Bankura and Purulia districts have always attracted me due to the hills and red soil. However, plans to visit these areas have not materialized until just a week ago. My parents were coming to visit us and I thought it would be nice to visit Bankura and Purulia.
There are many places in these two districts – Mukutmanipur, Barnati, Biharinath Hills, Ayodhya etc. I did some research and settled for Ayodhya Hills and if possible we would try to cover Bishnupur and Joypur forest on the way. Ayodhya Hills is a bit far from Kolkata for a road trip(more than 300km). I could not find many hotel options on the hills and hence booked Hotel Akash Sarovar in Purulia town.
There are three routes from Kolkata to Purulia. You can go to Bankura via Arambag and then go to Purulia. Second option is going to Durgapur via Durgapur expressway and then go to Bankura and then Purulia. The third option is Kolkata-Durgapur-Asansol-Purulia. The third option is more time consuming than others as per my findings on the net and others who have travelled to Purulia.
On 11th Nov, 2017 we started for Purulia. We stopped at Shaktigarh for some food and then from Muchipara at Durgapur, we took the connecting road to Bankura. You need to take left from Muchipara. Bankura is around 45km from there. The road was not in a good condition for first few kilometers but after that it was quite a smooth ride.
We stopped at Barjora for some snacks. The road further was beautiful with greenery on both sides. At a point we were driving through the jungle and saw a board declaring “Elephant Crossing Zone”. Fortunately or unfortunately, we did not spot any elephant though. I have added a video we recorded on the way.
video link: https://youtu.be/wSP11KOuNiE
Then from Bankura we took Bankura-Purulia road and in some time the terrain and vegetation on both sides changed. It started to feel like we are in a new land altogether.
We had to cross Hura, Gengeil, Hutmura ad Surulia on the way and it was near evening when we reached Purulia Town. Below are some photos captured on the way.
When we reached our hotel Hotel Akash Sarovar, it was almost dark. The receptionist and other staff were quite friendly. We decided to rest for the rest of the evening. We asked the reception to book a cab for next day visit to Muruguma Dam and Ayodhya Hills.
Saheb Dam(Nibaran Sayar) : In the morning around 6:15 am I woke up and thought of taking stroll around Saheb Dam just opposite our hotel. Got a wonderful view of the lake. There were migratory birds and egrets flying around. There were a lot of water lilies too. The lake is quite large with a perimeter a few kilometers. Took some photos and one video of the views.
Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZPGiIeKRFg
Trip to Murguma Dam and Ayodhya hills:
Next day the driver of the local cab arranged by the hotel came at around 9:00am, as planned. His name was Gouranga. It took a while to out of the city traffic and reach the rural area. We had planned to visit Murguma dam first. Our car was cruising into the rural areas soon. The fields on both sides were full of golden colored crops. On both sides of the road were Palash trees. Gauranga said in Febrary and March the whole area would be draped in red as that is the blossom time of the Palash flowers.
Ever since we entered Purulia the surroundings – the terrain, plants and crops all looked different. Now that I was not driving, I could enjoy the beautiful views and click photographs. We crossed a few villages – Arsha was one of them. I saw the milestone saying “Begunkodor – 10 km”. It immediately rang a bell. I had recently red a few articles on the sightings of ghosts at the Begunkodor station! The station remained closed for decades due to stories of ghost sightings. I asked the driver and he said we will not go to the station but will go through the Begunkodor market. I was a little disappointed to miss the opportunity to visit such a fabled spot.
On the way to Muruguma Dam
We then went through the Begunkodor market and saw the Hari Mandir – a blue color temple with an unusual structure.
In some time we were able to see the hills in the distance. It was a spectacular view – golden crops laid on the field, a few palm trees and the hills in the horizon.
At every kilometer or so you can see cattle herd – mostly cows and goats.
In some time we reached a small village and after a few turns there was a steep climb. Once the car reached the top of it we could see a captivating view – a lake surrounded by hills. It was the Murguma dam.
Below are a few photos of the lake:
video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfz8HQlJzxU
The driver said we will now head to Ayodhya hills. The road towards to hills was not quite good. The car slowly moved on. Then the ascend was steep at places and the road was too narrow for two vehicles. The driver said this road connects Murguma with the main hill area and it was a 17km drive till Ayodhya hill-top, as they call it. We drove on and the views on both sides were spectacular. At places it was only trees and at others the valley could be seen – full of colors – green and yellow.
