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West Bengal : Maldah, Gour, Pandua, Farakka
Maldah (also spelt as Malda), lies 347 km north of Kolkata, is a notable district for the production of mango and silk. The name Malda had emerged from the Arabic word “Mal”, the meaning of which is wealth. The river port town is now more popularly known as Old Maldah. Pandua, situated at the eastern side of the River Ganges and Gour, situated at the middle of the Rivers Mahananda and Ganges, are two towns of Maldah district which had an immense importance earlier. Lakhanabati Nagari (Town), the constituency of the king Lakhan Sen, was located where the Rivers Mahananda and Ganges confluence. Nimashrai, lies 4 km towards the northern side of Maldah, was a business hub for the silk and cotton industries but later the same business hub was transferred by the British to a small village called Englishbazar in 1680. Eventually Englishbazar got even bigger for its cultural and educational activities in 1770 when British decided to make a fort in Englishbazar. Mr. Cretan had built the first school in Englishbazar to teach his native language English in 1802.
Maldah museum (1937) where collections of different equipments of old Pandua and Gour are maintained, the park prepared by the eastern railways, Jami mosque (1596), Nimsarai Buruj at the banks of Mahanadi River, Shiva temple, very popular kali temple, Hussain Shah burial, Sri Ramkrishna mission are some other notable places of Maldah.
If you are a sweet lover, Maldah gives you an opportunity to savor the taste of Chamcham and Rasakadamba, the famous sweetmeats of West Bengal.
Tulavita in Jagjibanpur, a village situated at a distance of 41 km towards the eastern side of Malda, at the border of India and Bangladesh, was excavated on 13th March, 1987 and the biggest Buddhist architectural sculpture along with 11 kg and 900 gms of coppers were discovered. A bronze Buddha idol was also found after excavation in Bihar. It is expected that many more valuable stones and sculptures are yet to be excavated. The Government is improving the facilities of Gour, Pandua and Jagjibanpur to make these destinations tourist spots of West Bengal. Jagjibanpur can be reached by bus or by taxis from Maldah.
It is advisable to organize the trip of Maldah such that the places like Gour, the old capital of Bengal and Pandua are also covered. Later, when Muslims started to move out of Pandua and Gour, then Maldah became an important city of West Bengal.
How to reach: Maldah is well connected by both railways and road transports. Buses from Esplanade terminus, Kolkata are going to Maldah by NH-34. For a comfortable journey you can avail a package tour to Maldah, Gour, Pandua, Kukil and Fharakka from Kolkata.
Where to stay: Maldah has a lot of options available for lodging. Hotel Purbachal, Hotel Mayukh, Hotel meghdoot, Holiday inn, Sanjibani lodge, Hotel Nataraj and Paradise hotel are the options for you along with many other available lodges and guest houses around Maldah town.
Gour, a small city which can be a part of your Maldha tour, is 340 km off Kolkata. It has got its name from Gur (A type of sweetmeat). The name of the king of Gour was Gour as well. Gour used to be one of the business hubs of West Bengal previously.
Gour was at the top of its glory when Dharma Pal took the responsibility of Gour from the king Gopal Dev. Dhiman and Bitpal, both the architect of Gour were accountable for the architectural magnificence of Gour. The main feature of the homes of Gour was the use of black Basalt stones.
After that, when Ballal Sen and Lakhan Sen were the kings of Gour, Gour was well known to the world due to its education systems and cultural diversities.
Gour is carrying the memories of many historical leaders. The architectures of Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim cultures are also very prominent on the establishments of Gour. A lot of excavation works are going on here to get to know more about Gour.
Some of the well known places of the town which deserve a visit are:
Piyas Bari: Piyas bari is 7 km away from Mahadipur which is situated at a distance of 3 km from Maldah towards Fharakka. This is the first and most important place for Gour visitors. Piyas bari still carries the history of the ruthlessness of the king Nasrat Shah. Even though the piyas bari is in ruins, still the 33 acres dighi or pond adjacent to it is an attraction of this place. The victim of Nasrat Shah was forced to eat a lot of sweets and when he was thirsty he had to look at the water of the pond from a confined room but the victim was not allowed to drink water. Eventually the victim found to be dead.
