Gangani Grand Canyon of West Bengal
It was September 2015. While searching in Google for West Midnapore I came across a place, “Grand Canyon Of West Bengal”. Yes. I don’t know if I will ever be able to go to the Grand Canyon of the United States, but definitely I can go to the Grand Canyon of West Bengal. Consequently, I booked a ticket on Aranyak Express for the last Saturday of September and prepared for the journey.
On September 25 at 8.45 am, I boarded Aranyak Express and started my new expedition from Shalimar station. Seeing the white clouds in the blue sky of autumn and the green of rural Bengal, I reached Garhbeta at 11 o’clock. Ganagani is 4.2 km from the Garhbeta station. There are some hotels near Garhbeta station as well. I asked an Auto Wala and found out that there is a small hotel within walking distance from Gangani. I reached the hotel in fifteen minutes. The sun is now in the middle of the sky and it’s the scorching sun. This time is no longer suitable for photography. So I decided to get out in the late afternoon.
After lunch I went for a short afternoon nap and that proved to be a mess. Eventhough I set the mobile alarm calculating the time of sunset, it was in vein due to my clicking on the “snooze” button at least twice ! Finally when I woke up, I saw the sun was already in the process of setting. I got ready in one breath and went out. Canyon is a 10 minute walk from the hotel.
I walked fast but even that could not save the sub from disappearing. There was only a light red glow on the sky when I reached the spot. In the dim light of the late afternoon, the white laterite stones of the canyon were shining red. Shilabati river is flowing through the bottom of the canyon.
It was already dark while I was trying to figure out how beautiful the canyon would look like in the first light of dawn. Some of the local couples who were wandering around the canyon, were already on their way back in their bikes. I got up too consoling myself with the though that luckily I have another day in hand at least, to explore the canyon. Although a 10 minute road, the road is through the jungle.
The darkness seemed to be quite heavy. I came by this road a little while ago, but now even that known road in the thick black darkness seemed very unfamiliar. The motorbikes are already out of the range and there was no traces of any lights. An unknown fear started cropping inside me as I walked in hurried steps through that pitch black jungle. However, later on as I reached the main road the discomfort seemed to subside.
I made no mistake the next day. I got ready by 6.20 am in the morning and left. As I was in a hurry on the previous day, I didn’t notice the beauty of the road to canyon.Today in the morning light the red mud road to canyon with greenery all around filled my heart with joy. There are cashew nut trees on both sides. The tow-men high cashew nut bushes adorned the dirt road all over to the Grand Canyon of Bengal .
Glancing the canyon at the sweet light of dawn, I understood why it is called Mini Grand Canyon or Grand Canyon of West Bengal. This canyon is 70 feet deep. Shilabati river is flowing through the bottom. The canyon is the result of natural erosion and hailstones over the years. It is as if some artist has carved on the ditch and carved each sculpture on the stone with his hammer in some deep artistic sense. The way each masterpiece has emerged on laterite stones, it’s hard to believe that they were naturally created by themselves. The red glow of dawn has now spread all over the red soil and rocks.
The color changes as the day progresses. The mini grand canyon painted on the canvas in front of me then became a game of gold and red. Touches of green in the grooves. A small hut is visible in the middle of a paddy field in a remote village on the other side of Shilabati river. In front of that hut, the swinging Kans flowers in the wind is declaring the joy of Autumn.
Standing on a char in the middle of the river, one of the fishermen is throwing his net in the water of Shilabati.
I don’t know how several hours passed by without mu knowledge while I was exploring this outstanding creation of nature. I got my senses back from the intense heat of the sun. The government has built a staircase to descend from the top of the canyon to the banks of Shilabati river. I climbed down and and discovered another form of the beauty of the place. Behind me is a giant steep slope and in the front waving Kans flowers throughout the bank of Shilabati river.
In addition to the scientific explanation of this Grand Canyon, there is also a history of folklore. The roots of that history date back to the Mahabharata period. The Pandavas came to this place while they were in exile in the forest. At that time a monster named Bakasur used to dominate this region.Everyday one villager had to be handed over to him as an offering. Otherwise, Bakasur would have left all the villages in ruins.
The Pandavas took refuge here in a Brahmin family. One day it was time for this family to be sacrificed as food for Bakasur. At the direction of Mata Kunti, Bhima became a member of this family and was dedicated to Bakasur. The strong battle started with the strong Bhima and the demon Bakasur. Eventually Bakasur was killed by Bhim. In the glory of their war, the ground shook and shattered, and from that came the creation of this strange roaring canyon.
I stepped towards the hotel thinking about whether the scientific or the mythological information is more acceptable. Now it’s time to return. A question keeps popping up in my mind. Many of the children of this generation have heard of the Grand Canyon in the United States, seen it in books and in various media. But neither they nor many adults know about Ganagani. Our own Gangani may be small in size, but no less in beauty. Ganagani deserves a big place on the travel map of India. Isn’t that so?
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.