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Old 13th April 2009, 17:38   #1
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Default Mukutmonipur in Summer

The trip was planned quite unusually. People first make a choice of destination and then searches for suitable accommodations there. In my case it was the other way round. The planning was done in February. I was just back from Garpanchkot and was amazed by the quality and standard of WBFDC resort there. I made up my mind that in any place if there is a WBFDC resort available I will not look for any other option. I saw there is a long weekend in 10-12 April due to Good Friday and a trip somewhere is a must. Mukutmonipur has a WBFDC resort!!! It is drivable. And I went there last time when I was a kid and couldn’t recall anything. So, bingo!!! Let’s plan for Mukutmonipur. Honestly, this was my pattern of thinking while choosing the destination.

I forgot that it would be scorching summer during mid-April.

So, when the journey date arrived I was apprehensive of three things – first, the heat, second the political activities in the nearby regions especially at the time of general election, and the road condition – as I have never driven beyond Bankura.

On 10th morning, setting aside all the apprehensions I started off with my family from Chandannagar dot at 5:30 AM. From Chandannagar you need to drive around 23 kms to Dhanekhali to connect the Durgapur Expressway. Recently (thanks to election ) this road is repaired in a fantastic way. Reached Dhanekhali in 35 minutes and after that halted at Shaktigarh at around 6:45 AM to have our breakfast and tea. After almost 20 minutes break we started off again to reach Muchipara in Durgapur at around 8:30 to leave NH-2 and drive to the barage. I wasn’t sure of any decent filling station in Bankura so took no chance and filled up my car’s tank. Surprisingly petrol costs 43.78 a litre there where as in Kolkata it is 44.05. Anyways, after filling we went off towards Durgapur barrage, paid the toll and drove towards Bankura. The road is being widened and traffic is being controlled just after the barrage till Barjora. This road has heavy traffic of large trucks mostly of South India – most of the trucks had number plates of AP.

Just after crossing Barjora to my utter horror I found long chain of trucks standing still on the road. There was a major accident at around 5 am that morning and the traffic jam due to that was not clear even after 4 hours. I had no idea how long the wait would be. It was already getting hot. Luckily I found a bus of Barakar-Bankura route the driver of which refused to wait in the long queue and took the wrong lane and I followed him. Sometimes we had to go off the road on the right hand side to give way to the traffic from opposite direction. Then I got bolder myself and overtook the bus and kept driving in the wrong lane. After doing some unlawful driving (sometimes facing quite awkward position and sometimes driving pretty narrow) and losing atleast half an hour, at last we got out of the jam and headed towards Beletor. This road is quite fantastic. Surface is awesome but the edges of the road are uneven and quite deep. Moreover in the localities there are stray ducks, goats, cows and hens on the road. There are quite a few steep turns. I’d describe the road as a bit teasing - you would be tempted to drive above 100 kmph but won’t be able to do that due to these factors. Heavy trucks and busses ply at great speed so a cautious driving is the essence of this road. There are few bad humps also. One should try to avoid going over these humps. For twice the two sides of the bottom of my car got hit by these humps while going. I didn’t take any chance while coming back.

We stop over at the Ekteshwar temple for around an hour to offer puja on the eve of Chaitra Sankranti. The area is gearing up for the “Gajan”. People come here barefooted from Susunia hills to pour water. Inside the temple there is the mark of left foot (as in Nataraj) of lord Shiva.

After Bankura till Khatra the road is clear of trucks but the road surface is not rolled properly and I found it difficult to speed up beyond 50 kmph. At moments you would find as if you riding a boat on wavy water. From Khatra to Mukutmonipur road is awesome. Although you need to look out for villagers and goats and hens on the road but it is a pleasure driving on the stretch.

From Durgapur till Mukutmonipur most of the road side is full of dense Sal forest now having fresh green leaves. The terrain is a bit hilly to add the beauty of the road. Pitch black silky road with nice turns ascending and descending in between the lush green forest is pleasure to watch and something more to drive on. But again don’t get fully consumed with the beauty. I sensed a peculiar feeling that something very dangerous is present in the nature of the road that wasn’t letting me enjoy fully the drive. Please drive cautiously in this road if you be there. The area and adjacent hills are full of minerals and we saw few mines of white limestone (“Kharimati”).



