65 km of lush widerness, mighty trees and tall grasslands, Jaldapara Sanctuary, 121 km from Siliguri is flanked by the rivers Malangi and Torsa from east to west, and strewn with a number of perennial streams. It is the permanent abode of a large variety of wildlife, including the famous one-horned Indian Rhino.
A marshy mangrove in the southern jungles of Bengal, Sunderbans is the largest estuarine forest in the world. This 'forest by the sea', where wild animals roam freely, is home to the legendary Royal Bengal Tiger. Approachable only by waterways, the Sunderbans is one of the prestigious Project Tiger Reserves in the country.
Has temples steeped in history. Visit the Jor Bangla Temple (built in 1655 A.D.), Madan Mohan Temple (1694 A.D.), the Malleswar Shiva Temple, the Mrinmoyee Durga Temple (997 A.D.), Shyam Rai Temple (1643 A.D.) and the Raas Mancha shrine from the early 17th century. Dalmadal Cannon located near Raas Mancha, is a medieval artillery piece. The Malla King's Fort carved out of laterite dates back to the thirteenth century.
Birbhum District, named after the Hindu rulers Bir Rajas, has its own share of historically important places. Naihati was the capital of the Hindu 'Nal' kings and the ruins of the palace can be found on a hillock nearby. The adjacent Lalateswari temple and spring are also famous. Nanur, the birthplace of the Vaishnava poet, Chandidas, also has a Basuli temple and ancient stone images of Lord Vishnu. Bakreshwar has temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Kali and is also famous for its hot springs.
The temple of Madangopoliju in the Mellak village is of considerable archaeological interest. Built in 1651 A.D., it contains fine relics of terra-cotta art. Located at the confluence of the Bhagirathi and the Rupnarayan, are the ruins of the ancient Fort
Morington. This was built by Lord Clive to guard the entry of ships up these two rivers.
76 km from Calcutta, in Hugli, is Antpur, the site of a number of eighteenth century temples built by Krishnaram Mitra, a zamindar. Chief among them is the Radha Govinda temple in aatchala style architecture. The village of Bansbaria is famous for the temples of
Ananta, Vasudeva and Hanseswari. Bandel is famous for the Portuguese Church and the Monastery, built in 1599 in dedication to Nossa Senhora di Rozario. It happens to be the oldest church in West Bengal. The Armenian Church, Otagonal Church, Fort Gustavas Church, Roman Catholic Church and St.Olaf Church are also in Hugli. The famous Imambara established by Hazi Mohammed Moshin is a beautiful piece of Islam architecture.
Near Barddhaman, is Jaidev, the birthplace of the famous Vaishnava poet Jaidev. This can be reached by bus or foot or by ferry during the monsoons. An annual fair lasting for 10 to 15 days is held in the first half of January.
Buxa Duar Fort, which once served as a prison for India's freedom fighters, is of great historical interest. The ruins of a long-forgotten fort are hidden in the forests of Chilapata Range. Excavations prove that it belonged to the Gupta Age.
Malda has many medieval historical relics. The nearby Gour which came into prominence as a kingdom during the reign of Sasanka was once the capital of ancient Bengal for several centuries. The city saw three eras of glory - the Buddhist Palas, Hindu Senas and the Muslim Nawabs. Important works of Islamic architecture include the Bara Sona Masjid (the great golden mosque), Chika Mosque, Dakhil Adina Masjid, Qutb Shahi Mosque and Lattan Mosque. The Tamatola at Ramkeli, is where Sree Chaitanya, a religious reformer of Bengal, arrived on his way to Vrindavan during the reign of Sultan Husain Shah. The Malda museum has a rare collection of stone images, coins and inscriptions retrieved from the ruins of Gaur and Pandu.
At Palashi, the historic battle of Plassey was fought in a mango grove in 1757. A monument marks the victory of the British over Siraj-ud-Daula, then Nawab of Bengal. Mayapur, the headquarters of ISKCON is worth a visit.
Gandhi Ghat, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, is located in Barakpur. The Salik Mosque is believed to have been built by Ala-ud-din Khilji in 1305 A.D.
Here, the atchala temple, an octagonal Rasmancha with pinnacles, as well as the Pancharatna Shiva Temple are interesting sites.
The archaeological remains found here reveal that the district flourished during the Muslim rule. These excursions have been mostly carried out in Gangarampur. The eighteenth century brick temple of the Dinajpur Raj is located at the bank of the River Purnabhaba at Tapan.
Daraipur is famous for the ancient Kapal Kundala temple. Relics and ruins of forts and temples are in Shiladay.
Information compiled by Pallavi Bhattacharya