Mysterious Temple Ruins of Gopiballavpur in Unexplored historical places of Bengal
Gopiballavpur, approximately 200 kilometers from Kolkata, is a small village on the banks of Subarnarekha River. Gopiballavpur presently falls under the domination of the newly formed Jhargram district of West Bengal. It takes around four hours to reach by road from Kolkata along the Bombay Road. It is a mysterious historic temple town, which dates back to the mythical Ramayana days and is one of the unexplored historical places of Bengal.
The lush green jungle stretches of Jhargram could be seen long before we entered Garhsalboni forest – the starting point of the Lodhashuli range. The road condition was by far good till this point, but we had to pay multiple heavy tolls on way. Needless to say, our driving experience of Jhargram so far was like a paradise for nature lovers.
We encountered bountiful timberlands of Sal, Teak, Oak, Eucalyptus, Sonajhuri, and Mahul with the momentous sighting of wild Dalma tuskers, deer, and Serbian migratory birds. On the way, we also experienced various types of ancient temples, a deserted citadel, tribal villages. There were also a couple of dilapidated tea shops playing folk rhythms. All of this made us feel like in complete bliss. In short, we were taken aback at the absolute natural grandeur of the place.
There were a series of ancient temple skeletons made up of brick mortar. Amazingly, in most of them, there were no deities except a few had Shivalingas and a couple of them were dedicated to Lord Krishna and Goddess Radha.
Besides the ruins, we saw a beautiful garden named ‘Gopiballavpur Eco Park’ along the bank of Subarnarekha River.
Story of Gopiballavpur with Ramayana:-
There are different schools of thought about Rishi Valmiki’s ashram in Ramayana. One of the legends says that it was right here where the dacoit Ratnakar got enlightened to sage Valmiki after a spell of tough meditation. Through our personal experience, there were multiple anthills around the place indeed.
Rishi Valmiki had started writing Ramayana at the footsteps of Rameshwar Temple built by Lord Vishwakarma. Where we stood, there was an array of temples one of which appeared prehistoric.
Not much information is available about this ancient temple in the pages of history. Yet the architecturally rich remnants still have a series of ancient brick pillars and domes with Shivalingas housed inside. This again presumably bore a resemblance to the description of Rameshwar temple depicted in Ramayana.
A comparatively recent belief about Gopiballavpur says that it got its name from the deity Gopi Ballav (a form of Lord Krishna). Shyamananda Mahaprabhu during 1400 AD, established it. Its earlier name was Kashipur, belonging to the Mayurbhanj kingdom.
For years, the temple complex is managed by a Vaishnava Goswami family, headed by the Mahanta. He renamed Rameshwar temple complex as ‘Gupta Vrindavan’, housing deities of Gopi Ballav, Radha Rani, Jagannath, Balaram, Subhadra, and Lord Shiva. Of late, restoration work has been underway for some of the temples to preserve their archaeological significance.
Historic Trails at Terracotta Temple Town of Bishnupur-heritage in unexplored historical places in Bengal
The internal roads of Bishnupur are too narrow and full of indigenous traffic. So we decided to book a local auto-rickshaw to visit the famous terracotta temples and other notable monuments in and around the town. These are some unexplored historical places in Bengal. A common ticket has to be collected from Rash Mancha.
The different temples:-
Rashmancha – Till 1932, during the Rash festival, all the Radha and Krishna idols of Bishnupur town were brought here to be worshipped by the citizens.
Jore Bungla Temple – Joint temples with a common roof on dochala. We also visited the lesser-known Kalachand, Lalji, Radha Shyam, Radhalal Jiu, Nandalal, Krishna Balaram, and Radha Madhab shrines. The deity in all the temples is different forms of Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha, hence the name Bishnupur.
When we reached the place, the gates were already opened. We took the help of one of the local guides and he skillfully added a significant touch to our temple tour. He started with the absorbing stories of the Malla Kings. Then one by one he toured us across the magnificent terracotta works of Madan Mohan, Jore Bangla, and Shyam Rai temples.
There were three other eminent temples dedicated to three different forms of Goddess Durga – Mrinmoyee, Sarbamangala, and Chinnamasta temples.
On the way, we also stopped at other splendid edifices of the Malla Dynasty which could pass the test of time. An immobile Stone Chariot (Rath), ruins of Malla royal palace, mysterious Gumgarh, historic Dalmadal canon, and the seven dams surrounding the glorious terracotta wonders.
The Imperial Gateways of Bengal Sultanate at Gour Malda-ancient palaces in unexplored historical places in Bengal
Gour Malda was once the capital of ancient Bengal, from the early 5th century till 16th century AD. Being ruled by multiple influential kingdoms starting from Mauryas to Guptas, Pals, Sens, Mughals, and Afghans.
