The year was probably 1996. I was at higher secondary then and that’s when I had my first acquaintance with Ushri. I still remember hanging out with three friends for a whole day at Ushri. “The fun of waterfalls is different in heavy rains. Don’t you want to visit Ushri Falls near Giridih on weekends? ” – In the last week of August, Lina’s question aroused my memories of 20 years ago.
I agreed to the proposal instantly to meet Ushri again whose memories I preserved deep in my heart for so many years. The other two members of the group, Bidisha and Snehanshu, also agreed. Shubhajit Dutta and Biswaroop Manna have been close friends with us on Facebook for many years. Both of them had long desired to to fly together with our Ghuranchandi minds in the distance. Coming out of the Facebook page, that intention turned into reality this time & they also accompanied us for Giridih trip.
Giridih To Kolkata
It was the first Friday of September. The Kolkata-Patna Slip Express departs from Kolkata station at 7.50 pm. In this train, 1-2 bogies designated for Giridih passangers are actually exchanged with other train from Madhupur. The rest of the train leaves for Patna from there. After finishing the office work, Snehangshu, Bidisha, Lina and myself grabbed a Uber from our office. The waiting time for Uber was long as it was the rush hour for office people returning to their homes. Anyway, finally it came we were off.
After a while looking at the navigator Lina got in panic and said, “It looks like we shall enter the station at a marginal time of 7.40pm! Hello driver ji, please speed up and fly us to the station else we shall miss our train! ” But the driver had an expression less answer to that request – “Aap jo bhi bolte rahiyega, me apna hisab se hi chalaunga.”
It is a well-known fact that traffic jams on the streets of Kolkata can turn anything upside down at any time. There is enough reason for tension! We observed some whispering of Snehangshu with the driver and then he prophesied like the greatest astrologer of India – “Tension maat lene ka. Paata he tumlago ko car kaun chala raha he? Khud bhagwan ji hum logo ko leke ja raha he. ” In fact, the driver’s name is Bhagwan (God) Das!
Eventually, we all breathed a sigh of relief as we got rid of the last terrible traffic signal of Shyambazar’s five point junction. Incidentally we reached the station twenty minutes before the train left. Shubhjit and Biswajit had already arrived. After smoking the last cigarette for the day we hurried to the train and boarded teh S1 compartment which is just next to the engine. We got a full coupe and that was a boon as we were 6 in number. Our journey started smoothly with sweets, roti-tarka and chit chats among ourselves.
The Slip Express slipped about 1 hour and 40 minutes from the scheduled time and entered Giridih with us at 6am in the morning. The station was a small one, but as soon as we stepped outside, autos and four-wheelers started coming one by one to paint us in the colors of Ushri.
As we already missed the sunrise, everyone agreed to check in to a hotel or Dharamshala first. Modi Bhaban or Dharamshala is just a 2-3 minute walk from the station premises. It has variety of rooms of different sizes from Rs 100 to Rs 450 but our luck didn’t favoured.Incidentally a nearby transformerhad blasted out last night and there is no possibility of electricity getting restored today at Modi Bhaban.
After searching for a while we found Kaberi Hotel nearby.There we got two rooms at a rent of Rs.550 / – per room.After freshening up we went out to a sweet shop in an hour for breakfast. On the plates of kachori & potato curry we debated over whether we should visit Ushri first or Khandoli ? Finally Ushri won as everyone agreed to Lina’s logic – “There is a lake in Khandoli and if we keep it on later half of the day, we will able to view the sunset also there over the lake”.
Station, dharmashalas & hotels, food shops, markets, auto stands, car stands… everything is almost very close to each other. It seems that the whole Giridih city is covered within a span of 1 km! As soon as we came out of the sweet shop finishing our breakfast 3 auto drivers and surrounded us offering their trip services. The youngest of them was Quader Alam. The guy was quite agile and smart and was also accompanied with his assistant Satinder Singh.
We made a deal with Quader Alam that on a rental of Rs.300/- we shall go to Ushri, stay there as long as we wish and and then return to the hotel. We also intimated him that as we are photographers occasionally we shall stop the auto to take photographs. The guy agreed to all our clauses happily. Here auto means Vikram which can accommodate two in front, 3 in the middle and 4 in the back seat effortlessly. We started our journey for Ushri.
