Baranti – An offbeat location in Purulia

Baranti, a small tribal village of Santuri in Purulia district of West Bengal. Situated in the lap of a hilly range with a big water reservoir and a dam on the other side. Furthermore the village is surrounded by the Panchkot Hill at one side and the Biharinath Hill on the other. Also there is a 1Km long irrigation project dam, between two small hillocks- Muradi Hill and Baranti Hill.

The distance from Kolkata is about 270Kms and can be reached by both Road and Railways in the following ways:

1) Railways: The nearest railway station from Baranti is Muradi railway station on the Adra-Asansol line which is about 6Kms away. Take a train from Howrah and reach Asansol or Adra. Thereafter take a local train to Muradi, which is 20Kms from either town. Subsequently hire an auto-rickshaw or a trekker at the railway station.

2) By car:We drove from Kolkata via the following route:
Kolkata -> Dankuni(NH 2) -> Asansol -> Disergarh Bridge across the Damodar River -> Sarbori Morh on Barakarar Purulia Road -> Subhas Morh -> Kotaldih village -> Ramchandrapur village and Muradi village -> Baranti.

Day 1:

The Journey:

We drove to Baranti due to our love for long drives. We a group of 13, booked Spangle Wings Resort for a couple of nights. In the wee hours of 16th November 2018, we hit the road in 2 cars and 3 bikes. The road condition of NH2 was excellent so we were cruising through. After crossing Bardhaman, we stopped at a roadside dhaba (Food Point) for breakfast. While the dhaba made us fresh egg tadka and hot chapatis, we freshened up. We finished of our breakfast with the famous dhaba style tea and again hit the road.

The second part of the journey was smooth till we left the NH2 and took left towards the village. Some of the roads were under construction and the condition was really bad. Due to the construction work, heavy trucks were transiting all the time and their load created huge dents on the road. As a result it was really difficult for a non-SUV car to go through. Somehow we managed to make our way through that, then came the real challenge once we had to make our way through the village. The roads were almost of the same width as that of the car and goats and chickens were running amok.

Finally without any casualties we were able to reach the resort. They welcomed us with a glass of mango juice which re-energized us after the long journey. The rooms were nice and had a good view of the Baranti lake. Each floor of the resort have 4 rooms, 2 double bedded and 2 four bedded. We had booked the entire top floor. We freshened up and went for lunch in the resort. If view was the best part of the hotel then food is the second best.

Garh Panchkot:

Garh Panchkot, a ruined fort located in the foothills of Panchet Hills, is only 18 km away from the resort and after lunch we decided to visit it. Again armed with Google Map we started off. The roads inside the village are narrow, not in good condition and the tribals are not used to seeing vehicles so they lack the basic road sense. As a result they park their cycles, carts and bikes wherever they feel like and also one has to stay alert for goats and chickens.
We reached the Panchkot Palace some 40mins later. The ruins of the Panchkot Palace are a silent testimony to the Bargi attack during the 18th century. Whatever remains of the ruin has been taken over by the Archieological Survey of India and they are repairing it now.


The Fort:

Alivardi Khan had become the Nawab of Bengal in April 1740, used to be rule here. In the fort’s construction a combination of natural and man made resources were used to build it.

The fort had a well defined defense mechanism known as the “Defense moat“. The “Singha-dwar” was the only entrance to the area. Today, the moat has been reduced to a mere pond with a road running through the middle of it. A broken entrance gate for the boats is what remains of the once famous “Singh Dwar”. After crossing the Singha Dwar it’s about 7 km to the Palace. The curved road is through the bamboo bush, which was planted as a second line of defense, because even during the middle of the afternoon the road is dark due to the bamboo bush along the roadside.


The main Palace – Rani Mahal:

Not much information is available but given the arches and the pillars scattered across an area of about 20,000 sq feet, the Palace alone would have been a massive structure. As legend has it, the king had 17 wives and they all stayed in this palace. The material used to build the Rani Mahal is a bit different from that of the temples and the Guard’s quarter. It uses “Choon Surki” or a paste made of lime and powered clay bricks fused using water as a base to hold the fire clay bricks. The arches on the other hand mimic the Moghul architecture which indicates that the Rani Mahal was built later, possibly during the 16th century AD compared to the stone temples which are nearby. The legend also says the 17 wives of the King had committed suicide here.


