Sunday, September 3, 2017

A week end at Rangaroon Tea Estate

Diner table discussion and chit chat in a family get together are always very interesting. Recently in such situation my uncle was saying about his first trek to Sandakphu in mid 70s. I was adding more spice to his memory recollection by sharing my experience during Sandakphu Trek. Suddenly my parents expressed their interest for a week end trip to North Bengal but they asked not to plan for any trek, instead, they it would be better to stay in a village near to Darjeeling preferably in a tea garden and forest.

When everybody of the table agreed to their plan I ran a search query in my mental database and retrieved the name of Rangaroon Tea Garden.

Rangaroo Tea Garden
Rangaroon Tea Garden is 16 kilometre away from Darjeeling. Located on the opposite hill of Darjeeling, this hamlet can be reached by car either via Kurseong-Jorbangla-3 Mile Mor of Via Teesta Bazar – 3 Mile Mor.

Next morning, my first job was to issue tickets for New Jalpaiguri (as NJP is the gateway to go North Bengal) and after getting six births in Darjeeling Mail I booked Khalling Cottage of Rangaroon Tea Estate for two nights. This time our team consisted of six members – my parents, uncle, aunty, my cousin sister Sanghamitra and myself.

We reached NJP in a cloudy morning. Cottage authority arranged a car for us that took us from NJP. While going through Rohini Road, we experienced light shower. I love to see shower on a tea garden. The sound of rainfall on a tea garden refreshes me like anything.

Suddenly our driver said, “Mausama kharaba cha. Kanchenjunga herna kunai mauka” (Weather condition is bad, no chance to see Kanchanjungha). “La”, I replied. Though I felt that everybody in the car got a bit upset by I knew my luck to see Mt. Kanchanjungha. Mt. K never betrayed me. Even in my Lamahatta trip, where it was only me in the team who saw Mt. Kanchanjungha just for 2minutes.

Meanwhile our car to turn from 3 Mile Mor and entered into Sinchal Forest. Finally, we reached at Khalling Cottage at around 12.30pm. This is the best home stay ever I have stayed in my life. The interior decoration reflects the taste of Rai family. Every corner of the cottage contains the ethnicity of Nepal.

By that time rain was stopped. After getting freshened up, had a wonderful lunch and planned to roam around the tea garden. But nature had a different idea. The rain started again. Rain on a forest in a hill station!!! What more a person like me can expect!!!

Myself with my sister went to the cottage owner Mr. Rai to have some chat. He is a nice gentleman with a pleasant personality. We talked for 2-3 hours. He said the history of the tea garden.

Once upon a time in 19th century a British guy was looking for the best quality of tea. He chose this place for plantation. In 19th century and also early days of 20th Century, Rangaroon tea was served in Buckingham Palace.



Next morning, we got up earlier and started walking around the village. The picturesque village is surrounded by the tea garden. Most of the villagers are jovial, educated and dignified. Tea garden and driving are the source of income for the villagers. It was a Sunday. So, people were celebrating the weekly off by doing domestic work and chit-chat. Personally, I love to interact with the villagers and always I have felt that people of North Bengal and Sikkim respond to me in a very positive way. This adds more pleasure in every trip. I experienced the same warmth of local people in this trip also.


Rangaroon Village
A young girl took me and my sister to the gate of the factory. She explained the entire process of making tea. She took us to the tea garden. I would suggest my fellow readers to have this experience. I had done it in my previous trips also. But every time I feel the same pleasure while walking along the lush green tea garden.

I got a bit nostalgic. It might be due to the history of the garden. The soil of the garden is the silent speaker of the dream of a young British merchant. The tree plants are the proud mother as the leaves were used in Buckingham Palace. So aristocratic history the garden has!!!
Meanwhile it was 12pm and we came back to resort for lunch. After lunch, we decided to trek to the jhora. We started walking towards it. But suddenly the weather betrayed and we came back.
In the evening, I came out of the resort to have a fag. Suddenly I got surprised to see the opposite hill. Darjeeling hill is just to the opposite of Rangaroon Tea Garden. The city lights were glowing and it seemed like a golden neckless on the throat of a dark hill. It was the climax of the tour. The heavenly beauty made me spellbound for a long time when Mr. Rai asked me for dinner.

While coming back, I was thinking that although it was a successful trip but we could not see Kanchanjungha. Suddenly our driver said, “saab dekho.” We all looked through the right window of the car and saw the clouds were getting disappeared. Within a few seconds Mount Kanchanjungha showed its face just like a crown on Darjeeling hill.


Kanchanjungha from Jor Bangla, Darjeeling

Going:

Train to NJP or flight to Siliguri followed by car from Siliguri/ NJP can reach you to Rangaroon Tea Estate by two ways – either from Hill Cart Road (Siliguri-Kurseong-Ghum) or from Teesta Bazar. You can also take a car from Darjeeling to Rangaroon Tea Garden.

