I am always fascinated by ancient history and Chandraketugarh as a historical excavation site attracted me while I searched for yet another offbeat destination in or near Kolkatta. Perfect day trip just after the rains and winter time, when the City of Kolkata comes alive!
It was in the year 1907 when Berachampa was the site for extensive excavation and it was A. L. Longhurst, a British Archeologist who first stumbled upon a mound, that he was sure had something of high historical importance and needed attention. It was him that recovered the first pottery and bricks followed by other notable excavations which were carried but the process was somehow too slow and then simply forgotten. It was over a decade later that the West Bengal Tourism took a leap in conducting excavation in the area again and have since past few year been successful in bringing back alive the lost civilization of Chandraketugarh. And little by little the site is now gaining popularity and getting the much-awaited response from the archeologists community globally too.
The site of Chandraketugarh covers a total area of 3 sq kms and consists of villages such as Deulia or Devalaya, Berachampa, Shinger Ati, Hadipur, Shanpukur and Jhikra. It is situated near the River Vidyadhari/Bidyadhari, which was once a river stream of the mighty River Bhagirathi.
Chandraketugarh was once an active settlement that flourished between 4th-12 Century AD. (the Mauryan Era – Late Pala Rule). There are fort wall ruins that prove that Chandraketugarh was indeed a fortified township.
Although a ruin today for most, the history lovers will surely love the place! And as you way past the remnants of the ancient civilization, you would feel yourself being a part of a once thriving city…
Bengal has always been associated with its love for the ancient art of Terracotta and even today the places including Purulia, Bankura, Birbhum, Paschim Medinipur and Bardhaman are a centre of terracotta art & crafts that are sold across the globe.
Apart from the usual figurines of male, female and figures of God and Goddess, the terracotta artefacts excavated at Chandraketugarare are quite remarkable. They have found Kids toys and rattles (having small stones between double moulded figures, that produce a sound if shaken), a female figure carrying a child in her arms, animal figures including a horse and elephant, Narrative Plaques depicting local traditions, Buddhist Jatakas etc.
There are a few that have sexual scenes termed as Mithuna and amorous couple termed as Dampati.
The female figures are elaborately covered in delicate earrings, pendants, hairpins, headdress and other accessories, making one believe that the place had amazing craftsmen and artisans.
Khana Mihirer Dhibi: is quite an attraction and can be spotted as soon as you enter the site. It is a huge temple structure.The adjoining area surrounding holds the fort walls that stretches beyond the barbed wires into the thick jungles and remains still unexcavated.
Chandraketugarh Sangrahalaya/Museum: This place is a storehouse of treasure and belongs to Mr. Dilip Mait who has painstakingly collected and unearthed numerous artifacts, statues, terracotta idols, coins and ship seals (indicating that the site was an important port too). There are some really huge tumblers that may have belonged to the royals for drinking water.
Another Historical Mention: In his book Geographia, Claudius Ptolemy mentions a river port called Gange in southwest Bengal. Plutarch wrote about a powerful tribe called Gangaridae living near a prosperous port Gange in the Gangetic delta. Furthermore , an anonymous Greek sailor mentions in his book Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (first century A.D.), a port at the mouth of the Ganga from which Roman ships sailed out with exotic goods. This most probably was the port town of Chandraketugarh.
Directions to Reach
From Kolkata: 50 kms via Kolkata-Barasat-Basirhat Road (2 hrs drive)