Deulti, a village 50 kms from Kolkata, leads to Samtaber which is the abode of famous Bengali novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay was a Bengali novelist and short story writer of the early 20th century. Most of his works deal with the lifestyle, tragedy and struggle of the village people and the contemporary social practices that prevailed in Bengal. He remains the most popular, translated, and adapted Indian author of all time.
His house was constructed in the year 1923 by a local worker named Gopal Das and it cost a sum of ₹17,000. He stayed here for twelve years before moving to Calcutta.
The house and his belongings are still kept as is. The rooms, the courtyard, the staircase, the balcony – each and every corner of the house takes us back in time.
This two-storied Burmese-style house onlooking the Rupnarayan river, was also home to Sarat Chandra’s second wife, Hironmoyee Debi, and his brother, Swami Vedananda.
Parts of the house was damaged in the 1978 West Bengal floods.
The Zilla Parishad repaired the house, and it was declared a heritage-historical site under the West Bengal Heritage Commission Act (IX) of 2001.
Trees such as bamboo and guava planted by the novelist still stand in the gardens surrounding the house.
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s works such as Devdas, Baikunther Will, Dena Paona, Datta, and Nishkriti among others were serialised during his stay here. He also wrote Ramer Sumati and Mahesh among others during his stay in the house. We can also see the guava tree in his garden which has also found a place in his book Ramer Sumoti.
Green agricultural fields, temples, village houses by the Rupnarayan river and the house of famous Bengali novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay – that’s all what Deulti has to offer. A perfect blend of history and rural Bengal!
Six of us from Bangalore took a bus on a Thursday night and headed to Tirupathi. The plan involved visiting two temples there and returning back the next day.
It was a short and comfortable journey. We reached Tirupathi around 4 in the morning, freshened up in 40 minutes and left for the Padmavathi Ammavari temple straightaway.
The Padmavathi temple is situated in Tiruchanur, at a distance of 5 km from Tirupati in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. Padmavathi (or Alamelumanga) is the main deity of the temple. Padmavathi is the incarnation of goddess Lakshmi and is the consort of Lord Venkateswara.
We reached the Padmavathi temple and had to wait in a queue to get the tickets for darshan. There are three types of darshan one can avail – a free darshan, a 20 rupees ticket darshan and a 100 rupees ticket darshan.
We waited for around thirty minutes to get hold of the tickets and then another thirty – forty minutes for the actual darshan of Padmavathi.
Post Padmavathi darshan, we had to change our bus as the bus which brought us from Bangalore wasn’t allowed to go up the Tirumala Hills. So we got into an APSTC bus which took us to the Tirumala Hills.
Sapthagiri, also known as Tirumala Hills, is 853m above sea level and is located in the Eastern Ghats. It has seven peaks – Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabhadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri. The seven peaks represents the seven heads of Adisesha (In the Puranas, Adisesha is said to hold all the planets of the universe on his hood and constantly sings the glories of God Vishnu from all his mouths. It is said that when Adisesha uncoils, time moves forward and creation takes place.). The Venkateswara temple is on Venkatadri, the seventh peak, and is also known as the “Temple of Seven Hills”.
It was a beautiful and scenic journey. We reached there in another forty minutes and kept all our shoes and electronic devices in a shop before entering the temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Sri Venkateswara, an incarnation of Vishnu, who is believed to have appeared here to save mankind from trials and troubles of Kali Yuga. Lord Venkateswara is also known by many other names like Balaji, Govinda and Srinivasa.
We headed straight to the temple and didn’t have to bother ourselves for queues and tickets as the Sheegra Darshan passes were included in our bus tour package.
People from all across the world come here to pay a visit to Tirupati Balaji. They stand there in queues for hours to get a glimpse of Venkateswara for few seconds. Like everyone else, we stood in queues for around 80-90 minutes for Balaji Darshan. The chants of “Govinda Govinda” accompanied us all throughout this time.
I have heard and read about people waiting in queues for 14-15 hours for this. Whereas, we were fortunate enough to complete all this within a time of 6-7 hours.
I have many qualities. But patience ain’t one of them. I believe I have an attention span of that of a kid. With me pondering on this thought for the past two hours, I heard the pilot announce, “We have landed in Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport and wish you all a very Happy Durga Puja!”.
