Written by Dr. Tilak Purkayastha
Transcreated in English by Sunita Jash
Let’s come to Durgapur with me in search of a Dacoit-Kali temple and a historical tunnel adjacent to it. These two places are alongside to each other and are situated in the premium of Ambuja Residency, City Centre, one of the prestigious places in Durgapur. It’s such a strange temple where ‘Vandematramm’ and ‘Jay Jay Bharatbarsham’ are written everywhere;on the stairs, the inner walls, instead of the chants and hymns of god.
Leave the present temple, the same thing is written on the altar of a ruined temple beside. There is a huge lake which becomes stagnant today for the sake of modernization in behind of this temple. The name of this lake is ‘Ichai Sarovar’. And there’s a mound, just 200 ft far away from it;there is an amazingly beautiful stony tunnel way under this mound. This place is called the rampart of Bhavani Pathak and Devi Chowdhurany. The full name of this temple is ‘ Devi Chowdhurany- Bhabani Pathak Bharat Mata Ashram’. But it is well known as Dacoit-Kali temple from ancient time. Let it be discussed later. Before this, let’s have a look on the journals and articles about the ancient history of Durgapur.
Many of us can remember a board,”Durgapur Forest” written on it, beside G. T. Road while crossing Bidhan Nagar. The myth is that the Durgapur Forest was consisted of Garh forest, Dighi forest and Kurupi forest. Legend says, about half a century ago, some utensils and weapons made of stones were found at the village of Birbhanpur near Damodar river. The archeologists confirmed that those things were of stone-age. In Mauryan era, the connecting road of North India and East India was constructed by Vindusara, father of King Asoka. Later this extensive was redefined and enlarged by Sher Shah and was named ‘Sher Shah Suri Marg’ or G.T. Road at present.
The history of later period fells light on the fact that there was an archaic Shiva temple whose name is “Rarheswar Shiva temple” and it was famous for its gigantic Shibalinga. Most probably, it was built in twelfth century. There is a myth which tells that the temple was built by the famous king Laxman Sen of the renowned Sen dynasty. Besides, the ‘Gopabhumi’ was founded by the Sadgopa king Mahendranath on an immense land surrounded by Ajoy/Damodar river. Some field surveyors like Mr. Pranab Bhattacharya also has claimed that ‘Gopabhumi’ was founded by Ichai Ghosh. He defeated Karna Sen, the commander of Devapal,the famous king of Pal Dynasty. Ichai Ghosh proclaimed himself as ‘Mahamandalik’ or ‘Rarhadhweep’
Chitra Sen, the son of King Kirti Chand deported the Gopa kings in 1744 and included this area of Radh Bengal in Bardhaman Dominion. It can be assumed that this fort and its dickens was destroyed by conquering the’Gopabhumi’.
Now let’s jump to the present time. One Gopinath Chattopadhyay reached at Durgapur from Bankura by crossing Damodar. Then it was a jungle everywhere and the poor people were robbing due to hunger and poverty. Chattopadhyay became a victim of such a gang of robbers. They broke his Bullock cart into pieces by not getting anything worthy from him. The wheel of the Bullock cart is known as ‘sagar’ and after this incident this place is known as ‘Sagarbhanga’ (means breaking of ‘Sagar’), event today. Gopinath was not horrified at all and settled down here and established Gopinathpur Mouza. He also founded seven villages and named them after his seven sons- Kalinagar, Narayanpur, Shyampur, Bhairabpur, Anandapur, Biharpur and Durgapur (in the name of Durgacharan). Gopinath Chattopadhyay received the estate of this whole area from Bardhaman Royal family. May be, his descendants had built the tunnel for the welfare of their subjects,water irrigation or for water drainage system.
Now we are at the temple courtyard with the present priest and manager, Milon Chattopadhyay and his brother-in-law. We are strolling and watching hereabouts of the temple,the history of this wonderful instance. Devi Chowdhurany and Bhavani Pathak- these are two characters surrounded with history and legendary stories. Possibly, Devi Chowdhurany was the wife of a land lord in North Bengal. There is a temple named Devi Chowdhurany-Bhabani Pathak temple at Baikunthapur tea estate in Jalpaiguri. Once I have read somewhere that her original name was Pabitra Devi. Also I can explore that she was herself the land lady of Manthana at Pirgacha, East Bengal. It is also heard that after her husband’s death,she became a disciple of Bhavani Pathak, one of the significant figures of Sannyasi Revolt, and both of them robbed for demolishing the evil. When the Sannyasis and fakirs were clamoring among themselves for the share of looted property, Pathak was the Robinhood. From 1760, he looted mainly the British revenue and distributed among the poor and destitutes, like Robinhood. There was an official Statement from British Government about Devi Chowdhurany : “We catch a glimpse from the Lieutenant’s report of a female dacoit by name Devichowdhurany, also in league with Pathak. She lived on boats,had a large force of Barkandezes in her pay, and committed dacoites on the own account, besides receiving a share of the booty by Pathak”. Bhavani Pathak was died in a fierce battle against the huge regiment of Lieutenant Brennan in 1787. And in 1783, Devi Chowdhurany was died. This exceptionally courageous patriot lady was martyred on the first Thursday in the month of Baisakh while fighting against Warren Hestings.
