Baidyapur, Kalna and Sabujdeep
Last time when I went to Ambika Kalna, the Kalna neighborhood remained unseen because of the shortage of time. It would have been hard to believe that this “neighborhood” is full of such rich historical gems, if not I had gone by myself this time! One Saturday morning of August I took my car and headed towards Kalna at 9am. My companion was my camera and of course the navigator madam of Google. Baidyapur is about 90 km from Kolkata. I took Belgharia Expressway to merge into NH19 and cruised through the highway for 45km. There is an exit at Magra-Guarap Road. I took this road and it led me to Baichi-Kalna Road. Driving for 7km on the Kalna Road I took a right cut road which is actually the old Baidyapur Road.
In West Bengal, there are several villages with a touch of antiquity and heritage. One such sweet little village is Baidyapur. As soon as I crossed Ramakrishna Vidyapith I felt the touch of this antiquity in the architecture of the houses and the 2 dilapidated terracotta temples that I came across. It was like dusting the oldest book from your shelf in one summer afternoon and getting fanatic about the book. To extract the history of Baidyapur, you need to reverse back the time machine for at least 450 years .
No, maybe I said wrong. The name of Baidyapur found its first existence in the Mansamangal epic written in the eleventh-twelfth century AD, which mentions that Behula came to this Baidyapur in search of doctor after the serpent bite of her husband Lakhindar and from there the name of the village emerged as Baidyapur because “Baidya” in bengali means doctor. The name of the river Behula comes from this epic.
The eyes and the mind gets perplexed if we look so many years back. So for the time being let’s just start with 450 years back. Presently just in front of me was a pair of fane (Jora Deul in bengali) just beside the road. The big fane faces east and the small fane faces north. A narrow path connects both the temple.
The walls of the temple are adorned with fine terracotta work and somewhere it depicts the social images , whereas somewhere it depicts stories from the Hindu Mythology. This fane is being protected and maintained by the Archaeological Society of India and was actually built in 1550 AD. The non stop chirping of parrots forced me to raise my head and I found a flock of parrots sitting at the top of the fane. It seemed as if they are very eager to tell me the stories of the fanes.
Just after a few yards from this ancient fane, the road has taken left turn. On one side of this turn I found a small vacant land with Rasmancha and on the other side a small Dol Mancha with a Shiva temple. There is a tea shop adjacent to this vacant land. Parking my car in that field I took a cup of tea and extracted some relevant information about the place.
As per that information I walked a few steps down that same road and found the temple of Vrindavan Chandra just a few feet away. There are two stone lions adorning the head of the two huge pillars at the main entrance of Vrindavan Chandra temple. After asking a boy near the locked door of the temple, I learned that the priest of the temple has already completed the day Puja a while back and left. He would come back again in the evening. This means it is no longer possible for me to enter the temple at this time.
So I proceed to the next destination which is the Pujobari of Nandi family along with my with car. Few meters away I first found Baidyapur Bazaar.Just after crossing taht market area on my left hand side of the street I found the Pujo Bari of Nandi family which is rich in its heritage. At the entrance door there is a huge Ganesh idol. I trespassed in because the gate was open and met a senior in the house.
He was happy to hear that I was from Kolkata. Entering through the gate you will find a small Shiva temple on the left and a courtyard in the front with well decorated Durga Dalan. Even today, this house celebrates every year with great fanfare the festivals like Durgotsabh, Janmastami, Lakshipujo, Kali Pujo, etc. The shrine of this temple is a turnip rock. The elderly gentleman not only showed me all this but he also gave me a lot of information of the Nandi dynasty.
This pujobari was established probably between 1832-1835 AD. However, Baidyapur’s contact with the Nandi family dates back since the middle of the seventeenth century. Their main livelihoods were salt, nut and spice businesses. Gradually they became swamped with wealth and became the owner of a large estate. The abode of the Nandis was in the village of Keota in the city of Hali today. They settled in Pandua’s Jamgram after the British persecuted them. Later, a section of Nandis moved to Baidyapur and settled there.
Their business hubs were at Kalna in Burdwan, Posta in Kolkata’s Barabazar area and Beleghata Khalpole. Saltlake, Rajarhat, Chandannagar, Shamnagar also had huge estates of Nandis. It is pertinent to mention that the ancient Raj Rajeshwari Temple, which is located at Barwaritala in Kestopur is built by this Nandi family. There is a dried out pond just on the opposite side of the road in front of Pujobari. In the past, all the activities of Pujo started from this pond.
A few steps ahead of Pujobari facing the market, I noticed that an alley has entered left from the side of an old broken terracotta temple. Two very ancient houses became visible to me in a few yards distance from that alley.
The door to Kachari’s house was open on so I effortlessly entered. On the opposite side of this house stands the Baithakhana Bari of the Nandi family. One of the most striking patterns of the Neo classical style can be found in this Baithakkhana Bari. The front of the house has five pillars of gothic style and a hanging porch which doubles the beauty of the house. Remnants of colored glass are visible in the window of the 1st floor. One can only guess now what royalty this house once had. This house is abandoned today and the residents are just the pigeon family.
