Travel Bucket List: India – West Bengal Part 5

Also known as Rishop, Rishyap has many myths and legends associated with its name with Ri standing for a mountain peak and shop meaning age-old trees in Tibetan. A quaint village, Rishyap is located in the Neora Valley just 4 km uphill of Lava and is well known for its majestic views of the Kanchenjunga range and the Nathu la Pass. Tiffindara, a sunrise-view spot, is about 1 km from here from where one can get an amazing 300-degree view of some of the most famous peaks of the Himalayas such as Kanchenjunga, Mt. Kharg and Rakhtang among others.

Lava and Lolegaon
Located about 120 kms from Siliguri, Lava and Lolegaon are 25 kms apart which offer beautiful snow capped mountains and ancient Buddhist monasteries as a backdrop to a relaxing holiday. The most beautiful forest in Lolegaon, the Canopy walk comprises of hanging bridges, suspended from one tree to another made from planks of wood and are located high enough to afford one the luxury of viewing the surroundings. The Canopy walk is best viewed in the daytime. Located about 10 km from Lava, Changey falls is a small waterfall in between Tiffin Dhara and Ghanti Dhara with crystal clear waters. Another equally beautiful viewpoint is the Jhandidhara Viewpoint which is located at the Lolegaon hilltop with magnificent views of the Kanchenjunga. Tifindara is a famous sunrise point with pine forests and provides views of the Himalayas. Located about 3 km by trek and 10 km by jeep, it has the most stunning view of the Kanchenjunga. The Lava Monastery has a four acre piece of land where hundreds of monks live and preach their beliefs. The architecture of the monastery is exactly like those in Tibet with various prayer halls, lawns, sitting areas and a huge Buddha statue. Built back in 1980s the monastery is extremely well maintained. There is an Eco Park at Lolegaon which is located in the main village, very close to the bus stand and is quite well maintained. The Nature Interpretation Centre is a small but important building at the entrance of the Neora National Park offering comprehensive information about the National Park along with information about tour guides and maps. There is also a gift shop where one can buy souvenirs and a small garden with a beautiful flowers.

Buxa Tiger Reserve
Bodering Bhutan and Assam, the Buxa Tiger Reserve was set up in 1983 and was then, the 15th tiger reserve of the country. The forest constituting the reserve is the largest in the Dooars and spans 759 sq km and is irrigated by several rivers and their tributaries. It boasts of a diverse and breathtaking landscape, and because of the rocky terrain, many parts of the forest in the Buxa hills that lie in the Sinchula Range are inaccessible even by the authorities, and hence remain unexplored even after so many years. This tiger reserve serves as an international corridor for the migration of elephants between India and Bhutan because the Phipsu Wildlife Sanctuary in Bhutan is adjacent to the northern part of the Buxa Tiger Reserve. The reserve is home to 67 species of mammals, 36 species of reptiles and 230 species of unidentified avifauna and encompasses more than eight types of forests. The great diversity of mammals in this reserve makes it the second highest among all tiger reserves in India. The reserve has over 300 species of trees, 250 species of shrubs, 130 species of aquatic flora, 100 species of grass and 400 species of herbs with a rich collection of various medicinal herbs and different species of orchids. The majestic Bengal Tiger, an endangered species, has made the Buxa Tiger Reserve its home and apart from the Bengal Tiger, there are other members of the cat family here too, including leopards, fishing cats, jungle cats and leopard cats. One of the most beautiful and extremely rare mammals that is endemic to this reserve is the Clouded Leopard which are very shy members of the cat family and can rarely ever be spotted. The Chinese Pangolin and the Regal Python are also endemic to the region. The avifauna here is both endemic and migratory. The reserve constitutes a total of 38 forest villages, 49 fringe villages and four fixed demand holdings with the majority of the population in the interiors of the forests consisting of tribes such as Garo, Mechia, Madesia, Rava, Rajbanshi and Bhutia. Visitors can opt for either morning or evening safaris that last 3-4 hours each. The morning safaris start from 6 am and the evening safaris start from 3 pm with a jeep safari costing about INR 800. The Buxa Tiger Reserve remains closed to visitors from 15th June to 15th September every year because the region experiences heavy rains. A 5 km trek through the forest leads to the Buxaduar Forest Bungalow which has accomdations available. Another 4 km into the forest will bring one to Rover’s Point, a point that is 4500 ft high and known as the land of unknown birds. Rupam Valley in Bhutan, is another 12 km from Rover’s Point.