Gour Malda has also significant mentions in Ramayana which says it was originally discovered by Laxman who named it Lakhnauti. But another school of thought says Gour Malda was named Lakhnauti in the name of Lakshman Sen, the then ruler of ancient Bengal. Later it was renamed to Gour (evolved from the Bengali word ‘gur’ meaning molasses) by the Muslims for which the city is famous even today.
The four gates of Gour Malda are in three directions are named differently, indicating their individual significance. They are Daakhil Darwaza (North), Kotwali Darwaza (South), Gumti Darwaza (East), and Lukochuri Darwaza (East). All these gateways are unexplored historical places in Bengal. There are no gates on the western side as River Ganga used to flow near the castle of Gour in that era. But with centuries of time, the river has changed its course and in the present-day, it is quite far away from the fort.
The ‘Dakhil Darwaza’ in Gour Malda of Bengal served as the main entrance to the regal ramparts of Gour. Through this, the Sultans used to enter the palace. The biggest northern gateway of the fort, this imperial gateway was built by Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah.
It was further strengthened by Sultan Barbak Shah in the year of 1459 and later upgraded by Sultan Alauddin Husain Shah. Since then, it was mostly restricted to the private movements of the royal family. Canons were fired every time when they entered through this gate which earned its colloquial name ‘Salami Darwaza’.
Made of burnt red bricks, the beautiful terracotta carvings on the porch are impressive. These bear testimony to the beautiful amalgamation of Hindu and Islamic architectures. Photography here is a delight. The piers between the porticos are made of black granite stone which strongly supports the overhanging arches.
There are four towers at the corners comprising of twelve-sided five-storeyed curvilinear domes. Inside the gateway, there are a couple of guardsman rooms which are deserted now. The only sound which could be heard is that of the bats. Towards the southeast corner of the gate, a 22 yards high wall encloses the ruins of the Sultan’s royal palace.
‘Kotwali Darwaza’ was the primary southern gateway of the castle, around 8 kilometers away from ‘Dakhil Darwaza’. It was built just before the death of Allauddin Khilji in 1235 AD. A gigantic brick-laden structure, it served as the main city entrance for the common people.
Being always guarded by the ‘Kotwal’ (meaning Police Chief in the Persian language), it was named so. Now in complete ruins, it has been overgrown by grass and shrubs all over. Only the peripheral convex-shaped towers are partially visible. However, the massiveness of the gateway depicts the level of protection is provided to the castle.
The ‘Gumti Darwaza’ in Gour Malda was a single domed, relatively smaller gate at the eastern side of the fort. It comprised of enameled bricks, constructed later during the Afghan rule in 1512 AD by Sultan Allauddin Hussain Shah.
Originally it served as the entrance to the mausoleum of Chamkan, later being opened for generic use. It is believed that kilos of pure gold brought form Middle East were used to decorate this gate. But right now only remnants of the glazed bricks could be seen. The gate is now closed for the public. It can only be witnessed from outside.
‘Lukochuri Darwaza’ was the grandest of all the internal gateways used by the Mughals for royal entertainment purposes. With multiple confusing chambers, as the name suggests, this gate was used by the Sultan for fun plays like hide-and-seek with his Begums.
However, during the Afghani rule, it was restricted to a private entrance into the inner ramparts of the citadel. But later in 1655 AD, after getting renovated by Sultan Shah Shuja, son of Emperor Shah Jahan, it was converted to a ‘Nuqqarkhana’ (meaning ‘Drummer’s Chamber’ in English). Trumpets and drums were beaten during the Emperor’s entry into and exit from the citadel.
We, as proud Bengalis, also must join hands to develop a sustainable promotional plan for Gour. Sad to say, it did not get the deserved focus from its own people. Hardly any outsiders visit the place today compared to the footfalls of Murshidabad and Bishnupur. Loads of secrets lie hidden inside the century-old terracotta bricks of Gour. Let us take some conscious efforts to open the prosperous treasure to the entire world in our travel blogs.
Tomb of India’s First Chinese Forefather at Chinamantala-unique in unexplored historical places in Bengal
Chinamantala is a small village near Budge Budge, about 50 kilometers from Kolkata Airport via Diamond Harbour Road. There are no direct bus or train routes to reach the place, but can be easily accessed by private vehicle. It is one of the unexplored historical places in Bengal.
Today you will hardly find any Chinese families residing there, but the name of the place is still dedicated to them. Remnants of only two ancient Chinese settlements have survived the ravages of time – a traditional Chinese temple and the grave of India’s first Chinese forefather Tong Acheew. The silent hamlet gets back its life during the Chinese New Year week when plenty of Indian Chinese inhabitants visit the place, pay tribute to the great man, tune to the beats of ethnic drums and perform dragon dancing in typical Chinese carnival style.
