How many weekend getaways are there from Kolkata?
How to go
When we went to Bishnupur, it was a family trip with all the senior members from both the families including the mothers, aunties and a 3 year old kid. We went by road and undertook Howrah Dankuni Arambagh Joypur Bishnupur road. Won’t say the road is (or was, since this was 3 years back) great but not that bad also compared to few other roads which are used for weekend getaways. One can reach by train also and Bankura station will be a great place to start your journey and reach Bishnupur either by a hired car or by a bus.
When to go?
Ideally the right time to travel to this place is during winter. So from November till end February is the time window to travel by road and as well as to see the city around.
Where to stay ?
There are many small, medium and large hotels to stay here but since we had elderly people travelling with us, we booked one of the oldest and perhaps one of the most reliable ones- the Government tourist lodge known as the Bishnupur tourist lodge. The bookings has to be done from Kolkata only. The lodge has basic amenities, not the top end fancy ones but safe, huge sprawling lawn, parking space, Driver stay arrangement, clean rooms and good food. The Common dining room has a capacity of maximum 20 25 people but the food is freshly cooked and home style. You won’t get your fancy tender loin here neither a spaghetti or ravioli pasta but the rustic surroundings of this terracotta land will prompt you to try the local food cooked by the thakur (as they call the head chef in this part of the country). It is the fresh vegetables or torkaris, little spiced and oily chicken or mutton or the catch of the day for fish and fresh rotis in the night and rice during the day. Its simple. Short to write but has enough punch and comfort at the same time to make you feel you are on a vacation. Definitely reminded me one of the best food that I had in Bonolokkhi hotel at Shantiniketan.
How to move about within the city
This is a small town and all the tourist points are within a radius of 5- 10 kms. The main tourist attraction is the terracota temples built under the Malla kings of West Bengal. Starting from 7th Century AD under Adi Malla, the first Mall king, Bishnupur has prospered in Art, Architecture and many more fields. The temples which are the main attraction of Bishnupur was built under Bir Hambir, the 49th Malla King. So much so for history, the temples made from terracotta stones stand today as witness of changing times and work on the body of the temples makes them one of the most talked about piece of architecture.
Did you know Bishnupur is known as temple town of West Bengal
Hire a Rickshaw or rickshaws as that’s the best mode of transport here. We stayed very near to Ras Mancha – one of the main architectural body of of this area and a hub around which all the other temples are based. This is the oldest structure and based on a raised platform. A nominal entrance fees will allow one to click as many pictures as possible and just as the full shot of the entire structure with a conical dome shaped top, is a standard shot (some would say it is done to death) yet a good one, the rows of the pillars is another great shot too. A good eye will have the opportunity to frame many beautiful shots here.
There are more temples in this area and each has its own characteristics and architectural marvel. Shyamrai temple, which is characterised by the 5 domes on the top and three arched entrance door to the temple. We visited Jor Bangla temple or Keshto Rai temple which was built in 1655. On the walls are several chapters of Mahabharata being sculpted which are beautiful as well as intriguing. When seen from distance, this temple is one of the best evidence of terracotta work.
Next to this is Radhashyam temple where we had the glimpse of the sandhya aarti going on. As said earlier, Bishnupur is a temple town and the list continues – there is jor mandir, mrinmoyee temple, the large Madan Mohan temple, chhinomosta temple and definitely the grand Madan Mohan temple. Although plenty in numbers it may seem but it won’t take much for one to cover all these in a day and half. Most importantly, these temples are not meant for religious purpose but more for its architectural glory.In case you wanna space it, out then maximum two days is needed to cover all this.
If you are in Bishnupur, then you cannot afford to miss the Baluchari Saree shops. A saree which is famous for mythological stories on the pallu or the paar of the saree. There are various showrooms which stock enough quantity ably sold by effective and smart salesmen who can take away an entire evening only for this. Originally this saree was woven in Murshidabad but later migrated to Bishnupur. We managed to see one of the on going saree work and just like the carpet weavers of Kashmir – the relentless hard work which goes in this craft in a small tiny place days after days, deserve a special mention.
One of the major historically important place in Bishnupur is also Dalmadal Caman or Cannon. It is believed that this canon was fired by Lord Krishna himself to save the state from the attacks of the Marathi invaders. You can read about the history here.
Points to remember –
- If you are photographer, then ask your local guide (easily available as they move around the Guest house only) for the vantage points
- There is no great street food scene as such .
- There is a high chance that after seeing 2 or 3 temples, all may look same so look out for the roofs, number of doors and entrances.
It is heard that at Ras Mancha, there are night long classical musical performance being organised only on certain calendar dates but ideally that place should be promoted more as the surroundings can be surreal on a full moon night.
When we talk about weekend destinations which are easily accessible via road from Kolkata, there are only a handful of destinations. The popular ones have always been Digha, Mandarmoni, Shantiniketan and Jhargram during winters, Diamond Harbour and the neighboring areas are what pops in the mind. However, there are so many more destinations. Unfortunately, the infrastructure and the accessibility was never great. However, things are slowly changing and nowadays you get to hear about lot of new places around Kolkata. In fact, there is a beautiful eco resort close to Bishnupur near Joypur Forest, where one can have a great time too. Even Joyrambati and Kamarpukur, the birthplace of Sri Ramkrishna and Sarada Devi, are just a couple of hours drive from Bishnupur. So one can make Bishnupur the centre and visit the nearby places for a more enjoyable time.