as the school and classes function in the morning. Probably somewhat better time to take the tour is in the afternoon when entries to some of the complexes get relaxed as the school and class timings are over. But the best time to get a real feel of the Shantiniketan seems to be during Poush Mela (last week of December) and Rabindranath Tagore Jayanti (May 7) when all the complexes in Shantiniketan are thrown open to public. But during these events, the place would be crowded and there could be problems in getting accommodations in hotels and guest houses.
Since most of the complexes such as Shantiniketan Ashram, Mrilanidevi Anand School, Upasana Griha (Prayer Hall) Vishwa Bharati University, Chhatimala tree were to be seen from outside, we completed the Shantiniketan tour in about 2 hours. A bulk of 2 hours were spent inside Uttarayan complex. Bichitra Bhavan, the museum depicting the life and works of Rabindranath Tagore took about 30 minutes and strolling and visiting other bhavans (mansions)  like Udhyana, Konarak, Shyamli, Punascha, Udichi etc took another 30 minutes. It was a visit of rewinding the history of Tagore family. It was a good feeling to visit these bhavans where Rabindranath Tagore wrote poems, composed music and did paintings.  We could also visit a part of Kala Bhavan to see murals. However, major segments of Kala Bhavan were out of bound for tourists as the classes were going on.
After the completion of the visit to Shantiniketan complexes, my admiration for Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore as a human being increased many folds. I would say that no amount of readings books on Rabindranath Tagore would make one fully understand his personality as visiting Shantiniketan.
Rater Tara Diner Rabi ( meaning Star at night, sun in the day) Guest House, Shantiniketan where we stayed for 3 days.
Shantiniketan  Ashram: This hut is used for initiation of fresh batch of students into the school.
Mrinalini Devi Anand School, Shantiniketan Ashram.

The largest banyan tree in Shantiniketan Ashram.
Upasana Griha (Prayer Hall), Shantiniketan Ashram.
Chhatimtala tree (enclosed with white structure  below which Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore used to sit and get inspirations to write poems, stories, music etc.

Bichitra Bhavan in Uttarayan Complex which has been converted into a museum  on the life and works of Rabindranath Tagore.
The main gate leading to Uttarayan Complex, Shantiniketan.
Rabindranath Tagore in younger days in a Bengali drama 'Valmiki Pratibha'.
Rabindranath Tagore in a pensive thought.
Murals adorn the walls of one of the rooms of Kala Bhavan, Shantiniketan.

In the afternoon, we visited the other side of Shantiniketan – Prakriti Bhavan, a museum of natural arts. It is located about 4 kms from Uttarayan complex. However, one has to drive on dirt gravel road which passes through forest cover to reach the place. The museum is in two buildings which houses the sculptures naturally evolved through rocks and wood fossils. At the entrance to the Prakriti Bhavan complex, there is a Sculpture Garden displaying natural rocks and wood fossils resembling various shapes such as Lord Ganesh, Reclining Buddha, Caterpillar etc.  The motto of the Prakriti Bhavan museum is nature’s creativity and human beings’ aesthetic responses to them.
Opposite Prakriti Bhavan, there is a Deer Sanctuary and a tank where some of migratory birds arrive in the winter. There is also a big statue of sitting Buddha in the vicinity of Deer Sanctuary. Another 2 kms of drive took us to Amar Kutir where handicrafts by tribal population made from  leather, jute  cloth, wood etc. are sold. One can observe the process of manufacturing them in workshops inside the complex. The prices are much cheaper than what we get similar items in Mumbai. We purchased some items like leather bags, pouches, decorative boxes etc.
Our last destination of the day was Sriniketan complex, a part of the Vishwa Bharati which was set up by Rabindranath Tagore to help create rural reconstruction. Unfortunately, being Sunday, the complex was closed. We returned to our Guest House at 2.30 p.m. without having lunch as all the shops and hotels were closed during 12 noon to 4.00 p.m. The Guest House cook obliged us by quickly preparing rice, daal, rotis and one vegetable item. By 3.30 p.m. we completed our lunch and spent rest of the day in our rooms as it has already started drizzling. It rained intermittently, becoming heavy in the night with thunder and lightning.
Prakriti Bhavan entrance, Shantiniketan.
Prakriti Bhavan - Natural creation of Lord Ganesh in Sculpture Garden.
Prakriti Bhavan - Image of the sleeping Buddha in natural rock formation.
A natural formation on dried branches depicting 'Farewell to Arms'.
Naturally formed 'Jesus holding a baby' on a tree trunk.
Statue of sitting Buddha opposite Prakriti Bhavan.

