The Artists Behind the Scenes of Chhau Dance [Day: 03]

My childhood memories in the beautiful town of Puruliya have always attracted me to visit it time and again. This was my first experience when I left the town and headed to explore its beautiful countryside. This trip has recreated my perception of the place and helped me to bond further with its culture and tradition. This post is to adore the incredible people who are trying to endeavour their lost tradition and art.

Artist behind Chhau Dance

The wonderful performance of Chhau dance by the native Santhal tribe is the prime attraction of Puruliya as well as the anecdote from my childhood. I have skipped a few of the destinations known to the people in this belt and stretched myself to the offbeat places. My trip would have remained incomplete without exploring one of the inspiring and patronage villages of Baghmundi which gives an insight into Puruliya’s Chhau masks.

Jharnakocha Cave

Jharnakocha Cave Purulia

Next day, early in the morning I left for Balrampur from Puruliya town. The excitement and the challenges of trekking always rejuvenate me with new energy. This unusual place is very little known even among the locals. Jharnakocha is a small tribal village at a distance of 15km from Balrampur. The village is surrounded by lush green hills followed by a muddy road.

Jharnakocha Cave Purulia

The first challenge I faced was to locate the place but with the help of locals’ guidance, I was able to reach the destination. The dense forest of Sal trees surrounding the area is not easy to trek as you have to make your way from the bushes. After an hour of adventurous trek, I reached the top of the hill. The beautiful panoramic view from the hill will leave behind the exhaustion of trekking.

Jharnakocha Cave Purulia

After spending a few peaceful moments at the top, I moved for the second challenge- in search of the trail to the cave. Though I was not able to get the glimpse of the cave but trekking in the forest and climbing up the hill was real excitement. If you are looking for the cave then I suggest hiring a local villager as your guide would be better.

Chorida Village

Chorida Village Chhau Mask Purulia

After a thrilling experience at Jharnakocha and a delicious lunch at the foothills of Ayodha, it was time to move for my last destination in Puruliya which was a small beautiful village name Chorida. Its most important ensemble for the performers brings spectacular Chhau dance to its glory. The large Chhau masks represent the specific mythological characters that are played during the performance.

Chorida Village Chhau Mask Purulia

The charisma and allurement of the dance massively depend on the dramatic detail of the mask. The handwork of the artists of Chorida has been listed in Geographical Identification tag in India. The art of mask making is facing gradual oblivion due to economic pressure and decreasing participation from the grassroots level. But the active zeal of the villagers has kept the tradition still alive.

Chorida Village Chhau Mask Purulia

When I reached here, I was amazed by the radiant and distinguished coloured masks that were hanging on the walls of the houses. I was dazzled by the Chhau dance and its agile and energetic performances. The part of the costume that always grasped my attention was the large masks of the dancers that narrate the story behind its artists’ handiwork. This led me to include this interesting destination on my list.

Chorida Village Chhau Mask Purulia

It is the home for the artists of Chhau mask that devised me with the appreciation of their hard work. More than 200 families of the village are involved in the creation of the masterpiece. Strolling in the streets with the encompassing workshops can comprehend the intricate process of mask making. You can also purchase these masks for decoration.

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Recline of Abandoned Temples [Day: 02]

A successful trip on day one exploring the unusual place accompanied by glorious weather was a day to be cherished. It was day two to The Land of Red Soil and the places in my list was far from Purulia town. As I mentioned earlier, Purulia’s existence can be found in the 5th century and was one of the 16 Mahajanapadas of Jain religion. The classical architectures of Jaina temple reflect its royal history.

It is a rare place of interest for tourists although a few of the temples are in the conservation of Archeological Survey of India. Yet their existence is steadily disappearing which is sad to witness. My closest friend from Purulia assisted me by bringing me his motorbike to explore these places. The places are well marked in GPS and the help of local guidance is always a choice.

Telkupi Temples

Telkupi Temples Purulia

Telkupi village is well known for its half immersed temple. The construction of Dam in 1959 at Panchet by DVC led to the disaster for the historical temples. It is located at a distance of 8km north-east of Ceheliyama in Raghnuthpur-II block. According to an Armenian-Indian archaeologist Joseph David Belgar, there were twenty finest temples made of bricks and stones in a confined area. Due to the frequent release of water from the Panchet dam the area is now converted into a swampy field. The two temples are visible that are half-submerged into marshy land.

These temples around Telkupi village were divided into three clusters with an architecture similar to that of Banda Deul. The deserted area with a vast lake is also a perfect place for bird watchers. I was accompanied by one of my friends from Purulia town for this trip. We entered our destination in GPS for the Telkupi Temples which is at a distance of almost 53kms from the town. GPS was working well though we reached a few dead ends, with the help of local guides, we crossed the barriers.

We left the main road and followed the shortcut route as shown. The longer route might have taken the same time as the village roads are tough to drive. It took two hours to reach the secluded part of the lake. The vast lake covered with wild aquatic plants and a view of the submerged temple will leave you speechless. It is a bit difficult to reach near the monument but a distant view in silence with no living soul around and the great species of bird will not let you leave the spot.