Ramkeli: Ramkeli, situated at a distance of 14 km off Malda, has got footprints of Sri Chaitanya on stone in a temple. It is said that Sri Chaitanya Dev came here in 1506 and stayed for 3 days. The balcony around the temple has rich architectural presentations on its pillars.
Bara-sona mosque: The square shaped mosque adjacent to the temple depicts Indo-Arabian architectural style and stone carvings make the mosque a special attraction for tourists. Existing 11 pillars out of 44 still look very pretty. The name of the mosque is Bara-Sona mosque due to the golden Chikan architectural representation on the pillars of it.
Dakhil Darwaza: It was Built in 1425 and also known as Salami Darwaza because the war shooter of this place was in use at the time of the battle. It was once the main entry of the fort. It is more than 21 meters high and 34.5 meters wide. Dakhil Darwaza, a 70 feet tall and 113(1/4) feet wide Darwaza, has got the respect from THE CAMBRIDGE HISTORY OF INDIA as the most impressive work on red soil and red rock. The adjoining pond which was prepared to protect the Dakhil Darwaza is very deep.
Feroze Minar: Feroze Minar, 1 km away from Dakhil Darwaja, was built by Sultan Saifuddin Feroze Shah during 1485-89. Feroze Miner which is 26 meters high and 19 meters in circumference resembles the Qutub Minar of Delhi. The first 3 floors of the Minar have got 12 sides, while rests of the 2 floors are circular. You can walk to the top of the Minar using 84 stairs. Seeing the terra cotta architectural excellence of the Minar, the king Feroze gifted a necklace to Piru Mistry, the architect of the Minar. Later the architect lost his life when he was ordered to jump from terrace of the Minar because of his poor intellect power.
Kadam Rasul: Half a kilometre from the Feroze Minar, this mosque was built by Sultan Nasiruddin Nusrat Shah in 1530. The meaning of Kadam is foot and Rasul means Paigambar (Hajarat Mahammad). It contains two footprints of Hazrat Muhammad on the black stone. It is believed that Mahammad Alauddin Shah once brought the footprints from Madina. Four of the pillars around the Kadam Rasul built in black stones and the tomb of Fateh Khan, the commander of the king Aurangajeb’s army are the other spots near Kadam Rasul which you shouldn’t miss out.
Mausoleum of Nek Bibi: Mausoleum of Nek Bibi is situated at the left hand side of Kadam Rasul. It is believed that she was an expert of super natural activities. The place has a reputation of fulfilling the wishes of the followers.
Chika mosque: Chika mosque was built by Sultan Yusuf Shah in 1475. Arguably, it is not a mosque; it belonged to one of the Hindu kings. Another opinion says that this is the tomb of the king Nader Shah. The beautiful carvings on the walls and the images of Hindu idols on the doors and lintels are still partly visible. There was a cannel from Chika mosque to Gumti. Apart from the Chika mosque, you can also see Datan Mosque beside the Chika.
Gumtii Darwaza: Gumti Darwaza, built by Hussain Shah in 1512, is depicting the terra cotta architecture. The works done on the rocks of Gumti Darwaza are really astonishing but Gumti Darwaza is not anymore open for general public. It is said that the ornamental works with gold on the walls of it were also an art to look at.
Lukochuri Gate: Lukochuri Gate, located to the south-eastern side of the Kadam Rasul Mosque, is a place where the sultans played hide and seek with the begums. There is a difference of opinion as to who built this gate, some say that Shah Shuja built it in 1655 but others opine that it was built by Allauddin Hussein Shah in 1522. The royal Gate was there at the eastern side of the fort and the two storied door was of 65*82.4 feet size.
The commander Nasiruddin got the crown after the death of Jalaluddin in 1500. Barbak Shah, the son of Nasiruddin, had built the palace in a new format beside the dighi or pond. The 22 feet tall wall built by him to protect the palace in 1460 at a distance of half km towards the western side of Chika is full of mystery. Baishgaji Prachir, the wall built by Barbak is famous for its surprising architectural distinction. There were three different portions starting from the wall to Royal Palace. Dahil Darwaza, Chand Darwaja and Nim Darwaza were the names of the doors which you have to cross on the way to the Royal palace. The palace is almost destroyed now due to the lack of maintenance works.
