Introduction: Baranti village in Purulia, West Bengal Baranti is a small tribal village located in the Purulia district of West Bengal, in the Raghunathpur sub-division. Even a few years ago very few people in the cities would have heard of Baranti, but not any longer. This place is fast coming up as an emerging weekend tour destination from Kolkata, because it is less than 250 kilometres from Kolkata, the capital city of West Bengal. The main tourist attraction of Baranti is Baranti Lake, which is also sometimes referred to as the Muradi Lake. There are some small hillocks around the lake, including the Muradi hill or the Gorongi Hill, and the Ramchandrapur Hill. The place is, in fact, part of very hilly terrain of Purulia. The Panchakot hill is clearly visible behind Gorongi hill on a clear day. A few miles apart lies the Biharinath Hill which falls in the Bankura district of West Bengal and is the highest hill of that district. The Joychandi Hill is also a prominent tourist spot (the auspicious Joychandi temple is located on the top of this hill) which is situated at a distance of 21 kilometres from Baranti. So overall there are several places to see in Baranti and there is a cluster of tourist spots around this. So you can plan a one-two days Baranti weekend trip itinerary from Kolkata, or you can add a few more places nearby like Joychandi Hill, Panchakot Hill (also known as Garh Panchakot), Panchet Dam, Biharinath Hill and so on. Here is a photograph of Baranti dam which is part of the Ramchandrapur Irrigation Project. You can see the Ramchandrapur Hill at the background.
How to reach Baranti from Kolkata Let us now see how to reach Baranti. The nearest major airport, the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Air Port, is at Kolkata. Although a new and smaller airport has been constructed at Andal of the Burdwan district, flights there are less and infrequent. However, Baranti is a small tourist place, and it is expected that most people who would like to visit Baranti would probably come from Kolkata. So let us now see how to go to Baranti from Kolkata by train, bus, and car.
Going to Baranti from Kolkata by train The nearest railway station of Baranti is Muradi which is about 9-10 kilometres away. It is a small station (code: MDF) in the Adra Division of South-Eastern Railway where only local MEMU passenger trains stop. The nearest notable railway stations where superfast/mail/express trains from Kolkata will stop are Asansol and Adra. There are many trains to Asansol from the major railway stations in Kolkata namely Howrah, Sealdah, and Kolkata. However, if you are a first time tourist in these areas, I will suggest that you take the Adra route. The train journey from Howrah or Santragachi (another railway terminal very close to Howrah) to Adra is very scenic and is a treat by itself. You may take 12883 up Rupasi Bangla Express which departs from Santragachi (code: SRC) at 06:25 am and is scheduled to reach Adra (code: ADRA) at 10:55 am. In its way the train will cross several picturesque rivers of West Bengal like the Rupnarayan at Kolaghat, the Kansai or the Kangsabati at Medinipur, the Dwarakeshwar at Bankura and so on. It is also interesting to note how the landscape rapidly begins to change right after crossing the Kangsabati river before entering the town of Medinipur, which was erstwhile called Midnapore. Just as you will cross the river, you will see the alluvial plains giving way to more undulating landscapes that are extended parts of the Chota Nagpur plateau, and the colour of the soil becomes reddish too. Shortly after crossing Medinipur station (code: MDN) the train will pass through several patches of dense Sal forests that will please and soothe your eyes for sure. You can also see the famous Shushunia Hill on your right-hand side as you approach Chhatna (code: CJN) station.
If you prefer to travel overnight, you can take the 58011 up Howrah-Chakradharpur Passenger (which is a passenger train but still has many sleeper coaches and one air-conditioned three-tier coach). This train leaves Howrah at 23:05 hours and is scheduled to arrive at Adra next day at 5:15 am, though a little delay is often expected. The benefit of taking this train is you can reach your hotel at Baranti within 9 o'clock in the morning and have the entire day at your disposal. This is ideal for people who are planning a weekend trip for one-two days as you can catch the overnight train even after attending your offices or daily business, and reach Baranti quite early in the morning next day, thus saving you much time.
From Adra, you need to take an unreserved MEMU train to Asansol and get down at Muradi. It takes just 25-30 minutes to reach Muradi by local train from Adra. If you are coming from Asansol, it will take 5 to 10 minutes more. If you take the Howrah-Chakradharpur Passenger, expect to catch the 06:55 a.m. train to Muradi from Adra. If you take the Rupasi Bangla Express and the train runs on time, you can catch the Tatanagar-Asansol MEMU which is scheduled to arrive at Adra at 12:15 pm. However, if the Rupasi Bangla Express is delayed and you miss that train, the next one, an Adra-Asansol MEMU, is at 14:30 pm. You have to wait quite a long time. In that case, you can have your lunch at Adra.
The train journey from Adra to Muradi is also very scenic. Shortly after leaving Adra you can see the Joychandi hill on your right side. The temple of Goddess Joychandi is located atop the hill and is very sacred to the locals. There are several myths and folklores associated with this temple and this hill in the neighbourhood. If you have a spare day, you can consider halting for a day at Joychandi Hill. The train will also pass by the Bero hill at a distance and will pass by the Panchet hill at very close quarters. The Garh Panchakot tourist spot is located in the foot of this Panchet hill. Below you can see a picture of the Joychandi hill clicked from the Adra-Asansol MEMU train.
From Muradi, you can either hire a car or take a cycle rickshaw to Baranti. The rickshaws are usually cheaper than cars. They take about three hundred rupees but that money is well worth the hard work they need to do, pulling the rickshaws on unpaved gravel roads. The ride is going to be a bumpy one as the road condition is not good. If it rains, the condition will worsen. At the extreme point, you might get down from the rickshaw yourself and give the cart a push if the wheels get stuck in the mud of the unpaved road. A car ride is definitely more convenient and hassle-free, but since there are very few cars in the locality, it is a monopoly market and the car drivers often ask for exorbitant prices. Use your bargaining skills well if you hire a car (but kindly do not bargain much with the rickshaw pullers as they really have to do very hard work).
