Into the Big Bong Yonder: Kurumbhera Fort

Weekends in Kharagpur can be uneventful. For those whose lives aren’t largely in the digital realm, two days of relative inactivity can lead to restless boredom. Life is even more difficult for those suffering from travelitis – a mental condition compelling a person to explore the world around him. Columbus had it, Humboldt had it and apparently, so do I.

It was on one such dreary weekend that I decided to visit an old and little known fort, some 30 km from the campus – Fort Kurumbhera. The joy about travelling lies not in the distance covered, but in one’s experiences while covering that distance. Nothing beats the mental camera which absorbs every image through the lens of the eye. I decided to explore the place on my sturdy ‘milkman’ cycle. Of course for a trip like this, few would be willing. I played down the distance a little (20km) to convince a few friends to come along. Three agreed. Two came.

We started our journey around 7 in the morning and figured that we would reach the place in a little over two hours. Thankfully, Bengal is flat and we had no problems cycling all the way. We bowed to the wind to keep our tires intact and headed southwards. To reach this place one has to leave campus via the Prem Bazar gate and go straight through Salua all the way to Keshiary. Keshiary is a small town around 22 km south of the campus. From Keshiary we shifted onto the Belda road toward Kukai village. At Kukai we took the mud road leading to the village of Gaganeshwar in which the fort is situated.

Fort Kurumbhera, as it is known, is not really a fort. In fact its origins are unknown to the local villagers. Speak to some of them and they will tell you that the structure was built in a single day. Legend has it that Hanuman, on one of his visits, inscribed the name of Rama on a stone and tossed it in the area and the next day this structure magically appeared. After satisfying our respective curiosities and tossing around our theories about the origins and the possible uses of the edifice, we went into the village to learn more.

Some extensive research on the internet revealed some interesting but little known facts about the place. The fort we visited was actually an ancient Siva temple. It was built by Sena rulers when the Suvarnarekha river flowed there. There were two temples, one of which was washed away by the river. There used to be a Sivalinga installed within the temple which is not seen now. Moreover, historical records show that a mosque was built within the temple area. There is supposed to be an inscription in Persian that records this event. I was not able to locate the inscription on this visit. However, I was able to locate some other inscriptions in Oriya. Most of it is worn out but still visible on the southern walls of the fort.

Our tour of the fort ended fort ended with an interesting chat on the banks of an isolated lake somewhere deep within the village. We concluded the visit, dining on biscuits and bananas and listening to an opera featuring a number of colourful birds. The memories of this trip will remain with me for a long time, and lest I forget, my aching bottom is sure to remind me.

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