M3 Features

The Grand Canyon of Bengal

March 5, 2015

The red laterite soil has been eroded over aeons to reveal strange yet fascinating landforms. Numerous small mesas and buttes dominate the landscape, with the wind and water having carved wavy patterns along the walls of the landmasses. Alongside flows quietly the Shilabati River, cutting a gorge. The bare landscape is simply stunning, a little-known paradise of nature. Welcome to Gangani, whose wind-and-water-shaped landmasses and a river cutting a gorge through, prompted the handful who have known of this place to compare it to the Grand Canyon in USA, albeit a mini canyon; in the process, the place getting dubbed as the ‘Grand Canyon of Bengal.’

Gangani is located in West Medinipur district, with the nearest railhead being Garbeta. The Aranyak Express from Shalimar railway station or the Rupasi Bangla Express from Howrah would take one to Garbeta, from where it’s just a short ride in a rickshaw. Locals may have always known it, but other than to them, it’s an almost unknown place, waiting to be discovered. The place is ideal for a day’s picnic. One can even stay back for the night in Garbeta, to catch the sun rise or set between the ochre mounds, when the mélange of red and orange spectra create a sight indeed to behold and wonder!

In Gangani, nature has sculpted some of its best shapes. One can let the imagination run wild here – a temple gate, a human or animal form, or some other flight of fancy carved into the hillsides. In places, fossilised tree trunks can be seen stuck on the walls of the eroded landscape. During winter, when it’s the best time to visit the place, birds of various sizes and hues also flock to the riverside. For an adventure freak, what better than to explore the lay of this strange land and maybe, get lost for a while! For the daring, a bout of rock-climbing is an eminent possibility. For the more gentler kinds, a walk around, a bit of frolic by the river, are perfect antidotes to the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Shilabati and the beautiful landscape of Gangani

Gangani, however, is not all about nature. History and myth are closely linked with the region. Legend has it that the Pandavas of Mahabharata fame spent a substantial part of their exile in villages in the region. The villagers used to live in fear of a demon called Bakasur. He used to demand huge quantities of food and a human being as a sacrifice every day. The heroic Bhima fought and killed the demon, and brought peace to the region. It is said that the strange landforms were chipped out of the hillsides as a result of the ferocious fight between Bhima and Bakasura. If one turns to history, there is something there as well. The 18th-century Chuar Rebellion, when tribals revolted against the British rule because of famine, land tax and other economic reasons, was firmly put down by the British when they hanged the rebel leader, Sardar Achal Singh and many of his generals on the bank of Shilabati. There is even a stadium and a park dedicated to this brave hero in Garbeta, which one can visit. Sarbamangala Mandir and Radhaballav Mandir in Garbeta, which have history and myth attached to them, are also places definitely worth the visit.

The Grand Canyon of Bengal: A montage of images

Images: Facebook/Gomgoni, flickr (I.rajarshi)

Written by Anushtup Haldar for Team M3.tv

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