Going to Baranti from Kolkata by bus There is no direct bus service available between Kolkata and Baranti. You can take a South Bengal State Transport Corporation (SBSTC) bus from Kolkata (Esplanade bus terminus) or Salt Lake (Korunamoyee bus terminus) and get down at Asansol. From Asansol, you can either take a local bus to Muradi (but they are often overcrowded), or take a local train to Muradi as described above. From Muradi your only option is to take a cycle rickshaw or a hire a car to reach Baranti.
What to see in Baranti Baranti is a place that would not offer too much of activity. Rather, this is a place where you can soak in complete peace and tranquillity. The sunset at the lakeside of the dam is surely a treat to the eyes. You can also find local fishermen fishing in the lake water. Their boat is particularly interesting; they usually sail in inflated tubes of truck tyres instead of any proper boat or vessel. Their act of fishing in the dam when the beams of the setting sun are reflected in the water, with Ramchandrapur hills in the background, is definitely a photographic material (though some of them are very averse to being photographed for some unknown reasons). Here you can see a picture of a fisherman at Baranti dam. However I had to zoom a lot, so could not get a wider angle. Also, the setting sun has resulted in the person being silhouetted.
You can also take a stroll through the path that goes through the forest of Sal (Shorea robusta) and Palash (Butea monosperma) trees and goes to the nearby villages. However, it is advisable not to leave the marked trail and wander inside the forest. You can also try a hike on the Gorongi hill, but be warned that there is no marked trail and you need to find your own path. During the winter there is usually no risk but do not try this in summer or monsoon as snakes may be abundant.
You can also club your visit to Baranti with a visit to Garh Panchakot (Panchet) and Biharinath Hills. Garh Panchakot can be covered in one day and you can come back to Baranti, but if you truly want to relish the beauty of the Panchet hill you can choose to spend a night there. You can also go to Biharinath hill nearby. This place is locally called the Araku Valley of West Bengal, although I personally thought that was quite a bit of exaggeration. The place is beautiful no doubt, but there is nothing much to see apart from an old temple of Lord Biharinath and trying a hike up the hills. I personally did not enjoy Biharinath much. Personally, I would suggest that you spend a night at Garh Panchakot where you can see the ruins of an ancient tribal fort located up the Panchet hill. The Panchet dam is another attraction. If you go to Panchet, you can come back to Kolkata by catching a train from the Barakar station (code: BRR) which is about 15 kilometres from Garh Panchakot.
Baranti travel tips While taking a weekend trip to Baranti from Kolkata, you need to remember a few things for a convenient tour as listed below:
1. Carry your medicines for first aid Baranti is a very small tribal village densely forested in all sides, and all the necessities of life are to procured from the Murardi or Muradi town which is about 9 to 10 kilometres away. That too is a very small town with a population less than 2500 people, so you can expect to get only basic medications there. Better medical facilities including physicians, clinics, and medicines can only be availed at Asansol (35 kilometres from Baranti), Adra (28 kilometres from Baranti), or Kulti (28 kilometres from Baranti). So it is better to carry your own medicines, at least the basic ones for first aids. Otherwise, even for a basic bandage or medicine, you may need to travel 10 kilometres or more.
2. Power and connectivity issues in Baranti Being situated in a remote location far from urban areas, mobile connectivity is quite bad in Baranti. Mobile network is going to be very weak and patchy. You may not have any network at all in certain areas. Also, expect frequent power cuts throughout the day. Although most hotels and resorts in Baranti are generally equipped with generators, it is common for the management for coming up with several excuses for not running the generator and thus saving on the fuel costs. They will often give you several excuses like less number of tourists in the resorts, lack of fuel storage etc. and there is no point arguing with them. It is better to avoid visiting Baranti in the summer months as the heat may simply be difficult to tolerate without an electric fan. Also, remember to carry power storage facilities like power banks for charging your mobile phones etc. Carry an extra and fully charged camera battery if possible.
3. Carry mosquito repellents Mosquitos can be really nasty in Baranti, the place being surrounded by dense forests. And, since there are frequent power cuts, electronic mosquito repellent liquid vaporizers (like Good Knight or All Out) are not going to work. Carry mosquito repellent creams, roll-ons, and coils. If possible, carry a mosquito curtain as well.
4. Carry your own snacks There is absolutely no eatery of any kind at Baranti. Most people arrange for daily meal plans at the resorts or hotels at Baranti where the stay. However, your hotel is going to provide you with only breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Usually, there is no provision of having a snack now and then. So if you require evening snacks between the lunch and the dinner, it is better to carry them yourself. Otherwise, you might go hungry; I actually did!
5. The best time to visit Baranti The summer in these parts of the country is very, very hot. Avoid travelling in summer at all costs. The ideal time is winter or spring. During the springtime, the Palash flowers bloom all around. It will seem as if the entire forest has turned red, and you will feel why the Palash flower is also called the Flame of the Forest! However, with global warming, even the springtime is considerably hot these days. Expect the temperature to be just below thirty degree Celsius in early March, while during late March the temperature can go up to 35-36 degree Celsius. Coupled with the humidity, this temperature may start to feel unpleasant. Winter is a safe bait, but you will miss the Palash flowers. You can also safely do some hiking around the hills in the winter, which is not advisable in late spring or autumn.
Where to stay at Baranti Please check out this list of Hotels and Resorts in Baranti, Purulia.
[Image source: taken by the author.]