Why South 24 Parganas
Since late childhood I have been living in S24 Parganas district though the place has long got a Kolkata pin code. Our place was initially called village Bademashur. We had lots of waterbodies and tube wells , even I could remember the dusty roads, bamboo plantation and the single bus before the metropolis sucked everything up. Thus my thirst for village life was often quenched here and so grew my affinition for South 24 Parganas.
Much less is known and talked about the history of this district and places we live. But to my astonishment I came to know of places which have 40 frets of history underground. My search for the same has started and yet incomplete. The nomenclature 24 pargana derives from the puppet nawab of Bengal Mir Jafar giving 24 mahals to the south of Calcutta till Culpee to the East India Company as Zamindari in 15th July 1757.
Raidighi and Jatar Deul
To Konkan Dighi
I was at a organizational conference near Raidighi. Before returning we decided to get some good trip and drove to Raidighi. The widened roads and the newly constructed bridge over Moni river made me happy.
I am always confident. Sometimes may be overconfident once I have the GPS and Google maps. We followed the map to a place at Konkondighi in midst of the lush green meadows. There stood a tall 30 m temple in yellow stone over a square base of 25 sq m.
The Jatar Deul
The village folk thronged the place with offerings. They came in motorized vans. I approached a not so long road to the temple complex. An archeological site to my pleasure.
A person had climbed over the temple to clean the walls of weeds. Though actually it’s a Buddhist temple of the Pal era some think it to be a Shiva (Jata) temple of Sen period. Yet according to a copper plate found nearby it was built in 975 AD by Raja Joy Chandra.
What we missed
Some old ponds or dighis of the erstwhile era.
Burul, Dongaria, Bawali Rajbari & Temples
Kolkata to Burul
We needed an one day outing from our home in Kolkata. So we decided to visit one of my wife’s roommates in college in a rural health center. We started early in the morning by our car.Hooghly River at Burul
Upon reaching burial we took a road along side the east side of Hooghly river driving down stream. At a place the road went uphill over the river embankment. We crossed a not so well built jetty (ghat) with numerous country boats.
We however rushed off without disembarking from our car being in hurry. Final we reached the health center to be cordially greeted by the medical officer my wife’s roommate from the undergraduate years in Calcutta National Medical College. After a heavy Tiffin and chitchat with the paramedics we started for a local water treatment facility.
This time we stopped near the so called jetty to realize it being a stop over place for the fishing boats. We had a good time loitering amidst the cool river breeze.
We alighted again at a place on the river bank seeming to be one for making clay bricks before heating them. I used my binocular to observe splendid fishing scene on the river using long fishing nets and several boats. The earthenware cottage industry and several planting pots allured the Gardner in me. However couldn’t buy anything because of time constraints. Better next time With flat earthen pots for my bonsai.
Dongaria Water Treatment Plant & Bhagirathi Inspection Bungalow
Soon we were moving through railed road over the river embankment. We were at a drinking water treatment facility at Dongaria.
I slighted for a few snapshots. The broad watching place in front of the Bhagirathi Inspection Bungalow was majestic. We however continued with our journey further to a vibration of recent history.
Bawali or Bauli Rajbari Complex
Using the GPS we had arraived at Bawali a old Jamindar house with debilitated temples crying for attention. History of this Rajbari dates back about 400 years ago when Shobha Ram Rai a trusted soldier was granted a zamindari of 300000 acres by Maharaja Swain Man Singh, commander in chief of emperor Akbar. It was a gift for allegiance for foiling a peasant revolution.
Bauli derives it’s name from original inhabitants of these place still in active sunderbans. Their livelihood being fishing and honey collection from the dense jungles widely inhabited by tigers at that era. They worshipped Bon Bibi and Dakshin rai the protectors of the forest it’s flora fauna and it’s people. The synthesis of Islam with these Demigods and creation of ones like Indra paigambar is another story itself.
Radha Kanta Jiu or Radha Krishna Temple
The zamindars known as mondals by then were primarily Krishna worshippers and thus established temple for the same. Only the Radha Krishna Temple has idol inside and is regularly worshipped. We saw a Nat mandir in front of the main temple.
There was also a sanity to maintain and renovate the temple. But we had more surprise in store.