A small town situated just outside the Buxa Tiger Reserve Rajabhatkawa is known for its natural beauty and is surrounded by forests. All the permits for the entry to the Buxa Tiger reserve can be taken from here.The name literally means (the place) where the king had a meal and folklore says that the kings of the princely state of Koch Bihar used to come here to picnic in the forests. Jayanti is a small forested village near Rajabhatkawa about 15 km near Buxa Reserve and has the magnificent Mahakal caves and the Jayanti Riverside. The Mahakal Caves are hundreds of years old and its origins are obscure. After navigating many tunnels and ladders, one will land in the middle of the cave which has a small Shiv temple which has a fantastic view of the nearby hills. The Buxa Fort has was built centuries ago and came the British India after the 2nd Dooars War of 1865 which was fought between Bhutan and the British. It is believed that during the China- Tibet disturbances in the 19th century, many Tibetan monks hid at the fort and later, during the freedom struggle of the 1900s, the fort served as refugee to many freedom fighters. Today, the fort is in ruins. The Nature Interpretation Centre is at a short distance from the Buxa reserve and provides information of numerous birds and animals in the reserve, along with information of various plants and their medicinal properties. To cover Buxa in a safari, one can easily hire a jeep or car at the forest office at Rajabhatkawa who will also provide a tour guide. There is an ancient Shiva temple located at the edge of the main town, approximately 8 km from the town which is beautiful and isolated. A lot of people walk down to the temple. Very close to the Shiva temple is another temple devoted to the Goddess Kali. The small ancient temple is surrounded with trees on all sides and is highly revered.

Jaldapara National Park
The Jaldapara National Park, situated on the banks of the Torsa river was earlier known as the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary and is spread over an area of around 215 km. It comprises of riverine forests as well as grasslands and is famous for its impressive population of Royal Bengal tigers, elephants, one-horned rhinoceros, and various other species of deer. To get the best out of the park, one can go for an elephant ride, which will give a chance to catch a glimpse of the animals up close. Another wildlife park that nature lovers should consider visiting is the North Bengal Wild Animals Park. This park is an integral part of the Mahanadi Wildlife Sanctuary and spread out over an area of 300 hectares and contains a wide variety of flora and fauna. However, unlike other wildlife parks and sanctuaries, the Mahanadi Wildlife Sanctuary strictly forbids visitors from feeding the animals at the park. The Bengal Safari sprawls over 297 hectares and is mainly a natural habitat for Sal and associated species. The Mixed Herbivore Safari, one can spot herbivores like the spotted deer, barking deer, sambar, hog deer, swamp deer,one horned rhinoceros, black ibis, kingfisher, peacock, red jungle fowl, emerald dove, drongo and hornbill. The Tiger Safari is a 15 min safari where one might spot tigers. There are three tigers in the park with one male and one female brought from the Nadankanan Zoological Park in Orissa and another male brought from the Tata Steel Zoological Park in Jharkhand. The Asiatic Black Bear Safari have two black bears that have been brought from the Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park in Darjeeling and also has a 15 min ride. The 15-minute Leopard Safari around a 20-hectare area has four leopards who live in the park. There is a foot trail at the park known as the Aviary trail where one can spot domestic and exotic birds like the red jungle fowl, peafowl, white peafowl, and peacocks. The Gharial & Crocodile Pond has gharials and crocodiles in natural free flowing water. There are entry fees single as well as multiple safaris and one can choose as per convienece. The park is open from 9 am to 5 pm and is closed on Mondays.

