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The Best Times To Explore Purulia: Winter, Spring, Monsoons

Our accommodation was at Matha Forest Resort, nestled at the foothills of Matha Buru hills in Purulia. The only catch was that it was almost
Charidah: The nest which produces masks for the internationally-acclaimed Chhau dance form
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On Valentine’s Day this year, we boarded the Kolkata Santragachi Rupashi Bangla Express at 6.28 am. We had hoped to travel to Purulia during the vibrant bloom of Palash flowers in early March. However, fate had other ideas. It was our 10th marriage anniversary and I convinced my husband to step out of the city, even if just for a day. His initial plan was dinner at a fancy restaurant in Kolkata, but this time, we opted for a different anniversary adventure. We brought my parents along for the celebration.

Ajodhya Upper Dam
Ajodhya Upper Dam

It happened to be Saraswati Puja, and the train, covering 326 kilometers, was surprisingly empty throughout the journey. Train rides are the best – you get to enjoy local snacks, and somehow, there’s always space for one more treat. My mother spent most of the time napping, while my dad, in his late 60s, found a cozy window seat to read Swapnamoy Chakrabarty’s ‘Joler Upor Pani’, a Bengali book that earned the author this year’s Sahitya Akademi Award. By 11:55 am, we reached Purulia station, right on time. Our accommodation was at Matha Forest Resort, nestled at the foothills of Matha Buru hills in Purulia. The only catch was that it was almost 50 kilometers away from the station.

Marble Lake
Marble Lake

The best times to explore Purulia, the westernmost district of West Bengal, are winter, spring, and monsoon. This region stands out as a favoured weekend getaway from Kolkata, boasting tranquil greenery, breathtaking landscapes, impressive dams, majestic hills, and enchanting waterfalls. Purulia is easily accessible by road from Kolkata and neighbouring towns such as Bankura, Asansol, Bokaro, Jamshedpur, Ranchi, and various other parts of the state.

As our driver Sudarshan guides us along the winding roads of Purulia, we notice the palash trees are on the verge of blooming. With Saraswati Puja in full swing, every girl is adorned in vibrant red and yellow sarees, while the men sport yellow kurtas. Even if the palash flowers aren’t in full bloom, the colours of the dresses make it seem as if the entire town of Purulia is ablaze with energy.

After an hour and a half, we finally arrived at our destination. Nestled amidst the Matha Buru hills, this property was a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle. The only audible sounds were the faint Santhali songs playing at Saraswati Puja pandals. The fragrance of the trees combined with the melodious Santhali tunes created an exotic ambience.

Matha Burru Hills
Matha Burru Hills

After a long day of travel, all we craved was a good meal, a quick freshening up, and a brief nap. Sudarshan mentioned the option to visit Ajodhya Dam, but our tired bodies rejected the idea.

The next day, our only day for touristy activities, began with a gloomy sky. By 9 am, it started pouring as if there were no tomorrow. However, fueled by a delicious English breakfast, our spirits were revived, and we were eager to explore Purulia. While this marked my second visit to Purulia, it was the first for the others.

Our first stop was Lohoriya temple, nestled in the Ajodhya hills and dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple, adorned with scriptures from Hindu mythology, looked beautiful in the rain. Despite the bad weather, several devotees lined up for their morning puja.

Near the Lahoriya temple
Near the Lahoriya temple

No Purulia trip is complete without a visit to Ajodhya Upper and Lower Dam. When we reached the Lower Dam, the rain cleared, and a romantic and mysterious atmosphere lingered with a slight chill in the air. Despite its smaller size, the Lower Dam Lake, tucked between the hills, was scenic. A viewpoint on the road over the reservoir offered a beautiful view, leading to a quick photo session before heading to the Upper Dam. This larger dam creates a significant lake and serves as a vital water source in these arid regions, also hosting a hydroelectric power project. Standing on the Upper Dam, looking at the reservoir, we couldn’t help but thank the rain gods. We also made a short stop at Bamni Falls, a waterfall in the heart of Ajoydha Hill and Mayur Pahar, named after the once-famous presence of peacocks. If you’re lucky, you might even spot one.

Pakhi Pahar (Bird Mountain)
Pakhi Pahar (Bird Mountain)

Our next stop was Muruguma Dam, offering a breathtaking view of the natural beauty of Ajodhya hills. We then visited Muradi Dam, a large water body surrounded by hills, famous as a picnic spot in winter. This lake attracts migratory birds during the winter season and is located at the foothills of Muradih Hill. Although a bumpy ride to Boronti, another lake, was an option from Muradi, we chose to head towards Panchet Dam, situated on the northeast corner of Purulia.

As mentioned before, Purulia is a unique blend of natural lakes, lush vegetation, hills, and waterfalls. Khairabera Lake, located in Baghmundi, about 70 km away from Purulia town, is embraced by forests and hills. Similar to Muradi Dam, Khairabera Dam is a haven for migratory birds during the winter.

After enjoying a simple Bengali meal, we visited Charidah, a personal favourite of mine. Situated in the Baghmundi block of Purulia, Charidah is renowned for its internationally popular ‘chhau’ masks. This lively dance form, rooted in traditional martial arts, features rhythmic drum beats, powerful acrobatics, and colourful masks.

 

Approximately 1,500 artisans in this village craft these masks, turning it into a popular tourist destination.

After purchasing three masks and engaging with the nationally recognised artisans, we proceeded to Marble Lake. Once an open-pit mine, it is now celebrated for its rocky terrain and rustic charm, making Marble Lake one of the most photographed places in Purulia.

Purulia is surrounded by hills like Pakhi Pahar (Birds’ Hill), Mayur Pahar, and Jaychandi Pahar (more than an hour from Purulia). Pakhi Pahar, an artistic creation on Murraburru Hill by the renowned artist Chitta Dey and his team, features numerous bird images on the rock. It’s a popular spot for rock climbing enthusiasts.

Lower Dam
Lower Dam

If we had another day, we could have explored Jaychandi Pahar and Garh Panchakot. However, the following day, we had to board the Vande Bharat Express from Purulia to Howrah at 7 am.

Back in 2018, I visited Purulia with friends during the summer, and it was a different experience. This time, with family for one day and two nights’ trip, I discovered a side of Purulia that was unknown to me. During the rainy season, Purulia turns lush green, changing colours as the sun comes up. On our way back to the station, Sudarshan pointed out that the Palash flower would bloom soon. Purulia offers a unique colour palette for every season, making it a popular destination among weekend travellers from Kolkata.

All images are by the author.

Anandi Chakraborty is an avid film watcher and a wanderlust-driven traveller. Her world revolves around the simple joys of watching films, exploring new destinations and a comforting cup of tea.

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