On the way there were small villages – just a few mud-houses – colored in pink at the bottom.
After around half an hour or so we reached a spot and the driver said it was Mayur Pahar. We had to climb a little to reach the actual point. There was a valley with very nice views. There was a rock of the shape of a giant anaconda the other end of which went down the valley. We clicked a lot of photos and came down and went forward.
Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaHa-8HqHHo
After a while we reached the hill top and the driver said we can have food etc. there and rest for a while. We went to a small restaurant and had lunch. Food was not of high quality but there are not many options it seemed.
Got to know from the driver there is one of the Akash hotels there named Hotel Akash Hilltop. It was a branch of our hotel Hotel Akash Sarovar. We went there to take a look. They have some huts with good views with a bit high price.
We saw some government offices, one stadium and a government guest house – Niharika.
Then we headed towards the upper dam. This is one of the most beautiful spots in Ayodhya Hills. When we reached it really surprised us with the sheer beauty. Bluish water on one side of the dam and the vast green valley on the other. The dam was around a kilometer long and you can walk or drive till the other end.
video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xi-YOmnTrC0
Marble quarry: Our next destination was the marble quarry. It is an abandoned marble mine which now contains water and resembles a lake. There were two sheds made of leaves at the entrance of the quarry. The one on the right was a small tea stall. We bought some tea and cucumber from there.
Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yzyd425HZSM
Bamni falls: The driver told us the Bamni falls would be difficult to view unless you climb down the stairs to the bottom of the valley. When we reached the spot there were many other tourists also. There are a few stalls of cold drinks, ice cream, local sweets and some hand-crafted show-pieces.
We started to climb down the stairs but later realized the ascend might be difficult for my family members and dropped the idea. Some people went down and said there were too many steps to be climbed.
Near Bamni Falls
There is a small water stream and we took photos and bought some cold drinks and started again. After around 20 minutes we were back on the plane again and headed towards Charida village.
Charida Village: In Purulia, there is a local ritual called Chhou Dance. People dance with hand-made masks. Those masks are mostly made in a village called Charida – around 60km from Purulia town.
We had to travel for around half an hour to reach the village. There were many shops where the masks were being made. These masks are made of paper. Apart from the Chhou Dance masks, they also make faces of gods and goddesses and tribal men and women. We bought a couple of them for a few hundred rupees.
Charida village and Chhou mask shops
On our way back, we stopped at a tea stall at Baghmundi and had tea and then headed back towards the hotel.
We started for Kolkata at 10 in the morning next day. The plan was to visit Bishnupur and Joypur forest on our way back to Kolkata. On the way we saw some ponds full of water-lily. The view was wonderful. Below are a few quick clicks.
After a short stopover for tea and snacks near bankura we headed toward Bishnupur. Around 1pm we were entering Bishnupur town. First we got a bit confused and roamed around the town in search of terracotta temples. The roads inside the town are pretty narrow and it was not easy to manoeuvre through the market areas. Anyone visiting Bishnupur would be better advised to hire a toto for visiting local sites rather than using own vehicle.
Finally we found a space for parking near Chinnamasta temple. An aged man approached us and offered to be our guide for Rs 200. We decided to have our lunch first. We found a moderate looking restaurant named Biriyani House on that road. The food was excellent. We also bought some show-pieces from one of the many shops in the same area.
Once we thought of staying in the town for the day but no rooms were available at the government guest house. The other hotels nearby did not seem to be good and a little high priced. Hence we decided to quickly visit the prominent spots and head back to Kolkata. The guide then took us to Rashmancha. There was an entry fee of Rs 20 or 25 per head. It is a few hundred years old. Due to lack of maintenance the delicate terracotta work was damaged to a great extent. The structure was a bit unusual with too many pillars and a central area for the deity. This temple was build around 400 years back (1600 AD).
We also briefly visited the below places.
Mrinmoyee Temple, Gumghar, Radheshyam Temple, Madanmohan Temple
Temples of Bishnupur
Joypur Forest: Around 20 km from Bishnupur is Joypur forest. We just drove through the forest and did not have enough time to stop as it was already 5 in the evening. It was a wonderful experience driving through the forest.
In a few more hours drive we reached Kolkata.
Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwSHFF90L54