A valley town in the hills of Darjeeling, Jaldhaka is close to the India – Bhutan border and will take you back to a time when life was full of simple pleasures. The Jaldhaka riverside is a must visit when visiting this valley and the clear blue flowing water set amidst trees and rocks with birds chirping in the background is one of the most serene and soothing sites in Jaldhaka. The Coronation Bridge offers a breathtaking view of the lush greenery and was constructed mainly to connect Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri. Inspired by Roman architecture the bridge spans the river Teesta and is also known as National Highway 31 and is also considered to be the lifeline between Kalimpong, Nathula and Gangtok. The bridge was constructed during the British colonial rule to commemorate the coronation of King George VI in 1937.

Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary
Located at a distance of about 20 km from the Gorumara National Park, this wildlife sanctuary has the Kanchanjungha and other Himalayan peaks as its backdrop. The name of the region comes from Chapra, a variety of small fishes found in northern Bengal, and Mari, meaning abundance and receives waters from the Teesta, the Neora, and the Murti. Known for its elephant population, the sanctuary has a a wide diversity of animals including gaur, leopards in their natural habitat. However, unlike Gorumara, the Royal Bengal Tiger is not found here. The sanctuary is closed to visitors during the monsoon season from June to September.

Gorumara National Park
Situated on the banks of rivers Murti and Raidak, the Gorumara National Park is spread over 80 sq km and sits at the foothills of the Himalayan mountains. With a large variety of flora and fauna and full of riverine grasslands and moist deciduous forests, it is famous for its Asiatic one-horned rhino. The national park also houses other mammals, reptiles, insects and birds, including the majestic Asian elephants, the royal Bengal tiger and the Great Indian Hornbill. Other commonly found animals here include leopards, elephants, the Indian bison, rock pythons, deer and the Malayan Giant Squirrel and there are approximately 48 species of carnivores and herbivores animals, birds and insects in the sanctuary. During the winters, migratory birds such as teal, stork and ibis can also be seen here. There are two types of wildlife safari here that one can choose from, the Elephant Safari and the Jeep Safari which can be booked from the forest department and must have an authorised guide along while visiting the watchtowers. The jungle safari leads visitors to different watchtowers, which include the Jatraprasad watch tower, the most famous lookout, and is named after a female elephant that was legendary for her caring nature. The entry point for this watchtower is through the National Highway at the northern part of the national park and the salt lakes just below the watchtower make it an attractive place to spot wildlife, especially during early morning or late afternoon safaris. The Methla Watchtower is located at the Kalipur eco village towards the eastern fringe of the national park and a unique bullock cart driven safari is available here. The Chandrachur Watchtower is located in the midst of a vast and open grassland and has a small pond and salt lake here. Other watchtowers include the Rhino Point, Chukchuki watchtower and Chapramari watchtower. The national park is open all year round, except between 16 June and 15 September and every Thursday of the year. The best time to visit the national park is from October to May and the weather is delightful during this period.

Neora Valley National Park
Established in 1986, Neora Valley National Park is spread over an area of 88 sq km and is one of the richest biological zones in eastern India. It gets its name from the river Neora that flows through it and due to the luxurious growth of forest cover, many areas in the park are still inaccessible. The Neora Valley is also known as the land of the elegant red panda and has mixed species of flora that include bamboo, oak, ferns and sal along with a wide variety of fauna such as Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo, Jerdon’s Baza, Bay Woodpecker, Golden-throated Barbet, and many more. The park is situated at the tri-junction of Sikkim, Bhutan, and West Bengal and is contiguous with forests of these three boundaries and reach up to an elevation of 10,600 ft at Rachel Danda, the highest point of Neora valley. One can’t enter the park without an entry permit which can be obtained from the Forest Range Office located at both Lava and Samsing and needs two to three hours and so it is advisable to start early. The forest office starts issuing permits to the national park from 6 am during summer and spring. The park is closed between June and September and day visits are open from 16 September and 15 June. When open, the park is closed on Thursdays and open between 8 am to 12 noon and then again from 1 to 4 pm and has an entry fee of INR 100 per person.