I returned with the car and went ahead of Pujobari. After getting some progress I got to stand next to the old Navratna Temple and Atchala Temple. Due to the lack of maintenance the Navratna temple is in a dilapidated condition today,but there is still a black Shiva linga about 4.5 “feet high inside this temple.
The landlord of the Nandi family, Jayadev Nandi in memory of his mother in 1802 AD built this temple. The main Jamidar Bari of the Nandi dynasty is just opposite to this Navratna temple and is still intact. This zamindar house was built in 1832-1835 AD. Numerous pillars, a beautiful hanging porch right in the middle of the barn and one-man high windows of the zaminder house still catches a visitor’s eye even today. I found another terracotta Shiva temple on entering the narrow lane of the zamindar house. Its amazing to see so many ancient temples spread over in this small sweet village!
The clock is now around 12 o’clock noon. After leaving Bidyapur I left for Gopaldaspur’s Rakhal Raja Temple. As per navigator its just 5 km of road from here and expectedly should not take more than fifteen minutes. Leaving the highway, I found a large pond surrounded by pleasant shadows of the trees on the left hand.
My eyes got stuck on an old woman sitting in that shade. I stopped the car and approached her and realized she was not a beggar. There was a strange calmness over face. And her mouth is filled up with dokta leaves. I found this place really cool even in this scorching sun. However I started moving again.The navigator madam guided me to take a right turn leaving Baichi-Kalna Road.
This is a beautiful road. The dense greenary and blue sky around me slowed my car. I went ahead after clicking some pictures. First I got Jagat Gauri Mata Temple in Narkeldanga village. In the Manasamangal poem, it is mentioned that this Gauri temple is that place of Manasa Mata where Behula kept her serpent-stricken husband and then went to Baidyapur in search of Baidya or doctor.
Rows of freshly bloomed kans flowers are adoring the rice fields around. And the milky white clouds in the sky are proclaiming the forthcoming arrival of the autumn.Gradually I I reached the Rakhal Raja Temple. There is a huge banyan tree in the compound with its branches extending all over the place. The temple is on one side of that huge banyan tree.
Never before have I seen a shrine in such a cool and peaceful environment.The place itself is a treat for the eye. There is also arrangement to enjoy food coupons at the temple. You can spend hours in this this fusion of nature and religion. After spending some time there I re-started my journey towards Kalna.
Its 18 km road from here to Kalna and I was hungry too. So I was speeding up.When I came to the bridge over the Behula river I could not resist to give another stop over. Gosh! Where I have arrived? It seemed I am into the empire of jute. With the cane hats over their heads men and women are busy in collecting the dried out jute from the river side.Jute is kept in such water bodies for quite some days for rotting it and then after drying it gets collected.The water in the river is covered with soaked jute all over. The jute is lifted from the river and getting carried by a cow carriage.
When I arrived Priyadarshini Hotel at Kalna it was almost 2.30 pm. This hotel is on the opposite side of the Kalna Bus Depot. Both me and my vehicle need rest. So post lunch I simply retarded myself sitting on a porch in the veranda and watching the busy city of Kalna. It is surprising to imagine that just within a few kilometers of this busy city life, lies another world of an ancient medieval city, a lonely temple in the shadow of a peepal tree,miles after miles of paddy fields and a small temple of the villagers standing alone with swinging kans flowers around it! The next morning I was a little upset over the weather. It’s been raining since morning.
According to the previous plan I checked out at 10 am and headed for Guptipara.On the way to the Vrindavan Math, I found the house of Sen family which is famous for long heritage of Durga Puja and also a Kali temple inside.
Whether or not you can find anyone else in the premises of this temple, you will find the generations of bats hanging from the nearby banyan tree ready to greet you. Very near to this Kali Bari there exists rathtala. I found a huge chariot there covered with tin enclosures. The reputation of the Guptipara chariot festival (rathayatra) may be known by many.
I discovered the peak of Vrindavan Math peeking up from the bush of jute sticks, which are accumulated there for drying up. There are four temples in the temple premises – Krishnachandra’s Atchala, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Jorbangla, Vrindavan Chandra’s Atchala and Ramachandra’s Ekarnatana. These four temples are in the same square and together they are called Math of Vrindavan Chandra.
From Guptipara I proceeded towards Sukharia village. Anandamayi Temple is located in this village itself. A narrow road has taken right from the main road from a huge pond on its right. Forwarding a few steps I found the old palace of the Mitra Mustafis family on the left hand and the Anandamayi temple on the right. The then landlord Bireshwar Mitra Mustafi established this temple. There is a huge courtyard in front of the temple.There are five Shiva temples on each side of the courtyard, totaling to 10. A lot of similarities with Dakhineshwar Kali Bari in the formation. The roof of the temple is arranged in three levels.
