|23rd June 2009, 00:01||#1|
Senior - BHPian
Garpanchakot over an extended weekend
(At the outset, I would like to thank Sudipto da for his excellent Garpanchkot travelogue that inspired this trip. His route description, as well as the awesome log file that hand-held us every step of the route is worth millions to anyone planning a similar trip. Here's the link:
Thursday afternoon, and I was sitting in office thoroughly disgusted. The last 2 weekends had been spent out of Kolkata on official trips. This time I had promised my wife to take her out on a small outing. Reservations had accordingly been made at the lovely Peerless Resort at Mukutmonipur. I was just about looking forward to a lovely weekend retreat, but..
The previous night, bhpian Siddhartha da had called up. The Maoist menace in West Bengal has reared its ugly head like never before, and Sid da had first hand information that they were planning a violent strike at Mukutmonipur this weekend. He was aware that I had planned a trip there, and he urged me not to go. As consolation, he even suggested a few places I could visit instead.
So the next afternoon (work pressure was sparse, thankfully) I spent googling various likely outings around Kolkata. None seemed to materialize, partly due to personal taste and partly non-availaibility. Time was running out, and left with no other choice, I turned to the "travelogues" section of TBHP for help. After going through hundreds of threads, I discovered Sudipto da's thread.
Garpanchkot (GPK), eh? I had never even heard of this place. But going through the thread, as well as after calling a few travel-nuts I know (Bengalis have enough of these, trust me) it looked like it wasn't such a bad idea after all. The WBFDC resort was the only accommodation in that area. A quick call to their office confirmed that all rooms were full for the weekend! What now?
But where there's a will, there's a way (especially if said will coincides with strong contacts in the state govt). So some determined persuasion saw a high-ranked forest official sign an approval to be allotted a VIP room at the GPK resort. As the name illustrates, its a standalone room allotted only on special permission.
Come Saturday, wifey dearest and I jumped into my car full of enthusiasm. Beside the euphoria of the trip, I was excited for one more reason. My new Verna would be tasting highway tarmac for the first time in 9 months of ownership. This was a chance to unleash the CRDI motor's power. The setting was ripe for a lovely trip.
We started out of Salt Lake at about 6.45 AM. Went through Lake town, Belgachia milk colony and Dum dum 7 tanks. Crossed BT road in no time at all and were in Dunlop by 7.05 AM.
This was the first time I was crossing Second Vivekananda Setu, which has been built to take vehicle pressure off the aged Bally Bridge. It was a lovely sight as the morning sun's rays glistened above the steel railings, the Ganges shimmered underneath and we could hear the bells of the morning puja being offered in the Dakhineshwar temple below. I'm usually an atheist, but the beauty of the setting almost made me fold my hands in respect.
Once past Dankuni toll booth, the Verna came into its own. I have travelled on the Durgapur expressway a few times in our Indica, usually traversed at a pace of 90-100 kmph. But here was a machine snarling its way to 150-160 kmph at every given opportunity. We flew past unsuspecting truckers and Tata Sumo's laden with holidaying families. Once I took the machine to 175 kmph. The engine still seemed to have some juice left, but some hard braking caused by a wayward trucker meandering into our lane saw the end of my top speed hunting endeavour. Eventually, just to enjoy the scenery, I reduced speeds and started cruising at about 110-120 kmph.
Shaktigarh, our first and only stop, arrived at 97 kms and about 8.30. Now to the uninitiated, this little place is very famous for its "Lyangcha"s, a deep fried sweet with a phallic shape and a color similar (slightly darker) to Gulab Jamuns. Most people who travel through Shaktigarh stop here to enjoy Lyangchas, usually accompanied by a full breakfast of Kachori subzi and/or tea. Various shops have sprouted up beside the expressway to cater to these customers - all with 2 word names of which "Lyangcha" is invariably the first. Lyangcha Palace, Lyangcha Bhuban (world), Lyangcha house etc etc. Our particular stop was called Lyangcha Bhaban.
After said delicious breakfast, we were on our way again. The sun was fully up by now. We made very good time as we crossed Bardhaman, Panagarh and eventually reached Durgapur city limits. Over here, a lot of local traffic forced us to slow down. There were dumper trucks, autos and millions of bikers (without helmets of course) using the expressway. All of them seemed irritated even when we honked, and no one was willing to give way. I was getting a bit frustrated here. After the 170 km cruise, this was not a pleasant way to be interrupted.
