Karnagarh is a nondescript village just 10 km north of Midnapore town. For those interested in history and architecture, it is the right place to explore. The main attraction is the remnant of a huge stone fort. The core of the structure is gone but parts of the surrounding walls, soldiers’ barracks, temples and water tanks remain.
One of the first uprisings against the colonial rulers happened in Karnagarh in April 1798. The episode has gone down in history as chuar vidroho, chuar meaning uncivilised. The local farmers led by Rani Siromoni, who is sometimes referred to as the Laxmibai of Bengal, rose in revolt against the tax collectors.
The British sent forces to Bengal and crushed the revolt by 1799. The queen was imprisoned and later killed in Midnapore town.
Residents believe that Karna of the Mahabharata once ruled this land, though there is no historical proof. An old Sanskrit book named Bhabishya Bramha Khanda calls the town Karnadurga.
The earliest recorded history goes back about half a millennium. From the archaeological pattern of the temples found here, it is assumed that they were built by Raja Karnakeshri of the Keshari dynasty of Orissa. Raja Mahabir Singh built the fort at Karnagarh. Two of the temples were built in it to commemorate Yashobant Singh, the grandson of Mahabir.
The fort established by Mahabir is now little more than a ruin. Portions of the walls and dilapidated temples stand like sentinels. From the remains of the temple, one can surmise that the fort was nearly 3 km long. A river called the Parang used to flow past it.
Debris of many temples and structures are strewn at Karnagarh. One of the temples is built in pancharatna style, but does not have a deity.
The southern part of Karnagarh houses a complex where a couple of 17th century temples of the same height stand side by side in a fenced compound. Known as Anadilinga Dandeshwar and Devi Bhagavati Mahamaya, the two structures are in relatively good condition and attract a lot of visitors.
There are three stone gates to the complex. The main one is on the western side, 75 ft tall and leads to a yogimandap.
The Dandeshwar temple is 60 ft tall and is nearly 20.6 ft long. It is an example of the Orissa school of architecture. There is a stone natmandap of about 4 ft in height and a deul or biman.
There is no image inside the temple, only a pit of about 8 ft. It is called Jonipith. On the left of the jagmohan, a shivling carved of stone is worshipped as Khargeshwar Mahadev.
The Mahamaya temple stands on the left of the Dandeshwar temple. It is also built in the Orissa style and dedicated to the mother goddess. Its middle part, jagmohan, is made in saptarath pida style while the garva griha is made in the saptarath shikhar style. The temple is 33 ft tall and the jagmohan itself is about 20 ft high.
The image of the goddess or mahamaya in a muslin sari, placed on a lotus, is eye-catching. Tantrik rituals are practised in this temple, which was once a property of the Narojal royal family here.
None of the structures are adorned with terracotta or lime work. Recently, both temples have been painted pink and the magic of black stone is lost. However, the surrounding walls are still in black and the ambience magical.
Midnapore is 128 km from Howrah station and 135 km from Esplanade. It is about a two-and-a-half-hour ride. The road from Calcutta is smooth but the bridge near Kolaghat is in bad shape, so drive carefully. Karnagarh is just 10 km from Midnapore town, on the way to Garbeta. Cars and autorickshaws are available from Midnapore town. If you want to come back by evening, start early.
A day trip is enough to cover all the tourist attractions in Karnagarh. If you want to spend a night in the village, ashrams are the only option. Alternatively, put up in Midnapore. There are several hotels and lodges with tariff ranging from Rs 400 to
Rs 2,000 per night and plenty of eateries. Explore the historical attractions in Midnapore before heading to Karnagarh. You can even drop in at Pathra. There are no restrictions on photography.