Tarapith, a religious place located in Birbhum district of West Bengal, used to be a small sleepy village back then. The only major pulse of this small village was around the temple. Little stalls of religious offerings, souvenirs and eating joints, all on both the sides of the artery path leading to the temple. There were a few Dharamshalas and small hotels too.
We have been visiting this place for a religious reason every year, my father used to visit even before his marriage, then I joined my parents as an infant and continuing till now. It has been a very familiar place for us for a long long time. Boarding the train and rushing to have the window seats then settling down comfortably for a 6hrs ride. The hustle of the hawkers (selling variety of food items, toys, stationeries and what not); the Bauls (a group of mystic minstrels) singing away various tales in their typical adenoidal voice playing ektara (one stringed musical instrument) along with; little kids dressed up as Hanuman, Ram, Laxman and all other mythological characters performing skits to earn money; the open window with vast paddy fields, lush and green sometimes golden, rivers and rivulets passing by sometimes even below the railway track, cluster of Eucalyptus, ponds with lotus blooms and many more has been our companion for years. Reaching Rampurhat station and taking man-pulled rickshaw or auto rickshaw for the temple area was also in the routine. It took us through many little villages and through their farmlands, paddy fields. The roads were of red soil, not concrete throughout and even where it was, mostly with potholes.
Finishing off the religious part by offering puja in the temple we had ample time to walk around the village and enjoy the calm and rustic time. Walking along the Dwarka rivulet which was flowing parallel to the artery road of the temple took us to the village and the farmlands in between. One little kid assisting her father to harvest Ridge Gourds passed smile, asking her name she coyly replied ‘Revatimani’ and invited us to her house in the nearby village to have tea and puffed rice. Passing by the red-eyed, red-attired fearsome Tantriks aroused awe making me hide behind my parents. The warm-hearted villagers inviting us to attend their marriage celebration while passing by used to touch our heart. Palm trees surrounding the ponds, the sunset by the rivulet, feasting delightfully upon the huge fresh ‘Langchas’ (a sausage shaped sweet of Bengal), breathing the fresh mist filled air in the morning, listening to the sweet tune of the early morning ‘Nagar Kirtan’ (a band of religious followers who walk around the village and sing religious hymns to awaken people), feeling the soft golden rays of the early sun has unknowingly become an important part of our yearly trip to Tarapith.
With passing age things kept changing, so did we. Now there are faster trains which shortened the time of travel. Hawkers are still there yes even more in number selling a variety of items, Bauls are hard to find, the skit performers are no more entertained, the outside view has changed from green to brown sometimes barren sometimes concrete. Now even we sometimes prefer to travel in the cab rather than train. The roads are well built, hard to find the “ranga matir poth” (the red mud road) -Rabindranath Tagore. Now there are huge concrete structures all around, no more of thatched roof huts. The temple area has flourished so much that it is difficult to spot the temple within the chaos of shops and big hotels. The gushing Dwarka has narrowed down with a little water and more waste. It is hard to find paddies and farmlands and even harder to find the warm innocent Revatimanis. Nagar Kirtans can be heard no more. Even the langchas are not as big and fresh. There is very little green left with the colour of commercialization covering all. Commercialization has brought development along with, has also increased the living standards. Now this small village has turned to a big town with large numbers of people visiting every day.
I have been a witness to this change. Tomorrow I may see even more. It may not surprise me anymore. But I will keep penetrating my memories to bring out the old picture and fit it in place.