Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Biking to Bishnupur

A time comes when you manage to squeeze yourself out from your working cage even if it’s for a few days (that’s what you get at most anyway!) and puff out a big sigh… Coming back to hometown and receiving warm hugs from family members is off course a rejuvenating spell to your “I’m made a robot” soul… But what comes next to your mindscape? I don’t know of you unless you’re of my sort; for me it’s the ‘Vroom’ of my two-wheeler, ‘Click’ of my camera or the call from some unknown soil… This time I had planned of a bike ride along the coasts of Bengal that would have demanded almost a weak. Alas, my luck gave me a scornful smile! The day I happily arrived my home after a long hectic journey, I got calls and FB messages from my colleagues about the premature killing of my leave (You can well visualize how badly I hated it right?). So my well-planned 20 days vacation was truncated to a bad joke for 3 days! I didn’t just want to eat a stomach-full home meal and 12+ hours of sleep at subnormal temperature. ‘Indiamike’ travel forum came to my mind… I sprang up, went online, logged in and searched for places near my hometown (Bardhaman), which could be rode in a day. Having covered a plenty, didn’t have much options to go for. Description of one place struck my senses and that was Bishnupur!

Bishnupur, famous for its exquisite terracotta temples, renowned terracotta crafts and the gorgeous balucheri sarees made of tussar silk, is a town in Bankura district in the state of West Bengal, India. There’re a number of temples standing as a statement to the magnum opus talent of the artisans of the region, crafted from the local laterite and brick. Temples are covered with terracotta tiles depicting scenes from the epic Mahabharata, Ramayana etc. This temple town has a rich history that you can read in ample after a brisk google search. Owing to its significance as a tourist destination it is nicely connected via roads to almost all major places of Bengal.

How to reach there?
There’re regular and frequent bus services available between Kolkata & Bishnupur, which roughly takes 4-5 hours. This place is also connected by rail to the rest of India via Kharagpur & Bankura. For the timing and train number it is always advisable to search in railways website because available data in Internet may not be up-to-date. Alternatively you can always reserve a vehicle from Kolkata or any nearby places. Once you reach Bishnupur, you better hire private auto-rickshaws or cycle-rickshaws, though I personally would prefer the later option due to its sluggish pace that enables your eyes to record the details of the town and its people better. These transports are cheap, so fare is not much of a concern (We didn’t have any concern anyway as we went on our motorbike).

Here begins our Trip (25th June, 2011):
My little brother (Anurup) who is luckily also a bike enthusiast agreed to join me. We had packed our small backpack last night before going to bed. He dropped dead asleep soon while I kept my eyes open on my mobile screen detailing the place till my eyelids got fatigued. As if I was ready for the alarm at 4 AM! (Or is it like this that I couldn’t get a sleep?) I woke my bro up with 10-15 minutes of genuine effort and rushed to bathroom. Eventually mom got up and didn’t leave us before we had our morning tea (what a bliss it’s when you’re at your home!). There was mild drizzle, so we couldn’t leave home before 5:45 AM. The sky was overcast and I could sense the kissing of minute particles of monsoon rain over my face and forearms… yea I was loving the sensation.

We crossed the Krishak Setu over the river Damodar and took the Arambagh Road. I knew the route but was not sure of the distance exactly, so thought of refueling our vector just after leaving the outskirts of Bardhaman. We were never in hurry, kept slowly swallowing kilometers over the nice state highway. There’s no dust and smoke of big vehicles due to the wet road and wet air! What could be better than that when you’re riding on a two-way road? We reached Arambagh and it was time for taking the road to Bankura-Bishnupur. We crossed Ramakrishna Setu over Hooghly River and took the road to Bishnupur.

Now it was the time for some woes as the road changed to its unpredictable texture. You can find a smooth 100-200 miters or so and suddenly a big trench (yea I really mean a trench) where if you miss the brake by chance, it can result to an unconscious stunt with your bike, making you fly like a circus biker. So the message is be steady, slow-paced and real careful. If you’re planning to drive your four-wheeler then you have to be twice slower than a bike (you know the reason) if you love your machine. I feel SUVs are better suitable for that road. At least I won’t gamble with my Swift there.