Staying:

Khalling Cottage is the only place to stay at Rangaroon Tea Garden.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Khan Jahan Ali Tomb, Bagerhat, Bangladesh

Usually history does not give poetic justice to anybody. Even we do not know the name of the architect of Taj Mahal or Agra Fort or Bara Imambara. Always we can find the name of the king as a founder of any architecture. The creativity and technicality of the architect always gets politically and purposefully unrevealed. It seems like the name of the Kings are making the history books very clumsy.

Khan Jahan ali Tomb

But sometimes the torn and faded pages of history books smile with pleasure to share the name of the architects. If you touch those pages they say the names. One of such pages says the name of Khan Jahan Ali who was an architect as well as a saint general of Khalifabad District (Bagerhat), Bangladesh during 15th Centrury.

In my previous posts (Shat Gombuj Masjid, SingairMasjid, Noy Gombuj Masjid) Khan Jahan Ali’s work has been mentioned. We have already seen how his creative sense constructed Tughlaq Style Architecture by Terra cotta style of Bengal.

After the death of the great architect in 1459, his followers decided to construct his tomb in this style so that the legendary artist’s soul can rest in peace in his own architectural genre.
Located on the northern bank of Thakurdighi (at Bagerhat, Bangladesh), Khan Jahan’s Tomb can be reached by bus or car from Khulna. It is around 2.5 kilometers away from gigantic Shat Gombuj Masjid.

The 13.7 meter long Tomb is made by tempered brick with a thickness of 2.4 meter. Four exterior angles of the building are emphasized with solid circular towers.

The four walls have stone casings up to the height of about 0.9m-a technique, which was no doubt introduced with a view to preventing the building from being affected, by the ground moisture so common in the humid climate of south Bengal.

The interior of the single domed building could originally be entered through four axial archways fitted with stone lintels, but the northern one is now closed with brick fillings. The large hemispherical brick dome, which covers the entire building, is internally carried on squelches springing from the stone brackets projected out of the walls. The triple cornice bands, running round the corner towers, are curved in a manner typical of the Bengali style.

Right now, the tomb is a part of UNESCO World Heritage Site along with other 15th Century mosques of Bagerhat. The majar has recently been renovated by the joint collaboration of Bangladesh Archaeological Department and Archaeological Survey of India. 


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Monday, June 12, 2017

Noy Gombuj Masjid (Nine Domed Mosque), Bagerhat, Bangladesh

Noy Gombuj Masjid (Nine Domed Mosque) is another silent speaker of the cultural excellence of Bengal (Now at Bangladesh) in 15th century. As I mentioned in my post Shat Gombuj Masjid, during the Sultanate era of Bengal, Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah appointed a saint general Khan Jahan Ali to decorate Khalifabad (now Bagerhat) area. The saint general showed his architectural excellence and created a number of mosques. Noy Gombuj Masjid is one of the beautiful these archaeological treasure.


Noy Gombuj Maasjid (Nine Domed Mosque)
Architecture:

Noy Gombuj Masjid is a brick built structure measuring about 16.76 meter externally with 2.44 meter thick wall. Nine domes are placed on the roof with three rows of three columns each.
North, south and east wall of this square shaped architecture have three arched opening. The Qibla wall (Western wall) is internally recessed with three engrailed arched Mihrabs. Central Mihrab is larger than others. Terra cotta floral scrolls and flower motifs are the decorations seen around the Mihrab.

But most interesting features of this mosque are its curved cornice and corner towers. This is a signature of Khan Jahan style. Two cornice bands are decorated with lots of lotus panel and lozenges. Corner four corner towers (Miners) are divided with by molded bands. Decorated motifs as lotus panels, lozenges are depicted on the towers.


Noy Gombuj Maasjid (Nine Domed Mosque) in monochrome

Location:

Noy Gombuj Masjid is located near Thakur Dighi at bagerhat. It is 10 minutes’ walk from Khulna Bagerhat Highway.

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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Singair Masjid (Singair Mosque) at Bagerhat, Bangladesh

In my post about Shat Gambuj Masjid, I mentioned that during the reign of Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud, a saint general Khan Jahan Ali decorated Bagerhat (aka Khalifabad) town with lots of mosques. The group of mosques helped Bagerhat to be enlisted into UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Singair Masjid is one of these archeological assets.


Singair Masjid
Located on the south west corner of the great Shat Gambuj Masjid, Singair Masjid can be reached by one minute walking from the gigantic one.

Like other historical mosques of Bagerhat this one was also constructed in 15th century. The mosque has a square shaped architecture made of tempered brick (terra cotta). Each side is 12.04 meter long and its each wall’s thickness is 2.1 meter.

The eastern side of the wall contains three gates. Among them, the central gate is larger than others. The northern and southern wall has only one entrance. A decorated “mihrab” is placed in the western wall.


The beautiful architecture has a large and heavily built dome with four thick miners on four sides. Singair Masjid is an example of Tughlaq style architecture.