Finally after five long years, I made it to Kolkata during Durga Puja. Homecoming is always special. It becomes more special during Durga Puja in this part of the world.
Durga Puja is a ten day festival which starts from Mahalaya and continues till Dashami. It is considered to be one of the biggest festivals in the world.
As the festivities started, we planned to visit the bonedi baris of Kolkata. The term ‘bonedi‘ comes from the Urdu word ‘buniyaadi‘ which in turn comes from ‘buniyaad‘ meaning foundation. Bonedi baris are ancestral houses of Bengali babus, dating back to the 18th century.
We started our bonedi bari puja hopping from Shobabazar. Shobabazar has two rajbaris, one is known as the Shobabajar Rajbari and the other is known as Maharaja Naba Kissen Thakurbari. Maharaja Naba Kissen was the Dewan of Lord Clive and was considered to be ‘Calcutta’s premier zamindar’ during his time and his palace in Shobabazar was thought of as the foremost in the list of North Calcutta’s great houses. Originally, built by Sobharam Ghosh in the early 18th century, Naba Kissen came to own the property in 1757. After acquiring the palace, he began a series of alterations and renovations.
The Thakur Dalan was completed in just three months, in time for a lavish Durga Puja Festival. Such was the prominence of Naba Kissen in the North Calcutta Society that other durga puja ceremonies could only begin after the firing of Naba Kissen’s palace canon. The original palace building features Mughal and medieval Bengal temple-style architecture. However, some areas that are partially restored show European influence. The durga puja at Shobabajar Rajbari is still celebrated with ample grandeur.
After this we moved on to Khelat Ghosh Rajbari in Pathuriaghata. Pathuriaghata was once the home of Bengali babus, now mostly dominated by the Marwaris. The Tagores were one of the oldest residents of this neighborhood. Babu Khelat Chandra Ghosh was the grandson of Warren Hasting’s clerk Ramlochan Ghosh. His mansion is filled with marble sculptures, paintings, crystal chandeliers and other art objects. All Bengal Music Conference is held here and is patronized by the Ghosh family. All Bengal Music Conference was founded in 1937 in the halls of this house. Indian classical music was still in a nascent stage then.
Then we moved on to the durga puja of the Daws of Jorasanko. Late Shri Nrisingha Prasad Daw, after shifting the family business from spices to gun powder and as the business expanded, the business and family shifted here in Kolkata. Late Shri Narasingha Chandra Daw, known to the British as Nursing Chunder Daw, laid the first stones for the gun business that the family boasts of today. He handed over the family business and tradition over to his sons who took it further ahead.
Moving on from the northern part of the city, we went to Esplanade. Janbazar near Esplanade used to be known for the Rani Rashmoni Family. Rani Rashmoni was the founder of the famous Dakshineshwar Temple, who also remained closely associated with Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa. She is the one who appointed Sri Ramakrishna as the priest for the Dakshineshwar Temple. Apart from this, she had contributed in other constructions like the road from Subarnarekha river to Puri for the pilgrims, Babu Ghat, Ahiritola Ghat, Nimtala Ghat, Imperial Library (now known as the National Library of India), Hindu College (now known as the Presidency University) and many more.
There are three durga pujas here. One at Rani Rashmoni’s ancestral house and others at her two daughters’ houses.
The bonedi baris are a big proof of Bengal’s glorious past. They still stand strong holding the cultural and historical significance of the place. Sadly, Bengal, once a business center, is now struggling to keep their sons and daughters in Bengal as most of them end up leaving the state for better opportunities.
Bengalis have failed greatly to do justice to the pre-independence slogan, “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow”.
But come what may, most of us find out a way to return home every year during Durga Puja.
The first word that comes to my mind whenever I think about Kerala is diversity. Both culturally and geographically Kerala is a conglomerate of beautiful places. The scenic beaches of Kovalam, the amazing backwaters of Alappuzha, the mesmerizing tea gardens of Munnar, the Chinese fishing nets of Kochi and many such things make Kerala the place to be.
Kerala is the cleanest state of India and also the first Indian state to receive rainfall. It also has the highest female to male ratio and the highest literacy rate in India.
