Friday, September 20, 2013

Kolkata Getaway: Bishnupur

About 150 kms from Kolkata the ancient town of Bishnupur awaits your weekend tryst with history. Bishnupur used to be the capital of the old kingdom of Mallubhum named after the ruling dynasty, the Mallas. Mallas of Bishnupur are one of the rare examples of Hindu dynasties in India which ruled uninterruptedly for more than a thousand years.
The history of this city can be traced back to 694 AD, when King Raghunath 1 founded the Malla dynasty. In 994 AD the place was named Bishnupur after the Hindu god Vishnu. It reached the helm of its glory at the end of the 16th century and continued till the 18th century, and this is reflected in its rich architecture, music and handicarfts like pottery and weaving.
You can still witness the brilliantly intricate terracotta work depicting the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas and other tales of Hindu mythology on the outer and inner walls of the Rash Mancha (1600 AD), Syamrai Panchachura (1642) Jor Bangla (1655) Madanmohan (1694) and many other temples which have withstood the ravages of time.
Durga Puja at the Mrinmayee Temple is arguably the oldest Durga Puja dating back to 997 AD commenced by King Jagat Malla. The rituals followed till date for the puja are traditional to the Malla Dynasty including firing of the Grand Cannon at the time of Sandhipuja (evening puja). Since immersion of the idol of Maa Mrinmoyee is forbidden by the ancient royal tradition, the diety in this temple is said to be more than 1000 years old.
In fact there is history scattered across this place. Apart from the temples, many other ancient relics like the Pathar Darja (the giant stone gateway to the Rajdarbar area), the Dalmadal (the mega sized cannon) or the Ghumghar (especially built to execute convicts) takes your imagination back centuries.
Music enthusiasts may find it interesting that Bishnupur Gharana, developed under the patronage of the Malla kings, is the only Indian Classical Gharana from the eastern part of the country.
To promote local tourism, art and music, the government has started an annual event in Bishnupur called Bishnupur Utsab or Bishnupur Mela, which is held during the last week of December.

Reaching there:
By train: You can either that Rupashi Bangla Express from Santragachi Station at 6.25 am and reach Bishnupur station at 9.40 am or Purulia Express from Howrah at 4.50 pm and reach there at 8 pm. Return from Bishnupur Station is at about 7.30 am by Purulia Express or 5.30 pm by Rupashi Bangla.
By Car: We took about 5 hours to drive via this route Kolkata- Dankuni - Durgapur Expressway- left at Ratanpur crossing- Tarakeshwar- Arambag- Katulpur- Jaipur- Bishnupur.

Stay and food: Recommended place- Bishnupur tourist lodge. You can book it in advance from West Bengal Tourism office at Tourism Center, 3/2 BBD Bag East, Kolkata 700001.
Rooms and service are satisfactory. Tourist attractions are also close. Food is good, particularly the Bengali cuisine. Apart from a restaurant the lodge also houses a bar.
Other stay options are Hotel Holiday Resort, Monalisa Lodge, Udayan Lodge etc.

Getting around:
Cycle rickshaws and auto rickshaws are available for local site seeing and most of the drivers also double up as guides with their limited knowledge. Cars are also available on hire.

What to see: 
Depending on your level of ineterst in ancient relics and history, the site seeing of Bishnupur would take you 3-6 hours. Most of the major terra cotta temples are within a 4 km radius. The Archaeological Survey of India maintains most of the sites and levies a nominal fee od Rs 5 for entry to the most famous temples.
We started from Rash Mancha. You also get the tickets there. Rash Mancha is a pyramidal structure built in 1587- 1600 by Bir Hambir in the center of the town, where deities from other temples were brought in a procession at the time of the Rasa festival.
Other major temples are Shyamrai Temple, Jorbangla, Mrinmoyee, Madanmohon, Nandlal, Radhamadhab, Kalachand, Radhagobinda, Radhalaljiu and Jugalkishor Temples. Other relics and attractions which are a must visit are Dalmadal Kaman, Pathar Darja, Ghumghar, Lalbhandh and Lalgarh.
At a distance of about 10 kms from Bishnupur is the village of Panchmura where the local artisnas make the famous terracotta horses which is now one of the symbols of Indian handicraft. You may also visit Jairambati and Kamarpukur, the birthplaces of Ramkrishna Paramhansa and Ramkrishna Ashram which is about 43 kms from Bishnupur.

Bishnupur is also known for its dexterous weavers. The famous Baluchari and Swarnachari sareea are made here. There are many good saree shops around, but we visited Kanishka near Lalbandh. There are plenty of options dor souvenir shopping in the form of terracotta, handicrafts and conch shell items.

Best time to visit Bishnupur is in the winters.

By Prosenjit

1 comment:

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