As soon as Quader rolled his auto, Snehanshu demanded – “Bhaiya, pehle bariya sa koi chay ke dukan pe rokna.” Of course, all of us were thirsty for tea. Quader Alam drove for a while along the highway and stopped at a tea shop. The amount of condensed milk was so high in that tea, with a sip I realized that thing is not my cup of tea!
Ushri is at a distance of 13 km from Giridih. We cruised through the shiny black pitch road in the middle of dense green on both sides. There is no resemblance between this road and my rough uphill drive 20 years ago where our auto overturned with us and we three friends survived that accident luckily. I realized that today’s Ushri will have an entire new look for me with which the Ushri that I left behind years ago will be very different. The features of the Chhotanagpur Plateau can be seen by looking at the horizon after crossing the small jungles on both sides.
It took us 40 minutes to reach Usri Waterfalls. The stepping stones on the right went straight down to the chest of Ushri river. On the left there is a cement paved area which is about 20 feet from the main waterfall in Ushri. If you stand here, the smoke of aggressive Ushri water will touch you. One by one we descended the rocky stairs into the lap of the Ushri river. Ushri in the rainy season is now full of youth. She is roaring and falling on the stone chest. The characteristic of Ushri is not in height, but in its range. A lot of water has come down from the top of the wide stone structures and merged into the Ushri river.
As most of the rocks have flat surfaces, it is easy to walk from one rock to another to the very bottom. You can reach the top of the waterfall by taking a route backwards. The sun is in the middle of the sky an I am quite skeptical about what will be the picture in this hot sun. Snehangshu is lying down with his camera and capturing Ushri at different angles. Lina has already descended down the rocks to touch her feet in Ushri river and in that desperate attempt, after getting a scolding from one tribal watchman has climbed up!
Finding different types of butterflies in the bushes on the banks of the river Biswaroop with his camera is chasing after them. Shubhajit is busy in unraveling the mystery of where the Ushri river flowed and merged ,with his pants up to his knees. Bidisha is busy anxious to protect the final touch of her makeup from the scorching sun and is trying to find some shadowed area. And me? With my camera stuck on tripod I am experimenting with different apertures and shutter speeds from one rock to another. Crux of the story is … everyone is getting acquainted with Ushri in his/her own way .
The intense heat of the sun and the humidity of the air combined with it did not allow us to play with Ushri for more than an hour and a half. We climbed upstairs and met a tribal rabbit hunter who was with is bow and arrows. In the meantime “Quader Alam” has become “our Alam” and has become one of the members of our group.
Meanwhile Biswarup, who was taking a bath in the waters of Ushri, came up and followed us. On the way back to the hotel, the two madams with us suddenly wanted to sit in the middle of the street and do some model photography. Without disappointing them, we stopped the car, fulfilled their desire and then returned to the hotel. We told Alam that in the afternoon we would go to Khandoli Dam with him.
After the bathing session, we decided to take a late lunch at 3.30 pm and shall move for Khandoli after that. Truly speaking, the way the series of events has progressed since yesterday evening, we didn’t had much opportunity to communicate among ourselves. Especially Manna and Dutta are brand new members in our team. After chatting for two and a half hours we realized that these two boys are very much like minded and its like we are six souls tied in the same tune. As per the plan, he went out at 3.30 pm, had the lunch and called Satinder. After a while, Alam came with his Vikram.
We set off on the way to Khandoli. This road is on the opposite side of Ushri Khandoli is at distance of about 14 km from Giridih. After 10 minutes the landscape became completely different and changed into plateaus on both sides, plenty of greenery , small rocky hills and red mud roads leaving the main road and occasionally merging into the deep forest. This road is great.
This landscape really refreshed our mind. We didn’t understand how the touch of our excitement touched Kader Alam’s but we suddenly found him speeding up twice as fast and dodging his auto like a video game car! A comment came from behind, “Who consumes the liquid and who gets affected!” Whatever be it,we focused on the road and stopped Alam at several places to take pictures. This road will surely remind you about that famous bike scene of Uttam Kumar & Suchitra Sen in the bengali film “Saptapadi”.
