Discover offbeat trails of Bengal ( Chilki Garh – The Mysterious Jhargram) with our travel expert Reetwika Banerjee.
Chilki Garh ( Chilki Garh- The Mysterious Jhargram) is a small village in the Jhargram district of Bengal, located around 15 kilometers from the railhead. We had been there on a monsoon weekend. Not many tourists prefer this time of the year to visit forested areas. But we purposely chose the month to enjoy greens at its best bloom.
We started rather early for Chilki Garh – The Mysterious Jhargram around six in the morning so that we could reach by midday at Chilki Garh. Our first stopover was at Kolaghat. Right after the Rup Narayan Bridge, there’s an array of roadside dhabas, offering freshly prepared luchi, sabji, mixed veg, and cardamom tea.
During any of our Midnapore trips, I always love to take a snacks break here; not just for the yummy fritters but also for reasons of college nostalgia. As it happens to be, I have spent quite a good number of years here at Kolaghat during my engineering days. I could still feel my bygone days in those fumes of thermal power station. A quick h alt always takes me back to our moments of mischief, romance, hostel life, midnight ragging sessions and last but not the least the experience of my life’s first job interview.
From Kolaghat, the highway bifurcates into two directions – the left hits Nanda Kumar while the straight road leads to Kharagpur. The latter is the course to Jhargram. For the next 120 kilometers, it was a greasy drive, only interruptions were at toll booths. The speedometer hardly dropped below sixty till we reached Lodhasuli. It is actually one of the last villages at Jharkhand – Bengal border, covered by a thick canopy of forestlands all around; a small but significant junction for Chilki Garh bound tourists. GPS indicated us to take a right turn here.
Our stay was booked at the Jhargram Palace, (Chilki Garh –Mysterious Beauty of Jhargram) located in another 10 kilometers from current location. We reached sharp at 11 o’clock. Quickly freshening up with home-style lunch, we headed on to our destination – Chilki Garh.
Following the village path towards Jamboni, we geared up for a mysterious tour. The strategic location of Chilki Garh Palace has been a discussion topic over the centuries. Way back in 13th century, Jagannath Dhabaldeb invaded Jungle Mahal. He defeated the local ruler over an easy clash and ascended to the throne. Chilki Garh ( Chilki Garh –Mysterious Jhargram) thus became Dhabaldeb’s seat of power and it was then he constructed a royal palace inside the forest.
A thin tributary of Subarnarekha River, locally popular as Dulung, flows through Chilki Garh. During those days, Maratha dacoits called ‘Borgi’ used to often attack this part of Bengal. To prevent their invasion, Dhabaldeb constructed his fortress on the other side of Dulung River so that his private residence is protected by the water stream.
The riverbed is very rocky here. Soil is also reddish due to high quantities of iron ore found naturally. Eventually, the water of Dulung has a brownish tinge. The contrast of brunette water against a green backdrop of Jamboni forest adds to the overall anonymity of Chilki Garh.
A shallow bridge has been instituted of late. But even today, only one car can pass at a time. After crossing the river, we reached an old arched gateway. Driving through, we discovered the Chilki Garh Raj Bari. It was an ancient palace built in two floors. The colour of the edifice was so mysterious. Dark grey with a black stone finish! Many iconic Bengali movies namely Sanyasi Raja, Aranyer Din Ratri, Durgesh Garher Guptadhan etc have been shot at Chilki Garh and its surroundings.
Parking our car at the fore ground, we took a walk around the place. There was a clock tower at one end of the campus, which seemed to have stopped giving time long back. The whole area bore a touch of eternal stillness.
The palace did not seem to be inhabited by royal family any more. Probably one of the ground floor rooms have been converted to party office. The upper floor exhibited shabby clothes hanging from front side balcony, may be a staff quarter!
There were hardly any people we met on way because most of the local inhabitations are hidden inside the green shade. Let’s not delve into the reason of such hideouts. We preferred to keep our focus on the natural landscape only.
Within a kilometer from the palace, shrouded amidst dense jungle, there was an ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Kanak Durga. It is said, a later king Gopinath had dreamt of Devi Mahamaya who built this temple to appease the goddess. The old temple is in complete ruins now. A relatively new shrine has been built aside which houses a gold plated idol of the presiding deity, justifying the name Kanak Durga.
Innumerable monkeys, squirrels and birds inhabit the temple complex even today. Car cannot enter the forest here and thus, we had to do a short jungle trekking to reach the Kanak Durga temple. However, e-rickshaws are available for hire from the parking till the temple which ferry tourists up and down the forested trail at a nominal fare.
We were back to our hotel well within 5pm. Evening falls early here because of the dense forestry. Not advisable to stay outside in dark, especially during monsoons. Least to say, the lush greeneries of the Jamboni forest, distant sound of tribal drums and ancient temples made it one of the best getaways so far.
How to Reach:
It’s about a four-hour drive from Kolkata to Jhargram (200 kilometers approx.) along NH16 and another half an hour to Chilki Garh. Road conditions were awesome for a relaxing tour.
Where to Stay:
There is a newly constructed Govt. tourist lodge in Jhargram. If you are a heritage admirer, Jhargram Raj Bari outhouse provides a great stay. However, there are no luxury accommodations at Chilki Garh at present, except a couple of rustic ones.
Best Time of Visit:
It can be visited round the year. But its serenest beauty can only be witnessed in monsoons.