I still remember the wet morning of 17th June 2011 my friend, colleague and fellow photo enthusiast Akash Mondal introduced me to the world of Blogging. Although I have been writing travelogues for more than a decade and maintained a personal website, I have never been much of a computer friendly person. Strangely I soon got the hang of Blogging and started posting articles regularly.
Soon words of inspiration and likes from friend followed, inspiring me to work hard on my blog. I set up an action plan of “Mid Week Update” updating an article every Wednesday. In a short span of time likes and comments extended beyond my friend circle with eminent scholars and best selling authors commenting on my blog. Comments and likes also followed from fellow bloggers, travel & photographic enthusiasts.
I have always been know as a “Travel Writer & Photographer” due to my numerous travelogues published in the leading dailies of the country. My website tag also reads “Freelance Travel Writer & Photographer” and so does my Blog title, but blogging has given me the advantage to think beyond travel writing. Although for the first year my blog has been restricted to travelogues mainly but I am seriously considering other areas of non fiction writing.
My Blog’s achievement in the first year:
- 48 post.
- 12000 + page views
- 100 + comments (including my comments)
- 20 likes
Resolutions for the second year:
- Write non travelogues, covering topics like popular science, food, social science, etc.
- Maintain my Midweek update every Wednesday
- Enjoy blogging
A special thanks to all my friends and well wishers for making my blog a grand success.
Stone has always been in short supply in the vast flood plains of Bengal. Hence the architects had to restore to other substitute. As clay was easily available the burnt clay bricks soon became a good substitute of stone. This gave rise to a new form of temple architecture and lead to the construction of elaborately decorated terracotta temples. The terracotta art reached its pinnacle under the patronage of the Malla Kings of Bishnupur during the seventeenth century. The temples are still there turning Bishnupur into one of the most favored tourist spot in West Bengal.
Located just 15 km east of Bishnupur the non – descriptive village of Joypur houses some of the finest specimen of terracotta art. It was during the 18 – 19th century few families of the village took advantage of the cloth trade with the British and made a fortune. They acquired land and became zamindars and built fantastic temples. De and Dutta family were two such families and they still have a temple standing in the courtyard of their decapitated family mansion.
Both the temples are built in naba ratna (nine pinnacles) style and are approached by a triple arched entrance from the Northern and Eastern side. Sadly the temples are in bad shape and are in desperate need of professional restoration.
The Damodar Temple of Dutta family has elaborate terracotta on the Eastern arch panel. The central arch panels have scenes from Krishnalila while those on the left and right contain battle scenes from Mahabharata and Ramayana. The uniqueness of the Joypur terracotta is its deep relief giving an almost three dimensional effect to most of the figure. The set of musicians on the cornice are in full three dimension. The temple also contains panels of das avatar, Vishnu in anantasaya and Bishma in sarasaya (bed of arrows).
Located a short distance away is the Vishnu Temple belonging to the De family and follows the same pattern of Naba Ratna architecture. The arch panel shows a series of boats some with armed guards and other with noble men and ladies, including a scene where a noble man smokes a hookah carried by an attendant in different boat.
Another arch panel shows two fantastic jumping lions embedded on a floral motif complete with birds and flowers. Just above the lions is a fantastic panel showing Ram and Sita enthroned attended my monkeys and musicians. A little away from the De family temple is a spectacular octagonal Rash Manch crowned with nine onion shaped pinnacles.
So next time when you are in Bishnupur to enjoy do take a couple of hours break to visit the spectacular temples of Joypur, but don’t be late because centuries of neglect can soon turn the temples to dust.
- Joypur from www.aishee.org
- Next Weekend you can be at … Jaypur by Somen Sengupta, The Telegraph 13 July 2011
- Travel article on Joypur (Link not yet ready)
List of my Blog entry on West Bengal
~ Temples and Mansions ~
Bawali, a non – descriptive village just off the Diamond Harbour Road (DH rd) from Amtala, is home to towering temples and palatial mansions.
History books tell us that the Mondals of Bawali were originally Roys. Shovaram, the grandson of Basudev Roy (who lived between the end of 16th century and the early 17th century), was awarded the title Mondal. Shovaram’s grandson Rajaram was the senapati of the Raja of Hijli. Moved by his bravery, the raja offered him the ownership of 50 villages, which included Bowali and Budge Budge.
