Ganpur forest

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By Sankar Sridhar Pictures by Kanchan Das
  • Published 21.11.04

Twelve years in exile over, the Pandavas were on the lookout for a place to spend the last year lying low before going back to reclaim their kingdom. That is when they reached Ganpur in Birbhum.

All that might be legend, but it?s not hard to imagine why the quintet chose to stay put here. The area holds promise, offering everything to a person planning on staying holed-up for a weekend getaway ? dense disorienting forests, furrows in the laterite soil that could be used as shelter and streams that snake through the bed of the forest.

Legend has it that the forest was full of fruit-bearing trees when the Pandavas visited. But it is advisable for those visitors with a weakness for fruits to buy them from Mallarpur station. That is where visitors to Ganpur Forest need to alight from Ganadevata Express.

A stone?s throw away is a village after which the station is named. The top draw of the hamlet is the cluster of 12 terracotta temples, each with a shiva linga in the sanctum sanctorum. It is around five km from the station to Ganpur Forest Rest House, which offers comforts the Pandavas could never have dreamt of. Both buses and rickshaws ply the route.

The only trees that make up the natural forest today are cash-yielding sal, all the 3,300 acres of it, and is home to numerous birds and not so numerous wild boar. Migrating herds of elephants from Dalma also frequent this forest.

Some three km into the jungle is another Mahabharata connection. A Siddhnath Shiva temple on Shivpahari where Jayadrath is said to have meditated for months in front of the four-foot linga to be granted a boon wherein the one who ?dropped his head on the ground ? would combust spontaneously.

Jayadrath lost his head in the Kurukshetra battle, but Arjuna whose arrow did the damage, found a loophole in the boon to save himself. Jayadrath?s head went flying and landed on the lap of his father, a rishi, who, shocked by the sight of his son?s head, dropped it on the ground. He was immediately reduced to ashes.

Legend aside, Ghagha, a tribal village deep in the jungle is definitely worth a visit at this time of the year, when evening sets quickly and villagers crowd around bonfires to swap stories.

Survival kit
• Sturdy shoes
• Water-purifying tablets.

How to get there

Ganadevata Express leaves Howrah station at 6.05 am and reaches Mallarpur in four hours. You can avail of buses or rickshaws to reach Ganpur Forest.

Where to stay

The Ganpur Forest Rest House can be booked from Aranya Bhavan, Salt-Lake,
Phone : 23358580/8581/8919. Double-bed rooms cost Rs 350.