Krishnanagar, and her astonishing miniature claywork

In India, there are small towns and villages that exist and can proudly assert unique creative talents that echo across the land. You must see or feel to believe them. The artistic pursuit and efforts displayed by the people who live here are worth respecting. The extraordinary aspect is the great lengths the inhabitants go to preserve the cultural heritage associated with the place.

Krishnnagar is one such place, a small town famous for multiple reasons. Summer was peeping and before it could show its fangs, we thought of making a day-long visit to see the place and touch the glory of the artistic greatness that hums around.

It is always advisable to start early in India as the Indian highways can change colors in a flash. So we started early and planned to cover the 113 odd kilometres from Kolkata in our trusted Swift, which approximately took 3-4 hours to cover due to crowded roads. The slow speed gave us an advantage… the green fields flanking the highway along with the rows of big to medium trees were soothing to the eyes and we took frequent breaks to catch them swinging in the wind as if welcoming the passing motorists. Occasional tweet of birds and a mild summer afternoon wind blowing across bringing with it a woody smell was quite refreshing, devoid of burned hydrocarbons, and only pure oxygen prevailed.

The narrow highway flanked by greenery on either side at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
The narrow highway flanked by greenery on either side

The entire journey kept my eyes glued to the road as a driver when we landed on NH-34 highway to Krishnanagar. The reason being the beast of an infamous narrow highway which we drove on in 2012.    Thanks to the complete apathy shown by the administration of not maintaining such an important route which linked Kolkata to North Bengal.  I hope this highway is repaired soon and changes like NH-2 which connects Kolkata to New Delhi.

All three inmates in the car, had our lower backs numb with constant banging, as we did Bharathanatyam in sitting position while our Swift felt skittish, on the cratered roads.  

We stopped over a bridge on the Jalangi river to catch the reflection of the sky at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
We stopped over a bridge on the Jalangi river to catch the reflection of the sky

Additional menace was the long-distance buses that hurled on this road…they are nothing short of killers as they tear down the road at mammoth speeds and we missed so many of these giants by an inch. Other road users that we traveled with were rickshaws, hand carts, loaded with rice, wheat, fruits, and flowers from the fields as the sellers raced to reach the nearby markets.

Sun and cloud played a game of light over the Jalangi river at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Sun and cloud played a game of light over the Jalangi river

As we headed towards Krishnanagar, we saw fishermen directing their boats over river Jalangi which touches the town. Farmers working on the paddy fields looked at us as we passed by.

A boatman cuts through the Jalangi river for passengers to ferry them across at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
A boatman cuts through the Jalangi river for passengers to ferry them across 

The natural beauty of Bengal outside Kolkata is indeed very scenic. We wanted to absorb all that nature had to offer so after reaching Krishnanagar, we drove further north-west around 29 kilometres more to catch a forest area called Bethuadahari. The dense forest, with its high moisture, the content was working as an air condition after driving through the hot plains.  

We parked on the edge of the road and spent about an hour or more to feel the coolness and listen to the bird calls of the forest area.

Stopping by the Bethuadahari forest where nature coexists with the man-made highway which snakes its way through it  at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Stopping by the Bethuadahari forest where nature coexists with the man-made highway which snakes its way through it
A butterfly fluttering around in the forest comes exploring the city dwellers gently lands on an outstretched hand at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
A butterfly fluttering around in the forest comes exploring the city dwellers gently lands on an outstretched hand

It was about 11 am when we reached the town of Krishnanagar. We kept two locations on our radar to visit. One was ‘Ghurni‘. This is that region where the miniature clay models are made and sold. The other was the ‘Rajbari‘ of this town.

Let me present a few examples of these clay models to you for your viewing pleasure.

