Anglicized as Burdwan during the British Raj, the history of Bardhaman dates back to 5000 BC. The picturesque city in the East Indian State of West Bengal houses archeological evidences that claim its existence to Late Stone Age or Mesolithic Age. It was named as Bardhaman in the honour of Vardhaman Swami or Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara in Jainism. It is believed that he had spent some time in Astikagrama and the ancient Jainism scriptures second the fact.
Situated 80kms away in the North Eastern part of Kolkata, Burdwan is far away from the capital city’s hustle-bustle. It has a rich multi-cultural heritage and it’s a reminiscent of Bengali Hindu architectural temples called as Deuls1. The city is also known as ‘Rice Bowl of Bengal’ due to the copious amount of rice it produces.
Sprawling rice fields kissing the distant horizons, ancient Deuls1, old houses constructed of narrow red bricks, timeless monuments of the old world, augment the city as a destination listed on the bucket-list of every laid-back traveler.
Curzon Gate: Standing the test of bygone eras, this imposing British Era monument is located at the junction of Grand Trunk Rd. & B.C. Rd. Upon the orders of King of Burdwan; Maharaja Bijoy Chand Mahtab, the monument was erected in 1903 in the honour of Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of Bengal. Its striking pillars, two side arches, magnificent stone carved lions on the sides and the three fairies on top are a perpetual reminder of region’s exceptional craftsmanship.
Sarbamangala Temple: Dedicated to Goddess Durga or Sarbamangala Devi, as she is popularly known; this ancient temple is the oldest religious marvel in Burdwan. Maharaja Kirtichand built the main shrine in the year 1702 A.D. The idol of Goddess Durga is believed to have been discovered in a kiln of limestone by the workers, being carved on a precious touchstone with 9 hands on each side having weapons as well as hand crafted symbols. The devotees often express that her presence so strong and intense, her blessing so comforting, her kindness so immaculate that every child (devotee) who visits her is bestowed with eternal joy.
Kankaleshwari Kalibari: Kalibari2 is located on an open swathe of land amidst the Kanchanpara locality of Burdwan. The temple is one of its kind in the country dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Kali; Goddess of Death & Destruction. Legend goes that the idol of Kali was discovered from the bed of river Damodar and the temple’s existence dates back to 1700.A.D. The idol is carved out of a black stone in a more intricate manner. It has 8 hands and it’s carved in a way that most of the bones, arterial veins of Goddess’s body are visible. Built in a square courtyard almost 200 years ago, the temple has 3 rooms of which 2 are dedicated to Lord Shiva and the center one for Goddess Kali.
108 Shiva Temples: Located on the Burdwan-Siuri Highway, the complex houses 108 idols of Hindu deity Lord Shiva in 108 temples. Built in the year 1788 these temple were constructed under the orders of Maharaja Tilakchand’s widow; Rani Bishnu Kumari, the Queen of Burdwan during that time. It’s said that she had received divine instructions to set up these temples and post that she ordered for the complex to be constructed. The temples are designed in antique mud huts styles that are found in the countryside across the state of West Bengal. The complex is a nature’s canvas painted with picturesque landscape comprising of a beautiful garden, a lake and quaint Shiva Temples.
Golapbag: Ornately dotted with variety of trees like Sal, Deo, Mango, Casuarina, Eucalyptus, Jamun, wide variety of Rose plants and other species, this garden is a haven for nature lovers. Golapbagh or the Garden of Roses is a popular tourist haunt in Burdwan. The Maharaja of Burdwan - Bijoy Chand Mahatab in the year 1884, sowed the idea of this zoological & botanical garden. And today it has not just flourished as a tourist spot but also as an academic campus of the University of Burdwan.
Magnificent monuments like Tomb of Sher Afgan, Sufi Pir Baharam Sakka's Tomb, Bijoy Bahar, Burdwan Church and few others are also worth a visit as each one of them has a history behind and a tale to narrate.
Though the old-world charm of Burdwan continues to woo travellers, it has also developed embracing the modernity. And with the advent of globalization malls, shopping centers, fitness clubs, salon too have begun to thrive here giving the quaint town a makeover. But what has evolved to perfection is the Burdwanese cuisine.
Apart from staple rice & fish recipes, Burdwanese sweetmeats have allured the sweet tooth of millions. The iconic sweets like Sitabhog, Mihidana and Lenghca are said to have originated here in 1900. They are cooked innumerous times and have only perfected over the years leaving the taste buds enchanted. Also, these sweetmeats have an interestingly intriguing past and hence a visit to Burdwan is must to savor the good times it serves.
1 - A name given to Hindu Temple style that became standardized in Bengal, Orissa, North India and Deccan India.
2 - Bengali term that translates to House of Hindu Deity Goddess Kali