The Kotowali Darwaza of 30*17 feet, the dighi or pond at a distance of 2 km from Kotwali Darwaza, Nimat Ulla mosque built in 1559 and Chata-Sona mosque are the other spots for visitors.
Tantipara mosque: Tantipara mosque, at a distance of one and half km from Lukochuri Gate, built by sultan Mirshad Khan, has intricate terracotta work. 10 pillars and 4 walls, each13 feet tall of Tantipara mosque are almost diminished with time.
Lotan mosque: Lotan mosque, situated about 1 km away from Tantipara towards Mahadipur, was built by Shamsuddin Yusuf Shah in 1475. Although the architecture of the mosque is not that soothing to the eyes but the chikkan ornamentation works look nice. It looks like a dancer dancing on the wall of the mosque by the reflection of sunlight. The setting of colorful tiles on the wall is one of the attractive parts of the mosque.
Gunmanta mosque: Gunmanta mosque, 1km away at the opposite side of Lotan mosque, was built by Fateh Shah in 1484. Earlier the River Bhagirathi was there adjacent to the mosque. The mosque resembles like the mosque of Adina but now the mosque is in trouble due to the trespassers.
Chamkati mosque: It is situated at 2 km towards the northern side of Lukochuri mosque. The mosque was built by Eusuf Shah in 1475 as a memorial of a saint. It is said that the Eusuf Shah used to cut the flesh of his body and gave them to the birds as their foods.
The name of Eusuf Shah is associated with Fhajli mango. The Fhajalbibi was the most favorite dancer of the king Eusuf Shah. He had built a palace for Fhajalbibi in a mango garden. The dancer could not maintain her figure due to the richness she used to enjoy in her palace. Local people used to call her Fhajal or Fhajli mango taunting her fatness. Since then Gour is well known for the Fhajli mango.
In 1545 Daud Karrani became the king of Bengal after Sershah Suri. Kalachand Roy the commander of the king Daud changed his religion and became a Muslim. He was known as Kalapahar after he changed his religion. He destroyed a lot of temples of Gour and Pandua. Kalapahar Garh, at Malatipur, is a tourist attraction of Gour along with Bara Sagardighi which is situated about 3 km away from Kalapahar Garh. Recently fisheries of Bengal took the initiative to make it an experimentation centre on different species of fishes. Apart from Bara sagardighi, Chata Sagordighi situated at the north-eastern side of Lotan mosque and the palace of the king Ballal Sen are the other attractions of Gour.
How to reach: From Kolkata not many buses are available to reach you directly to Gour but you can always take a bus from Maldah after you get down at Maldah. It is not a bad idea to take your car for this trip to Maldah-Gour-Pandua.
Where to stay: There are not many lodges or hotels available to mention. It is always suggested to come back to Maldah after visiting Gour at the end of the day and stay in Maldah.
After you complete the tour of Maldah and Gour, you can then visit to another historical destination, Pandua which is 16 km off Maldah. The best option is to book a car to Pandua. It will cost you 300-350 rupees and in 2 hours you can complete the tour of Pandua and come back again to Maldah because there are no such hotels available for a night stay in Pandua.
Pandua is still strong with its historical values. It is said that Pandu was the king of Pandua. A palace called “Pandabraj dalan” is still there in Pandua. A lot of sights of Pandua are still carrying the memories of the Muslim empire.
Some of the notable places of Pandua are as follows:
Bari Dargah: Bari Dargah, built by Shamsuddin Eusuf Shah in 1342, is the prime attraction of Pandua. The Dargah was built around the area of the artificial mausoleum which was the creation of the king Alauddin Shah in the remembrance of the saint, Pir Saiyad Mukhdum Shah Jalal. The main mausoleum is in Silet, Bangladesh. 3 pillars on the top of the Dargah are increasing the attractiveness of the Dargah.