Located outside the Gorumara National Park on National Highway No. 31, Lataguri is the perfect place to take in both the Gorumara and Champramari National Parks as well as the Buxa Tiger Reserve which is a 2 hour drive away. Permits for entering Gorumara and Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary are given from Lataguri and the village also contains a Nature Interpretation Centre, which gives information about the flora and fauna of the area.

Located north of the Kangsabati river and West Bengal’s western most district, Purulia is blessed with natural beauty. The Baranti Reservoir or Murardi Lake is a calm lake surrounded by mountains and covered with thick greenery. It is less crowded and more peaceful and intimate and is ideal for spending some time just contemplating life. The lake lies in the beautiful Rahr countryside and offers a stunning view of the reservoir. The Maharaja of Keshargarh is known to have fought the British rule and looted the Purulia treasury. The Rakab forest used to be the hunting place of Kashipur and is popular known as the forest of 16 crosses. The Maharaja was hung to death here and the fort here is in ruins today. 42 km from Purulia via Sirkabad, Ajodhya is a woody mountain with a table land on the top with many small streams making their way through the slopes of the hill to meet the Subarnarekha river on the west and the Kangsabati and Kumari rivers from the northern slope. About 700 m above sea level, there are sparkling freshwater streams and springs here and the best activities to indulge in here are rock climbing and mountaineering and the summit has fantastic views. Gajaburu Hills are paradise for rock climbers. The slopes are hard, rough and tough which provides thrill and adventure. There is also a nature camp here which can be visited to view the beauty of the hills. On the bank of the Kangsabati in the Manbazar Panchayat Samiti, Doldanga is a popular picnic spot with a beautiful water body where one can ride boats, a deer park and an island . Another popular picnic spot, Surulia has been developed by the forest department and is popular amongst eco tourists. About 6 kms from the main town, the eco park is located on the bank on the river Kangsabati and has a deer park and tourism cottage inside. Located in the foothills of the Panchet Hills, Garpanchkot is ruined fort. There is also temple at the top of the hill. In 1740, the Nawab of Bengal challenged Alivardi Khan to a battle, but started losing the battle. To stay in the war, he had to seek help from the Maratha Rulers of Nagpur. Although the Maratha cavalry was set, they further started looting and plundering the small town and this continued on for around 10 years and it was during this time that the fort was attacked by the Maratha army and destroyed and the palace plundered. To escape the attack, the 17 wives of the King jumped in the well nearby and committed suicide and the palace has been left deserted and in ruins ever since.

Sonajhuri Forest
Considered one of the cleanest forests in India, the Sonajhuri Forest is a wonderful retreat with lush green trees and blooming flowers. This picturesque place is untouched by industrialisation and is inhabited by tribals and the pristine river flowing alongside the forest makes it look magical. Sonajhuri which translates to droplets of gold in English is named because of the Sonajhuri tree located in huge numbers when in winter they shed their yellow flowers, the whole forest looks as if drops of gold has been scattered on the ground. The forest is replete with a myriad number of flora and fauna and does not include wild animals and hence is safe to wander around. Animals here include the spotted deer, jackal, foxes and elephants. Every Saturday, a market known as the Sonajhuri Sonibarer Haat is set up and a must visit. The market starts around 3 pm and continues till the sun sets. Rabindranath Tagore spent time here and composed some of his greatest works at Tagore’s Ashram. The Ashram comprises of many buildings, namely Udayan, Konarka, Shyamali, Punashcha and Udichi with each special to Tagore. There is a complex which houses splendid sculptures by Ramkinkar Baij and a museum located in the ashram which is full of artefacts, photographs and writings of Tagore. The Kopai river is a pristine river that flows through the forest and is referred to as Amader Choto Nodi. Bonerpukur Gram is the where the tribals live and is adjacent to the forest with beautiful mud huts. The Ballavpur Wildlife Sanctuary is filled with colourful birds including parrots, ducks, kingfisher and woodpeckers. A large herd of deers are the main highlight of this sanctuary. The sanctuary is closed on Wednesdays and on other days is open between 10 am and 5 pm and has an entry fee of INR 20. The Kankalitala temple is is about 10 kms away and is believed to be one of the 51 Shaktipeeths of Sati.

