Around the concrete city life of Kolkata there are many impressive rustic getaways but nothing is as appealing and charming as the tiny village of Bawali.
The name can be traced back to its first settlers, forest dwellers called Baule. Through generations it has adapted different accents to become ‘Bawali’. This town is a short 30-km drive from the Bengali capital but its lifestyle and rustic charm remains as it was.
Take the trail
Chunky stone pathways connect Bawali across the numerous ponds that dot this village. Walk away on this trail to discover an incredible mix of history and topography.
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A few metres away from Bawali High School is the dilapidated Gopinath Temple. This ancient brick temple has weathered its life out and all that stands today is the gorgeous brick arches and the magnificently high dome, with weed and foliage growing out of it. The neighbouring 300-year old Radha Krishna Temple is still functional, thanks to a local Brahmin who attends to the place.
Beyond the village houses, into the thick forests beside the marshy ponds, the exquisite Jaltuni Bagan stands gracefully amidst hundreds of water hyacinth. This used to be an outdoor entertainment space for the kings. What remains today of this palatial splendour is the octagonal gazebo in the centre, a broken iron bridge that used to connect it to land, and at a distance a brick patio where the king would be seated.
About 10km away from Bawali High School is Burul Ghat—River Hooghly embankment. Perhaps the most popular time to be here is morning and early evening when the tide is low and many fishermen try and catch the smaller fish like shrimps. Making this a tourist-friendly spot, there are a few concrete sheds at vantage points to admire the river. The horizon under the dramatic sky is gorgeous and a sight for the sore eyes.
A little ahead of Nodakhali junction, one gets to see handmade skills in abundance. A veteran idol maker remains busy as orders for goddess Durga idols come in as early as 10 months before the festival. A short turn away a couple of nondescript workshops with craftsmen skilled in zari work line this road. It’s a delight to see these skills in execution.
In the heart of the village is the restored heritage property of Rajbari Bawali. With stories told by Samar Mondol, one of the descendants from the original family owners of the rajbari, the character and grandeur of this boutique hotel grows.
Ajay Rawla, Kolkata-based businessman, restored the once-dilapidated zamindar home to what it is today. The hotel has rooms across budgets and therapeutic open spaces with an ashram, a swimming pool and a pond—encompassing Bawali’s countryside charm. For those who seek to indulge in wellness, their spa, Mantra, has expert therapists.
The elaborate Zamindari thali showcases Bengali royalty at its best. From a selection of best vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, this thali has everything from mutton, prawns, cottage cheese and desserts—prepared in a traditional Bengali way. A word of caution: Rajbari Bawali’s meal may be a bit too large for the light eater.
-Auto rickshaws are the most preferred mode of transport within the town.
-Rajbari Bawali organises boat rides on River Hooghly and cycle excursions around the village seasonally.
-Since Bawali has many ponds, mosquitoes are plenty. Carry a mosquito repellent while travelling.