Such a diverse and vast place like Bardhaman is not easy to explore in bits by a single visit. Its extravagance and rich heritage amazed us every time we ventured. So this is to bring out some of the extraordinary tourist spots we enjoyed during our frequent trips to Bardhaman till date.
Bardhaman or Burdwan is a metropolitan city under Purba Bardhaman district of West Bengal and is also known as ‘The Gateway of West Bengal’. Legends say that the 24th Jain Tirthankara Mahavira or Vardhamana Swami had spent some time here in a place called Astikgram, hence the name Bardhaman. The first reference of the name was found on a copper plate dated 6th century A.D excavated in Mallasarul village. Archeological evidences claim that history of Bardhaman dates back to c 5000 B.C.
The dynasty of Bardhaman (Bardhaman Raj) was founded in 1657 by Sangam Rai who was native to Punjab. They were basically zamindars. Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah conferred the title of ‘Raja’ upon Chitrasen Rai in 1740 for the first time.
Bardhaman is a melting pot for vividly different cultures, religions, and sects. The ancient temples found in every other corner belong to both the sects of Hinduism, Shakta and Vaishnava. Keep exploring and you will find other interesting bits of history ranging from the tomb of Sher Afgan to a two hundred years old Protestant Church at the heart of the city.
From Howrah Station simply board a Bardhaman Local either main or chord. Set foot outside of the Bardhaman (Jn.) Station and you will be spoilt for choice over the modes of transport that include buses, taxis, autos, rickshaws, and totos. Take one and ride through majestic Bardhaman.
Right at the juncture of G. T road and Bijoy Chand road, Curzon Gate will welcome you. Previously known as “Star of India”, it is renamed “Bijoy Toron” in the honour of its creator Maharaja Bijoy Chand Mehtab. This structure was constructed in 1903 to mark the occasion of Lord Curzon’s arrival at Bardhaman. The artistry of this structure is undoubtedly praiseworthy. It consists of eight pillars supporting an arch on the top. The topmost part holds a symbol of royal grandeur — a statue of three deity-like women with other sculptures of boats, swords, and sheaves of grain.
Head to the Museum and Art Gallery of Burdwan University and enjoy the stunning artifacts ranging from 1500 B.C to 19th century. The 1,918 antique pieces in total include excavated sculptures and figurines made of stone and bronze, terracotta panels, Indo-European styled paintings, ancient coins and seals, pottery, wood carvings, copper plates and stone inscriptions, manuscripts and old prints, potochitra, ancient jewellery, and various forms of folk and tribal art. The museum remains open daily from 11 a.m to 1 p.m and from 2 p.m to 4 p.m except government holidays. Photography is prohibited inside the museum and gallery.
Along the University road, you will come across Meghnad Saha Planetarium. It’s a kid friendly place to engage yourself in the captivating shows it offers. Built in assistance with the Government of Japan, it has been in action since 1994. In recent years, latest digital equipments are introduced to increase its popularity among masses. A new 3D digital projection system has also been installed. This 90 seater planetarium arranges shows every hour from 12 noon till 6:30 in the evening.
Four kilometers to the west of Bardhaman (Jn.) Station, you will find Ramnabagan Wildlife Sanctuary. Maharaja Bijoy Chand Mehtab took initiative to build the forest. The trees that he planted himself are still there attracting tourists from near and afar. In 1960, this place was declared a reserve forest. Complete with a deer park and a mini zoo this verdant place will calm your senses. The main attractions here are the several species of animals and birds including blackbuck, spotted and barking deer, langurs, sloths, leopard, crocodile, parakeets, hawks, peacocks, pelicans, storks, and so on. It will be a memorable trip “far from the madding crowd”. It is open from 10 a.m to 6 in the evening.
If you are in search of the spiritual essence of Bardhaman you should certainly visit Sarbamangala Temple at Sarbamangala Bari at first. The main temple is designed in “Nabaratna” style with 9 cusps in total. It was built in 1702 by Maharaja Kirti Chand. Devi Sarbamangala closely resembles Mahishamardini Devi Durga except the fact that she has 18 hands (Ashtadashavuja). The idol is engraved on a black basalt stone. Countless devotees come to offer puja every day. The temple has a figurine of Suryadev who is also worshipped alongside Devi Sarbamangala. There is a wide “Natmandir” in front of the temple flunked by a tiny garden. After opening in the early morning the temple remains open till 1 p.m. For “Annavog” you have to buy coupons before 10:30 in the morning. It starts right at 12 noon. In the evening, the temple remains open from 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Just outside the Sarbamangala Temple, another beautifully crafted temple will grab your attention. It is the Dhaneswari Temple built in 1874 by Rajkumari Dhandehi Debi, daughter of Maharaja Mahati Chand.
Come to Nababhat and you will be charmed by the 108 Shiva Temple Complex. Kalna Nava Kailasha Temple Complex is a somewhat replica of this 1789 built structure. It was built by Rajmata Bishnukumari Debi, mother of Maharaja Tej Chand. The temples are crafted in “Ekchala” style and arranged in a sequence adjacent to each other forming a circle. The complex also houses a pond with a Shiva statue at its centre. Colourful flower hedges, green foliages, and the shady walks around the complex will entice you for sure.
In 1972, with a hue of amazement, the locals of Alamganj unearthed a huge 18 feet Shiva Linga. The exact age of the Shiva Linga could not be determined. Research suggests its antiquity may date back to 7th or 8th century. It was named Bardhamaneswar Shiva and is kept in a tiny shelter beside a field full of giant milkweed plants we generally call “Akanda”. This place has a countryside feel to it. When we visited Alamganj it was not peak time. The only person present apart from the pujari was a sadhu sitting and playing music on a wooden manjeera.
After such a long and fulfilling trip you will be in dire need of refreshments. As we all know, Bardhaman is famous for its sweets especially its Sitabhog and Mihidana honoured by GI tags. Stroll around the city streets and you’re going to find numerous sweet shops with finest sweet items.
Want some spice for your taste buds ? Head to a restaurant of your choice. Basically Bardhaman is flourishing day by day with the introduction of new and throbbing luxury hotels, shopping malls, multiplexes, salons, bars and restaurants.
But we genuinely prefer the old world charm of the few Hindu Hotels standing on the outskirts of the Station premises. They are cosy, clean enough and have an amicable touch. Don’t forget to taste their trademark fish curries if you come here. The way they call out to their customers intrigued us. It reminded me of a familiar scene from Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s “Adarsha Hindu Hotel”.
Bardhaman is enchanting in its every aspect. We still have a lot to explore and a lot to learn. If you visit this place once, you have to return over and over again to experience its royal fervour, its serene nature parks, its man-made wonders — everything that makes Bardhaman so splendid.