Finally, we reached WBFDC’s “Sonajhhuri Prakiti Bhraman Kendra” at around 12:30 PM.



The resort is very well built on the slope of a small hill covered with dense forest of Sonajhhuri trees (and hence the name of the resort). But this makes problematic for oldies and people having knee problem. Depending upon which cottage you stay you need to climb up and down around 50-60 stairs each time you come down to your car or to have your food in the dining hall. Food quality is too good - very homely and delicious. Service is very fine. Room quality is not as good as the Garpanchkot but still better than many expensive hotels. The manager of the resort is very polite. He is the embodiment of the commonly used term “my-dear”. We took bath, had lunch, that we ordered well before over phone, put the AC of our rooms at max and took a two hour nap. We all were pretty exhausted.

In the evening we took tea and went to roam on the dam. The water level has receded so much that there is not any water within 200 meters of the lock gate!!! I heard in rainy seasons the lock gate almost overflows. It is hard to believe that looking at the dam now. The side walk is great and we walked (the irrigation office giving passes was closed by then) devouring “peyanji” (onion pakoras) from a road side shop. The night sky was absolute clear and I realized that after a long long time I am really watching at the sky. I could still identify the “Saptarshi Mandal” and “Kalpurush” – my two favorites. I noticed even a few meteorites falling and a satellite travelling through the sky. At around 8 pm we got back and played an exciting game of “ludo” (literally – again after a long time), chatted till 9:30 before having dinner and calling it a day.

Next morning after breakfast we went to Ambikanagar to offer puja to Ambika devi and the Shiva temple behind the main temple. The Shiva temple has almost broken down and it bears the sign of its age.



One very important thing I saw in this region that a Shiva linga is always accompanied by some Jain statute.



In this temple and also in the Paresnath hill in the dam, you will find co-existence of Jain and Hindu (Shiva) deities.

The road from the resort till Golabari is good but last 1 km to Ambikanagar is pathetic. We came back from the temple and headed straight to get the pass to drive along the dam. But this time also we found the office closed. After some investigation we found that due to election duty, number of staff is less and moreover it is Saturday. We went straight to the staff quarters in the opposite side of the road. Upon pressing the door bell a person came out in a bermuda and shando ganjee (didn’t change the Bengali description to re-create the visual) talking over his cell and gave us the permit. Anyways, the slow drive over the dam was an awesome experience.



The road over dam is 11 kms in stretch. In the middle there is a small hillock called Paresnath hill where several statues of Jain and Hindu deities are kept in open air.



These statues are recovered during digging while the dam was built.



Even we saw another Jain statue lying at the bottom of the Pareshnath hill. It was getting hotter outside so we came back to our cottage and after lunch had a good siesta.

At around 5:30 we went to the hilltop of the resort to view the sunset.



It is the most awesome and exclusive sunset I ever saw in my life.



The color of the whole dam turned reddish as the sun inched to the bottom of horizon. Spectacular!!!



After having tea we went again to the dam to buy some mementoes. The prices of articles are simply triple or quadruple the normal price. But the pieces were unique and nicely carved.




I loved this Durga and Ganesh idol but the price took me aback.



And this pair of women with pitchers is quite unique to me. Notice the baby cuddling its mother.



Ultimately, after buying smaller mementoes we had a stroll on the dam – today a bit longer. Came back, had dinner and went to bed.

Next day we started our way back. Nothing unusual happened this time. In Durgapur I filled my car’s tank again at the same filling station. Had lunch in Sibalik restaurant around 3 kms before Burdwan and reached home at 2:30 PM. Total distance covered from home to home 522 kms. The drive consists of 240 kms on national highway, almost same amount on state highway and the rest on narrow roads. One side trip is 240 km from Chandannagar. Petrol consumed 38 ltrs. On the whole stretch I would say hardly 10 kms having bad road condition.