Situated on the bank of river Roopnarayan, Deulti is an ideal picnic spot. This small village is also close to other tourist attractions like Samtaber, the hometown of the renowned Bengali author Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay and the temples of Madangopal and Radha, adorned with embellishments of terracotta art. Other popular townships like Kolaghat, Garchumuk and Gadiara are also located close to Deulti which is about 51 km from Howrah by road.

The Sundarbans is a mangrove area in the delta formed by the confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers in the Bay of Bengal and spans from the Hooghly River in West Bengal to the Baleswar River in Bangladesh. It comprises closed and open mangrove forests, land used for agricultural purpose, mudflats and barren land, and is intersected by multiple tidal streams and channels. There are four protected areas in the Sundarbans which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Sundarbans National Park, Sundarbans West, Sundarbans South and Sundarbans East Wildlife Sanctuaries. Despite this, the Indian Sundarbans were considered endangered in a 2020 assessment under the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems framework. The Sundarbans mangrove forest covers an area of about 10,000 sq km with the most abundant tree species being the sundri or Heritiera fomes and gewa or Excoecaria agallocha. The forests provide habitat to 453 faunal wildlife, including 290 bird, 120 fish, 42 mammal, 35 reptile and eight amphibian species. The Sundarbans National Park is also a Tiger Reserve and a Biosphere reserve.

The Sundarbans which mean beautiful forest, are the last remaining stands of the mighty jungles which once covered the Gangetic plain. Since 1966, the Sundarbans have been a wildlife sanctuary, and it is estimated that there are over 400 Royal Bengal Tigers and about 30, 000 spotted deer in the area. Other endangered species in the bioreserve include the Batagur baska, King Crabs and the Olive Ridley Turtles. The Nilkamalor Hiron Point and Katka viewpoints offer fantastic views of the animals while the mud-flats called Chargheri Char is where one can enjoy coastal trekking. Marichjhanpi is one of the islands within the Sundarbans and is is known as an island of atrocities. Ghoramara Island is one of the tiny islands of the Sundarban delta and is shrinking at exorbitant rates due to global warming and the rising of water levels in the Bay of Bengal. New Moore or India’s Purbasha or Bangladesh’s South Talapatti is an offshore sandbar island off the coast of the Sundarbans. Two kilometres away from the mouth of the Haribhanga River, the 25,000sq.m. island was completely submerged under the Bay of Bengal waters for years.

