Chandrakona, the home of Bengal's Grand Canyon, is the landscape in the west of Midnapore that tends to be lifeless and dry. The small hamlet of Chandrakona was once an important and flourishing place under the 16th century Rajput rulers. The place finds its name in Ain e Akbari, which is the record of Mughal Emperor Akbar's administration.
However, not much remains of its past glory other than some crumbling mansions and a few terracotta temples on the forest infested edges of the town. But yet, the place forms a very convenient base to explore the ravines and gorges of Gongoni Danda, which is a place often known as the Grand Canyon of Bengal.
One would be magically transported from the dull West Midnapore to the Wild West of the Grand Canyon. A red rocky land leads you to the unreliable drop to a valley below, where you will find uneven cliffs of laterite, their crimson contours which shine in the morning sun filling up the horizon.
The Magical Experience
Far below onto your right lies the crystal clear Silabati river, which makes its way across the floor of the canyon. The canyon is seasoned by flour white sandbanks which leads into the forming of beautiful patterns as you look down, which is truly magical.
If the canyon came across to be magical from above, from close quarters its limitless textures gives out a surreal experience. The natural forces of wind and water have joined their forces together over time immemorial to chisel and carve out the rocky ravine occupied landscape of hostile splendour.
As one would come down to the lower depths of Gongoni, the colours begin to change. The rusty red evolves into the various hues of yellow, which starts from a grainy pallid shade and further to brilliant golden.
The mid morning sun fills up the nooks and corners of the gorge, showcasing the various designs on the furrowed rock faces.
One can choose to explore the meandering trial along the route which the river once was flowing, carving out a gorge several storeys deep. The trial would take you to the edge of the Silabati River, where one can find a group of fishermen who make their way in the ankle deep water and casting hand held net. They go for fishing in small groups by using the traditional nets and would return with their nets filled.
Further up, one would find oddly shaped rock pillars and covered with caves. One would find an eerie looking cave, which has carved pillars at its entrance a little further along the ridge. As you would move towards the cliff-side chamber, the locals would narrate you the story of Bakasura's cave.
The story from the Mahabharata, which happens when the Pandavas are in exile unfolds here. The Pandavas arrived to this place along with their mother to find the place was being terrorised by Bakasura.
The demon followed a very simple diet, everyday one individual from the nearby village had to go his cave as the monster's daily dose of meat. The Pandavas were staying with a Brahmin family, whose turn came to offer the sacrifice.
On Kunti's instruction, Bhima agreed to go instead. A battle broke out between the monster and Bhima, which is said to have lasted days until Bakasura was vanquished, which led to the area to be rocky and crumpled and also to the formation of the canyon as per local legends.
Head to the canyon in the morning or during late afternoon as you be able to enjoy the beautiful sunrise or sunset. The place can be a bit packed on weekends. The town is about 133 km from Kolkata and the gorge is another 34 km from the village of Chandrakona.