 Day-4 : To Surul and Barakar and back to Shantiniketan (Total 240 kms)
The schedule for the day was for visiting two places but the distance to be covered was more than 200 kms to and fro. After breakfast, we commenced our journey, first to Surul at around 9.00 a.m. Surul is hardly 5 kms from Shantiniketan. After the overnight rains, it was a bright sunny morning. But with this, it brought the wintry cold weather. But as the day progressed, the weather became pleasant.
The first halt at Surul was a Rajbari belonging to Sarkar family. We entered Rajbari with the usual expectation that there would the temples inside. But it was not. The courtyard of the Rajbari had a hall in a nat mandir style and a multi-pillared hall in front of it. Even with poor maintenance, the multi-pillared hall looked elegant. The hall was the venue of the annual Durga Pooja during the bygone era of zamindar but this tradition continues even now. We saw inside the hall a model of straw covered Maa Durga and other deities. By and large, the Rajbari is in desolate condition. Adjacent to the  Rajbari is  a small temple complex comprise Laxmi-Janardhan (Vishnu) temple of 5 spires with 3 arched doors and twin Shiva temple in duel style. The facade of Vishnu temple is full of terracotta ornamentations. However, other three walls of the temple are plain. The twin Shiva temples seems to be the renovated ones with freshly coated white and brown colour. There is not much of the terracotta work on these two temples.
A further short drive from Sarkar Rajbari took us to a obscure temple complex in Supur having two Shiva temples raised on short platforms. They are located one after another but the architecture differs considerably giving an impression that these two temples may have been constructed at different time. The single spire temple at right was hexagon in shape having delicate terracotta ornamentations on all its six sides. The temple at the left was with a duel type architecture not having much terracotta ornamentations except the top of the door.
A multi pillared hall (or nat mandir) in a Rajbari of Sarkar family.
Frontage of Laxmi-Janardhan temple, Surul Rajbari.
Delicate terracotta ornamentation depicting the battle of Ram and Ravan above the archway of Laxmi-Janardhan temple, Surul Rajbari.
Terracotta depicting Ravan's court on a top portion of frontage of Laxmi-Janardhan temple, Surul Rajbari.
Twin Shiva temples by the sides of Laxmi-Janardhan temple, Surul.
Another twin Shiva temples in Supur with different architectural style,  the right side one being in haxagon with extensive terracotta plaques.
The terrocotta plaques on the front side of the Shiva temple, Surul.
Terracotta plaques depicting some events of celeberations above the arched door of Shiva temple, Surul.
Another terracotta ornamentation on the top of a arched doors of Shiva temple, Surul.
After completing our scheduled temple visit to Surul by 10.00 a.m., we proceeded to Barakar requiring a long drive of more than 100 kms from Surul. Since most of the drive was on 6 lanes NH-2 bypassing the important industrial cities – Durgapur, Raniganj  and Asansol, the drive was fast and smooth. Just after Asansol, a left turn to the old GT road and a further drive of about 20 kms took us to the main market area of Barakar which is located quite close to Jharkhand border. The people here speak fluently both Bengali and Hindi. The temple complex was located somewhere near the market but none of the persons we asked for direction could tell us properly. After a driving up and down for nearly 30 minutes, we got a person who could properly give the direction. After reaching the spot, we realised that we had passed through the lane leading to the temple complex a couple of times. Had we asked for the direction of Begunia Bazar temples as locally known, we would have got the correct direction at the first instance itself.
From the Begunia Bazar, a non-descript lane of not more than 100m of length ends at the entrance of a large ground where four temples are located, all constructed on sand stones with shikaras. The first two temples look identical in its architecture with elaborate stone carved sculptures. These two are Shiva temples, having five and two shivlings in the temples on the left and right respectively. A further walk of about 100m in the open ground took us to two remaining temples. The temple with shikara is a Shiva temple having 10 shivlings. The fourth temple located close to a tank is the oldest one dating back to 9th century. Maa Siddheshwari is the presiding deity of this temple and probably a guardian deity of Barakar town. The temple priest told me that it was a common practice to sacrifice a goat to appease the Maa Siddheshwari (form of Maa Kali) on the auspicious occasions like marriage, birth of a child etc. The priest invited me to join the goat sacrificing ceremony which was going on at the banks of the tank on the occasion of the marriage in the family. I declined the offer in the pretext of getting late to our next destination.
Begunia Shiva temples, Barakar.
Stone carvings on on the back of Begunia twin Shiva temples.
Begunia temples - the sculptures at the base are of men and women who seems to be holding the weights of shikara with different postures.
One more Shiva temple in Begunia complex which have 10 shivlings.
The 9th century Siddheshwari Devi temple in Begunia temple complex. One can call this as a guardian temple of Barakar town.
 A priest doing a pooja on behalf of a family at the banks of a tank of Siddheshwari temple before sacrificing a goat. The brown coloured 'U' shaped structure on the right is the place where goat's neck would be kept for severing its head in one hit.
After finishing our day’s schedule of temple visits at around 1.00 p.m., we thought of having lunch in one of the hotels in Barakar market. However, as usual, we could not locate any good hotel. We ate some fruits bought from one of the shops in fruit markets which was still open despite their afternoon siesta time. We returned to our Guest House at Shantiniketan at around 5.30 p.m. Once again the cook of the Guest House was kind enough to prepared some hot onion pakodas to go with our evening tea and coffee.
In the hindsight, I felt that we could have booked the Guest House at Shantiniketan for two days and on the third day, we could have stayed in Durgapur on our return from Barakar for the next day’s drive to Bishnupur via Sonamukhi. Of course, in terms of the vehicle cost, it did not matter to us as our contract was in terms of number of days and hours. But we could have saved the rough journey on Illambazar-Panagarh stretch which was full of patholes and some road widneing work was going on.

