Thursday, December 04, 2014

Kolkata to Bishnupur day visit by train

After abandoning plan to visit Sundarbans, I was scouting for alternate destinations to visit from Kolkata. One destination, Bishnupur, recommended by blogger Indrani Ghosh caught my attention. It was just about 200 kms from Kolkata, there was a direct early morning train to Bishnupur, so a day visit looked very viable. 

Bishnupur (Vishnupur) has lots of ancient terracotta structures which are eye catching and unique. This post is about visiting Bishnupur from Kolkata. Actual attractions in Bishnupur will be detailed in a separate post.

I booked tickets on Rupasi Bangla express, which leaves from Santragachi station near Howrah at 6.25AM. We woke up early, took a taxi from Esplanade to Santragachi station for Rs 220 and reached in time for the train. Rupasi Bangla express was waiting on platform number one.
Early morning scene of West Bengal country side
Coal unloading at Bishnupur
Train started on time, passed through Kharagpur, Midnapore and few other cities of West Bengal and arrived at Bishnupur at about 9.40AM. While coming out of the station saw a train full of coal being unloaded manually. As we came out, we were surrounded by a bunch of cycle rickshaw pullers, who offered to take us around the town. I wanted to evaluate other options like autos or taxis, but they were not to be seen anywhere close. (Autos were parked at a distance). A cycle guy quoted Rs 350 for a three and a half hour ride in which he would take us around to all places of importance. That sounded like a fair deal and without any bargain, we opted to go with him. He pulled out his old, battered cycle rickshaw and we boarded it.

The ride was very bumpy & uncomfortable, due to bad roads and non-existing suspension in the cycle rickshaw. Our driver, Ganesh, had to put lots of manual labor to pull us all around town. Few times during uphill we offered to get down and walk a bit. There is an argument that we shouldn’t encourage this kind of manual labor- but in many small villages these people earn their daily food from this business of ferrying people around in their cycle rickshaw. They can’t afford to buy an Auto or taxi and even customers find it cheaper to use these cycles for quick ride. At one of the places, we bought ice cream and got one for Ganesh also. But I noticed he simply pocketed the ice cream, most probably to take home for his children. I had to tell him to have the ice-cream then and there itself or else it will melt in his pocket. Ganesh has two daughters back home, who are studying in school.
I will write about the places we explored in Bishnupur in a separate post. One sample photo below.
Our ride ended by about 1 PM with lunch at a decent restaurant.

One thing I didn’t like about Bishnupur is its coconut vendors. In one shop, shop owner quoted Rs 20 for a tender coconut and after consumption, insisted he said Rs 25. In another shop, where there was nice stock of fresh tender coconuts, shop owner said they don’t have provision to chop it and server. We can only take it away. In the third shop, shop owners refused to cut open the tender coconut so that we can have the meat inside. “That is not the practice here” was the response. Seems no one knows about the eatable contents of tender coconut in Bishnupur or they simply don’t like it (or may be shopkeeper was lazy to put extra effort to cut open the coconut).

Apart from this negative experience with tender coconut purchase, rest of Bishnupur visit was nice.

Return journey wasn’t planned. Since the direct train timings were not convenient, I thought we can take a bus from Bishnupur back to Kolkata. But as our rikshaw guy told there’s a 2PM intercity express that goes till Kharagpur, from where we will get lots of train to Kolkata, we opted for it.

Train came on time at 2.04PM and we reached Kharagpur by about 3.45PM. Now the next mission was to find a train to Howrah. People told that all Howrah bound trains will come to platform No 6, so we don’t have to go anywhere else. Which was convenient. I checked on internet and found that there’s a superfast Chennai-Howrah premium arriving at 4.30 PM. We thought we can catch that and left few other Howrah bound trains (most of them were local trains). Unfortunately the superfast premium train had all AC Sleeper coaches and one can board It if and  only if they have a pre-booked ticket. So our hope of reaching Howrah superfast crashed. We left few local trains- they stop at every small station and take more time. We got next express train at about 5.40PM, full 2 hours after our arrival in Kharagpur. Which reached Howrah by about 7.30 PM. The ferries close by 7PM, so we had to take a bus back to our hotel. 
Essentially we lost half a day in travel without seeing anything useful, but I think that is inevitable. Given that darkness arrives by 6PM in Kolkata, even if we’d reached 2 hours earlier, we couldn’t have seen much. Never the less we could have planned return journey better. Trains take a slightly indirect path to Bishnupur and do not run parallel to shortest distance by road.

There're a few hotels in Bishnupur should you wish to stay back. Standby for another post that details each of the attraction at Bishnupur.


Vasudha Somayaji said...

Beautiful carving and temple

Indrani said...

I am so glad you visited this place :)Most people don't give it much importance. I hope it will be declared Unesco WHS like Hampi.
Thanks for the mention. :)

Athenas Take said...

So much to see and learn in every part of our country, proud to see such old structures still stand tall and hoping that as Indrani said the officials should make note and look after such rare treasures.

Raj Groups said...

nice pictures.

The wild said...

i hope the cycle rickshaws are put to an end soon and people are reskilled ,for small distances it should be ok but even that should be stopped ,but not sure if you saw there are human pulled rickshaws in kolkota ,which is the most inhuman and nothing less than slavery.

These ppl should be helped to get alternative trade ,it should be actively discouraged.

There is a no need to pre-book tickets for express trains ,you can buy 3rd class tickets and get hold of the TC on the train when it stops and pay the difference for change in class of the ticket,ofcourse the time to sort all of this will be very less and not sure if it would have stopped for so long in that station and subject to availability as per the TC

Amitabha Gupta said...

Amusing incident with the Coconut seller. I have myself visited Bishnupur at least 7-8 times, but I have never experienced this incident. Last time we consumed at least 3-4 coconuts, and the vendors gladly obliged us peeling the eatable contents of coconut. Maybe you just got unlucky.

If you are staying at West Bengal Government's Tourist Lodge ( which is THE best place to stay at Bishnupur.),majority of the temples are withing walking distance.

The roads are pathetic... I do agree. and Rickshaw journey on those roads is a pain. Before arranging alternative vehicles to replace the ramshackle rickshaws, the road condition needs to improve.

Check my blog on Bishnupur. I have designed a map there too...

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Amitabha Gupta

Thanks for sharing your experience. Good to know tender coconut incident seemed to be one time

Yes, better roads could have made the ride easier.

I will check your post.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@The Wild
I am in full support. They should be given some funding support to buy an autorikshaw or taxi

Regarding the tickets, we did the exact during Doodhsagar falls visit. Bought general ticket and paid fare difference for sleeper..

During our return journey no one checked our tickets

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Vasudha Somayaji, Raj


@indrani: Thanks for referring this place. A day well spent.

@AT: Very true

Ranjana's craft blog said...

Aww...this is my wishlist ...hope to visit this place soon. And eagerly waiting for your post which will details the attraction of Bishnupur..