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Bishnupur, the temple town of West Bengal is a widely visited place. Usually people visit Bishnupur and the Mukutmanipur dam at one go. Since we had an extra day, and my elderly parents did not want to drive around much, our choices for the third day were pretty limited. We went to Bishnupur without any plans for Day 3 and enquired at our Hotel for some unusual choices. They mentioned Gangani, merely a 40 mins drive from Bishnupur. I have read a lot about Gangani, the Grand Canyon of Bengal, but did not know that it was this close to Bishnupur. Read on to know more about this unusual itinerary of Bishnupur, Mukutmanipur, and Gangani:
Day 1: Bishnupur Heritage
We left for Bishnupur from Shalimar station via Aranyak Express at 7.45 am. The train reached Bishnupur station at around 11.15 am. From the station, we took rickshaws to reach the Bishnupur Tourist Lodge, an accommodation maintained by WBTDC. The tourist lodge was fully booked. Thankfully, we had anticipated the rush of the long weekend and pre-booked our rooms. The rooms were pretty basic and lacked proper maintenance. The food, however, was really good. We stayed there for three days and not even once were we disappointed by it. We took some time to freshen up, had lunch and set out for the temple tour of Bishnupur.
The terracotta temples of Bishnupur were built during the 17th and 18th century AD by the Malla kings of Bengal. Most of the temples were built by laterite stones, and almost all of them had terracotta carvings on the walls. Our auto driver also acted as our local guide and explained interesting stories about the Malla kings and their divine preferences. We visited the Rasmancha, Jor-Bangla Temple, Shyam Ray Temple, Lalji Temple and quite a few others. Only the Chhinnamasta and Mrinmayee Temples have deities, which are still worshipped daily. Rest of the temples are visited as architectural wonders, and daily worship rituals are not followed. We also visited Lalbandh, heard stories about Lalbai and her illegitimate son, and how the queen had murdered her in vengeance. Last stop for the sightseeing tour was Dal Madal cannon, which, legend says, had been fired by Lord Madan Mohan himself. Our journey for the day came to an end with a visit to the local Tant Ghor, where we watched the making of the much famed Baluchari and Swarnachuri saris and quickly bought a few.
Day 2:Mukutmanipur and Parashnath Hills
We had pre-booked a car for the Mukutmanipur trip on Day 1 itself. It took us 1.5 hours to cover the 75 km distance from Bishnupur to Mukutmanipur. The driver left us at the last drivable spot, and from there we availed the cycle van to reach Musafirana and Parashnath hill. The Mukutmanipur dam is the second biggest earthen dam in India, stretching about 11 kms in length. It channelizes the Kangsabati and Kumari rivers into the three dry districts of Bankura, Purulia and Midnapore, facilitating irrigation in the summer months.
The Parashnath Hill is the tallest view-point in the area and one has to climb quite a few steps to reach its peak. On our way back we visited Musafirana, a small eco-park. The driver insisted that we return early, to avoid driving in the forest after sunset. So we had lunch on our way and returned to Bishnupur before 5 pm.
Day 3: The Unexpected Gangan
We had reserved an extra day because of the unpredictable monsoons (August being the month of our trip) and did not have any plans as such. The hotel staff suggested that we spend a few hours at Gangani, the Grand Canyon of Bengal. We did not expect much, but nonetheless booked a car for the trip. Gangani is hardly 30 kms from Bishnupur and it took us less than an hour to reach the place. While comparing it with Grand Canyon is an overstatement, Gangani surprised us pleasantly.
The Silabati river has created this gorge, it’s erosion causing several natural sculptures, that are a beauty to look at. We spent some time there, observing the wonders of nature and eventually, were forced to leave as it was getting dark. The place seems virgin and was sparsely populated, even on a long weekend, which while extremely satisfying, seemed a tad unsafe after sunset.
If you are planning for a Bishnupur trip and have half a day extra, please include Gangani in the itinerary. You might be in for a pleasant surprise.
TIP: Carry an umbrella and sunscreens as the place is well known for its extreme hot and humid climate. As per the locals, winter is the best time to visit this place.
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