Moynagarh Rajbari and Tamluk
Kolkata To Moynagarh
Like every year this year also I strangled the latent desires of my mind and spent the days of Durga Puja at home tome town being a corporate servant. That’s because the Durga Puja in Mumbai calendar means only Dussera and hence just a single day holiday in Puja. October is the butterfly month for the traveling Bengalis. Lakshmi puja, kali puja, bhai fota… in most cases this butterfly month extends till November. Once the copy of the English New Year’s calendar is in hand, bengalis start marking the dates on calendar for tour plans in October and November so that they metamorphose to joyous butterflies from magot in those months. Lucky Bengalies indeed!
Some of unlucky corporate bengalis like us who has to follow Corporate Mumbai spend some distressed days at this time of the year when we see friends from other industry are on their wings in these days. One such last week of October when the IRCTC tickets piled was piling up the waiting lists , a name populated by digital social media came out of my brain’s hard disk… Moynagarh or Moynagarh … That day was Thursday. Immediately I Googled and made a plan for Saturday.
I got on the wheels with my photographic gears and set for the long drive on Saturday morning. I already spoke to Green Valley Resort in Tamluk over the phone and booked a room there because there are no places for stay at Moynagarh. Its a 110km journey to Moynagarh from Kolkata and takes around 3 hours to reach. Nimtouri is about 20 km from Kolaghat. From there, the road to the right heads towards Moynagarh. If you go straight from Nimtouri you shall reach Nandakumar. If you want to go to Tamluk, little before Nimtouri you should take SH4 from Radhamani on the left. Green Valley Resort is 6 km from Radhamani. I had already planned to go to Moynagarh first and then to take entry at the hotel, so I crossed over Radhamani and from Nimtouri headed right for Moynagarh.
History Of Moynagarh
“An Island Within An Island.” – reads on the head of the main arcade at Moynagarh. Yes, the State Heritage Commission has awarded the same name a few years ago. I parked the car in the adjacent field of the main gate and entered. The history and geography of Moynagarh – both of these are rich ancient mysteries. Many years ago, Tamluk was an Indian port city. About 16 km west of Tamluk, surrounded by the Keleghai, Kangaswati and Chandia rivers lies this island area of Moynagarh.
Another name for Moynagarh is Mayna Chaura. The name “Mayna Chaura” is more popular amongst the local people. The word “Chaura” in the Oriya language means a well-drained land. According to geographers, many years ago a piece of land awakened at the mouth of the Kelghai River. This piece of land later became known as ‘Moyna Chaura’. To find the roots of the history of Moynagarh one has to go to the pages of Dharmamangal epic which was written several hundreds of years ago.
According to a group of historians, King Lausena, the protagonist of Dharmamangal poetry, is the founder of Moyangarh. According to another group the Second Mahapal (988-1008 AD) built the Moynagarh Rajbari or fort in this island place as its surrounded by multiple rivers. However Lausanne related history seems much stronger and more accepted. But everyone agrees that this fort was abandoned for a long time after the dynasty of the Palas came to an end.
At that time the water surrounded fort came in the hands of pirates. Sridhar, the infamous pirate of that time occupied this island and used to launch his pirate expeditions from here in surrounding areas and lands. The Mugs and Portuguese bandits helped him. Later on King Of Utkal was quick to punish Sridhar. At his command King Govardhanananda of Sobhay defeated Sridhar by blocking the Moyanagarh Fort. The king of Utkal honored king Govardhanananda with the title of ‘Bahubalindra’ shortly thereafter. Even today, the Raj family of Moynagarh uses the title ‘Bahububalindra’.
Shortly afterwards, King Govardhanananda left the Balisita residence of the Sangh and shifted his capital to Moynagarh. He turned this fort into an inaccessible place by creating a number of deep canals in the vicinity of Mainagrh. With 30 small islands and 35 small and big canals the fortress of BahubaliIndra Dynasty became a separate world and hard accessible for any visitors. Three big and deep canals was supposed to be crossed to reach the fort. The first of these canals, Kalidaha was made in the time of the the Pal dynastry . Govardhanananda (1561-1607 AD) made the second and third one. The third canal no more exists. The name of the second is Makardaha.
That too is almost on the verge of extinction. The third canal extinguished at the time of construction of roads connecting the bridge over Kangaswati river and the pillars of the bridge itself. Only Kalidaha remains. It was impossible to enter the island of Moynagarh fort without crossing this Kalidaha and Makardaha canals. The of Baahubindras in those times filled up these canals with several wild crocodiles to make it more inaccessible. Moreover the island was also surrounded by low height mounds and swampy jungles whose impenetrable thorny bamboo forests are still visible. Canons were mounted over these small and large mounds for 24 hours.
To the enemy, this fort was almost inaccessible . However during the British rule, the English army eventually crossed all these obstacles and reached the island to capture the then king, Raja Jagadananda. But english army failed to capture King Jagadananda as he hidden himself in some secret chambers underground of the fort with some loyal followers. Its said that the king never came out of this hide till the time he was alive.
