The Union ministry of tourism has recently recognised Kiriteswari temple in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district as the ‘Best Tourism Village of India 2023.’
The selection was part of an annual contest aimed at promotion and development of rural life and cultural heritage among the rural areas of the country.
It also focuses on the potential of heritage and cultural tourism in rural India. In 2023, a total of 795 villages across 31 states and Union territories took part in the contest. Kiriteswari, located 215km north of Kolkata approximately, emerged as the winner.
The structure of the original Kiriteswari temple stands in ruins
The village is known for its Kiriteswari temple, which is considered as one of the 51 Shaktipeeths in the country. Shaktipeeths are referred to shrines built on the sites where the various body parts of goddess Sati were believed to have fallen. They play an important role in the Shaktism cult. The crown (kirit) of sati is believed to have fallen in Kiriteswari and hence the name. Like most other Shaktipeeths the construction date of the temple is not known. According to local folklore, the main present structure dates back to the 19th century but several of the structures surrounding it are far older. It is believed to have been constructed by Darpyanarayan, the king of Lalgola.
The land on which the temple stands was donated by a Muslim family. The family still maintains a connection with the temple and arranges a grand feast on the day of Ashtami during Durga Puja.
The main temple of Kiriteswari
It is an active temple attracting hundreds of devotees every day. The main temple is well maintained and is surrounded by various structures, which are in various states of decay. The structures are spread over a large area located next to a pond. The complex is not enclosed in a walled complex. It provides free access to stray dogs and cattle.
A winding part leads to a ruined dilapidated temple structure on the other side of the pond. Locals believe it to be the remains of the original Kiriteswari temple. Portions of the massive structures have collapsed. Whatever remains is overgrown with vegetation and in the process developing large cracks stretching all across the structure.
A boat ferries passengers and totos across the Bhagirathi river in Murshidabad
Apart from local devotees, the temple of Kiriteswari also attracts tourists, especially those visiting Murshidabad. A large fraction of tourists visiting the famed historical sites of Murshidabad, do make it to the Kiriteswari temple. The temple is located on the other bank of Bhagirathi river and is connected by ferry service. Two boats are joined side by side and are topped with a bamboo platform and are improvised to carry heavy load. These modified boats ferry cars and totos across the river, thus the Kiriteswari temple is accessible by a single toto ride from anywhere in Murshidabad.
A ruined temple which still functions as a active shrine
The ‘Best Tourism Village of India 2023’ tag will definitely increase the inflow of tourists and will lead to the overall development of the village. Hope the age-old structure of the original temple will be restored (not rebuild) to its former glory.