But, to paraphrase a popular saying, cometh the hour, cometh the VOLVO! At this very time I spotted a Volvo bus of the Kolkata-Dhanbad route looming in behind us. Now as highway users know, these behemoths are elephants of the highway. They simply approach any vehicle in front at a monstrous pace, and honk once, sending said vehicle scurrying for cover. So I promtly tucked in behind the bus and enjoyed the cruise as it cleared the next 30 kms for us! My wife found the situation so amusing, for the rest of the trip she was referring to Volvos as "Volvo Dadas", the big brothers of the highway!
Past Chowringhee more, we left the expressway to enter the city of Niyamatpur. Sudipto da's point to point route description was very useful as we negotiated Niyamatpur bazar traffic then drove some distance to cross Disherghat bridge and enter Purulia. Eventually crossed Sharbari More, drove over some horrible roads and reached Pua Pur more, from where "horrendous village roads" took us to GPK resort.
It was 11.30 PM. We had done a 250 km journey in about 4.5 hrs. At no point had I stretched myself or the machine beyond our individual capabilities. 250ks exactly on the odo, and a Verna owner proud of his machine's highway capabilities. A good start to the trip.
1) The restaurant at Shaktigarh where we stopped for breakfast. My wife (probably in her excitement) did not realize that the camera lens was all fogged up.
2,3 & 4) Views of the immaculate Durgapur expressway. Really has changed the concept of travel in this part of the country.
5) The narrow village road which leads to GPK resort. The hill in the background is Panchet Hill.
Last edited by predatorwheelz : 23rd June 2009 at 00:04. Reason: Added arrival time at GPK
|23rd June 2009, 01:22||#2|
Senior - BHPian
The places to see
It was unbearably hot, some 45 degrees when we reached. We were told that afternoon temperatures reach 50 degrees plus. Naturally, we chose to curl up in the room and sleep all afternoon, coming out only at night to have dinner. A fresh day of activity loomed ahead of us.
(I shall write about my resort experience later. For now, I highlight the places to be seen at GPK)
Next morning, we traveled to the nearby Panchet dam. Only 4 kms away from the resort, built above the Damodar river. Its an impressive structure, measuring some 4.6 kms in length. It also forms the border of West Bengal and Jharkhand, with Dhanbad on the other side.
The area is well guarded by CISF jawans. Though large in number, they were cooperative and peaceful. They allowed us to stop on the dam and take photos.
The next (and much more interesting) visit was the abandoned fort of the erstwhile Nawab, after which the place gets its name (Garh in Bengali means fort). The same village road that leads to the GPK resort continues for another 15-16 kms (mostly Jungle roads interspersed with occasional villages). Then you have to take a detour into an earthen road, which continues mysteriously for another 4-5 kms. Then suddenly the road ends, and you realize you have reached the Garh.
The day we reached, the temperature was again touching the 50 degree mark. There was not a soul in the vicinity (not even wandering cattle) except the 2 of us.
There is surprisingly, scant reliable information about the Garh and its erstwhile rulers. Mostly people cook up stories based on hearsay. There was an erstwhile Nawab with 17 wives, who fled once the Marhattas were to invade Bengal, leaving his wives to commit suicide - and similar masala fare.
Though I'm afraid I cant add to the facts about this place, 2 things seemed very interesting when I saw the ruins.
Firstly, there are an equal number of buildings having Islamic arches (the flared variety with a pointed apex) and the Hindu arches (normal round arches). It may be possible that the buildings were built by different rulers of different religious pursuits, but its certain that the latter of these 2 rulers had a tolerance for both religions.
Secondly, the way some of the buildings have broken defies explanation. One of these buildings (pic 15) seems to have been sliced in between and broken into 2 pieces, much like a knife through a cake. The only natural calamity that can cause this is an earthquake, but who ever heard of earthquakes in Purulia? Another building (pic 13) seems to have small pillars visible, but in reality they are only the top portions of the whole pillars. What could have caused an entire building to sink VERTICALLY into the ground?