The family set up residence in Bawali. This marked the beginning of their dominance in the area, roughly around 1710. The family flourished under Rajaram’s grandson Haradhan, who enjoyed the patronage of East India Company. He built many temples and his seven sons followed in his footsteps, turning the nondescript village into a temple town.
Today Bowali is well connected by road from Amtala on Diamond Harbour Road (DH rd.) by a bumpy trekker ride of 45 minutes. The towering Gopinath Temple, built in nabaratna style, dominates the Bowali skyline. In front of the temple is a flat – roofed natmandir, whose roof has long colapsed. All that remains are the slender pillars and arches.
In front of the ruined natmandir is a circular platform, which once housed the octagonal Rashmancha. The Rashmancha collapsed during the 2008 monsoon and the platform is all that remains of the spectacular octagonal structure.
Behind the temple lies the Radha-Kanta and Lakshmi-Janardan temples, both built in traditional aat – chala style. Sadly they are overgrown with vegetation and almost inaccessible. Scattered around the temples are several decapitated structures, including the remains of a Dolmancha. Large portions of the Dolamancha have already collapsed making it inaccessable.
Next to Gopinath temple is the Radhaballav temple. This structure is well maintained. Built around 1857, it houses the idols of all the surrounding abandoned temples. The two-storeyed Mondal Villa is next door. The plaster has peeled off and several portions are on the verge of collapse. There is no trace of the landscaped garden that once surrounded it.
Bawali also has an interesting architectural piece called the jal tungi (water folly). An octagonal structure, built at the centre of a pond, with ornamental railings and windows with Venetian blinds. The folly with slender columns and a long flight of stairs, approachable by boat from a ghat, allowed the Mondals to enjoy the evening breeze.
The ghat is a 15-minute walk from the temple complex. The railings and the windows of the folly did not survive the test of time and the waters of the pond are now covered by water hyacinth. But the jal tungi still stands and so does the ghat, reminding one of the glorious past of Bawali.
If you are planning a day trip to Bawali, hurry, for the forces of nature and human neglect would soon turn the attractions of the village into dust.
- Dakshin Chabis Pargana Jelar Purakirti by Sagar Chattopadhyay
Related links from my website:
List of my Blog entry on West Bengal
The Bengal temple architecture is classified under two broad heads namely ~ Chala (sloped roof) and Ratna (Pinnacle) style. Rarely the two styles combine in a single temple forming a mixed form of architecture. The Durga Temple of Bali – Dewanganj is probably the best example of such mixed temple architecture in the whole of West Bengal.
The lower part of Durga Temple follows the Chala style, in the form of Jora – Bangla style, consisting of two adjoining thatched roof structures. In the middle of the two thatched roof structures stand a Naba – Ratna (nine pinnacled) structure, thus combining the two forms of Bengal temple architecture.
Bali – Dewanganj is a non – descriptive village in the Arambagh sub – division of the Hooghly district. It is well connected by road from both Arambagh and Tarakeshwar. For the most comfortable journey it is best to take the morning Tarakeshwar Local followed by a bus to Bali – Dewangunj. Get down at Haldar Para, from where a winding dirt roads leads to Rout Para, housing the Durga Temple along with a host of other temples.
Rout Para houses five temples out of which three are in crumbling stage. Large portions of these temples have already collapsed and all that remains are on the verge of collapsing. Mangal Chandi Temple which lies on the left hand side of the road is said to contain thirteen pinnacles but none of them have survived the test of time. Only one of the stories of this three storied structure stands to this day. Nothing much is known about the structural details of the other two ruined temples, but somehow a pinnacle of each of the two temples stands to this day. The fourth temple in the complex is a small Shiv temple, probably constructed at a much later date and cannot be considered as a historical structure.
But the star attraction of the temple complex is the Durga Mandir, which has remained remarkably intact for over 200 years. Maintained by the West Bengal State Archeology Department, the temple is approached by a three arched entrance way and with elaborate terracotta carvings on its front face. Above the arches, in the centre, lies the huge terracotta panel of Durga. This is probably the largest terracotta panel in the whole of West Bengal. It is flanked on the left by slightly smaller panels of Laxshmi & Ganesh and on the right by Sarswati & Kartik. Stucco work, in the form of temple, surrounds each of the five panels giving them a unique look. There are several other smaller terracotta panels all over the front surface of the temple.
Bidding good bye to the temples, retrace your steps back to the main road, where an octagonal Rashmancha greets you. Sadly the century old structure has been totally reconstructed into a modern structure resembling neither the beauty nor the grace of its former counterpart.
If you are still hungry for more you can walk along the main road towards Arambagh. You will soon come across the crumbling remains of a Rashmancha. Further 10 minutes down the road will bring you to the remains of a dilapidated temple on the right hand side of the road. Totally overgrown with trees the temple still contains a few intricately carved terracotta panels. A few minutes further down the road will bring you to a spectacular mansion with arched gateways and slender columns. Known as the Shiv Kuthir, the spectacular building has long been abandoned and roofs have caved in. The inside is overgrown with trees and totally inaccessible.
The crumbling temples and mansions of Bali – Dewanganj will definitely make you sad. But in spite of all odds the Durga Temple with its unique architecture and rich terracotta carvings are spectacular enough to turn Bali – Dewanganj into your next Sunday outing spot.
- Hooghly Jelar Purakirti by Narendranath Bhattacharya
Links from my personal website:
List of my Blog entry on West Bengal
“Char chak, chodda para, tin ghat; ei neye Rajbalhat” (four crossing, fourteen localities and three bathing areas; consists of Rajbalhat) goes an old saying. Today Rajbalhat is a non descriptive town in the Jangipara block of Hooghly district but its history dates back to the 16th century when it was the capital of the Bhursut (Bhurishrestha) Empire.
The 16th century temple housing the idol of Devi Rajballavi, after whom Rajbalhat is named, can still be seen to this day but sadly the temple has been renovated several times and in the process wiping out centuries of history.
The strange idol of Rajballavi, about six feet in height, is white in colour and his left leg rests on the head of seated Birupakha Mhadev and right leg rest on the chest of Mahakal Bhairab. The right hand has a dagger while the left a sindoor case. The temple is still active and devotees from the surrounding region converge to Rajbalhat to pay tribute to the Goddess. Rajbalhat also houses a couple of terracotta temples and offers an interesting mix of pilgrimage and history, ideal for your next Sunday gateway.
Haripal is the nearest rail head and the morning Tarakeshwar local is the best way to get there. From Haripal a bumpy ride on an overcrowded trekker takes you to Rajbalhat. Get down at the Rajbalavi temple complex. Built by Raja Rudranarayan of Bhursut the Rajballavi Temple complex also houses four shiva temples, one of which is octagonal in shape. Sadly the entire complex has undergone several renovations and has lost all trace of its 500 years of history. But the strange idol of Devi Rajballavi, still reminds one of the historic days of the temple. The temple is still active and pujas can be offered.
Bidding farewell to the Rajballavi Temple Complex head for Silpara, housing another temple complex. This temple complex houses several temples but the star attraction is the 1724 built terracotta temple of Sridhar Damodor. The front faced of the temple is covered with intricate terracotta works. Sadly the overenthusiastic locals have given it a multi coloured facelift and in the process partially destroying the century old art. The terracotta panels consist of war scenes from Ramayana, elaborate images of ships and boats and last but not the least scenes from day to day life.
During the British period Rajbalhat was an important centre of silk industry and in 1789 East India Company set up a Commercial Residency in Rajbalhat. The silk survives to this day and the sound of the hand loams can still be heard in Rajbalhat. Bobbins of thread left to dry are a regular sight.
Take a narrow lane past the temple complex and walk past the textile workshop with its battering loams. Walk past women spinning cotton thread on charka (spinning wheels). The lane meanders on reminding one of North Calcutta or even of Beneras. Finally the lane emerges in Rajbalhat Bazar and a short walk takes you to the grand temple of Radhakanta in Ghataktala.
Built in 1733 the Radhakanta temple stands on a square base of approximately 20 feet length and rises to a height of about 50 feet. The front face consists of elaborate terracotta and luckily the locals have spared them of their bizarre decorative effort. The panels remain in their authentic brick red colour.
The aat chala temple has a triple arched entrance with the arch panels consisting of elaborate battle scenes of Ramayana.
The base panels mainly consist of images of ships & boats and of royal chariots & processions.
Finally it is time for home but if you are still hungry for more do visit the more famous terracotta temples of Aatpur on your way home.
Links from my personal website:
List of my Blog entry on West Bengal
Exactly 100 years ago, Lt-Gov. of Bengal Andrew Frazer fell in love with a beach at one end of the Sunderbans. He was so drawn to that stretch of sand that he built a bungalow at Narayanitala, the nearest village.
The bungalow by the sea, surrounded by coconut groves, became a talking point among the Englishmen in Calcutta. Frazer, however, could not fulfil his dream of converting Narayanitala, later rechristened Frazerganj, into a health and beach resort. The bungalow, too, was swallowed by the advancing waters. Today, apart from the name, nothing remains of Frazerganj’s colonial past. However, don’t be disheartened, for the beach of Frazerganj, along with those of nearby Henry’s Island and Bakkhali are enchanting enough for a perfect weekend and more.
Located about 130 km from Kolkata, Bakkhali, Frazerganj & Henry’s Island is well connected by road. The highlight of the 5 hours bus journey is the crossing of the Hatania – Doania River. Bus and other vehicles are ferried by a vessel across the narrow but swift flowing river.
Bakkhali beach is one of the few beaches in India, which offers a spectacular sunrise and sunset. The sun rises and sets along the edge of the sea turning both the water and sand into a bright shade of crimson. Bakkhali is the most popular of the three resorts and have a number of hotels, including the West Bengal Government Tourist Lodge.
The beach of Bakkhali is safe but is not ideal for swimming as the water is very shallow. There are nearby fishing villages and fresh fishes are sold straight out of the fisher’s man net. There is nothing much to do in Bakkhali expect laze in the beach.
In the evening tea stall lets out plastic chairs @ Rs5 per hour and one can sit for hours munching on endless plates of Bhelpuri, Jhalmuri, Pokaros gulping it down with cups of tea.
When it comes to food Bakkhali is a favourite hunt for the fish loving Bengali tourist. Promfret, Bethki, Ilish, Pabda along with prawns and crabs are available at a throw away price at the roadside eateries. These eateries also cooks the freshly caught fish purshased from the sea beach. Do try out the fish and sea food at the Sagar Kanya, a small eatery on the road connecting Bakkhali Bus – stand to the beach.
Bakkhali also houses a Deer & Crocodile Farm. It also doubles up as a crocodile breading centre with crocodiles of different ages kept in different reservoirs. The deer are also kept in large enclosure. The place is always infested with stray monkeys.
The Bakkhali also houses a small shrine dedicated to the gurdain deity of Sundarban Bonbibi. The easiest way to visit the temple is to take a walk along the beach with the sea on the right. Walk till the last lamppost and take a left turn into the Causarina forest leading up to the small shrine of Bonbibi.
Named after Lt-Gov. of Bengal Andrew Frazer, Frazerganj is about 3 km from Bakkhali. It is well connected from Bakkhali by bus and cycle van but the best option is to walk along the beach.
The beach between Bakkhali & Frazerganj is lonely and there are several fishing villages and you are quiet likely to come across fishermen mending their boats and nets, with their children playing in the beach.
The main landmark of the Frazerganj beach are the towering wind mills. Slightly of the Frazerganj beach are several dilapidated houses almost at the verge of collapsing, locals believe them as the remains of Frazer’s famed bunglow, but there are no concrete evidences to justify their belief.
Farazerganj is a hub of fishing activities and houses a large harbour. A short bumpy cycle van ride connects the beach to the harbour. Hundred of fishing boats, of all posible shape and size, line up the harbour. It is a place of fanatic activities with fishes being unloaded and packed with ice. Benfish also runs a auction centre at the harbour.
It is also a place where boats and nets are mended. Also you can come across new boats are being worshiped before making their maiden voyage.
Frazerganj harbour is also the lunch pad for trips to the uninhabited Jambu Dip, a small island approachable by a short but rough boat ride. Apart from a few temporary fishing huts Jambu Dip has no permanent settlement. It is an ideal place to enjoy the beach all to yourself, but be prepared for rough ride and wadding through knee deep water.
Located on the western edge of the Sundarban, Henry’s Island is fast developing into in West Bengal’s favorite Beach Resort. Named after a British surveyor, who survived the area about a century ago, Henrys Island is one of the numerous island that form the Ganga – Brahmaputra delta, the largest in the world. Crisscrossed by numerous rivers and rivulets Henry’s island offer an interesting mix of beach and mangrove forest. A place, where tourist can laze on the beach and spot wildlife simultaneously.
During 1980s the West Bengal Fisheries Department took the initiative of turning Henry’s Island into a tourist spot. Several ponds were dug and a forestation project taken up. It also led to the construction of the two resorts of Mangrove & Sundari.
A kilometer long narrow Bernard Road connects Henry’s Island to the Kolkata – Bakkhali Highway. The road meanders through agricultural fields and Henry’s Island is reached after crossing a creek, where the beautifully laid garden welcomes you to the Mangrove Resort. The meatled road gives away to a brick laid road and it meanders through dense forest to reach the Sundari Resort, from there a further 10 minute walk takes you to the Kiran Beach.
The Kiran Beach is a mixture of sand and clay and is lined with casuarinas plantation with occasional mangroves. You are quite likely to have the beach all to yourself along with a company of red crabs, turning the beach into a red carpet.
Sundari Tourist Complex houses a watch tower, providing a panoramic view of the surrounding and lucky few can even spot wildlife like deer and wild pigs. Complex also house several large ponds used for fish cultivation. Fresh fish and shrimps straight out the ponds are a must try for the visitors.
Links from my website:
List of my Blog entry on West Bengal
On 24th December 1886 at Aatpur nine disciples, including Swami Vivkanada, of Shri Ramkrishna Paramhansa took the oath of leaving their families and dedicating their lives for the welfare of mankind. Today the place is marked by a memorial and every year on 24th December devotees from far & wide come here to celebrate the historic occasion.
But the history of Aatpur dates far behind the days of Ramkrishna. Exactly a hundred years before the historic event Krishnaram Mitra, the Dewan of Maharaja of Burdwan, constructed the huge Radhagobinda Temple. The towering aat – chala temple has a triple arched entrance and the entire front face is covered with the finest terracotta.
There are interesting stories about the origin of the name Aatpur. According to some Aatpur was named after the jamindar Atar Khan while other believe the Aatpur is a combination of eight villages of Bhuri Shreshtha kingdom and hence the name Aatpur (or Antpur).
Located about 50 km from Calcutta Aatpur probably has the distinction of housing Calcutta’s nearest terracotta temples.
Although Aatpur is well connected by road and busses are available from Esplanade & Howrah, but for the most comfortable journey it is best to take the morning Tarakeshwar Local. Haripal is the nearest railhead and a short but crowded trekker ride takes you to Aatpur.
The temple was constructed during an important transition period of Bengal history. This period marked the end of Muslim rule and the beginning of European era. The terracotta panels reflect this transition. Apart from traditional panels showing images of Gods & Goddesses, scenes from Ramayana & Krishnalila it also houses a vast number of panels showing European lifestyles. European soldiers with bayonet mounted guns and hunting scenes with dogs are abundant on the walls of the temple.
An elaborate Durga panel complete with Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartik & Ganesh on the central pillar is the prime attraction of the temple. A panel of royal procession complete with horse drawn chariots, elephants, soldiers and musicians are bound to attract the visitors attention.
The temple complex also houses five Shiva Temples. Built in the late 18thcentury these temples are smaller in size and lack the grace of towering Radhagobinda Temple. Three out of the five temples have only traces of terracotta. The complex also houses an octagonal Rashmancha and a square Dolmancha. Another attraction of the complex is the hay thatched wooden Chandimandap. Built by Krishnaram Mitra the mandap has intricate wood curving on its pillars and ceiling beams.
Ramkrishna Moth is worth a visit. Apart from the Dhuni Mandap, the place where the historic oath taking took place, the math has several other shrines dedicated to Ramkrishna, Sarada Ma and Vivekananda. Aatpur also happens to be the home of Baburam Ghosh (later Swami Premananda), one of the nine disciples of Ramkrishna, who took the holy oath. Several relics from the Ghosh family are also on the display. Sadly photography is strictly banned inside the Ramkrishna Moth, however photography is allowed from ouside the gate.
- Hooghly Jelar Purakirti by Narendranath Bhattacharya.
- Next weekend you can be at … Antpur by Somen Sengupta, The Telegraph
- Links from my website Aatpur Travelogue.