A fruit seller in close up made of clay stands barely 4 inches from ground stares at the customers at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
A fruit seller in close up made of clay stands barely 4 inches from ground stares at the customers
This is a 5 inches tall model of Durga deity..just look at the detailing in such a small figure at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
This is a 5 inches tall model of Durga deity..just look at the detailing in such a small figure
The fruit seller in full view holding the manual balance in the left hand with an array of fruits in front shows the penchant for details the artists exude  at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
The fruit seller in full view holding the manual balance in the left hand with an array of fruits in front shows the penchant for details the artists exude
A vegetable seller showing exquisite detailing..even the weight on the left platter pulling down the balance is shown, truly realistic at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
A vegetable seller showing exquisite detailing..even the weight on the left platter pulling down the balance is shown, truly realistic
A basketmaker seen squatted as he adjusts the basket..you can also look at the cutter on the left which he uses to shape and shorten the bamboo strips.. all made of clay at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
A basketmaker seen squatted as he adjusts the basket..you can also look at the cutter on the left which he uses to shape and shorten the bamboo strips.. all made of clay
A Jarawa tribal model made of clay with their tribal embellishments and rippling muscles  at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
A Jarawa tribal model made of clay with their tribal embellishments and rippling muscles
Here we see a man worshiping the Shiva deity, holding the bell in his left hand as he looks on, even the resting pot belly is seen delicately created  at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Here we see a man worshiping the Shiva deity, holding the bell in his left hand as he looks on, even the resting pot belly is seen delicately created

After we had our fill of looking at the clay models, we turned our car for the other attraction. To see the ‘Rajbari’ or the palace of zamindar Krishna Chandra Roy. His regime was in the mid-1700s and influenced the town of Krishnanagar in a big way.

We wanted to see the palace he built along with few of the edifices which still stand tall; however, not in a good state though…

The entrance structure which stands derelict and ravaged by the elements leads a visitor to the main palace  at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
The entrance structure which stands derelict and ravaged by the elements leads a visitor to the main palace

The palace presently stands with its entrance in a huge piece of land which holds an annual fair. We trundled over the broken non asphalted road and reached the palace gate..well we ran out of luck, as the palace had closed for the day.  We fulfilled our wish by looking at the ornate palace entrance and through a hole in the gate, we pushed the lens to catch some images whatever we could.   

Let us have a quick look at what we could capture …

The palace entrance stands well maintained as we parked in front of it  at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
The palace entrance stands well maintained as we parked in front of it 
Inside the palace gate, whatever the lens could record the slender road which in all probability reaches the main building. The two sitting areas in red on either side were made for the sentries or soldiers who sat or rested and guarded the palace  at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Inside the palace gate, whatever the lens could record the slender road which in all probability reaches the main building. The two sitting areas in red on either side were made for the sentries or soldiers who sat or rested and guarded the palace
The decoration on the roof and the gate wall which had a huge metal gate with floral design on top at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
The decoration on the roof and the gate wall which had a huge metal gate with floral design on top
An interesting design mix atop the entrance..minarets and a shape looking quite similar to Blue Amenhotep III Sphinx Egyptian figure adorned the rooftop at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
An interesting design mix atop the entrance..minarets and a shape looking quite similar to Blue Amenhotep III Sphinx Egyptian figure adorned the rooftop
The west entrance edifice facing the sun looked darkened red with its mortar and brickwork peeling away..as we left the palace, structure in grave disrepair certainly needs looking after at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
The west entrance edifice facing the sun looked darkened red with its mortar and brickwork peeling away..as we left the palace, structure in grave disrepair certainly needs looking after

We drove about two to three kilometres from the palace, and came across a regal structure – the Roman catholic church, looked comparatively new, very neatly maintained and we parked to visit it.   White marble, with pictures depicting the life of Jesus, painted extremely well were a welcome change.  

The dome was far away from the floor and blocked the outside sounds and was very cool, inside; feeling relieved from the heat of the day as we panned across to read the fresco.

Roman Catholic church of Krishnanagar at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Roman Catholic church of Krishnanagar
Large painting at the center of the hall with light filtering through the colored glasses made us feel as if the painting change as if walked from one side to the other at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Large painting at the center of the hall with light filtering through the colored glasses made us feel as if the painting change as if walked from one side to the other
The fresco and the all round paintings that adorn the church wall were magnificent
A brilliantly made statute of St. Peter on the outside of the church facing a small garden at Krishnanagar church, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
A brilliantly made statute of St. Peter on the outside of the church facing a small garden
statute of Saint Paul holding a sword  at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India by Gautam Lahiri
Another end of the building had a statute of Saint Paul holding a sword 

By the time, we came out of the church, the sun had completely vanished off the western horizon and leaving behind its light which was dimming fast and we had to return to Kolkata. We left the town with memories of a sound culture that was so old and the artistic exposition was at its best.   Even on our way back, Krishnanagar showed us how famous she is like, 4 km from it, we stopped and parked in an area which is famous for being a point through which the Tropic of Cancer passes.

Well, we stepped on the gas and we started eating kilometres under the bumper as we moved towards Kolkata.

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