A total of 25 peaks are there. There are 12 in the first level, 8 in the second level, 4 in the third level, and the highest single peak in the middle. After returning to the main road, I very easily found 2 other nearby temples – Har Gauri and Nistarini Temple. All these places were once part of the zamindari of the Mitra Mustafis. After visiting those temples I headed for Sabujdwip via Sombarbazar. Yes. I can’t miss SabujDwip island especially when I have already come so close it. Its just a few km from Somrabazar.
Meanwhile, the drizzling rain was gradually changing its appearance and broke into a heavy downpour. I parked the car at the ghat and made a bargain with a boatman and finaled the deal at Rs.350/- for the to & fro journey to the green island and staying there there for an hour. But it was raining heavily. Even the boatman’s face turned pale seeing that heavy rain. In fact, special tourists do not come here during the rainy season. Its a small boat and without any shades also.
So it is not possible to take the boat in this disaster. Besides, it’s impossible to save my camera on that boat from the rains. I had no options but just to wait. About an hour later when the rain stopped, I took the boat and set off for green island. Our boat cruised through the jute cultivation of Behula river and finally came to the Ganges.
I spotted two small tin made fishing dinghy, one man can sit in this boat. At the speed of the storm, these two of us passed and crossed over the Ganges. After 25 minutes later a section of the green island appeared. Placing the boat on one of the corners of the island, the boatman took me down on the island with the help of a pole. And he himself climbed up the watchtower on the island to take some fast nap, I guess.
Crossing a fence gate, I was left alone.I started strolling very carefully through the narrow one-way slippery road through the forest. Dark green surrounds the island all over. On the heads of tall trees there are flocks of Open Billed Storks. Their are keeping sheen glances on my movements. The concentration of green is increasing as I am moving. The foliage of the tall trees is so dense that the surrounding shrubs are somewhat dark. Suddenly I noticed that even after so much of walking down island, so far I haven’t seen even a single human being.
Does this mean that on this entire island we are just 2 human beings – the boatman & myself? Might be! I remembered the novel named as “ Sabujdwiper Raja” by Sunil Gangopadhyay. I crossed the second fencing and forund an artificial giraffe and an elephant.The jungle has been trimmed a bit, perhaps to accommodate the winter picnic party crowd. Going deeper I saw another bamboo canopy and fence gate.
Crossing it I came to a brick-paved road but thick moss covers the road in the rain and thus making the road terribly slippery. Fallen leaves cover this road. I calculated my steps such that I can use those fallen leaves as that will produce better friction. The road turned slightly to the left. Moving to the left, I saw 10 very well-decorated wooden cottages in a row. These cottages stand a little higher than the ground level and bears a wooden staircase.
Each cottage is surrounded by a variety of trees. At first glance it appears that all of them are tree-house. I could not find out the reason – Why these cottages have not yet been opened for the public? However I wrote a dormant desire deep in my mind – Some day I shall stay in any of these cottages on such a rainy day and enjoy to the lees the morning, the noon and the night alone …Alone in this green island!
Returning to the watch tower I found my boatman has climbed down from the tower and humming a song on his own sitting at a dry place on the greens. I climbed up the Watch Tower. One can get an idea of the size of the island and the depth of the forest from the top of this watch tower. I came down and took the boat on my way back to the wharf. Then I drove back in the same route as I came.
On the returning journey I visited Siddheshwari Temple also as it fell on the way… this is comparatively a new temple. After crossing Somrabazar, I caught the Baichi-Kalna Road and took the highway for Kolkata leaving behind some pleasant memories and some wonderful wishes.
© Arijit Kar
Best Time To Visit:
Burdwan is too hot during summer and so its better to avoid the peak summer. All other seasons are suitable.
How To Reach:
Road distance from Kolkata to Baidyapur: 90km
Road distance from Kolkata to Kalna: 98km
Kalna is easily approachable by local trains from Howrah. Howrah-Katwa local runs frequently and the name of the station is Ambika Kalna.
Where To Stay:
Nearest place to stay from Baidyapur is Kalna. Its best to stay at Kalna and basing from there you can visit the spots. Ample number of hotels are available at Kalna. Hotel Priyadarshini ( 9732076690 ) is in prime location and numerous rooms available that fits all pocket.
Places Of Interest:
- Rakhal Raja Temple
- Behula River
- House of Sen family
- Vrindavan Math
- 108 Shiv Temple
- Anandamayee Temple
- Palace of Mitra Mustafi
- Hari Gauri Temple
- Nistarni Temple
- Siddheswari Temple
Hi! I am from Kolkata, India. Travelling and photography is my passion. As I love landscape photography most, travelling goes hand in hand with it. Since my matriculation days I started travelling. I have also penned down a book on my travelling which is available in Amazon in the name of Ghuranchandi – Part 1. Whatever travel experiences I have, I have shared those in my blog in the form of travel stories.