Temples of a state narrate not just the religious beliefs of its populace, but its ancient art, history, craftsmanship, legend, and even the food (thanks to the delectable prasad). For West Bengal, its temples are the markers of architectural grandeur. Even centuries-old temples stand tall till date unbeaten by the forces of man and nature. Picturesque, mystical, and open books of local history, these temples are situated within a few kilometres from Kolkata but promise a peek into the unexplored parts of West Bengal. We bring to you five extraordinary road trips from Kolkata. By Shubhanjana Das

1. Rasmancha, Bishnupur

 

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Bishnupur’s prowess in terracotta is displayed with full grandeur here at Rasmancha, the oldest brick temple in the country. The temple was built during the Malla Dynasty around 1600 and is now a protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India. More than housing its deity, the edifice hosted the Ras Festival until 1932 wherein shrines of Radha-Krishna were brought from different villages for an open-to-all exhibition in its three successive circular galleries. The light show every evening is nothing short of a spectacle. The drive to Bishnupur itself offers vistas that look right out of a postcard with acres of sprawling paddy fields, low hillocks, verdant greens, and hutments of the Bengal countryside.

Total distance: 139 km

Duration of the road trip: 4 hours approx.

Best time to visit: Any time of the year barring the extremely hot months of May and June.

Things to keep in mind: Kolkata-Bardhaman-Bishnupur is considered to be the best route in terms of ease of driving and scenic beauty.

Where to stay: Hotel Annapurna

Where to stop and eat: There aren’t many restaurants on the way to Bishnupur, but the jhalmuri, chop, mishti, and daab er jol (coconut water) can be found aplenty in Bardhaman.

2. Kiriteswari Temple (Shakti Peeth), Murshidabad

 

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A 1,000-year old temple — this holy place is considered as one of the 51 shakti peethas (places where parts of goddess Sati or Parvati are said to have fallen). At Kiriteswari Temple, the crown of Maa Sati is said to have fallen, making it highly revered by the locals. The temple also goes by the name of Mukteswari temple or Mahishamardini and is a sight to behold during Durga Puja.

Total distance: 210 km

Duration of the road trip: 6 hours approx.

Best time to visit: October to March

Things to keep in mind: The temple is open from 06:00 am to 10:00 pm and is closed for a short duration during the daily aarti.

Where to stay: Bari Kothi Heritage Hotel

Where to stop and eat: Depending on the route you take (there are two), you will either stop at Bardhaman and Behrampore or Ranaghat and Plassey — both are famous for their local delicacies.

3. Tristrota Maa Bhramari Shakti Peeth, Jalpaiguri

 

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Another important shakti peeth in West Bengal, the Tristrota Shakti Peeth is located on the banks of the Tista river in Jalpaiguri where the left leg of Parvati is said to have fallen. If you are up for taking the 15-hour-long road trip from Kolkata, you will be rewarded with the mountainous country-side of West Bengal’s tea gardens. At Trisrota Shakti Peeth, Parvati is worshipped as Maa Bhrarami.

Total distance: 585 km

Duration of the road trip: 15 hours approx.

Best time to visit: July to February

Things to keep in mind: Take the road via Dumka after you reach Bardhaman from Kolkata for a serene drive through the forests.

Where to stay: Courtyard by Marriott Siliguri

Where to stop and eat: NH2 in Bardhaman

4. Temple Ruins of Chandrakona, Medinipur

 

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Neighbouring the popular district of Bishnupur is Paschim Medinipur, which houses Chandrakona, a place whose temple would have been a sight to behold in its days of glory. What remains now might be ruins but its intricate engravings and the beautiful abandon of the site is worth the drive. Built with laterite and brick back in the 16th century by the Chouhan dynasty rulers, it is approximated that 20 such temples exist in the vicinity of Chandrakona itself. The Malleswar temple built in the 14th century is a good starting point of this journey into the ruins. You can then make your way to Jor Bangla Temple, Shantinath temple, Anantdeva temple, and Rasik Raya temple to get a good idea of the erstwhile glory of these temples, one of West Bengal’s best-kept secrets.

Total distance: 135 km

Duration of the road trip: 3 hours 30 minutes approx.

Best time to visit: July-February

Things to keep in mind: You will need the help of West Bengal Archaeology Handbook on Medinipore as there are no local guides to help you find your way around.

Where to stay: Chetona Eco Village Resort and Tourism

Where to stop and eat: Sandipa Restaurant in Kolkaghat, Basundhara Hotel in Medinipore

5. Deulghata Temples, Purulia

 

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Not many people know that Purulia was once a heavy seat for Jainism; its jungles hide gems of archaeological remains of Jain temples, chief among which is Deulghata. Located close to the popular Ayodhya Hill, the two remaining temple ruins reveal themself from under the trees that have taken over the buildings. You must leave the road to take the forested path on foot to reach here. Approximated to have been built between the 11th and 12th centuries, these temples now house the shrines of a four-armed Parvati, a Ganesha, and an eight-armed Durga slaying Mahishasura.

Total distance: 314 km

Duration of the road trip: 7 hours approx.

Best time to visit: During the Tusu Harvest Festival, mid-November to mid-December.

Things to keep in mind: It is best to arrive at Deulghata during the early hours of the day to avoid the area after sunset.

Where to stay: Pearl Tree Hotels and Resorts

Where to stop and eat: Stop at Bardhaman to enjoy the delectable sweets and the best jhalmuri you will ever have. The other route will take you through Bankura where you can enjoy a humble Bengali fare at any roadside restaurant.

Related: #TnlRoadTrips: Road Trips From Kolkata That Are Bucket-List Material!