India on the Road

From Kolkata to Simlipal National Park (Orissa)

4 OCTOBER 2016,
Tiger - Simlipal National Park
Tiger - Simlipal National Park

Route: Kolkata – Panskura – Kharagpur – Baharagora – Bangriposhi – Jashipur – Simlipal National Park.
Drive from Kolkata to Jashipur is along National Highway 6 and from Jashipur take the 12 Kms. jungle road to Simlipal (Chahla).
Distance: 287 Kms.
Driving Time: 6 hours.

Kolkata

Kolkata is the largest city of India and by now may be ahead of London as the largest city in the British Commonwealth. It’s often an ugly and desperate place that to many people sums up the worst of India, yet it’s also one of the most fascinating centers of India and has some scenes of rare beauty.

In the days of yore, Kolkata was the capital of British India, but, unlike Delhi, Kolkata is not an ancient city with a long history and many impressive relics. In fact, Kolkata is really a British invention dating back to some 300 plus years.

In 1686 the British abandoned Hooghly, their trading 38 Kms. up the Hooghly River from present day Kolkata and moved down the river to three small villages – Sutanati, Govindpur and Kalikata. Kolkata takes its name from the last of those three tiny settlements. The founder of Kolkata, Job Charnock, an English merchant who later married a Brahmin’s widow whom he dissuaded from becoming a Sati, was the leader of the British merchants who made this move.

Much of Kolkata’s most enduring developments took place between 1780 and 1820. Later in the 19th century, however, Bengal became the a spark point in the struggle in the struggle for India’s independence and this was the main reason for the decision to transfer the capital to New Delhi in the year 1911. Loss of political power did not alter Kolkata’s economic control and the city continued to prosper until after World War II. Ideally Kolkata with its varied charms is an ideal base from where to embark on a journey of discovery.

What to See:
Victoria Memorial, Nirmal Hriday, Kalighat, Dakshineswar temple, Pareshnath temple, Birla temple, Nakhoda mosque, Belur Math, Armenian church, St.Paul’s Cathedral, Sahid Minar, Indian Museum, Asiatic Society, Netaji Museum, Birla Planetarium, Race Course, Eden Gardens, National Library, Botanical Garden, Fort William, Marble Palace, Jorasanko, Rabindra Sarobar, Science City, Nandan, Aquatica, Nalban Boating Complex, BBD Bagh, Writer’s Building, Maidan, High Court, Netaji Indoor Stadium, College Street, New Market, Burra Bazaar, Nicco Park.

Where to Stay:
ITC Sonar Bangla Sheraton & Towers, Vedic Village, Oberoi Grand, Taj Bengal, Park Hotel, Hotel Hindustan International, Kenilworth Hotel are some of Kolkata’s most outstanding hotels. Apart from up market hotels, hundreds of mid budget and budget category hotels are also available in the city of Kolkata.

Where to Eat: Sourav’s, Mainland China, Kasturi, 5 Star, Amber Bar & Restaurant, Amina, Aqua Java, Badshah, Banzara, Bijoli Grill, Biriyani House, Blue Fox, Charnock’s, China Bowl, Amber, Chung Wah, Chopsticks, Chiniz Qwizin, Dim Sum, Copper Chimni, Haldiram’s Pure Food, Moulin Rouge, Oh! Calcutta, Swabhumi Heritage Plaza, Trinca’s.

What to Buy:
Tat Sarees and a variety of Bengali sweets.

Panskura

Panskura is a small town located at a distance of 80 Kms. from Kolkata and the National Highway (NH-6) passes through this little known town. A vast majority of the people are engaged in Agriculture and there is brisk trading at the wholesale vegetable market. Travelers passing through Panskura on the NH-6 are amazed by the variety of flowers that are sold in the traditional markets and most of them make a brief halt here to have tea and light snacks in the many roadside tea stalls.

Kharagpur

As you drive past Panskura along the NH-6, you come across the bustling town of Kharagpur, located at a distance of 44 Kms. from Panskura. The most famous landmark of Kharagpur is of course the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), which has brought worldwide recognition to this nondescript town of West Bengal. Apart from IIT, Kharagpur happens to be the place where one of India’s biggest railway workshop is located and what is more – the Kharagpur railway platform is the longest in the world, which is all of 1072.5 meters. By far the busiest place is the Puri Gate Level Crossing between Chandmari and IIT Kharagpur and long distance trains on the Chennai main line pass through Puri Gate. Rivers like Subarnarekha, Kaleghai and Kangsabati imparts the much-needed natural beauty to this town. In the days of yore, Kharagpur used to be referred to as Hijli and was ruled by the erstwhile Bengal royalty.

What to See:
The sprawling campus of IIT Kharagpur, India’s first IIT that has been recognized as a “Center of Excellence” in the world’s academic landscape and the railway station.

Where to Eat:
Restaurants located in the heart of the town offer both the traditional Bengali meals like fish curry & rice along with Tandoori fare.

What to Buy:
Traditional Bengali sarees and sweets like Rosogolla, Nolen Gurer Sandesh, Kalo Jam, Mihi Dana and Raj Bhog.

