(Top) Men fill water at the hot spring and youths picnic near the hot spring. Pictures by Snehamoy Chakraborty
Anew hot spring has come up in Birbhum.
It was there, rather. But it has caught tourist attention of late, stealing some of the crowds from Bakreshwar, the hot spring destination in the district that got all the footfalls so far.
This is no hot spring with water gushing out of the ground. The water, surprisingly, comes out of a tank.
The newly discovered spring is in Meteldanga village under Mayureswar I block area. Villagers bathe in its warm water at the height of winter. This winter it turned into a picnic spot.
Meteldanga is a remote tribal village in Birbhum, about 65km from Bolpur town, where about 40 tribal families reside.
About three years ago, a few tribal youths working in a paddy field here went to the canal to wash themselves. They were surprised to find that the water of the canal was very hot. They tried to find the cause and found a hole just at one side of the canal from where hot water was bubbling out.
“When we first noticed the source of the hot water, we were surprised. We were afraid too. We were afraid of an explosion. We ran to the village and informed others about the new water source,” said Kalidas Tudu, a resident of Meteldanga village.
Within months, the news of the new hot spring spread in and around Mallarpur area.
A local NGO, Mallarpur Naisuva, which works for the development of Meteldanga village, inserted a tube at the source of the hot water and attached a tap to it.
The locals started to use the hot water during winter.
Later, the NGO took initiative and set up a tank to store the water.
A bathing place for women was also created.
“We informed the panchayat and block authorities. We also sought help of the district administration as it could be a new tourist spot in this area,” said Sadhan Sinha, secretary of Mallarpur Naisuva.
Geology experts claimed that this hot spring may be of the same kind as Bakreswar’s as it lies in the same zone. Research scientist of Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre, Calcutta, Hirok Chaudhuri, had plans to visit the spot to find out the actual source of the hot water and its quality.
“About 115 million years ago the Rajmahal area was volcanic. Slowly it cooled down but in few places the heat is still preserved. These hot springs are the last remaining traces of volcanism,” Chaudhuri said.
He said that all areas had not cooled down at the same rate.
“These areas are called ‘geo-thermal area’ in geology. The Bakreswar-Tantloi zone is a geo-thermal area,” he added.
On a cold morning in the first week of January, three groups from Mallarpur and its adjoining village Rambhadrapur organised picnics in the empty paddy field here. The day out included a bath in the hot water.
“We came to know about this hot spring a few months ago. We enjoyed ourselves,” said Gopi Mondal, a businessman from Mallarpur who came with friends and family.
Ratan Saha, a youth from Rambhadrapur village, came with his friends. “Today the temperature was very low and the sky was cloudy. But I took a bath for about half an hour in the hot water,” Saha said.
The villagers of Meteldanga believe that the water is not only for taking a bath in winter but also potable.
“We drink the water often because it keeps us free from different stomach-related problems,” said Daktar Muddy, a tribal farmer from Meteldanga.
The local gram panchayat has built a toilet for visitors. BDO of Mayureswar I block, Biswanath Chakraborty, said: “We have planned to do up the area beautifully to attract visitors. We hope it will be a new tourist spot on the way to Tarapith.”