We stayed here for almost an hour despite the heat, inspecting all the ruins. By the time we reached the resort, the heat had taken its toll. A plan to visit the Maithon dam was quickly cancelled. Again, we spent the rest of the day inside the room, coming out only once the sun had gone to sleep.
1) Travelling on the Panchet dam.
2) The massive sluice gates of the Panchet dam
3) Beyond that checkpost is Jharkhand.
4) Mr & Mrs Smiling Sengupta!
5) The 2 most precious things in my life, and the Power plant in the background.
6) The earthen road leading to the Garh.
7) That Maruti omni was the only vehicle we encountered en route to the Garh.
8) The ancient overlooking the state-of-the-art!
9) Sculptures on the temple wall - completely destroyed due to neglect.
10) The temple
11) The check post at the edge of the ravine.
12-15) Sparse remains of historical monuments.
|23rd June 2009, 08:00||#4|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
Thanked: 68 Times
Hey PW, thats a wonderful explanation. It was as if I am doing the trip myself. You can place the pic and caption together through preview that would provide a better viewing of the pics.
One thing, instead of Dunlop bridge you could have taken the Belghoria expressway (SaltLake - VIP - DumDum). I think that would have been faster as well.
|23rd June 2009, 11:01||#5|
Join Date: Dec 2008
Thanked: 4 Times
That was an interesting write-up, predatorwheelz. The last few days I have come to know of quite a few places I hadn't heard of before and Garpanchkot is the latest.
|23rd June 2009, 11:54||#6|
Senior - BHPian
Thank you for the compliment.
I know placing the caption right after (or before) the pic would make it easier. But I just dont know how to do that. Can you help me out here?
From my house, the Belghoria expressway would have been a greater distance. Besides I have been out of Kolkata since 2004 (until recently)and never travelled on the BE after it was completed. Since morning traffic in Dunlop area is sparse anyway, thought of taking the known route.
Many good things have been told about the WBFDC resort at GPK, a lot of which have found their way on to TBHP. "It has 5 star hotel service, rooms are clean, bathrooms have Jacquar fittings" etc etc. Unfortunately, my experience at the resort was disappointing to say the least. Read on.
The day we reached, we were made to sit outside for half hour in the scorching sun because the special room was not ready yet. Why, I asked? Why did you guys not make the room despite being told 2 days ago that someone would be arriving this Saturday?
When we entered, we found that the "VIP" room was an ordinary 8'X6' room with a double bed. The latter took up 90pct of the space in the room, and the remainder had 2 chairs and a table squeezed in. We were told we would have to call up some number to order anything in the room. "OK, where's the phone? I can only see a telecom wire dangling?" I asked. "Oh sorry sir, we usually dont keep a phone here as the room is not regularly used". "Fine, then give me a phone now" I said. "Sorry, we dont have a replacement handset in stock. I guess you'll just have to walk down to the kitchen area and personally order anything you want in the room!"
The bathroom had Jacquar fittings alright, but the chrome on these taps was so badly damaged that one would be afraid of grazing his fingers. The shower did not work, the toilet seat was damaged. The geyser, if turned on, would leak water for hours after being turned off. And ever heard of a split AC's blower unit being noisy? It was, to say the least, a disappointing start.
Within a few hours, we realized that we were sharing this 8'X6' room of ours with SEVEN lizards of varying sizes, who were using the 4 walls rampantly as their playground. It did not help that my wife is very very scared of lizards. For her, it was nothing short of being trapped inside a torture chamber. I dont share her phobia, but I too was irritated. My repeated reminders to the idiots who ran the reception to atleast spray some Cockroach Spray in the room (it drives away the lizards, doesnt kill them) fell to deaf ears.
In the evening, the heat disappeared, and cool winds started blowing. We went out for a walk. The resort is beautifully made, with small buildings amidst a lot of greenery and strategically placed swings. We spent the rest of the evening perched on one such swing, enjoying the silence, interspersed by the rustling of leaves. It was truly a beautiful evening.
Dinner was simple fare, but enjoyable nevertheless. Atleast the kitchen staff seemed more responsive than their room service brethren.
