Every trip to explore the tradition inside any part of India comes along with a lesson if you have a misconception about the historical greatness. I would not boast about my open mindedness but I had always demanded the visual proof about the talks surrounding the facts regarding any place. Bankura is a part of Bengal known for its elegant customary values and traditions, which was the prime reason for my visit. I had been reading about different things to do in Bankura district for which I never faced trouble figuring out an efficient schedule.
The journey for me started off at the Kolkata Railway station. However, I will let you know about the different alternatives that you can avail for this trip. One of the first things for traveling such an ideal distance was a road trip. If you want to drive your own car or a rented car from Kolkata, you can easily reach within 3 to 4 hours, covering 165 kilometers. However, this option might not be as comfortable as the roads might not be as good as you expect. Another alternative that came up in my mind was to take the easy bus. But there are no direct buses from Kolkata to Bankura. For going to Bankura I had to catch a bus till Durgapur and then hire a taxi that would take me to Bankura. This would cost me around a thousand bucks. The medium that I chose, and which I would suggest is to take the train. There are almost 5 to 7 direct trains from Kolkata to Bankura which would take you within 3 and a half hours, covering almost 230 kilometers. The total traveling charge on a train would be under hundred bucks (Which includes my Tea charges as well). Some of the direct trains are Aranyak Express, HWH PRR Express, Samarsata Express etc. I took up the Rupasibangla Express from Kolkata which is said to be the cheapest ride to Bankura. The journey time was not that fascinating but the trip had just begun.
My sole motto to visit Bankura District in the time of December is to attend the Bishnupur Mela. The Bishnupur winter festival is said to be the soul of Bankura district’s charm. It is said to be on par with the famous Durga Puja festival that is widely celebrated in Bengal. I was pretty much excited about the hype I already received in the articles regarding the history of Bishnupur and the winter festival. The first part of my travel was to check out some of the popular temples which have the terracotta designs in it. This is said to be sharing a heritage value among the list of the most amazing things Bengal has. I was astounded to see the depth of the traditional values in maintaining and cherishing these temples. Among the temples, my first stop was at the Madan Mohan Temple which was built by King Durjana Singh Deva. I loved how the structure was simple yet elegant with all the paintings of the Ramayana and Mahabharata inscribed on the walls and the roofs of the temple. The other temples that I visited also had this same charm, the Jor-Bangla Temple and Pancha Ratna Temple being among the favorites. The temples were unique from each other and shared a common customary tradition in worshiping Lord Krishna along with all the terracotta designs all over the temple’s walls and roofs.
The second part of my trip included the winter festival and some amazing performance of the Bishnupur Gharana Classics or otherwise known as the Dhrupad concerts. This form of music was developed in the Mughal Rule by masters like Bahadur Khan and Ramachandra Bhattacharya. These performances were an integral part of the Bishnupur Mela. The singers come from different part of Bengal and the performances are carried out with the use of Sitars, Iktaars and Harmoniums. I was well aware of the popular Dhrupad singers like Ashish Sankrityayan, Pandit Sujit Gangopadhyay etc. This was one of the most mesmerizing experiences in Bishnupur Mela.
The whole of Bishnupur was popular for the terracotta craftsmanship so the winter festival could not lack it either. There were numerous stalls for the exhibition and sale of terracotta cork which were a treat to witness. It also had a flavor of the rural artwork which was exhibited by the locals of the neighboring rural places. Also, some of the stalls regarding Conch shell designs were a part of my fascination. I had got some souvenirs back for my personal collection as well.
The Bishnupur Mela also blessed me with an amazing opportunity to get into the history of their jewellery making and their designs along with a detailed research about the famous Baluchari sarees. I had a great time exploring the various designs of the elegant artwork in these silk sarees.
The trip could not be complete without the addition of fancy things to eat. However, the place lacked fancy restaurants but the locally made sweets like the Mecha Sandesh and Pera would top my list. Some of the restaurants that I would personally suggest you visit during your time of stay would be Banalata Restaurant and Pathik Restaurant, both of which serve typical Indian and Bengali Food. The service is up to the work and would not fail to satisfy you. Most of the places to stay might be around 20 to 30 kilometers from Bishnupur but they are all well maintained and all the necessary mediums for traveling are available easily. Some of the best Hotels that I would recommend would be Hotel Saptaparna, Hotel Saptarshi, and Sher-E-Bengal which have amazing hospitality and communication service.
Summing it up, the experience of this trip must be on your bucket list if you want to have a taste of Bengal’s tradition. I had an amazing time getting to know a lot about the historical greatness of Bengal’s customs and traditions. Usually, I would not want a second trip to similar locations but the district of Bankura stands out as an exception.