Banda Deul

Our next destination from Telkupi was 16kms towards Banda and 36km from Purulia. The temple of Banda is the finest stone structure found in Purulia. The stone of the temple is incinerated with patterned carvings inspired from the Odisha style. The site is under the Archaeological Survey of India with despicable maintenance. As no inscription stone was found and badly defaced temple makes it difficult to identify as a Hindu or Jaina temple. The temple is surrounded by Palash trees. During Basant when flowers are in full bloom, it looks more spectacular.

Banda Deul Purulia

Four pillars porched with a roof of the stone slab is placed at the front gate of the temple. A solitary abandoned temple is special for those who are interested in Bengal’s history. With a new experience of bird watching, we moved for our next destination, Banda Deul. Crossing the narrow lanes of the small villages along the widespread fields took a bit more time. The final destination was showing a vast field covered with Palash trees. The heritage temple frozen in time was standing tall a little far inside the field.

Banda Deul Purulia

It has remained neglected by the authority. The broken boundaries around the temple allow the herd of cows to enter the premises. It’s the local people from the village who have initiated to preserve our heritage. The change in weather has deceived me to refrain the full bloom Palash flowers. The temple, a masterpiece of the era, the huge stone blocks carved with artistic sculptures and the huge door of the temple, is mostly overlooked by the tourists.

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Chasing The Mystical Land [Day: 01]

Puruliya The Land of Mystical

Puruliya is an exciting travel adventure and well suited for family holidays. It was difficult for me to make a plan for a short time. It is enriched with heritage and mystical places made of natural beauty, folk culture connected by mythological stories and friendly people. One must visit Puruliya once in a lifetime and add in a bucket list for an adventure trip. Mythological stories add a lot of vigour needed for tourists visiting the place.

A walk through the forest of Sal, Tamal, Sonajhuri and Palas will rejuvenate you with its rare aroma. My first night was planned in the jungle at the foothill of Joychandi Pahar. The hooting of the owls breaks the silence of the night and the giant inactive volcanoes standing tall beside youth hostel is a thrilling experience. My first day began at Joychandi Pahar.

Joychandi Pahar

Throughout my childhood, I heard stories about this place. Those days, climbing to Joychandi was quite difficult without stairs. But now there are well maintained 490 stairs to reach the top of the hill making it much more convenient for travellers. It is famous for rock climbing and it was also the location of the famous film Hirak Raja Deshe directed by Satyajit Ray. The hill is now an inactive volcano surrounded with jungle and is named after a beautiful temple of Ma Joychandi located at the top.

It is about 3km from Raghunathpur and a small Joychandi station at the foothill is well connected. The best time to visit is during Charak Mela and Makarsakranti. It is easy to travel to attractive places but it’s difficult to find a perfect spot. I decided to stay a night at the Youth Hostel which is at the foothill of Joychandi. Online booking is available for Youth Hostel which is a place at a very cheaper cost to stay a night in the mids of the jungle that gave a thrilling and adventures experience.

Next day, I left early in the morning to reach at the top to catch the first glimpse of sunrise. I took a shortcut from Youth Hostel through the jungle to reach the base of stairs. The well-maintained stairs will guide you to the top of the hill. I took a break at one of the main locations of Hirak Raja Deshe, which is a disintegration of the watchtower.

After spending a few moments at the top with a beautiful view of a wide range of hills, plain field and ponds, I took blessings from Ma Joychandi. Now it was time to get down. As the temple was closed I left offerings for the temple at the tea stall at the foothills. The jolly man with his various types of stories was entertaining and uncovered some new facts to learn about the place.

Panchet (Panchakoot) Dam

With a splendid sunrise at the Joychandi Pahar, I moved to the next spot. Thanks to my new friends from Raghunathpur, who accompanied me to cover a few other spots. Our trip began from a massive Panchet Dam under Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC). It is the 4th oldest dam in India inaugurated in 1959. The reservoir shares the border of Jharkhand and West Bengal on the foothills of Panchet hill, one of the favourite tourist destination among the locals. A small beautiful park near the dam is a place to move around for a better view.

The nearest Kumardubi railway station is at the distance of 10kms from the dam. Due to lack of communication facility, it is comparatively less populated than Mython Dam. With heavy breakfast, we left from Raghunathpur for the Panchet dam. The countryside view of Panchet hill on the way will enrich you with calmness. You may also try the famous beverage of date palms in the village. On the way, we tried the seeds of Khesari, a type of pulses from the field.

The scenic beauty will force you to stop for a moment and gaze upon the simplicity and integrity of the locals. They always have time to help and query about you with a cheerful greeting. It took around one and a half hour to reach by bike from Raghunathpur including the recess that we enjoyed. The great reservoir can be enjoyed in months of monsoon as the water level is higher and can be seen in the full flow. The backdrop view of Panchet hill with a small amusement park makes a nice relaxing spot for the traveller.

