Category Archives: Personal Musings
There is a reason why Bengal is known as ‘Ruposhi Bangla’ (Beautiful Bengal). Nature has blessed her with divine beauty – from the Himalayas in the north, resplendent forests in the foothills, relics of history strewn across, and the scintillating sea beaches in the south.
The history of the sub-continent is deeply interlinked with Bengal. It is here that the East India Company defeated Siraj-ud-daula, the last independent sovereign. It is in Bengal that the Sepoy Mutiny began. And it was Bengal that played a central role in the Indian freedom struggle.
Unsurprisingly, our beloved Bengal has also been the seat of various religions. There are no less than 13 Shakti Peeths in the State, along with countless other temples, mosques, churches, and even Buddhist stupas – all bearing a stamp of the rich legacy the land bears.
On Maha Shivratri, I thought of sharing my experiences of two famous Shiva temples in north Bengal – Jalpesh and Jatileshwar. Both the temples are located in Jalpaiguri district, where I come from, and I have fond memories of visiting both at various points in my growing up years.
It is even more interesting that my visits to Jalpesh temple have mostly been with relatives from my father’s side of the family, while Jatileswar temple visits were with my maternal relatives.
Legend has it that Jatileswar Temple was constructed during the Gupta era. Built with stone and clay bricks, the traditional architectural pattern of that time, this temple will also impress those who have an interest in history.
The name suggests that this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the one with the jata-juta (matted locks). However, the walls of the temples are adorned with sculptures of several other Gods of the Hindu dharma.
Jatileswar is located around 30 km away from Jalpaiguri town and about 13 km from Maynaguri town. One can hire cabs to visit the temple or take the bus, get off at Huslurdanga and take a rickshaw.
Bonus: The serene location, idyllic rural setting and solitude will help ease your stress, apart from providing you a spiritual experience.
The Jalpesh Temple is one of the oldest temples of Jalpaiguri, as well as Bengal. It was founded by Bisu Singh, king of Cooch Behar in 1524 AD. The temple was rebuilt by Maharaja Narayan, son of Bisu Singh, in 1563 AD. It was again rebuilt by Pran Narayan in the year 1663 AD.
The main attraction of Jalpesh temple is the elephant-shaped archway at the entrance of the temple. A replica of Lord Shiva is seen balanced by the trunks of the elephants. As one enters the temple complex, there are many shops where you can buy ‘samagri’ for offering puja.
The Shiva Linga – called ‘Anadi’ – is located underground in the sanctum sanctorum. To touch the Shiva Linga, one has to completely lie down on the ground in prostrate position. During monsoons, the entire sanctum sanctorum is submerged in water, yet people come in large numbers to offer their puja here.
The ‘Shraboni Mela’ or Jalpesh Mela (as it is popularly known) is very famous in the region and attracts lakhs of devotees during the month of Shrabon (July-August). Maha Shivratri is also an important occasion where devotees congregate at this temple.
You can reach Jalpesh by cab. Nearest town in Maynaguri.
Located near the Gorumara National Park, Mahakal Mandir in Lataguri is a popular attraction for devotees and tourists alike. Located off National Highway 31, the ambience of the temple is ‘surreal’ and ‘adventurous’ to say the least.
Tall sal trees surround the array of stones, smeared in sindoor, alta and other puja samagri, the ‘deity’ at this ‘pagan’ setting. It is assumed that tourists entering the forest offer their prayers here for a safe journey. A small break in your journey, this ideal setting will also satisfy the photographer in you, apart from your spiritual bearings.
Happy World Tourism Day to all my readers. Although I am not a travel blogger in true sense of the term, I have occasionally shared my experiences of exploring some places, which have wow-ed me. Travelling always brings with it a welcome relief from the tedious monotony of life. Occasional breaks always energise you with a fresh spirit to take on the world.
Having grown up in north Bengal, my childhood had been one of great joy – with multitudes of places to explore: from the hills to the forests. And with the tourism infrastructure improving by the day in the State, destinations in the bucket list keep increasing forever.
Whenever it comes to travelling, I always choose Bengal over any other place, not for any parochial reasons, but for the simple reason that it is meaningless to explore the world when you have not even discovered the hidden gems of your own motherland. As Rabindranath had so beautifully said it:
দেখা হয় নাই চক্ষু মেলিয়া. ঘর হতে শুধু দুই পা ফেলিয়া. একটি ধানের শিষের উপরে. একটি শিশিরবিন্দু।
(I have not seen yet, just two steps outside my home, a drop of dew on the shaft of paddy)
India, we know, is a land of great diversities, ranging from the Himalayas in the north to the seas to her south. Bengal, too, is guarded by the Himalayas in the north and is bordered by the seas on the south. She is blessed with natural resources – forests, tea gardens, beaches, hillocks, canyons, mangroves, land of red soil, tribal hamlets, heritage sites, places of worship… you name it and you’d find it in Bengal. And with the recent thrust on eco-tourism, and home stay tourism, these destinations have become more tourist-friendly.
For simplicity, Bengal can be divided into 4 zones:
Zone I – North Bengal (Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, North & South Dinajpur)
Home to the Himalayas and Dooars forests.
Zone II – Gour Banga (Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia)
The seat of power during medieval period. Home to historical and religious sites.
Zone III – South Bengal (Hooghly, Howrah, Kolkata, North & South 24 Parganas, Purba Medinipur)
The remnants of colonial rule can be best experienced here. Also, home to beaches and mangroves.
Zone IV – Paschimanchal (Bardhaman, Birbhum, Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, Paschim Medinipur)
The land of red soil, tribal belt of Bengal, folk culture and art.
I initially wanted to make a listicle of places to visit in Bengal, then, changed my mind, as the list would be forever-expanding. Instead, I am sharing pictures of some of my favourite destinations. Hope you like it.
All images are from the official website of West Bengal Tourism Department. You can visit the website for more information, booking and photos.
P.S. I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter. This is my last post.
On 1st September, my Alexa rank was 6,143,301 (global) and I did not have a country rank. As of today, my global Alexa rank is 1,223,202 and my India rank is 42,525.
DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights