Home > Bengal Archeology, Bengal History, Family Tour, Family Weekend Tour, General, Weekend Family Tour, Weekend Tour from Kolkata (Calcutta) > A weekend trip to Bhalki Machan, first family outing since Covid 19

A weekend trip to Bhalki Machan, first family outing since Covid 19

A weekend trip to Bhalki Machan

First family outing since Covid 19 outbreak

The Covid 19 outbreak have changed the way we live and after spending over 10 months confined at home we finally decided to hit the road. We are lucky to travel just before the lockdown started in March 2020.

On the way to Bhalki Machan, breakfast stop at Azad Hind Dhaba

On the way to Bhalki Machan, breakfast stop at Azad Hind Dhaba

Our last family weekend tour involved the visit consisted a visit to a fortified temple complex, an excavated Buddhist Vihar, a canyon not as grand as the Grand Canyon and finally a village of brick built temples (Also see: Weekend Family tour of West Midnapore)

Bhalki Machan (GTS Tower)

The Machan (GTS Tower) of Bhalki Machan

This time the story was different and we hit the road in our Alto 800 armed with masks, sanitizers and disinfectant sprays, following the below itinerary:

16 Jan 2021:

  • Started at 7 am from our Salt lake residence. A brief breakfast stop at Azad Hind Dhaba.
  • A short detour to visit the 108 Shiva Temple, Bardhaman
  • Finally arrive at our destination Bhalki Machan or Valki Machan and checked in at the Aranya Sundari Hotel followed by a visit to the machan, actually a Great Trigonometrical Survey (GTS) Tower
  • Post lunch we headed for the Ichai Ghosher Deul followed by a visit to the thearte village of Tepantar and finally back to Aranya Sundari, Bhalki Machan for dinner and night stay

17 Jan 2021:

  • After breakfast checked out of Aranya Sundari Hotel in Bhalki Machan and headed for the Dokra (metal art) Village of Dariapur
  • The next stop was the baul village of Ban Nabagram
  • Finally it was time for home with a stop for langcha shopping at Saktigarh followed by a lunch stop at road side restaurant of NH2 Kitchen

108 Shiva Temple, Bardhaman

Travelling in your own vehicle has its advantage and short detours can lead to the exploration of more places. That is what we did during our road trip to Bhalki Machan a detour to the 108 Shiva Temple of Bardhaman (Google map location) after a grand breakfast at Azad Hind Dhaba(Google map location)

108 Siva Temple Complex of Nababhat, Bardhaman

108 Siva Temple Complex of Nababhat, Bardhaman

Incidentally there are only two 108 Shiva Temple Complexes in West Bengal. The temple town of Ambika Kalna houses the other 108 Shiva Temple Complex. The temples in Ambika Kalna or simply Kalna are arranged in two concentric circles. But the one in Bardhaman is arranged in a rectangle. The 108 Siva Temple complex of Nababhat in Bardhaman Town was constructed in 1788 by Maharani Bishnu Kumari Devi wife of Tilak Chandra Bahadur of Bardhaman royal family.

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Bhalki Machan

Bhalki Machan or Valki Machan (Google map location) is a popular winter weekend and day trip destination from Kolkata. It also attracts picnickers from nearby towns. The name Bhalki Machan literally translates into an elevated platform used for hunting bears.

Entry gate at Bhalki Machan

Entry gate at Bhalki Machan

Today Bhalki Machan is part of a afforestation program of the West Bengal Forest Department and is part of a beautiful sal forest but there are no bears in the forest.

A statue of a bear welcomes visitors to Bhalki Machan and next to it is the Aranya Sundari Hotel the only place to stay in Bhalki Machan.

Aranya Sundari is a basic hotel with untrained staff and bad service. However the food is good and the staff is friendly.

The forest has a charm but the charms is lost under the loud music played by the picnic parties. Even the litter, consisting of thermocol plates and liquor bottles, left by the picnic parties creates a eye sore.

The bear of Bhalki Machan

The bear of Bhalki Machan

But the most sort after attraction of Bhalki Machan is a old crumbling tower like structure. According to folklore it served as a elevated hunting platform, which was used by the local king to hunt bears.

The structure also consists of a underground pit, which according to locals is a underground passageway leading all the way to Bardhaman Rajbari.

