Bishnupur - A Trip Down The Memory Lane - Part 1

Bishnupur is a town in the Bankura district of West Bengal. Bankura was earlier known as Mallabhum, which means 'the land of the Mallas'. The origin of this name dates back to 17th century when Bankura flourished under the reign of the Malla dynasty. The Malla kings were Vaishnavites and they built several terracotta temples all across Bishnupur which became a part of history with time. Terracotta is an Italian word which means 'baked earth'. All the ancient temples in Bishnupur are made of baked laterite clay which is the local soil type of Bankura.

I visited Bishnupur back in 2011. It was my best friend D's father's idea to go on a short trip to the temple town of Bengal during the Christmas vacation. The hot climate of Bankura makes it an ideal winter destination for tourists. There are many options to reach Bankura from Calcutta, but we thought a long road trip would be most fun. Being a cynic unromantic at heart, I am not a big fan of long road trips. I think they are tiresome and it gets very boring after some time when everybody loses the initial surge of enthusiasm and falls back on the seat looking out of the window with blank expression. However this journey turned out to be quite an interesting one despite having my friend slept through most of the journey. I was feeling like kicking her. It was quite a long journey from Calcutta to Bishnupur. We had to halt at several places enroute to stretch our legs. Our first stop was at a small roadside village tea shop. The tea shop was run by a family of young couple and their two kids. I don't drink tea off the street (again the very low romance quotient), but that did not stop me from enjoying the natural beauty of the place. It was winter, so the entire place was covered in dry leaves that fell from the trees surrounding the place. And the wind was blowing really hard so all we could hear was the continuous rustling sound of the trees and the dry leaves. We had packed lunch in the car so we did not have to stop for that. In the afternoon we had to stop again as we needed to use the restroom. Unfortunately we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere and uncle suggested that we should go into the forest. The rest of the story is a most hilarious one and it might be little embarrassing to share it here. We crossed the famous Jaipur reserve forest and Mallabhum Institute of Technology on the way. D and I were discussing that how clever it would be if a student of this college introduced himself on social media as a student of MIT to impress girls.

We reached Bishnupur at around 4 in the afternoon. The P.W.D, bungalow that uncle had booked was situated at the very end of the town so we got a chance to have a quick look around on our way. Although our driver was having a hard time driving through the narrow alleyways. Bishnupur is a congested place with maze of narrow lanes that spread across the town like a very large cobweb. We spotted a fair was going on at the town ground which turned out to be the annual winter fair. Honestly, I had never visited a village fair before and even after a long journey the hustle bustle of the colourful crowd bathed in the ray of the setting sun left me mesmerized. Before we knew it, D and I were running about like little kids, or er.. like two grown up crazy women.

That's uncle with white sweater on the back. :P

Bishnupur is famous for terracotta temples as well as for the Baluchari craft. Baluchari is the signature embroidery pattern of Bishnupur where motifs of temples, elephants, flowers etc. are done on apparels using fine silk threads.

Baluchari stall. The fair was full of them.

This guy was selling freshly squeezed honey at his stall. He even kept a large chunk of the broken beehive as a proof of his claim. Poor bees. All the hard work and labour. All gone to satisfy the never quenching thirst of greedy, filthy humans. However, if anyone needs fresh honey, his number is on the banner, although his head is blocking most of the number.

After spending a few hours at the fair exploring stalls and devouring some seriously suspicious looking alur chop and badam bhaja (which led to very bad consequence later that night) when we finally reached the Bungalow the night had already set in.

The bungalow had two bedrooms with a kitchen and a dinning place. We reckoned from the size and style of the rooms that it dated back to the Brtish period. Each bathroom alone was large enough to accommodate my home bedroom twice.

The bungalow had a caretaker cum cook and he started to arrange for our dinner very soon. The menu was simple. Chicken curry and rice. Aunty and our driver joined the cook in the kitchen while uncle was left to supervise. In the meantime D and I boozed our hearts out and went out to take a stroll in the garden. Till date she has been my best boozing partner.

Dinner in progress.

Our bungalow had those little ancient wood bunring ovens in the kitchen. It generated so much smoke that it was difficult to breathe in there. Amidst all that smoke and heat everyone was throwing suggestions at each other in order to do their best at cooking and it was pretty chaotic in there. Of course D and I were of no use and we were busy taking photographs of everything around us including ourselves.
I don't remember who exactly cooked the chicken but it was heavenly. Post dinner we retired to our rooms and slept early. Next day we would be exploring the temple town. Although neither D nor I was fortunate enough to have a sound sleep, thanks to all the junk we had eaten all throughout the day. But that's a different story which I am skipping here.

                                                                                                                            To be continued.

Bishnupur -  A Trip down The Memory Lane - Last part