Lina and Manna are very good at choosing songs. According to the context of the journey, they started from “ei shohor theke onek duure” and has now come to “ei poth jodi na sesh hoy”. We stopped the auto at such a context. On the left side we found a red soil road which in bends has gone through the greenery and plateau and vanished into the small hills behind. In the meantime Lina gave a run along the red soil road, singing “Amra korbo joy (we shall win)”. An old villager was riding a bicycle.
Lina’s Bangla songs are not supposed to be in the vocabulary of that old man . Added to that, Lina’s posture of running with her 2 hands spread like wings…baffled the old man completely.The gentleman just looked back at Lina once and then without looking in any other direction started pedaling at his top speed and vanished away from our vicinity. We set off again on the way to Khandoli.
It was about 4.45 when we reached Khandoli. You have to buy a ticket to enter. Boating is available on hire. We hired a 6-seat paddle boat. There is a red flag in the middle of the lake and you are allowed to row to that point at the most and then have to turn around. In the fast fading daylight, six of us floated in the water of Khandoli Lake.The lake is surrounded on one side by rows of low-lying hills.
The other side of the dam is covered by a mysterious forest. We stayed on the lake till the last ray of daylight. There is a park next to the lake. Those who take the children can spend some time in the park also. After having tea from the cafe next to the boating complex, we set off on our way back. It has become dark now.
Back at the hotel where we started our chat from where we left it in the afternoon.We six souls got engaged in singing, poetry, chatting and radiating our talents. There is no catering at the Kaberi Hotel so we brought Parota and Tarka from outside for dinner.After chalking out teh trip plan for next day we all retarded for the day.
Today is our second day at Giridih. We got up in the morning, got ready and checked out of the hotel. We took Kachuri, potato curry and Gulab Jamun from that same sweet shop of yesterday for breakfast. It was about 9.30am on the clock. Madhuban and Topchachi, these two places are on our menu for today. Topchachi is about 65 km and Madhuban or Pareshnath is 30 km.
That means today we need four wheels, not autos. A middle-aged man whom we say yesterday after coming out of station, came forward with a smiling face with his Maruti Omni. We negotiated with him and booked his car for the whole day for Rs.1800/- . We drove away from the main Xing and stopped in front of a tea stall few yards away from the Giridih crossing.
This is the first time I’ve had a cup of tea at Giridih which I very much liked. The mind was really refreshed. Eventually we started our journey and took NH 2. After crossing the newly built police line we came to a bridge over the Barakar river. Its a treat for the eye to witness from above Barakar’s gentle kisses on the sandy and scattered rocky river bank.After taking some snaps we proceeded with our journey.
As we are moved forward, we got the touch of primitive Jharkhand and wilderness of dense greenery. In tune to that we found small tribal villages, group of tribal women with a bunch of tree branches collected from the forest and a group of children sitting on the side of the road with cucumbers and bananas for sell. Finally we reached Madhuban with a turn to the left. Madhuban is one of the pilgrimage places of Jains in the foothills of Pareshnath hill. Pretty shiny all around. The shadow of local poverty is still looming somewhere in the crowd of Digambar and Svetambars.
Leaving the car in Madhuban parking area, we started walking towards the hill. Numerous Jain temples, shops and doolie carriers’ shout – “Doli lijiye ga, babu?” greeted us. Let me tell you here that you can’t drive on to Pareshnath hill, you have to trek. It takes about 12 hours to go up and come down the hill. Those who do not have the ability to walk, they rent a doolie.
Each doolie takes around Rs. 4500 / -. If the weight is more, the amount of money will also increase. There is also another dirt road up the hill which I heard is the road for biking. There are arrangements for renting bikes, but today for some unknown reason, the bikes have been stopped. We don’t have that intention also in this journey because time will not permit.
However, when you reach the edge of the mountain, you can’t go back without the smell of the mountain. Biswaroop, Lina and myself started climbing up the road to the hill. The concrete road, wrapped in a shade of thick green, goes to the very top circling the hill. There are features of religion, but apart from that, this mountaineering itself will leave its mark on its own natural glory. We climbed uphill about 2 km at our whim. On the way we met a number of devotees who are on their way down after the visit.