Muridkhana, at the eastern side of the Dargah, was a place where people belonging to Hindu community used to change their religion to Muslim. The king Lakhan Sen was astounded seeing the super natural powers of the Saiyad shah and decided to build jumma mosque for him and also gave him a land valued at Rs.22,000 at that time. A lot of used materials of Saiyad Shah are still present in the mosque. At the northern side of Dargah there is a place where Saiyad Shah used to meditate. Other than the places mentioned, tourists can also visit Mith Talao Bhandarkhana of Makka sheriff, Tannurkhana, mausoleum of Chand Khan and Hazi Ibrahim. The Darimbha tree nearby is considered as a spiritual tree as women come here to wish for a child.
Salaami Darwaza: Salaami Darwaza, built by Sultan Alauddin, in remembrance of Tabriji in 1342, is standing as an entry gate to Pandua. The 22 feet tall and 7 feet 9 inches wide Darwaza is quite a popular place for the tourists of Pandua. Asansahi, a place where prayers to God took place, Kaji mosque at the right hand side of salaami Darwaza and more than 150 mausoleums inside the premises are the attractions of Salaami Darwaza.
Choti Dargah: Choti Dargah, also known as Maja, situated at a distance of ½ km towards the north-western side of Salaami Darwaza, is built by Noor-Kutub-Ul-Alam. It is believed that he used to have a supernatural and convincing power to convert Hindus to Muslims. The Hindu king Jadunarayan, the son of the king Ganesh was one who got influenced by Noor Alam and changed his religion. Choti Dargah is also very popular by the name Chai Hazari (6000) Dargah because the influential Noor Alam got 6000 Bigha of land from Shah Suja.
Ek-Lakhi mosque: To establish his ruling power, the Hindu king Jadunarayan who became Muslim later and got the name Jalaluddin, had built this mosque spending a huge amount of 1, 00,000 rupees during 1414-28. The mosque is an example of the rich muslim architectural excellence of that era. The terracotta works of the mosque resemble the Chikka mosque of Gour. The king’s mausoleum along with his son Ahmed and wife Begam Saheba are kept inside the premises of Ek Lakhi mosque. It is not only the Muslim architecture, the Buddhist and Hindu architectures of the mosque are also very prominent. It is the most elegant monument in Pandua, with a carved Ganesh on the doorway. There is an alternative view as well, which states that the mosque is the transformation of the building of the King Kangsa by adding additional pillars on top of it.
Kutab Sahi Mosque: The mosque locally known as the Chhoto Sona Masjid, was built to honor the Saint Nur Qutb-ul-Alam in 1584. The ruins of his shrine are nearby, along with that of Saint Hazrat Shah Jalal Tabrizi, collectively known as the Bari Darga. The reflection of the sunlight on the blue rocks of the mosque gave it a beautiful golden color and the size of the mosque was also small. So, it has got its name Chhoto (small) sona (gold) Masjid (mosque). The influence of Hindu culture is visible on the architecture of Kutub Sahi mosque. It is said that the saint, Nur Alam used to give his spiritual speech to his followers sitting inside the mosque.
Adina mosque: Adina mosque, one of the biggest mosques of India, built during 1347-60 by Sikandar Shah and his son Giyasuddin Ajan, is depicting the Muslim architectural representations of ancient times. Even though three sides of the mosque are almost destroyed now but 507*285 feet square-shaped mosque which resemble the mosque of Damaskas, can still contain 1200 devotees together inside the mosque. The king used to sit on the black basalt rock which was at a height of 8 feet from earth. Arguably, some of the Hindu temples and palaces were broken to get some Hindu idols which were kept inside the mosque. The mosque has mix architectural sculptures of Hindu, Buddha, Jain and Muslim cultures. You can also see the mausoleum of the king Sikandar Shah at the western side of the mosque. The name Adina has come from the name Madina. It is also said that the temple of Adinath Shiva of the Hindu king Ganesh was there and Adina got its name according to Adinath. Due to the destruction that took place at the time of the earth quake in 1400 and Santhal revolution in 1932, the mosque has lost its charm somewhat.