Kerala is also known as the Spice Garden of India for it’s varied production of spices. If you are travelling to Munnar, then make sure you don’t miss out on the spice gardens there. Besides spices like pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and clove, they are known for many medicinal plants as well.
Last but not the least, anything about Kerala would remain incomplete without the mention of the majestic houseboats of Alappuzha. Very few things are better than a houseboat which serves amazing food throughout the day, that too riding through the beautiful backwaters of Alappuzha.
Do visit Kerala, sooner or later. Till that time, I will leave you with some photos from my Kerala trip.
Kanyakumari, or Cape Comorin, is the southernmost point of Indian mainland. One can also see the confluence of Bay Of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean here. I was there for a weekend with two of my friends. We reached Nagercoil Junction around 7 o’clock in the morning, the muggy weather came as no surprise.
“Is this really a wish fulfilling lake ?”, my mother asked.
“This is Khecheopalri Lake. The locals consider it sacred. They throw a coin into the lake and wish for whatever they want.”, replied Adong, chewing on to his Haitai gum.
Walking back from the lake, we came across a tea shop. We stopped there for a while and ordered four cups of tea.
While the shopkeeper was busy making tea, I found his daughter, trying to hide behind him.
The little girl was playing with a bundle of straws. She was into some kind of mischief. She had brought these straws from somewhere and now was making the shop dirty. I approached her with the camera in my hand. She moved off, but was full of laughter. Visitors with cameras were not new to her.
She had a plump face with beady eyes, eyebrows so light that you have to look for it, snub-nosed, reddish brown hair falling on her forehead. The naughty giggle made her even more beautiful.
“What is your name ?”, I asked her.
Her father was very happy to see her daughter getting all the attention. But she payed no heed to my question, turned away her face and continued to play with the straws.
We were there for hardly ten minutes. But those ten minutes gave me one of my favourite clicks from the trip. There is definitely a lot more to Sikkim than just lakes, waterfalls and hills. People who consider Sikkim to be only picturesque and scenic, are greatly mistaken.
Back in 2007, the road to Nathu La had got blocked due to snowfall and my desire to visit the Indo-China border remained unfulfilled. This time I was there early, it was the month of November and snowfall had not started yet. How could have one afforded to miss a second chance ?
Nathu La remains closed for public sightseeing, on Mondays and Tuesdays. So if you are planning a visit, make sure you don’t end up in Gangtok for the first two days of the week. The border being at 14000 feet above sea level, people having breathing troubles at higher altitudes are advised not to visit the border. Passing through two or three check posts of the Indian army, it took us around two hours to reach our destination from Gangtok. It was freezing cold, the chilly air made everyone quiver. With numerous army camps, barracks and bunkers on both the sides, the journey was nothing but enthralling. Sriman, our driver played all kinds of patriotic songs on his music player and that just added to the mood.
The Indian National Flag marking the end of Indian territory.
Near Kyongnosla Check Post.
The army bunkers at Nathu La.
Indian Army bunkers.
Near Nathu La Pass.
On reaching Nathu La, the army officers guided us to the top and showed us around, a wired fencing marked the border, with a huge gate in between. The huge gate is actually the pass, which was originally a part of the Old Silk Route. Each and every word by the soldiers were words of wisdom and every single moment shared with them were moments of pride. The excitement of being there made shivers run down my spine. The excitement was natural. Is it everyday you get to visit the border ? Definitely, not.
The border there has been quite peaceful since 1962 and you will surely adore the camaraderie the soldiers of both the nations share. The Chinese soldiers even shook hands with us which told us loads about the current relation between the two countries.
“When is the next war uncle ?”, asked a kid.
“When the government decides my son. Hope it’s never.”, replied an officer.
The soldiers answered to all the innumerable questions without hesitation. They were all smiles in-spite of all the silly enquiries. It was heart warming to see how they sacrifice their lives, away from the city, far away from their families, in a place with no telephone network or internet connectivity, protecting us from all odds. That too without a twitch. It was an incredible experience to witness a soldier’s life from such close quarters.
Does travelling make us humbler ? Yes, surely experiences like these do. I would like to end this post with something the soldiers said. “When you go home, tell them of us and say, that for your tomorrow, we gave our today.”
