Taki – The gateway to the Sunderbans

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Taki is a cosy and quiet retreat, just a two-hour drive from the city. It is situated 73 km northeast of Kolkata, in North 24-Parganas, bordering Bangladesh. It is also the gateway to the Sunderbans.

After crossing Science City, and driving down Basanti Road we cross the Bantala Leather Complex. The landscape started changing from urban to semi-urban and finally to rural. Villages with paddy fields and fish ponds appeared on either side of the road, replacing buildings.

Till Hasnabad, the road is busy with vehicles carrying fish and other products from the hinterland of Bhangor, Bhojerhat, Ghatakpukur, Basanti and Malancha to the morning market in Calcutta. Then we cross the New Thuba Rail Gate, and Thuba More and finally reach Taki.

The quiet Ichhamati is the main attraction of this place. An imaginary line through the middle of the river separates West Bengal and Bangladesh.

The local people look forward to the annual reunion on Dashami. On that day, people from both sides of the border hoist their national flags on boats carrying idols and meet across the Ichhamati. The man-made boundary vanishes for the day.

The first port of call is Machhranga Deep near the confluence of the Ichhamati and Vasa. The island, spread over 129 acres, is mostly uninhabited. It takes around 30 minutes to reach the island by a mechanised boat. On the way you will find  the ruins of Zamindar Roychoudhury’s palatial house, being swallowed by the river now. The island is ideal for a picnic and the Hasnabad Panchayat Samity maintains a number of picnic spots and a two-storied bungalow on the island.

The island has little pools formed in low-lying spots. You can spend a lovely day watching the fish in the pools and the kingfishers above. However you have to return to the shore by the evening. The BSF strictly monitors the movement of boats and people after dusk on the river.

The paved riverfront near Jetty Ghat wears a festive look in the evenings with roadside eateries and shops selling toys and trinkets. Taki municipality, established on April 1 1869, maintains these facilities.

The Ramakrishna Mission temple and “Kuler Kali Bari” are within walking distance from the riverfront. You can witness the evening prayer and arati there. The name “Kuler Kali Bari” suggests the existence of another river flowing near the temple.

The strip of land between the two rivers, locally called tack, might have given rise to the name Taki.

The hotels in Taki serve reasonably good food, particularly fish dishes. Those with a sweet tooth must try the local speciality — malpoa.

You can also enjoy the sunset and the slow descending of the dusk by sitting on the bank of the Ichhamati. Fishermen tie their boats near the shore and retire for the night. The full moon, the boats bobbing in the high tide, the murmuring sound of the waves and someone singing a bhatiali song in the distance will make the evening magical.

The view of sunrise is also charming. The Ichhamati remains calm and serene in the morning. The glowing sun rises above the trees of the Bangladesh horizon, spreading a golden hue all around. The swaying casuarinas seem to nod in tune as if in appreciation of the heavenly scene.

You can hire a van rickshaw and reach Jalalpur. The old deity of Nandalal Jiu is an attraction here. From there you can walk further to a portion of land on the river, locally known as golpataban  from where one can enjoy a grand view of Bangladesh.

The river here is a narrow ribbon and the people in the Sreepur village of Bangladesh can be clearly seen.

While returning, the ancestral house of the former chief of the Indian army, General Shankar Roychoudhury, in Saidpur village is a visiting spot. The local people still recount how the Indian army had destroyed Pakistani gunboats on the Ichhamati during the 1971 war. Freeing the riverine route, our soldiers ferried tanks and ammunition and captured Satkhira in East Pakistan territory.

How to go?

Taki can be reached both by road and rail. You can take a bus from Esplanade or a train from Sealdah. The Hasnabad local goes via Taki Road station. From Taki Road station, Jetty Ghat takes 15 minutes by van- rickshaw. River cruise boats can be hired at Jetty Ghat.

Entry fee for Machhranga Deep is Rs 5 per head. Ferry service is available from Jetty Ghat. To book a picnic spot, you can contact Hasnabad Panchayat Samity, PO Hasnabad, District 24-Parganas (N).

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Where to stay?

Nripendra Atithisala run by the Taki municipality is a good option.
Address: Taki Uttar Bari, PO Taki, 24-Parganas(N), Pin:743429.
Contact details: P.K. Choudhury, Netajinagar, 9331026585 or Swati Biswas, Kalindi, 9339375915.

Other options are Suhasini Guest House, Public Health Guest House, Mitra Rest House, Shuvadip and Taki tourist bungalow.

Contact details of Taki Tourist Bungalow: Address: Taki Goash, Babupara, West Bengal Phone: 03217 234 647

 Permission from BSF and the BDO is required for staying the night at the Machhranga Deep Guest House.

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