History of Tong Acheew:-
1718 AD, a young courageous Chinese tea trader named Tong Acheew had landed at the shores of Bay of Bengal, near Budge Budge. He had hoped to conduct trade with the English East India Company. It took him years of struggle to establish a trading relationship with the Company.
During the late 1770s, after being successful in persuading Warren Hastings, the then Governor-General of British India, Tong Acheew was permitted to start the first Chinese owned sugar mill of the country. That opened doors to the influx of hordes of Chinese workers from the Hakka and Cantonese communities, who settled in the villages in and around the sugar mill.
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Since the locality was just beside the mighty Hooghly River (an indigenous name of Ganga), the land was very fertile here. This flickered another bizarre idea in the trader’s mind. Within a year, Tong Acheew took on lease a huge agricultural land from the Britishers for cultivating sugarcane. This in turn would serve the purpose of sugar supply for his mill.
To support the entire supply chain, there was a huge demand for cheap labor. Soon, the workers’ families too were immigrated from China. Thus the small village flourished to a full-grown Chinese community. The native hamlet was renamed to Acheewpur in his honor and the exact location of the sugar mill got its name changed to Chinamantala. With the passage of time, Acheewpur has become modified to Achipur, the name by which it is known today.
About Tong Acheew:-
Tong Acheew was a religious man and deeply worshipped aboriginal tutelary Chinese divinities named Tudi-Gong (God & Goddess of Earth). During his first visit to Calcutta in 1718, he carried two small idols of these deities which he established in the form of a small shrine. Later, the sugar mill was constructed just beside it.
Natives, majority of whom were Hindus & Muslims, when revolted against the institutionalization of foreign deities in their homeland, Tong Acheew renamed the deities with an Indianized appeal – Khoda and Khodi. He also exhibited extreme liberality by creating a temple for Lord Shiva besides the Chinese shrine.
However, no Shivalinga was allowed to be held within the premises. With time, it came to be known as Chinese temple, unlike by the name of the deities housed inside. Even today, a single priest offers daily prayers to both the deities with equal esteem and belief, making it a one of its kind. Hardly in the world, there would be a second instance of such generous religiosity.
Death of tong Acheew:-
Tong Acheew was fatally diagnosed with an ailment and he succumbed to death very fast. Soon after he passed away, the Britishers took control of his sugar mill and started cultivating indigo on the same land, ushering nightmare for the Chinese laborers. The poor workers started worshipping Tong Acheew as a divine self. They also constructed a grave in his memory just beside the Hooghly River with the hope of protection from the clutches of inhumane indigo planters of East India Company.
Within a span of just two years, thousands of Chinese nationals who had settled along the banks of Budge Budge started migrating towards the mainland of Calcutta in search of a peaceful work environment. Most of them landed near Tiretta Bazar, now popularly known as China Town and Acheewpur looks deserted since then. On a different note, if we flip through the pages of history, Acheewpur marked the beginning of Chinese settlements in India.
As time sailed through 250 years, the Hooghly River changed its courses several times. Years ago, the original graveyard constructed by the Chinese residents got engulfed into the depths of the river. To commemorate the memory of Tong Acheew, a U-shaped red-colored grave has been newly constructed near the present-day Budge Budge Ferry Ghat and is often used as a Hindu cremation ground.
At the Tomb of Last Bengal Nawab – Siraj-ud-Daulah-The last tomb of unexplored historical places in Bengal
Khosh Baag is the royal graveyard of Nawab Alivardi Khan and his family including grandson Siraj-ud-Daullah, his mother and wife, daughters, Siraj’s begum, and much other significant kith and kin. It was built by Alivardi Khan himself during the early eighteenth century who fondly named it Khosh Baag, meaning a ‘garden of happiness’, solely reserved for the entombment of the Afshar Dynasty lineage.
The old Nawab chose the site of this beautiful gardened cemetery on the western side of Bhagirathi River (Ganga is known by the name Bhagirathi here), overlooking his palace on the opposite bank. He also architected an in-house mosque similar to that of Delhi’s Jama Masjid.
Alivardi Khan asked his men to especially surround the proposed resting area of his own grave by octagonal bastions, erect double-walled enclosures with multiple holes for musketry while leaving the remaining spaces open for others.
Eventually, the ominous moment arrived. On a stormy night of 1756, the veteran Nawab closed his eyes forever. On his grave, a marble plaque was engraved by Siraj with holy inscriptions written in the Persian language.