Right now I’m standing in front of the Kalidaha Parikh. At first sight it gives the impression of Kerala’s backwater. Numerous trees surround the water body and the color of the water is dark green in their shade. Its hard to even imagine seeing this cool kalidaha that years back this canal has witnessed several spine chilling events. This is the same canal where the treasonous people were once thrown into the mouth of a crocodile as punishment.
When the bride came to the royal family, her palanquin was submerged in the holy waters of Kalidaha and then taken to the palace. And the newly married woman who once crossed the Kalidaha and once stepped her foot in Moynagarh Rajbari, never had the rule of going out any more. There was strict discipline for the girls of Rajbari. Widows used to eat only once in a day. Their cooking fuel was soaked in kalidaha water so that the wood was burned all day long and cooked.
The disciples of the Bahubalindra family in present day are still staying in this island of Moynagarh. Even today the only way to reach Moynagarh island is a to cross the 170 ft wide Kalidaha by a boat as without a boat there is no other way. The present members of the Bahubalindra family all have their own ferries and use their own boats to reach the mainland. The boat is open for the general public from 9am to 12pm. After 12 o’clock only the people of the royal family and family priest of Moynagarh is allowed to cross the trail. I
Explore Moynagarh Island
ts almost 11.15 am now and so I have to hurry if I wish to capture the fascinating images of the quaint island but there are no boats available in my vicinity.
Suddenly my luck clicked in my favor. Eventually I saw a priest wearing a white dhoti returning from the island on a boat. As soon as the boat reached this side I pounded upon and requested the boatman for taking me to the fort. Although he did not go by himself, he was kind enough to arrange for another boat for me. But with strict discipline he also told me to leave the boat at 12 o’clock.
I got up on a narrow boat with extreme efforts of keeping myself balanced. On one end of the boat I sat and on the other end the boatman. A pleasant silence surrounds the atmosphere here. Wrapped up in the blue sky an amazing piece of earth is infront of me. Sailing along the Kalidaha I saw the Rajbari’s own ghats and their boats tied to it. At the base of the island, the tree is tilted in such a way that it looks as if they are guarding the island . Their shadows over the water cuts a boundary around the entire island, revealing the impenetrability of Moynagarh.
On reaching the island I first found the Lokeshwar Shiva Temple in Atchachala. The temple bears a Shiva Linga which is 15 ft down the surface level in a tunnel. Members of the family still believe that Kangsabati river connects this tunnel. Shivkund drowns when water rises in the river. Then I went to the temple of Shamsundar Jiu, the god of the royal family. This temple is a five-pinnacled temple. Daily worships are performed here as ancient ritual. The temple is adjacent to a Nat Mandir. Every year on the evening of Ras Purnima, Shyamsundar jiu sail out of the island .
The rasa festival lasted for a month. Some ruins remain as witnesses to the old fort. Incidentally,the abandoned yellow-colored palace near the Nat Mandir still exists today. As soon as I entered, I felt somewhat eerie. It feels strange to imagine that such a big stock of history is preserved here. The house where the successors of the Bahubalindra family live today, was built much later.
It was still 5 minutes to hit 12 o’clock. I came back to Kalidaha banks where the boat dropped me. After waiting for some time my boat arrived and I sailed back.
Getting off from boat I started walking keeping the canal on my right so that I can have a circular journey keeping the fort area at center point . A Muslim cemetery was found in the distance. A narrow mud road has passed through this cemetery and opened into a sun bathed field. After crossing the field, there was a Muslim shrine. Let me put it here – at one time this Moynagarh was a place of association with Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. I noticed a circle circling along the side of the island, approaching the main gate of Moynagarh.
I set off for Green Valley Resort and reached there in half an hour. The place is nice and tidy with a green cover all around. After bathing, I went to the verandah and relaxed my tired body on the chair enjoying the nature’s beauty in front. The resort is on the Pashkura-Tamluk highway but quite secluded.
It is almost afternoon. So there is no point in going to Tamluk at this wee hours when you have another whole day left in hand before you return. In the evening I spent the day in the garden adjacent to the resort. The next morning I woke up to the chirping of birds. I came to the verandah rubbing my eyes and saw a bunch of green bee eaters playing in the front garden.
My mind became very excited to see their “hutoputi” and enjoyed my morning tea watching them. At 11.30 am I checked out of the resort. Whatever visit plans I have today, it’s all in the town of Tamluk. First I went to Ramakrishna Math. But I could not enter as the gate was closed. However, on requesting one of the Swamijis, he arranged to take a picture of the main place of worship.
Leaving the monastery, I reached Bargabhima temple in 10 minutes. Bargabhima or Bhimarupa Mata is the presiding deity since the mythical times of this region since the time of “TAMRALIPTA”. The deity is an extremist incarnation of Goddess Kali. It is located in the heart of Tamralipta, a historic port city of ancient Bengal.