About 65 years ago (1949-50), Mukul Dey, a student of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, ventured into documenting the terracotta temples of Birbhum district in a very inhospitable environment when the robberies by the armed gang was the order of the day in this malaria infested region. He travelled by bullock carts and covered long distances by walk to visit each and every temples. We are fortunate that we now have the luxury of travelling by vehicle on good roads and spending nights in places in comfort to visits these temples 

With this, our first leg of the temple tour was over. The next day, we drove to Bishnupur via Sonamukhi and went on to continue our brick temple hopping for the next three days which I would cover in a separate blog.

Part-2 : Brick temples of Bishnupur and around.


christina jeni said...

Thanks for sharing this nice blog..

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Anonymous said...

It is good to see you travel extensively in my State.

Only a small correction....the photograph where you mention "Another twin Shiva temples in Surul" is actually the famous Jora Shiva temple of SUPUR and not SURUL.

Sadanand Kamath said...

Amitabh Guptaji,

Thanks for pointing out the correction. I have changed the caption of the picture accordingly.

dimpy roy said...

Nice trip. Thanks for sharing your trip experience. Science City Kolkata is a plethora of an Amusement Park, a Science Centre and Convention Centre. They have endless activities and exhibits regarding the field of Science. Check out more about Science City.

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Pothik Magazine said...

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