Monday, 15 June 2015

Bolpur,Shantiniketan culturally intoxticating

As a tourist if you are planning a visit to Bengal, then don't forget Shantiniketan. It is the place which Tagore built, where he has spend a big part of his life and till day the place can give you so much of Tagore that no other place can come close.

However for us it was more of soaking ourselves in the rich culture, in the vibrant markets selling handicrafts, listening to the bauls and indulging in some good food.

It is always good to visit Shantiniketan in the month of January when there is the "Poush Mela". At that time the otherwise sleepy town takes a complete makeover. Anyway we went in February end.

We started early from our house in Kolkata, and this time with the full family consisting of our parents and siblings. Shantiniketan is a small town near Bolpur and it is approximately 200 km from Kolkata. We started around 7 am and reached Bolpur at 12:30 pm.

The road was good and we reached Shantiniketan via Burdwan. I will not be able to tell the exact location but while you are in Burdwan keep your eyes open for the markers for the 108 Shiva Temples.

108 Shiva temples

Shiva's Bulls

The pond inside the temple premise

The Burdwan 108 Shiva Temples are more than 200 years old. As the name suggests there are 108 temples all dedicated to Shiva and they all look similar. There is a pond inside the temple premises and all the temples are built surrounding the pond. The temples are build in 1788 and they have the famous Bengal Terracotta style of architecture. The temples are still functional and are maintained by Trust. It will not take more than 30 minutes to see the Burdwan 108 Shiva Temples.

The twin terracotta temples

Terracotta sculptures on the temple wall

A rare to find mud hut

Before entering Bolpur, we chanced upon this pair of terracotta temples at Supur. Though they lie abandoned, uncared and unattended but still they are so beautiful. There are houses that have come along the vicinity of the temples but thankfully the temples are inside a quaint little park, so none really disturbs them. By the way terracotta is fire/sun baked clay.

Once we reached Bolpur, we went straight to Shantiniketan Tourist Lodge managed by the West Bengal government. They are duplex cottages but unfortunately for all all were booked for that day.

There are a lot of homestay and hotels in Shantiniketan, so getting one is not a major problem, but do not forget to prebook if you are planning to visit during the Poush Mela (in January) or Dol ( Holi, we Bengalis call it Dol). We stayed in Shakti hotel which is pretty good and decent.

The last time we came here we had already seen the Tagore Ashram. It is best to hire a guide who will be able to take you to all the places in this ashram and also tell the significance of each. in Bolpur or Shantiniketan if you are not having your own car then the best means of getting around is by cycle rickshaws. They are totally eco friendly and fun to travel in.

The round the year bazaar

Baul with his instruments

Just outside the Tagore Ashram there are stalls all round the year. It looks like there is a fair or mela all the year round. You will get beautiful acrylic painted clothes, block printed clothes, hand stitched bags, brass jewellery, wood sculptures, terracotta artifacts and a lot more. If you are lucky you can see "bauls" ( folklore singers) who sing soulful songs.

There is also a museum nearby called Rabindra Bhaban Museum which houses Tagore's  original belongings, his manuscripts and things that are priceless.

The roadside no frills restaurants in Shantiniketan make amazing food. We were bowled over by their  non veg  meals at lunch.

Deer at Deer Park

The next day in the morning we went to the deer sanctuary which is quite nearby. Next we headed to Bishnupur the Terracotta Capital of India and also the only place in the world that has elaborate terracotta temples.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Chintamoni Kar Bird Sanctuary, a little oasis in a crowded city

Last time when we went to Kolkata, we made a mental note of visiting this place. This bird sanctuary is relatively new and gaining popularity among the city dwellers.

Previously when I used to stay in Kolkata, I had seen this place, it was more popular by the name "Koyal er Bagan". But when I checked it this time the sanctuary's popularity has surely increased.

The park is near to Narendrapur where there is the famous Narendrapur Ramkrishna Mission. The park is open from 6:00 am till 5 pm during summer and 7:00 am to 4:30 pm in winter.

Entry ticket per person is Rs50. What I really loved about this place is it is very clean, no plastic or litter anywhere. Moreover people are really aware, every single person I encountered was talking in a really low voice so that the quietness of the forest is not disturbed.