Baharagora

On your onward journey to Simlipal from Kharagpur, the quaint little town of Baharagora will come on the way. Located at a distance of 73 Kms. from Kharagpur along the NH 6, this miniscule town is located at the trifurcation of three states - Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal. Thus, it isn’t surprising that the place has a mixed culture and the local dialect is fine blend of Bengali and Oriya languages. In the days of yore, Baharagora used to be under the erstwhile Gajapati rulers of Orissa. From here the state of Orissa is a mere 10 Kms. while West Bengal is 15 Kms. away.

What to See:
River Subarnarekha, Chitreshwar Temple, Rankini Devi temple, Jyoti Pahari Kynite Mine and Saljhatia Shiv Mandir.

Where to Eat:
Budget category roadside Dhabas serving Phulka, Rice, Dal, Tarkari (Sabji) and pickles of different varieties.

What to Buy:
Wood crafts, bamboo products and Paitkar paintings.

Bangriposhi

The calm and tranquil town of Bangriposhi is located at a distance of 27 Kms. from Baharagora on the NH 6. Mother nature has blessed Bangriposhi with the choicest of blessings and it abounds in undulating mountains, shimmering rivers and dense tropical forests that offer today’s stressed out traveler the much needed respite from the din and bustle of everyday life.

The mountain peaks like Bidyabhandar, Patharkushi, Ardheswar and Buribalam offer a picture perfect backdrop to Bangriposhi. This is the bastion of Orissa’s tribal populace and it’s a treat to watch them lead a life of simplicity in rural Orissa. Due to the favorable microclimate of Bangriposhi, it is frequented by hundreds of birds, some of them migratory who dwell in the marshy areas of this pretty Orissa town.

What to See:
The Bonodurga temple, Shiva temple, Thakurani hills, Barsoi, Kanchinda.

Where to Stay:
OTDC’s Panthaniwas, Mukherjee Hotel, Simlipal Resort.

What to Buy:
Tribal handicraft items of Orissa.

Jashipur

A further 75 Kms. of brisk driving from Bangriposhi will transport you to Jashipur, the gateway to the Simlipal Biosphere Reserve. It is a pretty town on the edge of Simlipal National Park and is the chief tribal belt of Orissa’s Mayurbhanj district. Jashipur earned worldwide fame courtesy tigress Khairi who was adopted by Saroj Roy Choudhury, a forest officer of the Simlipal National Park and stayed on till her last days with him. However, the shimmering Khairi river still flows through much of Jashipur.

What to See:
Wildlife viewing from Devasthali Watch Tower, Joranda Waterfalls, Ramtirtha Crocodile Sanctuary.

Where to Stay:
Dr. Saroj Roy Choudhury’s Tourist Lodge, Khairi Niwas Forest Rest House, the Barehipani Bungalow, the summer hunting lodge of Mayurbhanj royalty – (Chahala Bungalow), Jenabil Forest Rest House.

Where to Eat:
Tourist Lodges, Bungalows and Forest Rest Houses at Jashipur. Their jungle safari packages are inclusive of food.

What to Buy:
Tribal Orissan handicrafts.

Simlipal National Park

In an area of 2,750 Sq.Kms. of dense forest, with flora ranging from semi-evergreen to dry deciduous, the lush green vegetation here is ideal camouflage for wild creatures. Stately Sal trees and Sauthali women foraging for barks and twigs for firewood are quintessential images of Simlipal.

Not many animals lurk on the forest’s periphery, but as one goes deep into Simlipal, one comes across birds and Spotted Deers and the shrill cries of Cheetas and the barking of the Muntjacs reverberate in the deep jungle. From May to June, it’s Orchid time at Simlipal. Orchids of the most exotic varieties bloom here. Fox Tail Orchids are by far the most spectacular with foot-long chains that hold hundreds of translucent flowers.

Simlipal has soaring daytime temperatures and pleasant evenings. In Simlipal, there are countless licks, some natural and some manmade, where the wild creatures often come for the intake of essential salts. These licks serve as “Energy Reservoirs” for the animals who come here whenever their spirits are low or if they fall sick. Some of them are artificially created by the forest staff to attract animals. If you can find them with a trained naturalist, your chances of sighting the big cats improve dramatically.

Wildlife apart, Simlipal will take your breath away with its majestic waterfalls. The spectacular Barhipani falls with a fall of 400 meters was one of the reasons why we checked in at the Barhipani Falls Log Cabin. Strategically located, it offers many vantage points from where the grandeur and the sheer stillness of the fall are visible. Also, after a day out in the wild, you can come back to a resting place, which is truly rustic. Built in Victorian style architecture, the bungalow offers laid back relaxation. The staff are warm and friendly. They will be more than happy to lay out a sumptuous meal for you before you retire for the night.

Where to Stay:
Forest Rest House & Cottage, Eucalyptus Villa, Camp House, Fall View Rest House, Fall View Retreat, Uppebrarakamra Rest House, Gurguria Forest Rest House, Bhanjabasa Rest House, Dhudruchampa Rest House.

Where to Eat:
Tourist Lodges, Bungalows and Forest Rest Houses at Simlipal National Park. Their jungle safari packages are inclusive of food.