A long drive away from the city, this getaway on the edge of a deciduous forest is the perfect spot to laze around for a day or two.
Around 140km down Durgapur Expressway, within minutes of the car crossing Burdwan, a billboard by the Aushgram panchayat will welcome us to Aranya Sundari Bhalkimachan. A freshly tarred road across the rice bowl of Bengal leads to Bhalkimachan, believed to be the favourite bear hunting spot of the former rajas of Burdwan.
The ruins of a tower or machan overlook a small waterhole where the unsuspecting animals were shot by the royalty. Perhaps in memory of the bears that lost their lives, the panchayat has erected a concrete model of an Indian sloth bear close to the pond.
According to a legend, a tunnel beneath the machan leads straight to a secret passage opening at the Rajbari in Burdwan, about 25km away.
The waterhole has been “beautified” by the panchayat with dahlias, chrysanthemums and deodars to make the spot favourable for picnic. It has even put a couple of paddle boats in the water body for revelers and built a two-storey resort with 20 beds and a restaurant.
But the real fun lies beyond the confines of the resort amid the deep sal forest thriving with a wide variety of vascular plants. The pristine forest stretches beyond the borders of Birbhum into the Santhal Parganas in Jharkhand. A walk through the woods is very pleasant with sunlight forming patterns on the ground through the foliage.
Although the forest used to be crowded with bears, now one can find just some wild cats, foxes and monkeys. A few years ago, elephants from the interconnected Dalma forests were found roaming into Bhalkimachan.
How to go?
If you travel by car, then you need to cross Bardhaman and drive about 30 km to locate the Mankor station. Following the route cross Mankor station to reach Abhirampur and finally reach Bhalki Machan. The total distance of Bhalki Machan from Kolkata is 135 km. You also have the option of reaching Bhalki Machan by train as well. Any local train going to Bardhaman will take you to Mankar station. From there you need to hire a rickshaw to reach Bhalki Machan.
Where to stay?
If you decide to stay overnight, a resort developed by the State Fisheries Development Corporation at Jamunadighi-Amrapali barely 3km from Bhalkimachan, would probably be the best option. The tourist complex is inside a fish seed farm run by the state government. For booking contact numbers visit “State Fisheries Development Corporation’s” website www.wbsfdc.com