Jhargram is now a city, a district, and a tourist destination of growing repute. However, that is not what I remember from my earliest childhood days. I spent my earliest childhood days in Jhargram and only moved to the city to start schooling at the age of 6. Therefore I have some vivid memories of this wonderful sleepy village – as it was then – where I lived amidst cows, hens, and fruit trees at my grandmother´s farmhouse. My cousins also grew up there – spending the first half of their childhood and we were never alone. I remember my grandmother´s busy days; her taking care of a brood of grandchildren of varying ages, managing her cows, hens, and fresh produce, cooking, cleaning, doing her accounts, and going through her rental cottages for rent, and maintenance. I also remember her tenants. They were gentle folks from the neighbouring states of Bihar or Jharkhand and they were either employed as teachers or civil servants at various Jhargram offices.
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Jhargram childhood days
They liked my grandmother who ruled over her little kingdom with kindness, empathy, and peasant shrewdness and they always spoiled us a little. I also remember her cows, her hens, and her daily evening habit of making us learn the Bengali alphabet on scratchy slate boards. Bengali alphabets are pretty, round things and they hang from horizontal bars. We all used to sit diligently around her; practicing those alphabets and munching bowlfuls of muri (puffed rice) and narkel naru (handmade coconut balls). It was the only time I saw my grandmother taking a break as she read the daily newspaper; her reading glasses perched on her nose, and her rose-gold hair spread out on her back to dry. For some genetic freakish reason, my grandmother had beautiful dark rose gold curls and among her numerous grandchildren, I received her light-coloured hair as a hereditary gift.
Growing up in Jhargram
Anyway, all the children ate more than we wrote and this desultory habit continued until it was evening. Dusk comes early to Jhargram, and soon it was time for evening prayers, dinner, and bed. The courtyard of this sprawling farmhouse had a tulsi plant that was much revered and every Saturday evening, our grandparents had a little Shoni puja there. It was thrilling to sit in the dark amidst my grandmother’s oil lamps and fruit offerings as the trees rustled in the wind. For us children, the wait to eat the fruit offerings used to seem interminable long and we counted minutes by watching the fireflies flit in the surrounding dark bushes. Sometimes, my grandmother’s chants used to be broken by owls hooting and whistles of trains as they rumbled by in the dark. Often we used to look around for night animals for in those days, Jhargram was still a little too wild. Stories of attacks from various wild animals – real and imaginary – rocked the little village community from time to time. My mother who had grown up there with the indigenous community children remembers seeing wild elephants while all I had ever seen were wild dogs and jackals. They were still very beautiful days and the happiest part of my childhood has been spent in Jhargram.
Fruit gatherings after summer storms
Our days were spent running amongst grandmother’s fruit trees. There were blackberries, mangoes, guavas, litchis, jackfruit, chickoo (sapodilla), bel (stone apple), and pomelos. Jhargram had huge tracts of Sal forests then and the undergrowth consisted of intensely fragrant Kurchi flowers. Summers used to be very hot then and I remember walking carefully over fallen fry leaves so as not to disturb the slumbering snakes that used to take shelter there from the heat. There was also a huge old python that lived in the unused outhouse in my grandmother´s farmhouse and I remember her treating it as an old relation. She used to leave bowls of milk for it and warned us children not to go there or disturb it. Jhargram nights used to be very black then. Electricity was not widely used and only a few farmhouses like my grandmother´s had electric light. Most people used oil lamps and hence dusk brought pitch darkness. The night skies used to be crowded with stars and on full moon nights, we used to all sit outside until late. Rainy and stormy days which were few and far between saw us running amidst mango trees and our aim was to collect as many fallen fruits as possible. We wielded wicker baskets that were sometimes larger than us and in those we gathered the fruits shaken off the branches by Kalboishakhi or the summer storms.
Revisiting my grandmother’s farmhouse
Recently I revisited Jhargram again and stayed at my grandmother’s farmhouse. My aunt and her husband live there now and the old place does not look the same. Except for a few old trees that have remained nothing looks the same and I actually wondered what happened to our ‘family python’ now that the outhouse is gone. The Sal forests have also thinned out and only the country roads have remained faithful to my memory of them. They are still deep red, dusty, and dry, and in summer, the smell of scorched earth fills the air. Apart from that Jhargram has changed. It has become a big town now, a district headquarter, and most houses have private garages and large satellite dishes. I am not sure how much I like it anymore but you just cannot forget a place where you spent the happiest part of your childhood. So Jhargram remains in my memory as a place of red earth country roads, fragrant wildflowers, and rustling Sal forests.
Jhargram Travel Tips
Jhargram is a city and a municipality in West Bengal in India. It is the headquarters of the Jhargram district and is a popular tourist destination. Known for its forests, ancient temples, and royal palaces, this Medinipur town is the perfect weekend getaway from Kolkata.
How to Reach
By Train: The distance from Howrah to Jhargram station is 157 Km and the journey takes 3 hours. Jhargram is accessible by two daily train services – Ispat Express and Steel Express.
By Road: Jhargram is also very well connected by roads/highways with other nearby cities like Medinipur, Kharagpur, Durgapur, Asansol, Bankura, Purulia, Haldia, Contai, Digha, Kolkata / Howrah. It is on National Highway 6.
Where to Stay
The best accommodation options are Jhargram Rajbari and the West Bengal Tourist Complex.
What to See in Jhargram
- Chilkigarh – Located about 2 km away from Jhargram, Chilkigarh is famous for its Jangal Mahal Fort and temples. Inside the forest, there is a Kanak Durga Temple that was built in Pit style.
- Kankrajhor – About 73 km away from Jhargram, Kankrajhor is perfect for nature lovers. The region has hilly forestlands of hardwood trees including Sal, Teak, and Mahua. Cashew nuts, coffee, and oranges are cultivated at Kankrajhor. It is a great place for trekking and hiking enthusiasts.
- Belpahari – Around 45 km away from Jhargram, Belpahari is a forest paradise under the Dolma Hills. The foothills of Belpahari are thickly forested by a variety of hardwood trees like Sal, Mahua, and Teak. It is possible to reach Belpahari by bus from Jhargram.
- Hatibari – Hatibari is 62 km from Jhargram. It is situated beside the Subarnarekha river and is surrounded by different types of trees. Camping is possible here.
- Jhargram Raj Palace – A popular tourist attraction, this is the abode of the erstwhile royal family.
- Deer Park – A perfect destination for families and travelers with kids, Deer Park is located about 3 kilometers from Jhargram. The exhibits include snakes, bears, black rabbits, bears, crocodiles, and various kinds of monkeys and trees.
- Barasuli Dam – This natural reservoir is situated alongside an elephant corridor where one can enjoy a lovely sunset. Tourists can enjoy fishing and small forest treks here.
- Khwaabgaon – Located 4 km from Jhargram, Khwaabgaon is at Laalbazar, a tribal village of 80 people. It is a sleepy little village that is famous for its painted houses. On the walls of the mud houses — painted in bright colours — are scenes of everyday life: goats gazing, tribal dances, farmers in an orchard, and children at play. It was an initiative taken by the artist Mrinal Mandal and visitors can visit here for a fee and buy handicrafts made by the villagers.
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