With travel restrictions being lifted, popular weekend destinations around Kolkata are slowly becoming crowded. So if you are fancy free and looking for a relatively less-crowded destination why not head to Dwarhatta, about 60km and around two hours’ drive from the city?
So on the first Sunday of January, we decided to explore Dwarhatta, along with its neighbouring towns of Antpur and Rajbalhat.
Our first halt was at Antpur, a village known for its terracotta temples and for its association with the Ramakrishna Vivekananda order. It was in an open-air corner of the ancestral house of Swami Premananda that Swami Vivekananda and eight other disciples of Ramakrishna Paramahansa lit a sacred fire on Christmas Eve of 1886 for meditation, following which they discoursed on the teachings and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, ultimately deciding to renounce the world and become monks dedicated to serving the people. Thus the seed of the Ramakrishna order was planted. The space where the holy fire was built is now enshrined. Beyond this is a two-storey building where the rooms where Swami Vivekananda and Sarada Devi (wife of Ramakrishna Paramhansa) stayed for a while have been preserved.
After a brief tour of the Ramakrishna Mission premises, we stopped by the temples belonging to the Mitra family. The best preserved is the Radha Govinda Temple built in 1786. Take the help of a guide from the temple office to show you the various terracotta panels of the temple built with the motto of exhibiting religious tolerance. Each panel is different. Apart from tales associated with Krishna, the panels depict rulers of various faiths, friezes drawing inspiration from Islamic architecture, portrayals of maritime ventures, influences of European culture, etc. There are also terracotta temples dedicated to Shiva and a Dol Mancha (a temple associated with the celebration of Holi) next to the main temple premises.
Hunger pangs reminded us that it was lunch hour. We decided to head to Dwarhatta where we had taken a day booking at the Mondwarika Resort, which had promised us a sanitised environment. The resort itself was interesting, made of old and discarded automobile tyres, an idea that owner Prabir Sinha Roy brought home from his visits to Germany. “What interested me most was the warmth these tyre-made homes provided during the freezing winter in Germany,” he said. For the walls, the tyres are packed with mud, waste building materials, etc. Driven by his passion for environment-friendly buildings and recycling, Sinha Roy took the idea further by reusing old glass bottles to use them to build beds. Imagine our surprise when one of the staff members lifted the bedding to show us how the bottles have been packed with mud and other materials to build the main bed. “I am a member of several clubs of Kolkata and never run out of my supply of recycled bottles,” he added with a smile. Although the resort is still a work in progress, the completed rooms are now being offered to visitors. The resort is surrounded by paddy fields and local trees, making it a good place to try bird watching.
After a typical home-made Bengali lunch, we walked down to the Raj-Rajeshwar Shiva Temple of Dwarhatta. This terracotta temple built in 1728 still retains the intricately carved panels while several temples have been given a contemporary makeover during renovation. David McCutchion (1930–1972), the English academic considered one of the authorities on Bengal terracotta temples, had found temples in Dwarhatta which were rare examples of ‘pancharatna’ temples with slender turrets. Further down a winding village road was the Dwarika Chandi Temple. Revered by pilgrims, the temple has lost its ancient architectural appeal during a wide-scale repair work. Inside the sanctum sanctorum is the idol of a four-handed goddess Durga with her children, and consequently draws a large crowd during the annual autumn festival.
Owing to paucity of time, we could not visit Rajbalhat, known for its temple dedicated to Rajballavi, an incarnation of Shakti. She is also known as Shweta Kali (White Kali). Once the capital of the former Bhursut principality of south Bengal, the village is home to weavers of traditional Bengal handloom saris. If you are planning an overnight trip, then you can combine Antpur and Rajbalhat before making your way to Dwarhatta.
Information: Dwarhatta is about 60km from Kolkata. Antpur is almost the same distance from Kolkata. The resort is about six kilometres from Antpur but be prepared to negotiate narrow village roads and tight corners. The best time to visit this region is between November and March.