Timeless and wondrous Bishnupur
There is wide expanse of eucalyptus trees lining the large area of the Lalgarh jungle in Bankura district. On a quick weekend getaway to the land of temples that is Bengal’s Bishnupur, We drove through the expanse of the forest, spotting empty zones for happy campers who come to picnic on the land. There are more ruins of temples standing tall and untouched in Bishnupur than there are ATMs in our city and the terracotta and brickwork of the walls of these places of worship stand tall in stark contrast to the greenery around it. All you see is the bright red of the soil, the brownish hues of the artworks and the greenery of the trees, as far as your eyes travel. Spending a night at Hotel Annapurna while on this trip proved to be the exact mix of rustic, old-world charm and expanse of comfort, that would be unthinkable till one decided to take the four-hour drive from Calcutta airport.
The first left one takes from Hotel Annapurna takes you to the heart of the town that is marked by Raasmanch, a temple built in the style of an amphitheatre with ample green space around where dwellers come for walks. The terracotta art on the walls is unique with stories associated to them with each temple having a special significance. There is a weekend market called Poramatir Haat with live music, dance and sellers selling their fare. While the haat has been on hold for the corona crisis, there are chances of it being revived soon. We explored the nearby places in the area while also shopping for some gorgeous Baluchari saris that Bishnupur is famous for. Here are a few glimpses.
With 47 rooms, a multi-cuisine restaurant, a rooftop space with an enviable view and a pool to sit and lounge beside, Hotel Annapurna in the heart of Bishnupur is a pleasant surprise of luxury amidst the pora maati. The bar will serve you cocktails of your choice while those opting to stay at the hotel may even avail their in-room service with a special in-house bar as well. With three banquet halls and a large driveway, this hotel is sure to catch your eye and fancy if you choose to immerse yourself in their hospitality.
We dug into a scrumptious Bengali lunch at the hotel restaurant. For those looking for variety, there are plenty of options and cuisines to choose from.
The names of the hotel rooms caught our fancy — Ekante, Ayesh, Bilaash, Swajan, Nawabiana and Chorus. Double beds that go up to suites and six beds, their prices start at Rs 3,000 with some rooms offering a panoramic view of the green horizon in the distance. One has plenty of options and price range to choose from with the most expensive being Rs 7,000.
Panchmura, the terracotta hub of Bengal, is a village an hour away from Bishnupur. Home to 120 families with over 270 artisans who dabble in the art of terracotta, the best of the land gets exported. The horse figurine that has come to signify blessings and happiness, now adorn most Bengali households. Take a walk through the village and interact with artisans to know more about this beautiful art made from the soil.
Piardoba Airfield or Basudevpur Chatal is an abandoned airport and runway for flights during World War II. Hidden in the labyrinth of the jungle and a short drive away, the airway flanked by tall trees on either side makes for a gorgeous sight.
Housed in an enclosed arena beside a mandir, this wrought iron canon or Dalmadal claims to be the largest that was built by the Malla rulers. There are legends associated with the tale of the canon that are best heard from a local guide who you will find stationed there, which makes for an evening of great conversation!
A natural canyon in the heart of Bengal, Gangani is a tourist sight in Midnapore, 40 minutes away from the hotel. Also referred to as the Grand Canyon of Bengal, a wooden motorable bridge takes you across the Shilabati river to the other side to capture the most majestic views of the canyon that stretches for a long distance. Sit on the riverside taking in the grandiose of mother nature early in the morning for the best experience.
Built by Malla king Krishna Singh and his wife queen Churamani Devi, the Radhamadhav Mandir is one of plenty that showcases the story of Lord Krishna on its walls. Walk around the area to get a taste of the rich history of the Malla kings.
What: Hotel Annapurna
Where: College Road, Bishnupur, Bankura
Distance: Around four hours drive from Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport
Expect: A rustic-meet-comfortable stay at the centre of Bishnupur, this hotel is strategically located for you to discover the best of Bengal art and nature. A stay here includes breakfast, Wi-Fi and access to a multi-cuisine restaurant and bar.
Pocket pinch: Rs 3,000 - Rs 7,000