The idiocy of the latter continued throughout our trip. On 2 occassions, our request to be served bed tea at a certain hour was noted, but never delivered. In fact, Monday morning (the day we were leaving) they served us tea some 1.5 hrs after time, that too after I lost my patience and gave them a piece of my mind. We were given ONE towel for the duration of our stay, as they have been instructed not to give more than one towel per room per day. The sheets were never changed despite our requests.
A bit of digression here (I know this is in bad taste, but cant help express it). We Bengalis are trained to defend the downtrodden, it seems. The few people back in Kolkata who I cribbed about my bad service experience at GPK all seemed to be extremely sympathetic with the management. "Arre baba, if you go to a forest resort, you have to face inconveniences - lizards and bad service are just part of the fare It is not a 5 star hotel baba!". Eh?
For everybody's information, I have had my fare share of adventures, and true adventures at that. I am a trained camper and trekker, and have gone on quite a few treks in the Garwhal and Darjeeling Himalayas back in college days. I have slept in tents in sub zero temperatures, and endured hardships that are part of these treks.
But then, if you put up a "resort" in the middle of the jungle, the clientelle that are expected to go there are not people looking to face inconveniences. The least you can offer them is a comfortable lodging experience. If you expect to have a DIY setup amidst wild pests, why not call it GPK adventure camp?!
Anyway, I hope my experience here was an exception rather than rule. A lot of money has been spent in developing the resort, and bad service should not mar anyone's holiday experience in the future. A few pics follow:
1) The "VIP" rooms where we stayed. The only advantage was a covered parking. My Verna had shelter, while the rest of the cars had to sweat it out under the torturous mid-day sun in the car park.
2) The conference hall. Also gets used as a dormitory.
3) The Kitchen cum dining area. Good, simple fare.
4) The first Bungalow building. It has individual rooms which can be joined together to provide lodging for one big group.
5) The swing. This is where we spent our evenings.
6) The 4 rooms where all previous TBHpians have put up.
7) The highest cottage in the campus. From its balcony, one can see the Panchet dam (shining like the Queens Necklace in Bombay) at night.
8) View of the Panchet dam from said balcony in the daytime.
|23rd June 2009, 12:32||#7|
Senior - BHPian
I'm no architect, and know nothing except automobiles and banking (not necessarily in that order, heh heh). But common sense dicatates that if the foundation were to collapse, the building would collapse in a heap, not descend in a straight line, isn't it?
Anyway, nothing much to add here except a few photos I took of the flora at the resort. I'm told its much greener after monsoon, and the flowers I saw are only a taste of things to come.
On our way back, we made even more swift progress. The DGP Expressway was empty, with the occasional truck by the wayside. I was consistently able to maintain speeds of 130 kmph. We didnt take a stop anywhere this time. 250 kms was covered in about 3.5 hrs (left around 10.30, reached Salt Lake at 2). Factor in the delay time in crossing Niyamatpur town as well as Kolkata afternoon traffic, and you'll have an idea of how fast we covered the highway.
The Verna performed flawlessly on the (total 547 kms) trip. It sustained speeds of 130-140 Kmph for hours without stress, and gave us no problems whatsoever. It also handled broken village roads with aplomb. Its definitely a candidate for longer, more exhaustive journeys, one of which I've started planning.. Do watch this space!
Last edited by predatorwheelz : 23rd June 2009 at 12:39.
|23rd June 2009, 14:26||#8|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Jun 2007
Thanked: 271 Times
Thanks for your nice comments about my travelogue and I really feel it was worth taking the trouble to write it down for future travellers there. Regarding your negative experience at the resort, I feel bad because I wrote glorious things about the infrastructure.
When we went it indeed had a two tonne LG split AC in our room, Jaquar fittings in the bathroom, Zuari branded furniture etc etc. All top class material !!!
For bed tea they had an electric kettle in the room and we were expected to help ourselves.
So much for the physical infrastructure.
For the softer issues like quality of service, we did not have any direct interaction with the boys so I cannot comment on the quality of service. Of course we didn't have to wait at the reception.
I could not understand this VIP room concept that you say you had taken. I think they are just not used to getting VIPs in their resort. We stayed in that greenish building with four flats, where all the rooms are named after butterflies. You have a picture of that building in your report.