History says that this temple is at this place from even before the establishment of the mythical town. The temple is one of the lively and main “Shakti Peeths” of India. According to some, this is the first “peeth” of other 51 peeths.
A house named “Rakshit Bati” is very close to the Bargabhima temple. This house has a significant history since the time of British rules in India. Because this was a very important and secret meeting place for the revolutionaries to come together during the freedom struggle.
Renowned revolutionary Jadugopal, Dhangopal Mukhpadhyay, Purna Sen, Yogajivan Ghosh, Ganesh Das, etc. Used the gymnasium of this house of Surendra Rakshit as their training ground for revolution against the British in the fire era. This gymnasium of the Rakshit Bati was also known as Matrisadan to the revolutionaries of the Gupta Samiti.
A road goes straight from Rakshit Bati to Rupnarayan river. Incidentally its just 20 minutes by road. Lets now come out the history and plunge into the lap of nature. With an unique combination of nature and history Tamluk is one of the best cities in the country. The river appears here to suddenly merge into the green carpet on the river bank. You can touch the water by just lowering your hand.
Sitting in a shack shop on the bank of the river, I had lunch and watched through the open windows of the shop …the waves crashing against the tree on the bank of the river at a slow pace . Leaving Rupnarayan, I first went to the Tamralipta Museum. This museum preserves a lot of old information about the port city of Tamralipta . Secondly I went to Sri Sri Gouranga Mahaprabhu Jiu Mandir.
The stage inside is eye-catching. Next to the stage is the tomb of the poet Basudeb Ghosh. Poet Basudev Ghosh was a devotee of Mahaprabhu Gauranga and the author of innumerable Gauranga verses. Banpukur, the place of martyrdom of freedom fighter Matangini Hazra is located in this Tamluk. Thirdly, I went there.
There is a statue of this fighting leader with a flag in one hand and a conch in the other. Next to it is a replica of the Ashoka Pillar. The Tamluk government has set up a park in her honor around the statue. On the afternoon of September 29, 1942 British police shot dead Ma Matangini in the charge of leading an unarmed procession of about 5,000 people from Alinan to occupy a government office.
Lastly I went to the Tamluk palace. The ruins of the palace still stand on a wide field. A black horse tied to a pole just outside the stable shocked me. History seems to have flash backed and merged with this horse.
The Gothic Arch of the palace is a combination of Greco-Roman architecture and Mughal style. Plaster or color is nothing left today. This dilapidated palace today has only a few arches and pillars. The surrounding jungle has encroached these pillars all over . It looks like a skeleton of bricks and stones all around. The place seems to cry out and tell the stories of of history.
Once a palace full of pride and abundance, today it is just an arrogant structure. Today’s Tamluk city was ancient Tamralipta, as already I have mentioned. This Tamralipta name is mentioned in the Puranas in the ninth chapter of the Mahabharata or in the Bhishma period. Then at the time of independence, Tamralipta got the name of Tamluk and became a port city and the city of prosperity.
This ancient town is surrounded by Bay of Bengal in the south, Rupnarayan river in the east and Subarnarekha river in the west. The Rupnarayan is teh joint flow of the rivers Silai and Dwarkeswar . Merchant’s boat stopped at Tamralipta on the waterway surrounded on three sides. Madhyadesa was the other name of the town Tamralipta as the position of the town was in between Banga and Kalinga region of that period. What many may not know is that this port city was also an important part of the ancient Silk Road. Tamluk palace is the evidence of all this history.
As per history Durga Puja was celebrated in this house last in 1936 and since then, the ruins have remained unlit. But the family temple of Radha Madav exists next to the ruins and gets puja on daily basis. “Mayur Dhwaj” is family God of the palace and members still worship him. The temple is tidy. It is said that the horse of the “Aswamedh Joggyo” of the Pandavas was stopped here in this place.Its the duty of the citizens to preserve such historical places that it seems over the years it has not happened so.
However, off-late the ASI has taken up the task of renovating and preserving the remaining architecture of the palace. The courtyard of the palace will really take you in the historic times. Each brick seems to whisper in your ear how much history has accumulated here for thousands of years! In the dim light of the falling day, obsessed with that history, I drove on the way to Kolkata. Even after returning from Tamluk the unknown alleys of the history occupied my mind for a long time.
Best Time To Visit:
Any time of the year.
How To Reach:
By road its 110 km from Kolkata. From Kolaghat via NH 116 reach Nimtouri which is 22 km from Kolaghat. From Nimtouri take the right for Moynagarh. If you avail local trains, by local train from Howrah reach Tamluk. From Tamluk reserve auto for Moynagarh.
Where To Stay:
Hotels are available at Tamluk. Green Valley Resort – 9153360547
Places Of Interest:
- Moynagarh Rajbari or Moynagarh Fort
- Barghavima Temple
- Tamluk Ramakrishna Mission
- Rakshit Bati
- Rupnarayan River
- Tamralipta Museum
- Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu Jiu Temple
- Martyrdom of Matangini Hazra
- Tamluk palace or Tamluk Rajbari
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.