Well it was not a great birding day for me, so most of the photos are hazy. Anyway all are for my records. Please bear the hazy ones :)

The entrance gate

Ticket counter

Rules & Regulations

Birds which was be seen

Scaly bellied woodpecker


Common Tailor Bird

Common Tailor Bird

Red vented bulbul

White Breasted Waterhen

Common Cormorant

Asian Koel


Indian Robin

Some wild fruit

Common kingfisher


Oriole I suppose

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Hampi Travel ~ Summing Up

 I think I wrote quite a lot on our Hampi trip. Needless to say Hampi is such a huge area and there is so much to see that if I had put everything in one blog it would have been injustice. I could have missed out a lot details.

So its now time that I sum up my blogs in one place. Hampi is by no means a places to be seen in one day. The Vijaynagara dynasty even though in ruins today because of Muslim invasions still stands high.

Day 1 :
Virupaksha Temple

Please read the blog here

Day 2 :
Sasivekalu Ganesh Temple
Badavaling Temple
Laxmi Narayan Temple
Ugra Narashima Temple

Please read the blog here

Krishna Temple
Krishna Bazaar
Chandikeshwar Temple
Uddana Veerabhadra Temple

Please read the blog here

Vittala Temple
King's Balance
Vishnu Temple
Ganagitti Jain Temple
Bhima's Gateway

Please read the blog here

Octagonal Bath
Saraswathi Temple
Chandrakeshwara Temple
Queen's Bath
Royal Enclosure

Please read the blog here

Day 3:
Mohammadan Watch Tower
Mosque and Band Tower
Underground Shiva Temple
Hazara Rama Temple
Pan Supari Bazaar

Please read the blog here

Queen's Palace
Lotus Mahal
Elephant's Stable

Some snaps from here and there. :)

Prasanna Narsimha

Krishna Bazar

Pillar Sculpture (Krishna Temple)

Pillar Sculpture
Stone Chariot at Vittala Temple

Vittala Temple

Wall Sculpture

King's Balance
Hazara Rama Temple

Mahanavami Dibba (Royal Enclosure)
Ganesha Statue
Lotus Mahal

Elephant Stable

Lotus Mahal

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Hampi, beauty admist ruins ~ Part VII

The last remaining ruin is the Zenana Enclosure which houses the famous Lotus Mahal, the Queens Palace and the vast Elephant's stable. The Zenana Enclosure is open from 8:30 am and you have to buy entry tickets priced very modestly at 10 INR. With this same ticket one can see the Vittala Temple on the same day.

Basement of Queen's Palace and Watch Tower at the distance

Watch Tower
  Just after the entry of the Zenana Enclosure lies a huge elevated basement on the left which once had the Queen's Palace. The Queen's Palace has been totally brought down by invaders and now only the basement remains.

  A little further on the right of the actual path lies one of the most loved and photographed structures of Hampi, the Lotus Mahal. It is a very beautiful two storied structure. The archways and the windows have the typical lotus petal shape quite unique to the Indo-Islamic style of architecture. This structure was most probably build for the royal ladies to enjoy the beautiful view of the Zenana Enclosure from the top. There is a well maintained garden surrounding Lotus Mahal.

Lotus Mahal

Lotus Mahal and Watch Tower

Lotus Mahal

Lotus Mahal

Lotus Mahal

  A little further are watch towers, where castrated male soldiers were deployed to guard the royal women.

Watch Tower

Watch Tower
  On the other side of the Zenana Enclosure is the Elephant Stable. Its such huge and so elegant. Its a stable yet it looks like a palace! There are 11 stables and they are all symmetric on either sides of the middle one which is somewhat bigger and a little different. The entire structure is interconnected and the stables also have the typical dome structures on top and petal like gates, very much the Indo Islamic architecture pattern. Because of the Elephant's stable, many noted historians argue that this entire Zenana Enclosure was not at all a building for the royal women but was a discussion place for the royal ministers and army heads and the Lotus Mahal was in fact  the structure where these meetings used to take place.


Elephant Stable

Small doorways inside the stable

Watch Tower near the Stable

Elephant Stable

Ankur taking photograph
An elaborate structure next to the elephant stable
  A lot of parrots have made the Zenana Enclosure walls their nest. They make such a lovely sight screeching, flying and digging the royal walls.

  Just outside the Zenana Enclosure is a feeble sign board which shows Ranga Temple. Since we were not much aware of it, we did not go there, but later we came to know that the temple has the largest Hanuman sculpture in Hampi. Anyway sometimes its better to leave a few things so that you can again come back for those. Ranga Temple is one such for us.

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