Previously known as Miyapur, Mayapur is located at the confluence of two rivers, where the waters of the Jalangi River mix with the Hoogly river, a distributary of the Ganges, about 130 km north of Kolkata. Along with Nabadwip, it is considered a spiritual place by the adherents of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. It was founded by the Bhakti saint Vinod Thakur and is believed that Lord Krishna’s incarnate Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born here in 1486. The word Mayapur derives from Miyapur, the Bengali name of a village, which was settled by Muslim fishermen. The ISKCON Chandrodaya Temple is one of the over 650 temples that the International Society for Krishna Consciousness has established all across the globe. The key areas in the temple complex include the main temple, an idol of the founder of ISKCON, Acharya Srila Prabhupada, the presiding deities Sri Sri Radha Madhava and an idol of Lord Nrisimhadeva that finds its way in the centre of the compound. The highlight of the temple, is Srila Prabhupada’s Pushpa Samadhi Mandir or shrine which is a marble dome. The small idols of the Gods in the altar are taken out in processions during Ratha-Yatras, Jhula-Yatras, or the boat festival and they also come out in a procession every Saturday evening during winters, after the Sandhya Aarti, on a chariot, from the beginning of the Kartika month up to Gaura-Purnima. After the temple was attacked by dacoits in 1986, an idol of Lord Nrisimhadeva was installed in the centre of the premise. This rare form of the Lord, with bent knees and eyes red in anger, ready to spring out of the pillar to attack demons and protect his devotees is known as Sthanu- Nrisimha. The ISKCON Temple at Mayapur is the only place where this form of the Lord is worshipped. An interesting area inside the temple is the Chaitanya exhibition, where all of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s pastimes are artistically painted and depicted on the walls through the medium of bas-reliefs. A dramatic narration of the same in Bengali is played through an audio system in the background. The exhibition is open from 10 am to 1 pm and then from 4 to 6 pm. The temple is open from early morning till 1 pm and then again from 4 to 8:30 pm. The Mangala Aarti takes place between 4:30 to 5 am, the Darsana Aarti at 7 am, the Srila Prabhupada Guru Puja at 7:30 am, a class of the Srimad- Bhagavatam which is held in English and Begali seperately at 8 am, the Bhoga Aarti at noon, the Sandhya Aarti at 6:30 pm and finally a class on the Bhagavad Gita in Bengali at 7:45 pm. The Yoga Peeth is the birth place of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and is built in white marbled and towers 30 m high. It is a centre of excellence teaching in yoga, the vedas and meditation. It is assumed that Chaitanya was born under a neem tree which is still seen in the premise of the Yoga Peeth. There is a hut which contains the clay models and statues displaying the life and philosophies of the saint and a small shrine devoted to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur who raised the fund for building the original temple. Founded by Acharya of the Gaudiya Math named Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Maharaja, the Sri Chaitanya Math is dedicated to Radha Govinda and has four altars dedicated to the Vaishnava acharyas namely Sri Nimbarka, Sri Madhvacarya, Sri Ramanujacarya and Sri Visnuswami. The Sri Devananda Gaudiya Math is an ancient temple situated at Champahatti in one of the islands in Navadvipa known as Koladvipa and was established by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Maharaja. It is home to Lord Gaura and Gadadhara. Chand Kazi, a muslim, was the magistrate of Navadvipa who opposed the Harinam Sankirtana movement in Mayapur and broke the mridanga of Srivash Pandit, who led the Sankritana. Later Kazi became an ardent disciple of Shree Chaitanya Prabhu and the Chand Kazi Samadhi commemorates his transformation.

