Next weekend you can be at ... Sribati
Take Kamrup Express from Howrah (17.35pm) or a local train. Take a bus from Katwa to Kurchi More (45 minutes, fare Rs 6) and another bus from Kurchi More to Sribati Singhi More (time 15 minutes, fare Rs 3). Sribati temple complex is a 10-minute walk from Sribati Singhi More. While returning, take a local train from Katwa station.
There are several hotels in and around Katwa railway station.
Around 400 years back, a family from Gujarat migrated to Katwa in Burdwan district. The Chandras soon established themselves in business. It owned barges that sailed up and down the Hooghly and its tributaries carrying merchandise of different sorts from far-off lands. Within a short span of time the family built a huge mansion and several temples dedicated to Shiva.
But the good days didn’t last long. The river changed its course and the trade dwindled. Now, only the Chandra mansion and their temples remain as a reminder of the glorious days of river trade in Bengal.
Some of the temples were reconstructed but lack the beauty and grace of the original. Three of the temples have, however, survived the test of time. Their richly carved terracotta panels remind one of the golden days of Bengal architecture and make Sribati a good getaway for the weekend.
We took Kamrup Express and got off at Katwa. The journey was comfortable, taking around three and a half hours.
We reached Katwa in the late evening and retired for the night in a hotel near the railway station. The next day, after a hearty breakfast, we headed for the bus terminus next to the station. We took a bus to Kurchi More and from there took another bus for Sribati Singhi More and reached in 15 minutes.
The bus dropped us off in the middle of paddy fields with a narrow road leading to Sribati village. The road passes through lush green paddy fields and then meanders into the village, past mud houses, the reconstructed temples, the Chandra mansion and finally to the temple complex.
The complex houses three Shiva temples. The one at the centre is a pancharatna temple (with five spires — one each in the four corners and one at the centre) flanked by two deuls (tall towering spires). The deul on the right side stands on an octagonal base and the one on the left has a square base.
The temple at the centre houses a white Shivalinga of Bholanath. The octagonal and the square temples house black Shivalingas of Chandaneshwar and Bishweshwar respectively. Puja is still performed at the temples.
Every inch of the 200-year-old temple walls has terracotta panels with intricate designs, depicting barges floating down the river, European soldiers, women with swords peeping out of windows, musicians playing instruments and other scenes of daily life.
The villagers are very friendly and you might even get someone from the Chandra family to show you around and explain the history of the temples and the family.
A visit to the Durga Dalan of the Chandra family is a must. The family says Durga puja is being held here for 300 years.
(METRO ON SUNDAY THANKS READER RANGAN DUTTA FOR THIS CONTRIBUTION. PICTURES BY AUTHOR)