But historians have a total different story and according to historical record the tower was part of the Great Trigonometrical Survey (GTS)

The GTS project started in 1800 and continued over half a century. It is considered as one of the most stupendous work in the history of science. The project involved equations more complex than any in the pre – computer age. It was also the most perilous project of its time, killing more men than any contemporary wars. Malaria wiped out whole survey parties, tiger and scorpions took their toll.

Aranya Sundari Hotel, Bhalki Machann

Aranya Sundari Hotel, Bhalki Machan

Calcutta formed the institutional base of GTS under George Everest in 1820 – 30. In this low lying and relatively flat region of eastern India, it was necessary to build brick towers to provide a stable elevated platform from where the survey work can be conducted.

So it resulted in construction of massive brick towers, which dot the Bengal landscape even to this day.

So the machan in Bhalki Machan happens to be one of the last standing GTS towers of the country.

The tower numbered LXVIII rises to a height of 35 feet and is different from the other GTRS Towers. It has no walls and has the four L shaped structures at the four corners.

GTS Tower of Bhalki Machan

At the centre is another brick pillar with a central vertical hole. At the base of the central pillar is a passageway and a dip pit approached by arched gateways on either side. The pit is presently covered with a iron grill.

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Ichai Ghoser Deul

Ichai Ghosher Deul or Temple of Icahi Ghosh was part of our post lunch exploration. It is located about 35 km from Aranya Sundari Hotel, Valki Machan.  The journey took almost an hour. The initial part of the journey was along a narrow road meandering through a heavily forested area.

108 Ichai Ghosher Deul

Ichai Ghosher Deul

The temple follows the rekh deul style of architecture. It stands like a sentinel towering above the tree tops. A blue Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) board in the complex claims that the temple dates back to mid-18th century and was constructed by Ichai Ghosh and was dedicated to Goddess Bhagabati. Presently the temple houses a large Shiva Linga in its inner sanctum. The outer walls of the only traces of decorative brick ornamentation.

The temple is located on the south banks of the Ajoy River (Google map location) and the surrounding area has been developed into a park named Deul Park. The park serves as a popular tourist spot during the winter months.

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Tepantar, the theatre village

Our next stop was Tepantar (Google map location), a theatre village, an initiative of Kallol Bhattacharya’s Ebong Amra supported by Bangla Natak Dot Com. From the 15 – 17 Jan 2021 Tepnatar was celebrating a Shakespeare Festival, which was supported by the British Council

Bhanusundarir Pala, an adaptation of Romeo Juliet at Tepantar

We were there on 16 Jan and witnessed the performance of Bhanusundarir Pala an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo Juliet. Performed by the theatre group Chakdaha Natyajon it blended the century old English play into Bengal’s semi urban modern environment. Sadly as we had to leave early and in the process missed significant part of the performance.

Dariyapur, the dokra village

Next morning started with a brief exploration of the Bhalki Machan forest followed by a heavy breakfast. After that it was time to check out and head for Dariyapur (Google map location), a Dokra (metal art) village.

Gate of the Dokra Crafts Centre, Dariyapur

Gate of the Dokra Crafts Centre, Dariyapur

A decorative gate with dokra statues and ornamentation welcomes visitors to the Common Facility Centre run by the Dariyapur Dokra Artisian Co-operative. The complex is nicely decorated with dokra statues and panels. The complex houses shops where the artisans sell their wares directly to the customers.

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Ban Nabagram, the baul village

Our final stop was at Ban Nabagram (Google map location), a baul village. This to is an initiative of Bangla Natak Dot Com. The tourist complex consists of four cottages surrounded by vegetable gardens, providing fresh organic vegetables to the guests.

Baul performance at Ban Nabagram

Baul performance at Ban Nabagram

The complex also houses a dormitory. The walls of all the buildings in the complex contains beautiful murals. There is also a open air stages, where bauls perform everyday during through out the year. Ban Nabagram hosts a group of bauls every week and the next week they are replaced by a fresh group.

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Like all things our first family weekend tour after Covid 19 breakout came to an end and it was time for home.

Langcha break at Saktigarh

Langcha break at Saktigarh

The return was marked with a brief stop for langcha eating and shopping at Shaktigarh followed by a elaborate lunch at a small roadside restaurant NH2 Kitchen (Google map location).

  1. Arnab Mandal
    February 3, 2021 at 8:40 PM

    so informative, thank you so much!

  2. Arnab Mandal
    February 3, 2021 at 8:41 PM

    So informative, definitely on my bucket list

  3. March 31, 2021 at 10:18 PM

    Visit our art gallery: art gallery in kolkata!

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