The Emperor of Bengal literature, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay wrote his patriotic history based novel ‘Devi Chowdurany’ at Rangpur being aware of this incident. Now there’s a question- how did the Kali temple of Devi Chowdhurany and Bhavani Pathak come in Durgapur? Two possibilities are there. As per Bankim’s novel, the paternal house of Prafulla was in Durgapur and it is very obvious that she would come here after being driven away from his husband’s house. This is one possibility. Another possibility is that Devi Chowdhurany might come to the dense jungle of Durgapur while crossing Damodar with barge. It is also documented that Devi Chowdhurany went out for robbery with her regiment. Is it really impossible to come here while expeditions? Especially,it was an ideal place surrounded by jungles to hide. And as a secret tunnel is also here beside the temple, then, may be, it was built as a secret chamber for hiding.
It is mentioned earlier that the most attractive things about this temple are the stagnant lake and the excellent stone built tunnel under the ground. The lake was digged as per Hindu rituals, stretched from North to South. The priest confirms the name of this lake is ‘Ichai Sarovar’ and this name implies it is a generous deed of ‘Mahamandalik’ Ichai Ghosh.
The mound and a tunnel under the ground are really surprising. This tunnel was damaged enough at the time of constructing Ambuja Residency in Durgapur. But it is fortunate that the ‘Heritage Conservation Committee’ of Durgapur Municipal Corporation has taken some major steps to protect the remaining part. The place is now protected and a marble plate is set up outside the gate. The inscription is there as follows: ‘The tunnel with concave arch is entirely made of sandstone of many shapes and sizes with the mixture of lime, sand and rope.’ The construction period of the said tunnel is the later period of Mughal era(seventeen century). According to the State Archeological Department,it is obvious that this tunnel which is stretched from North to South was heavily used for water supply or drainage of excess water. But this tunnel was also used as a secret way to escape. This architecture is an important archeological vestige which was influenced by Roman architecture pattern in Durgapur industrial city. Only two open fronts and 30 to 35 metre of the tunnel is now remaining. The tunnel is made of sandstone. Mainly sand from the bank of Damodar, rope, and calcined lime we’re used as morter. Some other things may also be mixed. The walls of two sides are constructed by spreading out the stones on the floor in such a way that it formed an arch going towards. The height of the concave arch is about 5.5 ft from the floor. It is difficult to tell who had built this extraordinary tunnel way and when. But it is impossible to build such a wonderful tunnel by the common people. It is next to impossible for the local dacoites, burglars or smugglers to build the tunnel in a scientific way. Now, there is no proof in black and white wheather the tunnel is constructed by Bhavani Pathak or by any kind-hearted Land lord. But one thing can be possible-this area was a regular victim of ‘Bargi’ from 1741 to 1743. So the fact the tunnel is built by Bhaskar Pandit cannot be diminished totally. In that case, the destroyed temple must be of Lord Shiva. Another thing is-there was a deep tunnel way in the middle of the mound for a long period. Later it was blocked by cement. Some new facts regarding this tunnel can be unveiled by engraving the hole again. One front of this tunnel is ended up at ‘Ichai Sarovar’. It is said that this side was concreted with stones in steps and was finished to the ghat. There is no trace of these things now. Let’s go back again to Dacoit-Kali temple,by sighing a breath for this forgotten chapter of history.
Once, this temple was the hiding place for so many revolutionaries. Thus the main enchanting mantra of this temple is ‘Vandematramm’. Still the altar of the old temple and a part of broken wall stuck in the prop roots of banyan tree,can be seen. The present temple is built by a devotee named Mamata Bajpayee from Kolkata beside the original one. The members of Chattopadhyay family from the village of Kansara, Mejia in Bankura are acting as priests by maintaining the family tradition.
The annual occasion of this temple is celebrated on the day of ‘Bhut Chaturdasi’, that means the day before Kali Puja. A number of devotees come to this temple from far away. Once upon a time, the temple and this celebration was the meeting time for the revolutionaries in the age of fire. Most of them are no more today. In a conversation with Milan Babu,we came to know that once the ‘Ichai Sarovar’ was full to its brim. The fish of this lake was then cooked to be served as the offerings to God. Now hardly one can find water,it is covered with weeds only. So the offerings to Maa Kali is purely vegetarian now.
We came out of the temple by offering prayers and chanting ‘Vandematramm’ along with ‘Jay Jay Bharatbarsham’ in mind.