List of my Blog entry on West Bengal
~ Birth Place of Calcutta Chinatown ~
In the late 18th century a Chinese tea trader by the name of Tong Achew landed on the banks of Hooghly, somewhere near present day Budge – Budge, never to return again. The then Governor General Warren Hasting granted land to Achew to set up a sugar cane plantation and sugar factory. According to records to British East India Company “Achew was granted 650 bighas of land about 6 miles south of Budge – Budge for an annual rent of Rs 45.”
After acquiring the land Achew set up a sugar – cane plantation along with a sugar mill. He brought in a band of Chinese workers to work in his plantation and factory and thus forming the first Chinese settlement in India. But Achew died soon after and his sugar factory was abandoned. His workers left for the city of Calcutta, where their descendents still continue to live.
The place came to be known as Achipur after Tong Achew. Sadly today apart from a Chinese Temple and Achew’s horse – shoe – shaped grave Achipur has no Chinese connection. But once every year, on the Sunday after Chinese New Year, the sleepy hamlet of Achipur comes alive with the beating of Chinese drums. Possible every Chinese of Calcutta make a pilgrimage to Achipur to pay tribute to the man, who started the first Chinese settlement in India more than 230 years ago.
Located 33 km from Calcutta, Achipur can be best reached by route No. 77 bus from Esplanade. Get down at Boro Shiv Tala and walk for 10 minutes to China-man-tala, housing the Chinese temple.
As you enter the Temple you will be surrounded by hordes of Chinese offering prayers to the Chinese Deities. Candles and incense sticks are lit and the table in front of the alter is laid with an most amazing spread, ranging from whole roosted pig to chicken, from bottles of wines to heaps of fruits from exotic spices to expensive nuts. Sadly the mouth watering food is for personal consumption, so it is best to carry your own food.
The temple houses the male & female deity of Khuda & Khudi. Although distinctively Chinese in appearance their head gears are predominantly Islamic. Although legends says that the Temple was established by Achew himself, but historians doubt about its authenticity. It is quite likely that the Temple was established at a later date but the idols of Khuda & Khudi are quiet likely to be brought in by Achew himself.
The low ceiling of the temple has remarkable wood work and so does the pillars. The walls are filled in with excellent Chinese calligraphy. Apart from the main alter there are several prayer halls, which are lit up with candles, during the New Year celebration. Also Chinese fortune tellers make a brief business by predicting your fortune for only a couple of rupees.
Bidding farewell to the Temple head for Achew’s grave. The Horse – shoe – shaped red coloured grave overlooks the Hooghly. Here also the Chinese pays tribute by lighting candles incense sticks, to the man who started it all. It is also a place to enjoy the breeze and a senior Chinese can well narrate you the good old days of Chinese New Year celebration in Calcutta.
Even during the 1950s the Hooghly was navigable and whole vessels were chattered to bring the Chinese to Achipur. The decks consisted of food & gambling stalls and money flowed freely. The Chinese New Year in Achipur was celebrated with Dragon & Lion Dance complete with beating of hundreds of drums.
The river have long silted up, the Indian Government has imposed ban on gambling and the young Chinese are leaving Calcutta for greener pastures. Today the Dragon & Lion Dance have long stopped and the beating of drums can hardly be heard.
So if you want to experience the last of the dying culture of the Chinese of Calcutta it is best to visit Achipur on the Sunday after the Chinese New Year, which can double up as a winter Sunday picnic.
Related links from my website:
- Article on Achipur
- Photos of Chinese New Year Celebration (Achipur & Tiretta Bazar)
- Chinese Temples of Tiretta Bazar, Calcutta (Kolkata)
List of my Blog entry on West Bengal
Once upon a time there was beautiful pond surrounded with lush green meadows lined with Deodhar and Pine trees crowned with the eternal snow peaks of the Himalayas. The pond was so enchanting that it came to be known as the “Patan Da Talab” meaning “Pond of the Princess” because the local princes used to bathe in its water. It is quiet likely that the English got the pronunciation wrong and it is still not when Patan Da Talab got transferred into Patnitop.
The pond have long dried up and has lost its past glory but don’t be disheartened the endless meadows lined with towering pine trees and the panoramic views of the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas are enchanting enough to turn Patnitop, along with its twin town of Sanasar, into your next holiday destination.
