Jhargram Unfinished

Wherever I go, whatever I experience there is one thought that is always in my mind along with other fleeting ones. Will I be able to blog about this? Well yes, I take blogging way too seriously, even though it is not my profession (read I do not earn a single penny from blabbering crap here). During my entire stay in the miserable town of Midnapore I tried very hard to experience everything with utmost optimism so that I could come back and tell stories about it. Human mind has its own way of processing things and memories can more or less always be recalled with a certain degree of detachment and sometimes with humour. So now when I look back at the events I can reminisce in a more amusing tone. But don’t mistake it with my actual state of mind when I was living those incidents.

I had a lot of expectations about our day trip to Jhargram. I was eager to see the beauty of forest in monsoon. I wanted to follow the trail through the woods that wound down to the bank of Dulung River. I wanted to visit the ruins of Chilkigarh fort. Unfortunately none of these could pan out, thanks to the heavy downpour that started immediately after we crossed the Kangsabati River and about 5 hours later when we were reaching back to Midnapore town it was still raining as if it was the end of the world.

As ironical as it might sound the journey from Midnapore to Jhargram turned pleasant and more scenic due to this rain only. The endless stretches of paddy fields were looking greener with clusters of grey nimbus clouds hanging over them. Kangsabati could barely contain her youthfulness in between the two banks. Two staffs of our district office who were accompanying us were telling us stories of 1978 how flood had come and washed the entire region away. The names of the villages we were crossing were weird and unique – Gurguripal, Kankabati, Kalshi Bhanga. The picture was pretty much the same. Log huts, some were two storeyed, schools, market, and acres of paddy fields where the plants had just been sown. After entering Jhargram the scenery began to change slowly. Now we were running past clusters of tall eucalyptus and sal trees. We had entered the famous jangal mahal of Bengal. We spotted a CRPF camp on the way. Our guide cum companion told us how these areas used to be infested with naxalites even a few years ago. Now they had retreated back to the forests of Jharkhand and Uttarakhand.

When we reached the famous Kanak-Durga temple rain had stopped. But the sky was looking gloomier than ever. Dark clouds had started accumulating like premonition when we got off the car and started walking through the narrow trail leading up to the temple. We were told that the trees here showed a particular trait of being knotty and most of them had some sort of medicinal value. The jungle was so thick at parts that it was feeling even darker.

The temple was devoid of any human except for the two priests relaxing on the stairs. They urged us to go inside and pay our homage to the resident goddess. Even though it was named as Durga temple the goddess did not appear to be nowhere like Durga. Instead the goddess had four arms and she rode on what seemed like a donkey. As I said the place was devoid of any human but it was full of other creatures. Dogs and lot and lots of monkeys. No sooner than we stepped out of the temple rain started again. And this time it came with all its might. We took shelter in the nearby tea stall looking helplessly outside. One by one the monkeys disappeared from the view. We remained stuck there and the rain continued.

Can you spot the monkey?
Dark had already begun to set in when we finally left the temple premises and started out for our next destination – the palace of Jhargram. Sarveshwar Singh Chauhan was the General under Raja Man Singh. In 1570 AD when Akbar granted Man Singh subedaari of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa he came all the way from Rajasthan to conquer Bengal. He defeated the Malla king, the contemporary tribal ruler of Mallabhum that consisted of Bankura, and parts of Burdwan, Birbhum, Midnapore and Purulia. Chauhan became the king of Junglekhand and took the title of Malla Ugal Sanda Dev. Here I have a little doubt though. As per historical accounts the old Malla dynasty lasted till 1983 AD. In that case was the Mallabhum region partly ceded to the new king, only the Jhargram area?

Built in 1931 the new palace is the resident of the royal family as well as a heritage hotel. We were already half drenched in rain and it was getting very difficult to manage umbrella in one hand and trying to click pictures at the same time. The palace garden was full of shrubbery and in the dark we did not dare to explore much in fear of snakes. We couldn’t enter inside the palace but we got to visit the two temples inside the premises. The rain was continuing in the same tempo. Halfheartedly we started our return journey. Maybe someday I would come back and complete my trip to Jhargram with the person without whom my journey was incomplete anyway.