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Shat Gambuj Masjid (Sixty Dome Mosque) at Bagerhat, Bangladesh

Bagerhat is district under Khulna Division of Bangladesh. This region is famous for its archaeological richness. The group of architectures helped Bagerhat to be enlisted into UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


Shat Gombuj Masjid from south-west
On 15th Century, a saint general Khan Jahan Ali founded a Muslim colony near Sundarban area. During the regime of Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah, this affluent city was named as Khalifabad. With the patronage of Sultan, Khan Jahan decorated the entire city with more than a dozen of mosques.

Shat Gambuj Masjid (Sixty domes Mosque) is the most famous mosque among them. It’s construction started in 1442 and ended in 1459.


Shat Gombuj Masjid from south
There is a trick in the name of this mosque. In Bengali, “Shat” means sixty, and “Gambuj” means domes. So, Shat Gambuj Mosque should have exactly sixty domes in its top. But actually seventy seven domes are present on the top of the mosque. Now, studying the internal structure of the mosque more closely we can see that the architecture contains exactly sixty pillars. This can be a reason for the name – Sixty Domes Mosque.

Let’s not think more about its etymology; instead we can focus on the architectural beauty of the mosque.


Shat Gombuj Masjid from north-east
The Turkey style architecture was made by tempered brick. Seventy seven low domes (seventy of them are rounded domes and seven of them are “Char Chala” domes) are arranged in seven rows of eleven each. Four domes are on the top of four low towers (minar) positioned on four corners.


Shat Gombuj Masjid from south-east
The interior has a vast prayer hall with eleven arched doorways on east, seven each on north and south. May be they have been placed for ventilation. Sixty pillars have divided the interior into eleven deep bays. There is a cool and comfortable atmosphere inside the mosque that may be due to the unusual thickness of the wall.

There are ten “Mihrabs” inside the mosque, the central one was built by stone; a special doorway had been built in “Qibla”.


Shat Gombuj Masjid from east
Shat Gambuj Masjid is located at Khulna-Bagerhat Road and can be reached by rail, car or bus from Khulna and Jessore. Nearest airport is in Jessore.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Relaxing weekend at Samukpota

On September 2016, I was very tired because of my hectic schedule in office. On top of that I had some photography assignments. Even my personal life was experiencing some downward curve. I was completely bogged up, dejected and desperately looking for a small break so that my mind can take rest and get freshened up by the blessing of nature.

Samukpota
One fine morning my elder brother and sister in law (bro’s wife) called me up and said about a plan for weekend trip in rural Bengal. The plan sounded good to me. So on the very next Saturday morning we drove to Samukpota.

Samukpota is a village of South 24 Parganas. Located at a distance of 18 kilometer from Kolkata Samukpota can be reached by car in following ways:
  1. Kolkata – Science City – Basanti Highway– Bhojer Haat - Tardah Bhojer Haat Road – Samukpota

  2. Kolkata – Ruby crossing – Tardah Bhojer Haat Road – Samukpota
As our home is at Salt Lake area, we chose the first option. When our car took left turn from Science City the urban noise gets reduced and our ears got some relief. After taking right turn from Bhojer Hat, plenty of small water bodies got visible. These water bodies are used as a prawn breeding purpose.

At around 10am we reached at Samukpota Jungle Tent. It is basically a resort of four permanent tents around a big lake. The interior of the tents have been decorated as a master bedroom with anti-chamber and attached bathroom. The resort has some other amusement options like dolna, hammock, boating etc. On winter, migratory birds can also be visible. A tiger fish and a piranha are the residents of the lake so swimming is strictly prohibited.

After checking in we had breakfast with luchi, sabji and sweets. Then I decided to roam around the village. After 1-2 hours I came back to the resort. My brother asked me whether I am interested to have beer or not. I did nod my head. The care taker served fried small fish. We ridded up on hammock, looking at the beautiful autumn sky of rural Bengal we started having beer with snacks.

Autumn sky of rural Bengal
It was almost 2pm when the care taker asked whether he would serve lunch or not. We got a bit hungry. The lunch was superb. The care taker was a great cook. He prepared rice, moong dal, potato bhujia, hilsa bhaapa.

After having a heavy lunch, we decided to take a nap. In the late afternoon my nephew woke me up and asked for my interest about boating. It was a lovely afternoon with breeze.   

We enjoyed boating until stars come out by two or three. The care taker said that evening tea is ready. We had evening tea. Suddenly moon and stars disappeared behind cloud. The air stopped breezing.  The entire environment got peach black and silent.

It started raining and we came back to tent, opened the bottle of Chivas Regal and asked the care taker to serve chicken pakora.

We had diner at 10.30 pm with roti and delicious mutton Bengali curry. By that time the rain has been stopped. We sat on the bank of the lake and enjoyed the starry night and the “sound of silence”. Calmness is the main attraction of this place.


Next morning we got up and after breakfast we checked out. While coming back home, I was feeling very much refreshed. The weekend tour has given me the energy to start a new week.