Due to becoming allergic to crowd day-by-day, I choose to spend my 2016 puja vacations at my sister’s place at Naihati. It is a suburb in Kolkata outskirts right beside the Ganges. I was no-more-crazy for puja-pandal-hopping and so decided to spend this vacation visiting places at Hooghly, lies just on the opposite side of the river. I sat with my nephew to sketch the trail-to-follow for the next day. The final plan was to visit places: Imambara, Bandel church, Chandannagar strand, Patal bari, Sacred Heart church, Chandannagar museum, Dutch cemetery followed by Hangseswari temple.
Next day right after breakfast, we started our journey. We caught a Bandel Local from Naihati and reached Hooghly Ghat station in half-an-hour. We walked for about 10 minutes to reach our first place-to-visit: Imambara. Hooghly Imambara is a mosque-cum-imambarah and the two storied structure comprises a tall clock tower over the entrance gate.
It was a-little more crowded than usual days to make arrangements for Muharram and none could find the clock-tower’s key. We had to satisfy with the view offered from outer facades and the courtyard.
Bandel church is not very far from Imambara. Transporting in villages and suburbs of Bengal have been quite-easy with introduction of a battery-run vehicle, locally known as ‘TOTO’. We hired a toto to reach Bandel church. The church , also known as the Basilica of the Holy Rosary, is one of the oldest churches in Bengal.
The church has three altars, several tombstones, an organ, and a shrine to Mary. The entrance to the alter has a “ship’s standing mast” presented by the captain of a vessel which had encountered a storm in the Bay of Bengal. The mast was attributed to Mary as a token of thanks on the vassal’s rescue.
Taking photographs are not allowed inside main arch of the church. We had contended our eyes with the beauty of the main altar. After visiting Bandel church, we moved in an auto to Hooghly station for our next destination: Chandannagar.
We take a local train to Chandannagar. From the station, it was around 10 minute’s walking distance to Chandannagar strand. Chandannagar strand is a tree-shaded 1 Km long pavement for the public walk along the Ganges and comprises small parks, sitting benches and a few buildings of historical importance. We spent a little time in one of those parks enjoying the beauty of the river.
It was a partial overcast morning and due to the clouds, the river was looking elegant.
Among the buildings of historical importance along the strand lies: Chandannagar museum, Sacred Heart church and an under-ground house (locally known as patal-bari). Chandannagar museum and institute boasts a collection of French cannons and wooden furniture. Apart from this, it teaches French language.
There is nothing much to see except the outer view of the patal-bari. Hence, we moved to the dutch cemetary hiring a toto. It was ride of around 30 minutes. The tranquil cemetary, located beside ‘Lal dighi’, comprises more than 100 tombs and is used as a park and local hooligans drink openly. I personally suggest avoiding visiting this place.
For the next part of our trip, we again moved to railway station. We caught another local train to Bansberia. Outside the station, we got a toto to take us to our last stop: Hangseswari and Ananta Basudeba temple. Hangseswari temple is built by Raja Nrisingha Deb Roy as instructed by his late mother Rani Hangseswari in a dream. Hence, the deity in this temple is worshipped as mother and the inner structure also resemblances human anatomy. The temple has a distinctive architecture consisting 13 towers, each built as a blooming lotus.
The temple complex comprises another temple named Ananta Basudeba temple. It is a temple of Lord Krishna and well-known for its walls engraved with exquisite terra cotta works depicting stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata.
By late afternoon it started raining and we had to leave. We took a toto to Bansberia station and then a local train to Naihati station.