Nabadwip or Navadvipa is an heritage town where Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born and is famous for the Rass festival where city is li with lights and idols of Gods and Goddesses are made on each corner of the town. Located on the western bank of the Hooghly River, it is considered to have been established in 1063, and served as the old capital of the Sena dynasty and it is still noted for its traditional Sanskrit schools. Many who follow Gaudiya Vaishnavism visit Nabadwip to celebrate the auspicious birthday day of Shri Mahaprabhu, which, as per lunal calculations, occurs on Phalguni Purnima i.e. on the Full moon day in February – March and is known as Gaura-Purnima. The Bhagirathi river originally flowed down the west of Nabadwip in the past, but with time it has shifted its course to where it is at present, cutting the city off from the rest of the district. The name of the town is derived from the conjugation of the Bengali words naba or new and dwipa or island which means new-island. With almost 200 temples concentrated in this small rural setting, Navadwipa is a spiritual setting. The Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math devoted to Lord Chaitanya, a reincarnation of Lord Krishna, said to have been born here is the main reason that many come to Nabadwipa. The foundation for the temple was laid 1941 with a mere hut but over the years, the temple has grown to become one of the most magnificent sights. The ISKCON Temple at Navadvipa is built by the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is a beautiful temple that houses many Krishna idols. In addition to the main temple, the complex also has various book shops and a guest house where devotees can stay. One of the most popular temples of Nabadwipa, the Radha Rani Temple is a symbol of Goddess Radha’s love for Lord Krishna. The tale behind the temple is that Radha got angry with Lord Krishna and went into the jungle to avoid him. Lord Krishna spent many days looking for her and finally found her on a full moon night. Hence, devotees have a special belief of visiting this town on full moon nights, to commemorate their eternal love. Another folklore surrounding the place is that it is believed to have appeared on its own and not built by anyone. Dedicated to deities Lord Gaura and Lord Gadadhara, the Shri Devananda Gaudiya Math temple is a few hundred years old, built in Champahatti in one of the islands known as Koladvipa. The temple underwent some much needed renovation a few years ago through which much of its charm has been preserved. One of the most revered temples of Navadwipa, the Sri Mahaprabhu Mandir is located in Srivasa Angan and is subdivided into three shrines. The first is devoted Radha Krishna and Lord Chaitanya, the second to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, for his maha-prakasa-lila, the time when he became the supreme personality of God and the third is dedicated to Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai. The Pushpa Samadhi Mandir is a memorial to ISKCON’s Founder Srila Prabhupada, with the main shrine surrounded by a museum depicting his life using different exhibits. Located a about 8 km off Navadwipa, the Purbasthali Bird Sanctuary can be made as a day trip from Nadabwipa. With its 3 km long oxbow lake, the sanctuary has hundreds of species of birds and is known to have the clearest waters in all of the wetlands and is a photographers delight.

The village of Bakreshwar is a place of geological interest with as many as ten hot springs. The word Bakreshwar comes from the name of Lord Shiva worshipped locally with Bakra or Vakra meaning bent or curved and Ishwar meaning God. Mythologically it is said that in the Satya Yuga during the marriage ceremony of Lakshmi and Narayan, Ashtavakra Muni, then known as Subrata Muni was insulted by Lord Indra. The muni was so enraged that he developed 8 deformities in his body as Ashtavakra Muni means a sage with 8 curved deformities. Ashtavakra Muni was blessed by lord Shiva here after many years of meditation. Bakreswar is also famous as one of the 51 Shakti Peethas where there is a temple dedicated to Adi Shakti and is a major pilgrimage spot for Hindus. The Mahishamardini Temple is at a distance of about 60 km from the main town that belongs to one of the forty-seven Shakti Peetha temples scattered across the Indian subcontinent. This site of worship, dedicated to an incarnation Goddess Durga known as Bakranath, is steeped in mythology. The story goes that the temple is built on the point where the forehead and eyebrows of Sati fell. Additionally, there are more than a hundred subsidiary shrines to Shiva nearby. The Bakreswar Temple is located fairly close to the Mahishamardini Temple, and is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva. Deriving influence from architecture from Odisha, this ancient temple contains two different lingas corresponding to its outer and inner sanctum. Bakreswar has ten natural hot water pools with temperatures ranging from a soothing 90 to a steaming 200 degrees. At a temperature of about 200 degrees, Agni Kunda is the hottest spring located right next to the Bakreswar Temple. Agni which means fire is rich in many minerals including sodium, potassium, calcium, silicates, chlorides, bicarbonates and sulphates which are said to have medicinal properties. It might also contain traces of radioactive elements.The other springs are the Paphara Ganga, the Baitarini Ganga, the Khar Kunda which has water at 66 degrees celcius, Bhairav Kunda where the water is 65 degrees Celsius, Dudh Kunda where the water is of a dull white hue during the early mornings, probably due to ozone concentrations and is at 61 degrees celcius and is why it is named as dudh means milk. The Surya kunda which means the sun has water at 61 degrees Celsius and the Shwet Ganga, the Brahma Kunda and the Amrita kunda.

In our next part, the last part of exploring this fascinating state, we explore some more religious places and then the wonderful seaside towns and beaches.

3 thoughts on “Travel Bucket List: India – West Bengal Part 5

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