Since my last visit to Sikkim, Pelling had always been on my wishlist. Finally, after an overnight journey by Darjeeling Mail, we reached New Jalpaiguri. Due to the just concluded monsoon season, the road to Pelling was full of potholes and gravels. The locals recommended us to hire a bigger vehicle instead of a smaller one as bigger the vehicle, less would be the chances of it getting upturned. So we hired a Mahindra Bolero.
The journey on NH-10 started with the hills on our left and river Teesta on our right. The zigzag ride continued for the next five hours with the hills and the river exchanging sides more often. By the end of it, Adong, our driver turned out to be a nice guy. Before we could reach Pelling, he had already shared many interesting facts about Sikkim and stories from his past experiences.
The days are becoming shorter and nights longer as we are approaching the end of the year. On reaching Pelling, dusk had just started to settle in. Since it was getting dark, there was no sign of Mt. Kanchendzonga. Our hotel manager assured us that we will be getting a clear sight of it the next morning. That evening, being tired of the long train journey followed by the giddy road trip, we had our dinner and slept off by 8pm.
The next morning, we woke up to the extravagant Mt. Kanchendzonga, we saw the first rays of sun fall on the mighty snow-clad mountain. It was not that we were seeing it for the first time, but this time we were closer. The nightlights were still on in some far away houses as the rays of the sun slowly touched the hills one by one. It was morning! The sky was clear, there were no clouds and the majestic Mt. Kanchendzonga stood in front of us.
First rays of sun falling on Mount Kanchendzonga
We covered almost everything in Pelling over the next two days. Pelling has numerous waterfalls by the road, some are big like Chhange Falls and Kanchendzonga Falls, and some are just water streams by the hill. To name a few of the must visit places, there is the famous archaic Singshore Bridge, the sacred wish fulfilling Khecheopalri Lake, the Rabdentse Ruins, the Pemayangtse Monastery and the Yuksom Lake. Many mountaineers visit Yuksom throughout the year as it is the base camp for trekking to Mt. Kanchendzonga. The nature is at its best in Pelling where the lakes, the waterfalls and the forests among the hills are a treat to the eyes. The clear skies and the sunny weather just added to its beauty.
I quickly ticked off Pelling from my wishlist and was more than excited to write this post. It has not been a day that I have returned from Pelling, yet I am certain to go back sometime again. Till then I have these evocative photos to keep me going.
Edit 1 – Special thanks to Adong (our driver and tour guide), Yap Chung Bhutia (Managing Director of our hotel) and his wife Yangden Bhutia for there love throughout our stay.
After walking through the narrow by-lanes of North Kolkata, we managed to reach Kumartuli. Since ages Kumartuli has been a home to the idol makers of Kolkata. Kumartuli is located by the Ganges and is popularly known as the potters’ quarter.
All the families here are directly or indirectly involved in idol making. Throughout the year they are busy making the idols of Ganesh, Kali, Durga and what not. The idols made here are not only supplied locally, but also exported to foreign countries during the time of Durga Puja.
Every artist here has their own studio where they work day and night. The studios are small and basic structures of wood and bamboo just to prevent the idols from getting wet during the monsoons. The size of the studio varies depending on the stature of the artist.
As you walk through the streets of Kumartuli, you get to witness many such idols which are kept by the side. The broken ones are placed along the road and it enhances the beauty of the place.
The people here get uninterrupted supply of clay and water (the basic need for idol making) as Kumartuli is located by the Ganges.
Idol making comprises many stages. First they make a wooden structure which supports the clay. After the clay is applied, it hangs on to the wooden framework. They proceed with coloring once the clay dries up.
The idols which are made here are massive, generally weighing more than a hundred kilograms. So these wooden trolleys are made to carry these idols from one place to another.
Kumartuli is not only a home to the idol makers of Kolkata, it is also very popular among writers, artists and photographers.
Darjeeling is a town in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is located in the Mahabharat Range or Lesser Himalayas at an average elevation of 6,710 ft (2,045.2 metres). It is noted for its tea industry and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway connects the town with the plains and has one of the few steam locomotives still in service in India.