Soon we came across a group of three big elephants near a place called Kotulpur. Anurup spotted them first and showed me, as I was the pillion. I took out the cam and took some shots as we passed by them slowly. Our bike was looking like a toy and it seemed that those men riding them were displeased (the reason is really obscure!) with my photography zeal. So I couldn’t take the risk and signaled my brother to accelerate.

Gradually we entered the forest road of Joypur. The road became butter smooth once again. The tall green trees (numbered by forest department) at two sides were a real comfort to our eyes. Although the sun had come up the air was cool and fresh. I came to know from a local boy that one can spot deer in the early morning in that road! It was past 9 AM, so there was no luck for us. Yet we were content with the pure lush green and headed to Bishnupur with added energy.

We could reach our destination by 9:30 AM and surprisingly saw that our trip-meter was showing a “100 KM”. Good, that means it was the distance of our home from the town of temples. I got down and inquired the directions of the places in my list. An aged man came to our rescue in no time. He was damn cooperative and explained me in that details which my stupid patience failed to put up with. But I listened to that nice man until he was satisfied with his guiding endeavor. Then we went to different places of tourist interest one by one. Here I won’t write the details of each spot because I believe travelers in general aren’t that much seriously eager for the background histories, rather they are more compatible with the visual appeal. Off course I’m not talking of those serious group of travelers (the group where I don’t belong to) who don’t miss out any single chronology. Anyway for such details you’ve always the power of googling at your hand. So I’ll be simply posting the photographs with the name of the places, which hopefully make you interested for a Bishnupur tour. Outside the Mrinmayee Temple we took 2-2 glasses of Lassi and came to know from that Lassi seller that tourists usually gather from Dushera month. I was extremely happy to get the place empty with only a hand few of tourists which gave me a easier scope of clicking my shutter! In the whole trip we had to take tickets twice, once a 5 rupees ticket of Archaeological Survey of India for visiting 3 temples (Jor Bangla, Temple of Shyamrai and Rasmancha) under their care and another 5 rupees ticket for Lalgarh Nature Park.

Small Gateway:
Large Gateway:

Stone Chariot:
Lalji Temple:

Radhashyam Temple:

Mrinmayee Temple:

Shyamrai Temple:


Dalmadal Canon:

Famous Bankura-Horse:
Radhagovinda Temple:
Radhamadhav Temple:
Lalgarh Nature Park:

We covered thirteen places by 1:45 PM… two three places were there yet to be seen like a museum, Nutan mahal etc But we were left with no energy as the sun overhead had sucked that by then! Anurup wanted to freshen up in a hotel to get rid of the dust and sweat over the skin. But I knew once we enter a hotel and take a bath nothing will appeal our decision more than a small nap and which eventually would delay our ride back home to indefinite extent. So I swapped my cap with his helmet and speeded out of Bishnupur. On the way I noticed a board on my left ‘Mallabhum Institute of Technology” just outside Bishnupur. There was no reason, still I took the left turn and rode till I got a glimpse of the institute. Nothing grand about it, just remote, small and tidy sort… Reaching Joypur we found a manageable roadside restaurant ‘Banalata Restaurant’ attached to a vehicle exhaust analysis center. There you can lunch in AC cabins by paying 100 rupees extra to your food bill. You’ll get semi-decent Chinese and North Indian dishes along Bengali preparations. Pricing was OK. We had our lunch, sipped a coke and rode back to Bardhaman in a post lunch lazy mood.

Having munched 217 KM we returned back to our place by 5 PM… stopped by River Damodar to take some snaps that concluded our journey.

As a bottom line note (not trying to sound nerd though) I must say, make out some time, gather traveling spree and head out for Bishnupur. You don’t have to plan anything really; it’s that simple! You’ll be touched by the simplicity and down to earth nature of locals. Your each breath will provide you the relaxing aroma of rural Bengal even when you’re in the town. Accommodation won’t be a problem, so I would recommend to make a 2 days stay to make your trip more effortless and absorbing. Have a good trip… and a last word for bikers- Ride Safe… Ride with a helmet…