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West Bengal

13 Jun

Although originally hailing from West Bengal, my knowledge of the state till about a year ago, was at best, sketchy. I figured its one thing to like baul songs and the films of Satyajit Ray and another to understand how deeply the landscape of West Bengal inspires them.

As we headed out of Kolkata, taking the Vidyasagar Setu and then catching the NH-2, we were absolutely unprepared for the world that lay beyond. Life in the Hooghly district is a mosaic of people and crammed but dainty houses alongside grand European structures left from the days of early European settlers.

St Olaf's Church, Serampore
St Olaf’s Church, Serampore
Old house in Baidyabati, near Serampore

Old house in Baidyabati, near Serampore

And suddenly, through this vista, you catch glimpses of the vast river, also known as Hooghly, flowing quietly by, governing the larger scheme of things.

Hooghly from Serampore rsd

A view of the Hooghly

Serampore, Chandannagore, Chinsura, Bandel – each carries the imprint of a European settlement, each is unique. But perhaps the most breathtaking sites along the route are the Imambara at Hooghly, abandoned yet grand,

Hooghly Imambara

Hooghly Imambara

and the Hanseshwari Temple at Bansberia, straight out of the thrice-ten kingdoms of Russian fairytales.

Hanseshwari Temple, Bansberia

Hanseshwari Temple, Bansberia

We ended our trip at Kalna, where the Nava Kailash Temples and the adjoining complex of panchavimsati (25-turreted) temples made us gape, and upon recovering, marvel  at Bengal’s hidden wealth.

Krishnachandra temple, Kalna

Krishnachandra temple, Kalna

An aged guide points out the time-tested beauty of the temple

An aged guide points out the time-tested beauty of the temple

The second trip, from Kolkata to Murshidabad, was largely through fields that were coloured so vividly, with such fabulous skies, that whatever we did with our cameras ended up with painted images.

clouds rsd

Paddy fields, North 24 Parganas

Along the way, we stooped at a poshurhaat (animal fair) in Madhyamgram, a tanti or weavers’ village in Shantipur, and a clay doll-making workshop in Krishnanagar.


Staying overnight at Berhampore, we woke up at the crack of dawn and made our way to Murshidabad, via Cossimbazar. After an unforeseen jam in the super-narrow lanes of Berhampore’s fish-market, the quietness of the English and Dutch cemeteries at Cossimbazar struck one quite forcefully. From there, we proceeded to Murshidabad.

Note: Asking for directions in West Bengal yields hilarious results, so don’t unless you want a good chuckle. In response to “Bhaisaab, Hazarduari kahaan hai?”, a rickshawalla pointed right at exactly the same moment as his passenger pointed left. Anyhow, the search was worth it. Hazarduari is impressive, and more Victorian than Victoria Memorial. In fact, the never-ending Nizamat Imambara facing it was no less impressive.

The high-point of the trip though was, sans doute, the ferry-ride to and from Khoshbagh, where Siraj-ud-Daulah lies buried. ‘Manush ek taka, mosh paanch taka’ (Man One Rupee, Buffalo Five Rupees’) said the ferryman as we gingerly stepped on to the crowded ferry. But the ride was fabulous and highly recommended. Just don’t mess with the buffaloes.

ferry ride back (rsd

Ferry ride to Khoshbagh

Among other things, this you’ll notice wherever you go: whatever the space between you and the people you meet in this fascinating land, you’ll never be made to feel like a stranger.

nuns rsd

For other information, see the West Bengal Travel Guide! Here are some pages from the book, which is now on the stands!

South.2 102-119 1_Page_1South.2 102-119 1_Page_2

Shantiniketan_Page_1Shantiniketan_Page_2

Bishnupur_Page_1Bishnupur_Page_2

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7 Comments

Posted by on June 13, 2009 in goodearth guides, travel

 

Tags: , ,

7 responses to “West Bengal

  1. Anindita Sarkar

    July 17, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    You guys have an amazing hand at photography….must say. But you know what, it’s the visual identity that ultimately attracts a consumer/tourist/buyer …whatever you define the target as… towards the product. The Bengal pics will only attract tourists will not-so-deep pockets, quite uncertain about the investments that it would draw in for the state tourism sector. Bengal is not that poor guys.

    Oh yes, before Goodearth says, “But the book holds something very different”, just reflect…this blog is supposed to give you a feel of what the book is going to be like.

    Maybe people would choose their copy only once they go through the blog, what say!!! Best of luck.

     
    • goodearthguides

      July 18, 2009 at 8:56 am

      Hey thanks for the feedback..we really appreciate it. Just a thought…our blog is not just about what the books are like, but about behind-the-scenes moments and highlights of our trips.

      Through the selection of pictures here, we hoped to broaden the parameters of tourism in urban circles as well as appeal to people from a wider cross-section of the world, not excluding investors.

      Do stay with us..we look forward to your comments! Thanks, Admin

       
  2. Amina

    July 29, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    It was nice to read about the lesser known things about Bengal. The Hooghly Imambara looks so grand and the Hanseshwari Temple at Bansberia does look like an incredible place to visit. I too noticed the results asking for directions yields in Bengal. It is amusing how you would get instructions even if the person had no clue about the directions…but the people are so very friendly.

     
  3. Ranjan Matthew

    July 30, 2009 at 7:29 am

    Exquisite pictures Roy. Really. Pure skill displayed and it’s immortalized bengal in all its ancient architectural splendour and landscape. The people look very friendly too! Also I must know what detergent that old house uses on its white sheets. I was almost blinded for a second there when that WHITE hit me.

     
  4. ed1anupriya

    July 30, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Hehehe..Thanks !!

     
  5. Swagata

    November 23, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Brilliant pics and great writing…..quitessentially bengali!

     
    • Anupriya Roy

      November 24, 2009 at 8:49 am

      Thank you! We hope to do more books on Bengal..do keep tuned in:)

       

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