Places of Interest
If you stay for 3 days and 2 nights or longer, for example, there are several places of interest to choose from within driving distance.
Mayapur (4 Km)
Nadia was the cradle of the Vaishnav movement in Bengal, Gaudiya Vaishnavism, and Mayapur is the birthplace of Shree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, its founder preceptor, revered around India. Mayapur has several more than a century old Vaishnav temples, but today is better known and more frequented for being the Headquarters of ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and the venue of their spectacular Krishna temple under construction, projected as the world’s largest Hindu temple.
Ballal Dhipi (4 Km)
8th-12th century ruins of the palace belonging to legendary ruler Ballal Sen. In the 80’s ASI excavated this area and found many artifacts belonging to the daily lives dating back to that period. Worth a visit.
Jagannath temple (4 Km)
A lovely place of worship and surroundings.
Krishnanagar (12 Km)
Krishnanagar is famous for its traditional craft of making superbly lifelike costumed and outfitted clay dolls depicting rural trades and skills: carpenters, fruit sellers, washermen, fishmongers, and functionaries like the local sipahi or postman.
There are only about 10 active families of clay modellers today in their traditional neighbourhood, Ghurni; it’s a dwindled and challenged art, but still remarkable for its veracity of portrayal. Interact with clay modellers, take home small but precious works of craft. The town has an imposing 19th century Roman Catholic church and several notable temples.
Santipur, Phulia (30 Km)
Hand woven Tangail Sarees and their hallmark patterns, in demand around the country, have their home in West Bengal in these two towns where Hindu weavers of Tangail district in Bangladesh resettled after the Partition. Though mill woven sarees imitating Tangail patterns sell widely, the hand woven Tangail has softness and airiness all of its own. You can visit the homes of Tangail weavers and observe sarees being woven on wooden hand looms.
Kalna (35 Km)
A remarkable temple town if there is one; more than a hundred temples dating back over a century testify to the confluence of Saivite and Vaishnav worship and religious symbolism that is historic in Barddhaman. The temples have superb Terracotta panels that uniquely bring together Terracotta styles from different regions of Bengal. The temples are located throughout Kalna, but the most impressive in scale and grandeur is the Nabakailash Mandir complex built in two concentric circles of Aat Chala (eight roofed) temples, the outer circle has 74 temples, the inner 34. Aat Chala temples are quintessentially Bengali. (See: Kalna terracotta temples/ Rangan Datta / Wikipedia).
Murshidabad (90 Km)
Murshidabad offers an evocative view of Muslim rule in Bengal in the 18th century, its architectural heritage and political history. Built by Nawab Murshid Kuli Khan, the Mughal Subedar of Bengal in 1701 as the new capital city, moving Bengal’s political capital westward from Dacca to the banks of the Bhagirathi, the central river way and trade route of the province. Murshid Kuli Khan’s successors were ousted by his General, Alivardi, in 1738 It was his grandson Sirajuddaula, who in 1757, undone by treachery, was defeated on the battlefield of Plassey, by the forces of Robert Clive of the East India Company, paving the way for British rule in India and the capital moving to Calcutta.
Hazarduari, (1000 doored), the erstwhile residence of the Nawab, is a magnificent 3 storied Italian style structure with a sweeping pillared front overlooking an imposing staircase, surrounded by the gardens and the other monuments of the Nizamat Kila complex on the banks of the Bhagirathi. Inside, 142 spacious rooms and halls with high ceilings served residential, ceremonial, social and administrative purposes. Hazarduari is now a Government Heritage Museum that recaptures the times; furniture, paintings, sculpture, artefacts, tapestry, documents, weapons and armaments, vintage cars and lifestyle accessories; depicting the lives of the Nawabs and the background of events.
Among other heritage structures in the Nizamat Kila compound, the Imambara is a serene Islamic structure facing Hazarduari from the opposite side. Single storey, it is 680 ft long and 300 ft wide, and is the largest Imambara in the country. The beautiful Madina Mosque is adjacent to the Imambara, and close by is the Ghari Ghar, clock tower. The Wassef Manzil, the newer palace smack on the river, is an elegant and intricately decorated residential structure.
Outside Nizamat KIla, in the town, the Katra Masjid is a distinctive structure of the early 18th century, and in the cemetery of Khosh Bagh lie, under ornate and beautifully inscribed gravestones, the remains of Alivardi; and of Surajuddaula, his wife Meherunnisa and their children, murdered after Plassey by his henchmen. Not far away, the Jafarganj cemetery has the grave of Mir Jafar – Surajaddaula’s betrayer in Plassey, and the father of Miran, his assassin.
On the outskirts of town, the horse shoe shaped Motijhil Lake (pearl lake) created in the 1730s is set in sylvan surroundings, a winter home to migratory birds. On different banks of the lake stand the ornate Sangi Dalan palace, Kala Masjiid and Raesh Bagh Masjid.
In an interesting twist to the times, the prosperity of Murshidabad attracted the members of a Jain trading community from Nagore, Rajputana, who migrated and settled here, becoming known as the Shaherwalis, serving as the bankers to the Nawabs, and then the British, remaining till today a powerful influence in the economy of West Bengal; their distinctive residential precincts are a living reminder of historic Murshidabad.
Representing the Sahaherwalis heritage, the neighbouring settlements of Azimganj, Jiaganj and Katgola are homes of the three most sacred Jain shrines of West Bengal: the Chintamani Parswanath Bhagwan, Sambhavanath bhagwan, and Adinath Bhagwan, respectively.