The trip is something to remember as being to a place for the first time is always very important. Due to summer, however, we had shortened days. As in the noon we preferred to stay back in the rooms. We didn’t even opted for the boat ride to Bonpukuria due to the scorching sun and receded water level in the dam. But we relaxed a lot. The WBFDC’s resort itself is a place to enjoy. Morning and evening was very pleasant. I hope to go there again in some winter.
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Old 13th April 2009, 19:01   #2
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Seems you had a relaxing trip. Why are some of your pictures duplicated? Would have loved to see pics of the "sal" forests, and more pics of the dam. Damn!
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Old 13th April 2009, 19:14   #3
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amajumdar, nice writeup and pics.
AsSS rightly said where are some Sal bon pics? Pls ask the Mods to remove the duplicate pics unncessarily occupying the bandwith.
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Old 13th April 2009, 19:22   #4
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Lovely travelogue. Mukutmanipur is one of my favourite places near Kolkata. As you have mentioned in the beginning, I had also made it a point to stay in the WBFDC resorts across WB. I have a few left, but covered most of it. They are really doing a fantastic job. (OT: Try staying at the one at Mongpong, its fabulous with only 4 cottages overlooking the Teesta valley)

The road beyond Durgapur is truly enticing. Did you do boating on the lake? The sunset is to die for. Where the pic of your car?
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Old 17th April 2009, 09:31   #5
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As per demand here are some more pics. I think they don't need any description. One interesting local poster of some "Chumul Chumul Dinosour Night"!!! You guys missed it. It was on Poila Boisakhh. Oh, Suvo Noboborsho to all the readers!!!

Thanks Saurabh for the suggestion. I will surely give Mongpong a try. I just love the way WBFDC design and build the resorts within nature and the way they treat their guests. Fabulous!!!

SS, I always plan a holiday over weekends for relaxing. I really hate to get exhausted out of a vacation. And as I mentioned earlier, this time the summer forced us to relax a bit extensively. Was good for us.
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Old 17th April 2009, 11:00   #6
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Loved the poster. Thanks for sharing. Do you have the log of the trip? I plan to do this in monsoon.
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Old 17th April 2009, 11:09   #7
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Thanks Sudipto da. Unfortunately I didn't note every readings, But I will try to build a rough log from my memory for you and post it here.
Monsoon is I think better option than now. The water level of the dam will improve and it won't be too hot and humidity won't be that much of a problem in regions like Bankura.
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Old 17th April 2009, 12:10   #8
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No problem if you don't have the log. I can always ask you before I go. I keep a log because I am perpetually skeptical that something might break down and I might need to go back on foot. So I keep a record of all the distances that I cover. This also helps when I come back (usually if I am taking the same route). Plus these logs help you to introspect later.
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Old 17th April 2009, 13:06   #9
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Quite true. I think that's a good thing. I will try to adopt the habit.
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Old 17th April 2009, 13:35   #10
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Mukutmonipur is a really nice place...Plan to drive down..

Enjoyed reading your post and some nice pics
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Old 17th April 2009, 14:20   #11
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Thanks joy. Mukutmonipur is really a nice place to relax.
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Old 17th April 2009, 15:13   #12
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Nice pics and travelogue. BTW, is there any history why a jain statue is accompained near shiv lingam in all the temples (or pics posted here)?
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Old 17th April 2009, 15:33   #13
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snaronikar, I heard that Ambikanagar was a Jain Pilgrimage before it was almost destroyed by a devastating flood. After that gradually when the town is rebuilt, a natural union of Jain and Hindu mindset happened. Here Jain and Hindu deities are worshiped together now. Ambika devi is also worshipped by Jains. Parsvnath is also worshiped by Hindus along with lord Shiva. This is a great place of religious unity.
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Old 17th April 2009, 16:41   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amajumder View Post
snaronikar, I heard that Ambikanagar was a Jain Pilgrimage before it was almost destroyed by a devastating flood. After that gradually when the town is rebuilt, a natural union of Jain and Hindu mindset happened. Here Jain and Hindu deities are worshiped together now. Ambika devi is also worshipped by Jains. Parsvnath is also worshiped by Hindus along with lord Shiva. This is a great place of religious unity.
Hmmm..thanks for the info. Will make it a point to visit these places during my next.
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Old 19th July 2009, 17:25   #15
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On a sidenote, I could not make a head or tail out of that "chumul chumul dynosaurus" poster! I mean, what the heck... all the characters are bangla characters and yet the language looks completely different. I could not understand most of the words. Is that a very typical dialect of bong that people over there speak? :-/
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