Satash Ghora: 1 km towards the north of Adina, situated midst of forest, is Satash Ghora, a destroyed monument with 27 rooms built by Sultan Sikandar shah. The pond of the king Ganesh, bathrooms of the queens and deer park surrounded by Shaal and Sishu trees make it a nice destination for the tourists.
Although not known to be major tourist pullers, but places like Balurghat, Raiganj, Kulik Pakhiraloy (Bird sanctuary) and Bangarh are places worthy of mention. Kaldighi, Dhaldighi, mausoleum of Bakhtiar Khalji at the banks of Punarbhaba River, ancient Shiva temple depicting rekh deul architecture and Tapandighi at a distance of 15 km from Pandua were discovered after excavation in Bangarh. Different kinds of excavated materials can also be seen in the adjacent museum of Shivbati, a place adjacent to Bangarh.
Many more excavated items can also be seen of Buddha era in 1987 in tulabhita village of Jagjibanpur, located about 41 km off Maldah. Visiting the museum of Balurghat will also be a nice experience for you.
How to reach: Balurghat-Raiganj-Maldah is well connected by bus from Kolkata. Direct buses are available from Kolkata to each of these places. You can also avail railway services.
Where to stay: Khanika, District bungalow, Circuit house and many more private hotels are there for you in Balurghat.
Kulik bird sanctuary(Raiganj):
Kulik sanctuary, about 425 km from Kolkata, is situated on the banks of the lively River Kulik, the branch of the River Mahananda. The best time to visit Kulik is during July to October, the late summer and early winter time. The beautiful dense forest surrounded by Arjun, Pakur, Khayer, Sishu, Jarul trees is really a treat to visit and spend quality time. Bird watchers who enjoy seeing various species of birds, Kulik is no less than a heaven for them. In the indigenous species you can get to see the birds like cuckoo, kingfishers, owls, flycatchers, woodpeckers etc apart from the guest birds.
The Lake, at the end of the city, Raigunj, with an area of 140.22 acres looks even more beautiful with a group of birds belonging to various known and unknown species which come to enjoy the season in the sanctuary. The watch tower of Kulik can provide you the pleasure of watching the daily routine of birds. Kulik offers you the enjoyment of the mesmerizing greenery in rainy season along with the several wild life creatures and flora.
How to reach: Kulik can be reached by buses which are going to north Bengal by NH-34. You can also come directly to Raiganj either by train of by bus. Kulik is situated at the left hand side of Raiganj on the National Highway.
Where to stay: Raiganj tourist lodge of WBTDC, District bungalow, Irrigation bungalow, Royal embassy and Oasis are the places where you can make your arrangements of a night stay in Kulik, Raiganj.
Farakka, about 103 km from Kolkata, is mainly renowned for the barrage, built by the architect Debesh Mukherjee. The initiative to build the barrage had started in 1971 by Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy.
After the completion of the barrage, the broad Ganges which was there since British time is drying up. Lands have also come up in middle of the river. So, it became a problem for the ships that operate here in the Ganges. Farakka is also popularly known for its NTPC [National Thermal Power Station] power plant, a huge power plant generating 200MW power per day. Fharakka plant supplies water to Bangladesh in dry season every year.
A total number of 3500 residences nearby are the result of the facilities that are provided by NTPC adjacent to this area. Walking around the barrage and seeing the adjoining well planned locality is a refreshing feeling. Taking a ferry and enjoying the scenic beauty around is another charming experience which you should not miss out.
Fharakka was a rich city with the name Fharakkabad at the time of Mughals. Some destroyed part of Nilkuthi is still visible at a distance of 3 km from the barrage where the Rivers Ganges and Gumani confluence. Various clay idols, terra cotta idols, coins, Mughal weapons were discovered in the excavation that took place in Fharakka, making it a place of archeological importance.
How to reach: If you prefer railways then you have to take a train which is going to Maldah and get down at new Fharakka railway station. Regular bus services are also available to Fharakka. Buses going by NH-34 are touching Fharakka on its way to Maldah, Rajganj etc. There are Volvo buses too. Refer to the link down below.
Where to stay: VIP guest house, field hostel, tourist camp, field hostel and hotel daffodil are the available options for tourists in Fharakka. Back to West Bengal