Temples:

The two distinctive architectural styles, which are evident from the temples, are the Bishnupuri style and a much older architectural style of using stone blocks. It is believed that the Bishnupuri styled temples housed Krishna and the followers were mostly vegetarians whereas the Stone Temples housed the figure of Kali and the followers were non-vegetarians and also believed in animal sacrifice.
There is another very old stone temple, which is dedicated to Rama. This could be because it is believed that most of the Hindu Kings of India were Raghu-Vanshis or descendants of Rama the mythical and legendary king as per the Hindu epic Ramayana.

The popular belief is that the Marathas ransacked the King’s palace. Dishonored and defeated the King retreated to a place called Kashipur. Though there is no such proof but “Borgi elo deshe khajna debo kise” is a very common phrase in the villages near Garh Panchokot which literally means – The Marathas have come to our place how will we pay the taxes!
Beyond the temple lies a trekking route to the hill beyond where the guards once used to stand protecting the fort. We didn’t have time to give that trek a try. After having some tea and kumro-phool bhaja we headed for the resort. After a round of snacks, several rounds of UNO and a nice dinner, we called it a day.

Day 2:

Joychandi Pahar:

We woke up early to catch the sunrise. Our resort has the best view and from the room balcony we could see the Sun showing up from behind the hills. Joychandi Pahar, which became famous due to the shooting of Satyajit Ray’s famous film “Goopi Gayen Bagha Bayen”, is just 28 km away from our resort in Baranti. We hiked up the hill through a series of approx 350 small steps. On top of the hill lies the Joy chandi temple. We climbed up and sat for sometime enjoying the 360 degree view of the village down below and capturing the moment. It was around 10am and so we decided to visit Panchet Dam.


Panchet Dam:

Panchet Dam was constructed across the Damodar River at Panchet in Dhanbad, Jharkhand. The Damodar forms the border between Dhanbad, Jharkhand and Purulia, West Bengal. There after it goes on to meet the Barakar at Dishergarh. Panchet Dam has been constructed a little above its confluence with the Barakar. While Dhanbad district is on the northern bank of Panchet reservoir, Purulia district is on the southern bank. Panchet Hill rises above Panchet Dam. We were in two minds about covering Maithon Dam then, as we had already asked to prepare lunch in the resort and covering Maithon Dam, though not far from Panchet would take some time. Finally, we decided to return back to the resort. After a sumptuous lunch and resting, went up to the terrace to catch the sunset on Baranti Lake.


Sunset:

Sunset on Baranti Lake is a major attraction of this place for the reason that the lake keeps changing colour from time to time. It’s a real treat for the eyes to sit and watch the various shades of yellow and red reflected on the water and quietly spreading out on to the paddy fields.

We were in the mood for some roasted chicken and asked the in the resort to make arrangements. Facility is available in the resort itself therefore we had a gala time by the fire. We could hear the sound of ‘dhamsa’ and ‘madol’ coming from a distance. We were curious and as a result decided to follow that. It was a cold moonlit night, and walking among the deserted village was a thrill in itself. After walking for certain distance we located a group of villagers playing ‘dhamsa’ and ‘madol’. We stood there in the moonlight listening for a while. It was chilly, therefore we decided to return to another round of UNO. We had splendid dinner and enjoyed the last bit of our stay till we were too tired to stay awake.

Day 3:

End of trip and event though we longed to stay we had to return. We decided to visit Kalyaneshwari temple and Maithon Dam on our way back. So we started early after having breakfast. For the reason that Kalyaneshwari temple is one of the 51 piths of Sati and is a very popular attraction to both locals and tourists. Thereafter we headed towards Maithon Dam. There are boating facilities available in Maithon, beacuse we were running out of time, we skipped it. We took some photographs and started off towards Kolkata. After having lunch at Durgapur and tea at Shaktigarh we reached Kolkata around 9pm.

Baranti is still an offbeat tourist spot which is fast gaining popularity. The best time to visit Baranti is from October to March. The weather is pleasant, winter welcomes various migratory birds and March has its own beauty. There are many palash trees is Baranti and during holi the trees get filled with red palash flowers. It seems as if the forest have caught fire due to these red flowers.
The tribal though are not very happy or are accepting the fast development of the place. The villagers around the resort are a bit hostile and they don’t allow photographs being taken of their livelihood.

We plan to visit again and this time around Holi.

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