Even Siraj’s cold coffin was also laid just beside the old Nawab. The young Nawab’s tomb at Khosh Baag was specially built inside a rectangular flat-roofed mausoleum surrounded by an open gardened balcony. Aside, rests in peace Lutfa, Siraj’s begum and their daughter, entombed at different times.
Encounter with the British:-
The principal eunuchs at Lutfa’s protection though fought hard to save Lutfa from the assault after Siraj’s capture, but were killed by Mir Miran over a head-on crash. Their mortal bodies were later buried at Khosh Baag cemetery.
There is another cluster of open graves just outside the royal mausoleum, where lies five cousins of Siraj and their wives.
When Lutfa petitioned to the British, her plea was approved against a condition – that she has to devote herself to the services of the Company. The queen spent the last twenty years of her deserted life inside a small soggy room just beside Siraj’s grave at Khosh Baag, taking care of the maintenance of all the graves and adjoining rose garden against a paltry wage.
Dan Shah being a fakir was the only non-relative of Nawab Alivardi Khan. He was honored with a mausoleum at Khosh Baag.
How to reach:
The best way to reach is by train from Sealdah. By road, it takes around 6 hours (200 kilometers) via NH34. Road conditions are not conducive for a long drive.
Where to stay:
There are no accommodation facilities at Khosh Baag. Government tourist lodge is available at Berhampore, around 20 kilometers away, on the other side of the river.
What to see around:
Kiriteshwari Temple, River cruise on bhutbhuti (indigenous motorboats), Hazar Duari Palace. These are some of the unexplored historical places in Bengal.
I hope readers like my blog on some of the unexplored historical places in Bengal.
Chandraketugarh museum | Lost glory of Bengal- history in unexplored historical places in Bengal
Chandraketugarh is a 2200+-year-old lost Bengal glory pre-Maurya period archaeological site. This historical place boasts of Vikramaditya’s favorite astrologer Varahamihir’s mansion from where his daughter-in-law Khawnaa used to preach her poetic forecasts. It is located at a distance of just 40 kilometers from Kolkata besides the gorgeous Bidyadhari River near Barasat. It is surely one of the unexplored places in Bengal.
The green sojourn at Chandraketugarh was rejuvenating but the first impression of the archaeological site conveyed an air of utter negligence in terms of maintenance. Even the excavations have been left incomplete due to unknown reasons. A locale said that a monster called Betaal cursed the pits here by 2500 years back. Thus anyone who tries to dig the area gets killed by the devil.
A century-old tree right in the middle of the mounds stands as the only testimony to its rich past.
The Chandraketugarh area belonged to a 2500+-year-old urban civilization that flourished in the nation during the pre-Mauryan period till the Pala dynasty. It can be worth tagged as the ‘Mohenjo-Daro of Bengal’. But due to the sheer disregard from authorities, it never came to limelight neither received the deserved importance over time.
The brick mounds on which we were standing actually belonged to Vikramaditya’s favorite astrologer Varahamihir. His son Mihir was a legendary mathematician of Ancient India, sharing equal credits with Aryabhatta. He was one of the esteemed gems of Vikramaditya’s Navaratna jewels.
The mystical story of Chandraketugarh:-
Upon invitation, Mihir had once been traveling to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to exhibit his mathematical skills. There he grew love interests on the king’s daughter Lilavati and tied knots with her. After they came back to Chandraketugarh, motivated with the astrological calculations, Lilavati casually started delivering her agricultural predictions to the local women folks. Within a year, her poetic style and accuracy of predictions caught the attention of Vikramaditya. He appointed her as one of his Navaratna gems, replacing her husband Mihir. Thus arguably princess Lilavati became the first Indian lady to earn a monthly salary.
Varahamihir sensed immense threat from Lilavati’s rising popularity at the royal court. Thus he instigated his son Mihir to take immediate precautions against their capsizing future. Unnerved, he approached the mythical king Chandraketu to seek his guidance. When Lilavati came to know about her husband’s conspiracy, she chopped her tongue off with a double-edged knife. She promised not to talk ever in her lifetime if that would safeguard Mihir’s honor at the royal court.
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This infuriated Vikramaditya and he persistently motivated Lilavati to continue with her tuneful art of predictions. Much later Mihir too realized his offense and requested Lilavati to start prophesying again. Then she learned a special art of speaking through her nasal passage. The pronunciation added a nasal tone to her voice. Thus with time she came to be more known as Khawnaa (nasal speaker) and her sayings as ‘Khawnaar Bachan’.
Hence, I conclude my blog about some of the unexplored places in Bengal which are rich in history and also worth visiting. I hope that this blog inspires tourists to visit these unexplored places in Bengal.
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