Located 105 km from Jammu on the Jammu – Srinagar Highway (NH1A) Patnitop (2024m) is an important tourist destination and since it is located on the Jammu side of Jammu & Kashmir state it is free of militant activities and can serve as a perfectly safe tourist destination.
Patnitop is famous for its four distinctive seasons, each with its own peculiar character and charm. Spring sees a million blossoms turning the ground into a riot of colours. In summer the entire valley turns into a mosaic of varying shades of green. In autumn the green turns into gold and finally to rustic red. In winter the landscape turns bare only to be covered with the white mantle of the first snowfall. I was lucky to be in Patnitop a day after it received its first snowfall of the season.
My journey to Patnitop kicked off from Jammu on a fine mid December afternoon on a Tata Sumo. After a short lunch break at Kud I reached Patnitop in about 3 hours. It was already dark and I checked in one of the numerous hotels calling it a day after more than 40 hours of train & road journey from the other end of the country.
Early next morning I set out to explore Patnitop, and its twin town of Sanasar, on a Maruti van. Sadly there was no snow
in Patnitop but the surrounding hills were covered with a fresh layer of snow. One such hill was Nathatop my first destination, which not only provide fresh snow but also panoramic view of the snow clad peak of the Himalays. Nathatop, located 14 km from Patnitop, is a hub of adventure activities like paragliding, skiing, sledging and pony rides.
Within a few km from Patnitop I encountered my first snow along with a host of Himalyan Peaks dominating the North – Eastern horizon. At Nathatop I was out in the snow enjoying a snow ball fight with other tourist. But it was bad news for adventure sports. The snow was enough to stop the paragliding and pony rides but not enough to start skiing. The only activity was sledging but it was nothing adventurous. The sledges are nothing but indigenous version of the Calcutta hand pulled rickshaw, where you are pulled along the snow in a wheel less wooden carriage by a fellow human being. I decided to give the sledge ride a skip but in the process denied a poor man of his income.
I spend about half an hour on Nathatop enjoying the snow as well as the views and last but not least a refreshing cup of hot tea. I was soon on my way to Sanasar, which was located 5 km away. This entire stretch of the road was covered with snow and made driving extremely difficult taking 15 minutes to cover the 5 km stretch.
Like Patnitop the prime attraction of Sanasar are its meadows, pine forest and views of snow peaks but in Sanasar the meadows are much larger, the pine forest more enchanting and the snow peaks much more closer. But the star attraction of Sanasar is its isolation as most of the “see the snow only tourist” return from Nathatop, giving me the opportunity to enjoy the pristine beauty of Sanasar all on my own.
Reaching Sanasar I was out to explore the place. I took a walking trail which took me past the J&K tourism tourist complex and past the meadows to a forest lined with pine trees. There were several benches but I decided to sit on the grass to enjoy my breakfast of biscuits, cakes & chocolates brought all the way from Calcutta.
Soon I was out to explore the place all on my own feeling like a “monarch of all I survey.” After about 2 hours of
exploration I decided to head for Patnitop. I reached Patnitop at about 2pm and after a heavy lunch & a short rest I was out to explore Patnitop.
I headed for the Patnitop Tourist Complex located just above the bus stop. The complex houses the resort of J&K Tourism complete with cottages and restaurants. The landscape is similar to Sanasar but much smaller in magnitude but it is more touristic with hawkers selling Kashmiri artifacts & dresses along with fast food like puchka & bhel – puri. I waited in the complex long enough to enjoy my last evening in Patnitop.
Getting There: Jammu is the nearest rail head. Jammu is connected to Calcutta by Himgiri & Jammu Tawi Express. Jeeps & busses are available from Jammu (105km) and Srinagar (280km). Jeep fare from Jammu Rs150 (takes 3 hrs) and Srinagar Rs250 (takes about 5 hrs). Prices are subjected to bargaining.
Places to Stay: Both Patnitop & Sanasar have J&K Tourism tourist complex. Room / cottage rates vary from Rs800 – Rs3500. Both the places have several private hotels to suit all budget.
Getting Around: Taxi is essential to visit Nathatop & Sanasar. Cost around Rs1000. Patnitop can be explored on foot.
Places to eat: All the hotels have restaurants and there are several road side eateries selling excellent food at throw away price. Tea & snacks are available at Nathatop as well as Sanasar.
For more Information Contact: J&K Tourism Office, 12, Chowringhee, Calcutta. Ph 2228 5719