Anyway, let's hope your next outing turns out more comfortable. A bad experience in a resort leaves a very bad taste in the mouth and ruins the holiday. Looks like you quite took the negatives in your stride. That's the spirit.
|23rd June 2009, 15:33||#9|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Dec 2006
Thanked: 19 Times
nice pictures and details .
one things if its a govt establishment then you cant expect anything more especially if this is based in a pro communist state.
And dont let you accommodation get to your nerves when ur on holiday ...its important but its not everything ..
|23rd June 2009, 17:49||#10|
Senior - BHPian
Let me say this one final time. The effort you take in making those log books on excel sheets really helps out future travellers. For us, once we left the expressway, it was pure reliance on your notes that got us to GPK, without even having to stop once to ask for directions.
Truth is, for all government accomodation, it boils down to how much of a sense of ownership the staff themselves have.
Last edited by predatorwheelz : 23rd June 2009 at 17:56.
|23rd June 2009, 19:22||#11|
Join Date: Jun 2004
Thanked: 70 Times
Aniket, excellent writeup. your details spread across all aspects of the trip is quite impressive.
See the best example to understand whether you have enjoyed the trip is whether a few days later you still talk about the fantastic experience you had and also whether you and your misus are planning something right away.
|9th July 2009, 18:47||#12|
Distinguished - BHPian
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: New Delhi
Thanked: 15,162 Times
Hey PW, thanks for referring me to this thread - somehow I managed to miss this, mainly because I was leaving for TH on the next day (24th). I wouldn't like to be there in the heat of the summer, but I'd sure like to take a stopover there during my trips to WB in the winter.
|10th July 2009, 12:14||#13|
Senior - BHPian
Fooling around with dangerous (married) objects!
Anyway, 2 more pics. The first one will show you some of the fine architecture reduced to rubble. If ASI does not pick up the mantle, very soon the whole Garh will meet a similar fate.
The second is pure Pose value, hehe!
|24th October 2009, 11:16||#15|
Senior - BHPian
A piece of history
Sorry to be reviving my old thread. I've been searching for information on the GPK ruins ever since I came back, and some relief can be found on the WBFDC website itself
Panchkot was a part of an ancient East Indian kingdom known as Rajchakla Panchkot, locally known as Panchet. Damodar Sekhar, established Panchkot Raj probably during early 90 AD with the help of Sardars of Jhalda and expanded his kingdom over several other parganas. To give recognition to the main five (panch) clans (khunt) of the locals the kingdom assumed the name Panchkot.
Panchkot Giri has its references in the Puranas also. The place was then known as Sekhar bhum from which the founder king of Singh Deo Dynasty Damodar Sekhar derived his name. The kingdom was probably a part of old ‘Tilakampa’ Kingdom. The ruins of Telkupi, the said capital of Tilakampa (submerged) went under water after the construction of Panchet Dam.
The ruins of the Garh (Fort) of Singh Deo Dynasty located at the southern foothills and a group of temples is still standing as mute spectators of the rise & fall of the dynasty. The temples are of different architectural styles, the principal one being a ‘Pancharatna’ temple accompanied by ‘Jor-Bangla’type and more than one ‘Pirha’ type temples made of stone. The Pancharatna temple still carries some depleted but exquisite piece of presumably pre-muslim period terracotta work on its arches and pillars. 500 meters away and a bit uphill from the main ruins of the Garh Panchkot, lies ‘Dhara’ a perennial spring channeled through a ‘Cow mouth’ made of stone.
Around 1600 AD, Garhpanchkot came under the rule of the famous king Bir Hambir of Bishnupur Malla Dynasty, but for how long that could not be ascertained. One of the two inscriptions located by J.D Beglar beside the ruined gateway of Panchkot fort mentioned of Hambir. Beglar went to Panchkot in 1862 and wrote an essay called ‘Panchet’. The great poet Michael Madusudan Dutta visited the place during 1872 for a short period as an estate manager of Singh Deo dynasty. He wrote three poems on Panchkot namely, ‘Panchkot giri’, ‘Panchkotoshyo Rajosree’ & ‘Panchkot Giri Biday Sangeet’.
Source: West Bengal Forest Development Corporaion Ltd.
So I wasn't wrong about the ruins carrying a fusion of Muslim and Hindu architecture.
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