On the behest of some friends, I finally decided to write a series about the religious & tourist spots in Durgapur, the city where I am currently living – one of the sleepy semi-urban cities that dot the entire Indian landscape, in fact it can be said that Durgapur is an analogy for the rest of the country – underdeveloped, poor & mostly illiterate. The posts about Durgapur were due for a long, long time, I have been living here for almost two & a half years. Although the city boasts of a large Government-administered steel plant (one of the largest & most advanced in the entire country), it has nothing else to show for (except perhaps the college I am studying in, National Institute of Technology, as mentioned in one of the earlier posts). To be honest, I do not like living in Durgapur – to a Delhite, the entire city appears to be like a village, or rather, a civilized forest, even though it is one of the most developed city of Bengal. Except for 5-6 spots that tourists & locals frequent, there are no other options for sight-seeing in Durgapur.
In my opinion, Ram Mandir (“Mandir” is temple in Hindi/Bangla) is one of the most beautiful places in the entire city. Located far away from the central part of the city & reached through a series of roads & alleys (many pot-holed, others lacking proper street-lightning, & almost all interspersed with speed-breakers that guarantee a roller-coaster ride), the temple is set in a large garden. Its pillared hall, large bells & exquisite stone carvings on its white marble walls appears mesmerizing. A lone guard looks after the premises, sitting next to the entrance gate & the rack where the visitors have to remove their footwear & socks. At the far end corner of the rack are taps to wash one’s hands & feet after removing the shoes. Several trees & grassy grounds flank the pathway leading to the temple. Tall lamp posts throw light on the temple & its immediate surroundings. The temple stands on a high pedestal, led to by milky-white stairs, its roof surmounted by several pyramids, each pyramid is further decorated by triangular protrusions. The design & grace of the temple speaking for the belief & reverence of the artists & laborers who carved it.
|The Ram Mandir|
Four priests administer the prayers – all of them tall, well-built & extremely handsome, with massive, trimmed moustaches, beards & sideburns. The prayers were just starting up when we reached the temple – the prayers were a heavenly experience, with the mantras (invocative chants) resounding from ancient scriptures. The sanctum was small, bathed in reddish light from small incandescent bulbs, there were idols of King Rama & his wife Sita (Rama - a Hindu king, believed to be the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the Hindu God of preservation & life). A small idol of Hanuman (the monkey God, a follower of Rama) stood reverentially near their feet. A board next to the sanctum decreed that photography is not allowed.
|The sanctum ( I have been told it has never been photographed before!!)|
I asked the junior priests, the ones who sat outside the sanctum singing prayers for permission to take photographs, but they directed me to the head priest, the one who performed the ritualistic acts inside the sanctum. The head priest was an old man, with a balding head & a tuft of long hairs on the back of his head (called “Choti”), yet strong & well built. While he presided over the prayers, I strolled around in the gardens, taking photographs from various angles & perspectives, while also listening to the invocations & bell-ringing.
At the end of the prayers, the head-priest was surrounded by devotees who crowded around him for blessings & “Prasad” (ceremonial offerings of sweets & sugar nibbles to the Gods, distributed to the devotees after the prayers). A polite & soft-spoken man, he quickly granted permission to photograph the sanctum, & then started talking on his mobile phone in a corner.
I could not find any details of the temple or its construction on the internet, nor did the friends who accompanied me to the temple know much about it. However after several hours of internet searching, I did stumble on the fact that the temple is owned by the Goenka Group of industries, & the priests performing the prayers here are specially brought from Varanasi. Each group of priests stay here for a few months, a new group replacing them when they return.
Done with the photography & strolling around, we moved ahead, pleased that Durgapur too has at least one beautiful spot to boast of. Outside rows of vendors selling phuchka (crispy, round dumpling filled with spicy-sweet water), jhalmuri (puffed rice mixed with mustard oil, coriander, onion & spices) & egg rolls looked at us with eyes that seemed to ask why we weren’t feasting on their products. The vendors stood alone, sans any customers, so unlike the rest of Durgapur where people flock in hordes to the sellers of phuchkas & jhal.
How to reach : The temple is located in Bidhan Nagar. Buses & taxis can be availed from different parts of the city for reaching Bidhan Nagar.
Open : All days, Sunrise to sunset (Prefer visiting in the evening at around 6:30 p.m., in time for the evening prayers)
Entrance Fee : Nil
Photography/Video Charges : Nil. However photography is prohibited inside the temple complex.
Time required for sight seeing : 30 min