In the hectic personal and professional schedule, there is hardly any time for traveling these days. Whatever free time I actually get is invested in reading books, watching movies, listening to music or playing with the four-legged brat. Nevertheless, after having been told for years to visit Bandel, because of its prime attraction, I got a chance to visit it a few days ago. Only for 3 hours, Bandel has left a strong imprint on my memory. If you are like me with less or no free time in hand and yet want to explore the maximum; here are five things that you can do in Bandel – in only 3 hours!
Pray at the altar of the Bandel Church:
For someone who had heard of the place for years, I was actually quite stunned to see that it was probably the most occupied and active church I have ever been to. With hundreds of locals and tourists coming to visit the Church by the river Hooghly, it surely has its own charm. The entrance pathway is full of sculptures and statues while the walls adorn its history. The balcony encloses a quiet sitting area with a wishing fountain and statues of the Lord. The main altar, though cannot be photographed is beautifully decorated with paintings of Christ depicting his journey. What one must not miss is the mast of the ship which had wrecked near the Hooghly River. Although a huge replica greets the visitors, the original is placed in a glass case beside it. You can also take a stroll along the garden path beside the church and soak in the cool river breeze in the month humid month of September. If you would like to know its history, it is available on the official website.
Savour delicious food in the local eateries:
If you do not have a sensitive stomach, gorging on the delicious food by the roadside eateries are a must. Small tourist lodges and cabins, at times two-storeys in the make, housing plastic/ wooden chairs and tables mushroom around every tourist spot. Though their elaborate menu presents vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes with hordes of sweets; it is always better to ask them ‘What Really is available?’. In my case from the extravagant menu, all that was available were paratha, chicken, and paneer!
Take a Toto Ride through the lanes:
Sometimes you just need to go with the flow of the place to soak in its beauty. That is precisely why I took a toto ride to my next destination. If you want to explore hidden corners of Bandel, some which probably do not find a space on maps, this is one of the best ways- the other of course is walking! From old mansions and houses, to what seems like centuries-old trees will line your path. Your senses would intake the aroma of fresh cooking, dampened earth or just about anything. You can hear hushed voices and whispers before a leisurely afternoon nap. Street cricket or just playing with a ball keeping children busy on a summer afternoon are various sights that you can take in till you reach your destination, which in my case was the Hangseshwari Temple.
Transport yourself to Istanbul:
Had there been the real existence of the world of magic then the gates of the Hangseshwari Temple would have surely transported you to either Hogwarts; or on a more realistic level to the Hagia Sophia Museum in Turkey, Istanbul. The Temple is named after Rani Hangseshwari, the mother of the Nrisinha Deb Roy and the Kali Deity inside the premise is worshipped as Maa Hangseshwari.
But what is more fascinating is the Ananta Basudeva Temple beside it, within the same complex. Paneled with pure terracotta designs, depicting scenes from Ramleela, Mahabharata, Ramayana, the dance of the celestial apsaras and even the Kamasutra; the smaller yet more compact temple is a pleasure to the eyes.
This or That:
The Zafar Khan Ghazi Dargah and Masjid is by far the most captivating tourist spot. Said to have been built on the ruins of an ancient Vishnu Temple, the premise is an unexplainable amalgamation of both cultures. On entering the premise you would be greeted by the Dargah. Do keep an eye on the gates and outer walls of the Dargah for ancient Hindu temple deity panels. A little further on is the Masjid proper, again adorning terracotta works among others. No proper records of the temple, its construction, and any other information have been confirmed till date, though research is on.
Bandel is almost 40 km away from Kolkata by train. With around 28 local trains passing by. It is also equally accessible by bus and car. Also, for a broke traveler like me whose every penny is spent on books, the place is quite reasonable to go around with only 2k on you. It is suggested to carry an umbrella, mineral water, and walking shoes. Next time you are in Bandel, do look up these places. Also, the locals are friendly and always want to give you extra tips on what to see and what not along with a free dose of history!