Other Temples and Mancha
There lay numerous other temples in the backyard of the Radha Krishna Temple. Temples not cared for at all neither by the Zamindar family nor by the locals or the state or central Archeological departments.
One thing obviously was good at least the temples were not simply plastered in the name of so called renovation. We couldn’t enter all of them because of the dense shrubs and trees. Locals heavily discouraged us telling of snakes even covers, which is most likely considering the extent of abandonment.
Bawali or Bauli or Rajbari Palace
We tried to visit the Palace on opposite side of the road to our great dismay. We were disallowed entry siting renovation work of this 250 year old structure. We came to know at that time permission was given only to cinematographer units for shooting.
Nowadays however a portion is opened up for luxury hotel stay as evident from some roadside advertisements in my home city Kolkata and their website. I liked a plywood sort of industry just outside the palace building behind the podium of yesteryears.
Back to Home
We hurried back home but had sunset on way. We stopped at a eatery near Baruipur bypass to have a very late lunch.
What we missed
Gar chumuk, Gadiara on opposite bank
Nurpur further downstream
Muchisha & Baro or Bhoot Kachhari
I have been to Muchisha several times now to kindle my passion for gardening just I have also been to Shekharpur in N24 Parganas. I do desire to believe the aquarium fisheries at Salap, Howrah sometime though.These time it was again an attempt to get out of our busty city life.
Kolkata to Muchisha
I had always been to Muchisha mostly by DH Road. Taking my wife this time I reached Behala through tollygunge and shahapur. We travelled on Roads which in the pre British times were full of canals and waterbodies. Adiganga as it was called even before the Tolley canal was dug. The place had history of varying Portuguese settlements and even bamboo forts set up by locals and string of several pitched battles. None of it is known now except for the James Long Sarani the only private meter gauge railway of the Indian subcontinent.
Nearing Joka we took a new road to reach. Soon were crossing the DPS Joka.
Muchisha the Nursery Village
My interest in gardening has taken me to nurseries few years now. Apart from ones at Shekharpur I have often been to Muchisha a village of nurseries and nursing families.
We drove there early morning to buy some indoor plants for our ground floor garden. I bought some plants that would grow well even in shade.
Bhoot Nath Temple or Baro Kachhari or Bhoot Kachhari
While returning back I decided to visit an somewhat old worship site of Shiva (Bhoot Nath) known for its court of ghosts (Bhoot Kachhari). Present time it’s more known as the Grand Court or Baro Kachhari.
A temple at the base of a Ashvattha tree and a worship site necessitating no priests ( Brahmins though available on demand ) makes it a common man’s site. People off all faith including Muslims can make offerings here, proving the intermingling of religious thoughts prompted by the gazis of Ghutiari Sharif.
From the main road we took a narrow alley towards the temple.
Lack of written history created space for folklores and mythology surrounding the temple. The rule of Nawab Ali Bardi Khan saw spate of Islamic conversions in Bengal. Local hindus took refuge in a crematorium (smashan) amidst then dense jungle. Later on even the plundering Bargis being staunch Maratha hindus avoided the crematorium fearing lord Shiva and his ghosts. Storyline depicts a monk establishing his hermitage on request of Hindu followers. Upon his death he was buried upright (samadhi) and on the site grew a Ashvattha or sacred fig tree. Local belief of he being an incarnate of Shiva started worship of the tree itself. Much later when it was devastated in a flood a fresh sapling of Ashvattha was put in its place which still stands strong.
I enquired with the lone priest about the black colour of the Shiva linga here. Though it seemed to be an later addition.
Most people gather here to seek children though some come for blessings in social conflicts and property issues too. After successfully child birth devotees return with Gopal idols (emblem for Krishna) for male child and fresh crops and harvested fruit in case of girl child.
What we missed
Chhoto Kachhari Temple.
Lord Canning House
Tilpi , Dhosa and Netaji’s Home
Yet to visit will be visiting soon.
This leisure trip has already been placed on your plate for your ardent reading and comments.
My travel to sunderbans several times for leisure and voluntary work during Aila is a story itself in its own dimension. Thus it finds a separate page for another time.
Wishing you happy reading once again