Mayapur, West Bengal

Leaving behind the quaint and gully strewn island town of Navadwip, I stepped onto the massive Teak wood boat that swayed lazily over the forceful Ganges currents. I could spot my fuzzy destination far across the river, its plane banks camouflaged within tall coconut palms, and wild green shrubbery. A tug of rope here, with a spluttering motor there, and we were finally on our way to Mayapur.  District Nadia, West Bengal.

One hundred and thirty kilometers north of Kolkata, Mayapur lies charmingly sandwiched between the opaque rushing Ganges and its emerald tributary, the Jalangi. Conveniently situated at this beautiful, flowing confluence, it was no surprise that the boat gasped whilst passing this exact point of fluid wonder. These mysterious waters are not only considered holy and worshiped by millions of Hindus, but also act as the supporting lifeline to the remaining billions in India. A faint splash disturbed my train of thought, as I instinctively turned to catch the distracting intruder. Lo and behold, dusky fins sneaked up the rippling waves, curving slickly into a graceful arch, making me gasp in shock as they splashed icy drops when they landed.

“Porpoises” said the boatman.

He wasn’t impressed, but I definitely made up for him!

The ride from Hulorghat (the local boat harbour) to the main center began in an almost antique cycle rickshaw, over narrow cobbled stones, and through closely-knit hoards of chattering pilgrims. Renowned as an extremely sacred destination, Mayapur effortlessly attracts hoards of devotees and tourists who come here to pray and admire its rustic charm, while soaking in the undeniable serenity. We shriek to a halt for a bouncing monkey playing on the road. He flashes me a cheeky grin before leaping on the nearest thatched roof.

Soon the landscape flattens into neon fields of rice paddy .It winds through rows of identically rural neighborhoods, flanked on either side by a seemingly endless procession of roadside vendors. A yak tail fan, a 5-foot smiling Krishna, a basket of sizzling golden fritters- all beckoning you to stop and buy. Ignoring their calls I squinted into the scalding ball of fire in the fluffy sky. The heat, like the traders, was relentless.

As the voices fade away, so do the houses, and in their place, comes rows of arches, domes, spires, and carved cylindered pillars. Exotic temple architecture blinds my senses. As I climb down from my humble chariot to stroke the massive concrete lions that guard one pair of looming gates, a slight tremor makes me jump. Imagination doesn’t feel THIS real. I turn to find two laughing elephants, swaying their snaky trunks, nonchalantly ignoring the sheer look of bewilderment plastered on my face.

“They were brought from Assam” said my silent driver. He must have been bullied by his conscience to relieve my fear of bumping into the remaining herd.

“Ahh” I choked in relief, hastily wiping my sweaty palms on my red tasseled scarf.

He saw me, rolled his coal pupils, and chuckled deeply, shaking his silver head as we prepared to ride on.

The landscape suddenly becomes amber, dominated by softly sloping fields of dry jute and sugar cane. The vibe is quieter, more sun-bleached than the lush center, but its signature scenery is still of abundance. Tinkling cymbals and rhythmic drums hummed through the muted firmament. Twilight had fast arrived, and prayers filled the air. My stomach rumbled menacingly, and that’s when I realized I was starving.

We stopped at a cobalt tarpaulin covered bamboo structure; the village snack bar I’m told. A pot bellied chai-wallah glared at his stove as he let the creamy liquid boil up, until that very urgent instant, before it was going to spill over and stain the dull metal sides. Then with skilful agility, he started swirling the aluminum pot an inch over the hungry flames, suspending it in an almost-boiling-over state before removing it from the heat, only to repeat the trick again. I was hypnotized and extremely impressed. He then blended the chai by pouring it back and forth between two pots at two arm-lengths apart. I knew I probably should make a mental note NOT to try that at home, but for now I was fully occupied, in tea- heaven, sipping the terracotta cup expertly shoved in my face.

I was just finishing the last morsels of puffed rice that stuck to my newspaper-crafted cup when I noticed, the sky was on fire. Streaks of golden light burst forth the crimson base that swallowed a few lingering and prancing clouds. A warm tainted glow kissed the level countryside, glistening mischievously through the gaps of interlocked roots hanging from a random banyan tree. I couldn’t help to further contain the sigh that escaped my parted lips, for however clichéd it sounded, I never knew that beauty could be this beautiful.



A peek into the brain of a twenty-something compulsive traveler, who’s not afraid to dream BIG while taking on the world.

Jalasaya – who has written posts on WAH Blog.