Dantan : A Weekend With Forgotten History Of Bengal

You know.... for me travelling is not just visiting a place, its more about exploring the place, learning its culture & history, trying to find out the amazing stories it has in store. For this I prefer to visit some off-route destinations, the ones which are not so popular among majority of travelers. Sometimes I strongly feel that these ‘not so popular places’ deserves equal attention, given their glorious past and rich cultural heritage. In today’s travelogue, I share my story of visiting one such place, a place which was earlier a part of ancient Hijli Kingdom, a Feudatory state of Orissa's Gajapati Kingdom.

Located in the Paschim Medinipur (West Midnapore) district of West Bengal, Dantan was once a thriving town on the route to the Jagannath Temple in Puri. According to the historians, famous spiritual reformer Chaitanya Mahaprabhu reportedly passed through here during the 16th century A.D. It was indeed a place which has great historical heritage. But, history is not the topic to discuss today. Infact, I too went there without knowing much about the place, as I was visiting one of my relatives’ houses, but was amazed when I came to know about the historical link and the ‘not-so-popular’ places of interest around Dantan.

Places to visit in and around Dantan:

Moghalmari Excavation Site – The first place that comes in mind when I think of Dantan is the excavation site of Moghalmari. Located approximately 5 Kms North of Dantan Railway Station is the village of Moghalmari or Mogolmari. The name of this place literally means ‘Killing of Mughals’ and may have been derived after the famous Battle of Tukaroi (the actual battlefield as per the locals is not far from the place), fought between Mughal Emperor Akbar and the then ruler of Bengal, Daud Khan Karrani. This small village has managed to gain some spotlight in the recent past as excavations has revealed presence of a Budhhist Monastery dating between 6th to 12th Century B.C. The excavation of this place began only in 2003 and is continued in phases till date. It was also called as Dantapur Buddhist Monastery or Srivandak Mahavihar back in the ancient times. The fame of Moghalmari Monastery is mentioned in the writings of many Chinese travelers like Fa Hien, who visited ancient Bengal during 411-412 AD as well as Hieun Tsang who visited Bengal during 638 A.D. The excavation unearthed a massive site covering an area of 3,600 square meters, which according to the archaeologists, may be considered as the biggest and oldest excavated site in West Bengal, dating back to almost 1,500 years. Previously this mound was known locally as ‘Sashishener Dhibi’ or Sakhisener Dhibi’. At present, there is a museum at the excavation site which houses the valuable artifacts of the excavation.

Entrance gate to the Vihar
Remains of boundary wall
Rooms of the Vihar

Excavation in progress
Excavated figurines
Excavated statues

Kurumbera Fort - A must visit place for a history freak. This fort is situated in Gaganeshwar village, approximately 12 Kms from Belda Railway Station and 30 Kms from Dantan. The fort was built during 1438-69 A.D. Although it is called a fort, as the structure suggests, there is nothing common with the forts found all over India. Rather, it has small quarters and temples dedicated to Hindu Gods and Goddess. There are structures too which were built under the Muslim rulers of Bengal. At present, it is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India.

Inside Kurumbera
Pillars of the Fort

Dome like structures
View from the entrance gate

Sarasanka Dighi (Lake) – One of the major water bodies in Dantan is the Sarasanka Dighi (the local term for Lake). It is an enormous water body and probably the largest lake in West Bengal. As per local legends, the lake is attributed to the famous king Shashanka who ruled during the 7th century A.D.

A place for Migratory Birds during winters

Shyamaleshwar Temple – This is an ancient temple dedicated to lord Shiva and is one of the most prominent places of worship in Dantan. According to the historians, the temple might have been constructed during the 16th Century.

Subarnarekha River Bed – If you are a nature lover you must visit this place. This large river bed is a beautiful place to be. I visited the place during mid January when the river bed was all but dried up. The large sand dunes make this place especially attractive. However, as per the locals the same place is very different during the monsoon as the river flows at full force at this time.

Road over dried up Subarnarekha river
A temporary bridge
Route for locals
Sunset on the sand dunes
Sand dunes
River Subarnarekha

Dantan is pretty much a weekend destination, preferable for a long drive. You can cover all the spots mentioned above within a day itself. However, I would prefer to visit the Subarnarekha riverbed by the time of sunset as this place looks beautiful in the twilight. Only major constraint of travelling in this place is that the sites are not connected by bus routes. So it is preferable to use private transport. Also, there is no proper accommodation in Dantan. However, there are hotels in Kharagpur (located about 1 hr 30 mins from Dantan) and Belda Station (which is much closer). You can arrange private transport locally for visiting the spots.

So if you are a travel buff who likes to discover off route places, this is a must try destination for you. You might also get amazed by the historical significance this place resembles.

Some much needed info:

  1. How to reach: Dantan is located 180 kms from Kolkata. Hence travelling by train is always convenient. It takes around 2 hrs 30 mins to 4 hrs to reach Dantan, depending on the train you avail. As an alternative, bus route is also available. Both Govt. and Pvt. buses are available from Kolkata to reach Dantan. Click here for detailed information about availability of trains.

  2. Nearest Railway Stations: Dantan, Belda, Kharagpur.

  3. After reaching Dantan it is suggested to book a private car available outside the station for the tour as the spots are not connected by bus routes.

  4. Best time to visit: During winter season.

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