We went down after taking some pictures. At the head of one bend in the last 500 meters we found the other 3 members of our group taking pictures of something by lying/sitting on the road in typical poses.As we closed in we found its a monkey! Taking Darwin’s theory of evolution one step further, the monkey has upgraded from banana-eater to ParleG-eater and transferring those biscuits in mouth one after another being supplied by our team mates!
We climbed down from the hill and after another cup of tea set off on our way to Topchachi. To avoid the level crossing of the train, the driver left NH 2 and bypassed some part of that road. The farther we are moving, more darker and denser the greenery is becoming. Through the dense forests on both sides, the eyes go to the distant blue mountains.
When we reached near Topchachi Sanctuary, the clock was ticking around 3 pm. The relative humidity in the air and the heat of the sun.. both are extreme. And along with that our hunger also. After lunch at a nearby dhaba, we took the car to the gate, got the gate permit and entered the sanctuary. There is strict instruction of the forest authority that cars can be taken till the entry point of the pool only, after that you have to walk. The road to the pool is full of peepal and banyan trees on both sides with their branches extending all over the road.
As soon as we landed at the mouth of the pool, a magical world seemed to reveal itself in front of us. The vast reservoir of Topchachi is surrounded by rows of small and large hills and deep forests. Their reflection in the water of the lake looks as if the mountains have merged into the depths of the abyss. There exists a pleasant silence and serenity all around. The dam’s pool or bridge is on the left and a road has gone on the right. Dense forests at the edge of the lake have merged into the mountains.
You can circle the lake from both sides of the road. We crossed the pool and started walking to the left. Crossing the road, sometimes the unpaved path descends through the grass carpet into the water of the lake. There is a place to sit in the shade of a tree a little far away. Leaning on the green carpet in the lap of the lake for a while we tried to guess the would-be position of the setting sun and decided not to go any farther this way but to go to the other side of the pool. It was about 4.30 in the afternoon.
After strolling a bit on the other side I discovered a place which I realized will be the ideal one for setting up my tripod for the sunset photography. Spontaneously we all got down at that point and after setting up the tripod waited for the setting sun.
Today’s sunset was a bit elusive due to the excess amount of humidity all around. But what we got was not less also. The red shadow of the departing sun in an enchanting magical environment was then in the water of the lake. The hill range on the other side is now darker blue. The only sound to be heard is the chirping of nesting birds and a tribal woman returning home with a herd of cows.
Until the last point of the setting sun, we sat there awestruck in that world of fantasy. Meanwhile our driver came with the car searching us being chased by the forest guards and finally we had to get off. Manna and Dutta were sitting on another spot some yards farther.
I called them on the phone and walked towards the pool. There is a tea shop at the mouth of the pool. Beside that a rocky staircase led up to the Watch Tower. Lina climbed up alone on that way. While having tea it was already dark. The road to the gate was then filled with cattle. We made our way through that herd with headlight and horn of the car.
Snehanshu had some works at Dhanbad so he preferred to disburse from us. Topchachi bus stand is around 1 km from the gate of the sanctuary. Dhanbad autos and buses are available from there. So we dropped him at that bu stand bidding goodbye to him, the other five of us headed back for Giridih. It was barely 8pm when we reached Giridih. Our return train is at 10.10pm.
Everyone needs to be a little fresh after the stress of the day. For a couple of hours we got a four bed room in Modi Bhavan Dharamsala by bargaining for Rs. 250 / -. The transformer was repaired and today the power connection is there. After freshening up we checked out from there, packed some paratha and tarka for our dinner and entered the station at exactly 10 o’clock. T
he train arrived a little late. Pictures of countless good moments of the two days flew through our eyes through the open windows of the moving train. So much of primitive wild treasures are scattered in this kingdom !!
Best Time To Visit:
Monsoon is the best time for Giridih for those who loves nature.
How To Reach:
Trains are available from Howrah and Kolkata station. Best train with suitable time to reach Giridih is Kolkata-Patna Slip Express.
Road distance from Kolkata to Giridih is approximately 317km via NH-19 and AH-1.
Where To Stay:
Ample number of hotels and dharmashalas are available. Budget options are:
- Bharat Kusum Modi Jain Bhawan – 9835983181
- Hotel Kaveri – 9939129715
Places To Visit Near Giridih:
- Ushri Waterfalls
- Khandoli Dam
- Barakar River
- Madhuban or Pareshnath Hill
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.