Garh Panchakoot

Our next destination Garh Pachakoot. As the name suggests Garh which means fort in Sanskrit. The relics of the fort is frozen in time bearing the witness of the plundering of Marathas speaking for the ambushed dreams of Kashipur King’s defeat on the foothills of Panchet. It is said that the King fled away leaving back his 17 wives which later committed collective suicides.

The interesting fact is that it is made of all huge stone labs in area of around 500 square meters. The hollow gate of the palace is the only entry point from where the entire palace was watched. The distance view of the temple at the entrance of wrecks will make you forget all the tiredness in the journey and will greet you with new nirvana.

The roadways along vast fields with friendly people give you a feeling of comfort away from home. The amazing fact about Garh Panchakoot is the natural resources used by people to build and protect the palace. The most important part of the history of Bengal, unfortunately, documentation about this beautiful place is missing from our book.

The grand temple is dedicated to the Lord Vishnu’s avatar, Shri Chaitanya a protector of Vaishnuism. The temple is a masterpiece of stone blocks used in the architecture. It is said that the palace was once surrounded in a semi-circle by a defensive ditch and to enter the main gate the people have to cross by a boat.

Baranti Lake

Sunset view from Baranti Lake is mind refreshing. Spending a few hours in the relics of Grah Panchakoot and rehydrating ourself with fresh sugarcane juice, we moved for the lake. It is around 12kms from Garh Panchakoot with favourable roadways. It is located at Santuri and the nearest railway station is Muradi which is well connected by local trains. The landscape from Baranti Lake makes it more special. The view of two mountains merging at the horizon of the lake makes it a perfect sketch of countryside view.

The lake is well-bounded with stones and few places add immense beauty for the tourist however there are a number of cottages available for the peaceful stay. I was fortunate enough to get so many friends in Raghunathpur with their great company and visiting these many places in one day was an incredible experience. We moved down to the rocks of the lake near the water to grab our perfect sit for the perfect sunset.

My friends had carried some soothing musical instruments, the evening became more colourful with the beautiful view of the sunset on the horizon. Some of the other tourists were residing near cottages, they grabbed our attention with a few interesting stories and facts. It’s so truly said, “you get out from home as a solo traveller, sooner or later you are surrounded by friends”. It was time to get back to the town, as we had only breakfast and no meals in between, we decided to move back to the famous Dhabas of Raghunathpur on the way and cherished the day spent.

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The Land of Red Soil- Puruliya

After wandering in some of the offbeat places in India, I always had a soft corner for Purulia, which is also one of the most awaited destinations I ever wished to cover in my life. The sub-tropical part of our country Puruliya is also known as the Land of Red soil of West Bengal has gained its popularity among the tourist of this state. This is my homeland and as a traveller, I decided to bring out some of the best places in Puruliya.

The Land of Red Soil "Puruliya"

The geographic Surroundings of the place is carved by hills, forests and beautiful streams. Amid jungles, Puruliya also is known for inactive volcanoes that have not erupted in years, and the fact, the Arms Dropping happened in Puruliya back in 1995. Although Puruliya was famous during the Maratha period for their raids and plundering of the palace.

Joychandi Pahar

However, The name Puruliya was first mentioned in the Jaina Bhagwati Sutra. A few remains of Jaina temples also states its presence. It was during the British reign when it came under Jangal Mahal. Later on, 1st November 1956, it was declared as a separate district. The lush green, dense sal forest with blossoms of Palash flowers in spring gives a rustic ambience to Puruliya district.

The Land of Red Soil "Puruliya"

The remains of the archaeological sites in dense forests unwind its pioneer mystery. The mystic charm of different tribes enriches the region with tribal ethos. The famous martial dance Chhou and song Jhumur are an inherent part of the lives of tribal people. A short trip to The Land of Red Soil in a serenity of nature is also pocket-friendly with a challenging adventure.

My Tour Itinerary

Chasing The Mystical Land [Day: 01]

Early morning I left for mountain climbing in Joyachandi Pahar. Later we went to Panchet Dam and took hold near the relics of Garh Panchakoot. Shortly we went for the sunset at Baranti.

Recline of Abandoned Temples [Day: 02]

Spending a night at Purulia town, we left for our next destinations. The day began with a long-journey covering, Cheliyama block’s Telkupi and Banda Deul (Jaina temple).

The Artists Behind the Scenes of Chhau Dance [Day: 03]

Early morning I left for Balrampur by local bus from Purulia town. After one-hour I reached Balrampur. Taking a few minutes to halt in Balrampur we went for trekking to explore Jharnakocha cave. From there we moved to look for the Jharnakocha cave after half an hour climbing through the dense forest. with few accomplishments, we moved to Chorida.

How to Reach?

Purulia is well connected by airport, railways and roadways. The new aerodrome at Andul is well connected by flights from all over the country. Regular available buses and trains are cheap to travel from one place to another. The main town has Totos for local travel, which is very cheap and affordable.