People from Kolkata really some quiet time in nature to soothe their tired nerves. Baranti is an ideal setting for your break. It is place filled with beautiful hills, lakes and woods.
Located in the Purulia district and very close to Asansol, Baranti is a beautiful village. Except for a few hotels, most of the people there are the innocent Santhali tribal people. Sal and Palash fill the lal maati landscape like a painting.
As morning arrives your ears will not be rudely woken by your alarm but lulled by the beautiful sounds of birds. As the forest area surrounds this place, many kinds of birds frolic the trees and the lakes. In winter, you will also see hordes of migratory birds in the lakes.
Earlier Baranti was used as a picnic spot by the people in Asansol and surrounding areas. In the winters, the weather is ideal for a day out amidst the sunny sky and green forest. Due to its natural beauty, it attracted the attention of many travelers in Kolkata. Today it has become a popular location to spend the weekend or a few days of holiday.
The beauty of Baranti is its special location. There is the famous Baranti Lake which is most popular for its sunset photographs. This lake is situated in between two hillocks called as the Muradi and Baranti Hills. Actually this lake is not natural but manmade. The lake is the result of an irrigation project to provide water to particular areas of Purulia. It is called the Ramchandrapur Irrigation Project and this water is used for civil and farming purpose. The Ramchandrapur Dam was built on the Machkhandajore River and perhaps it is because of this dam that Baranti has become so popular. Now this 900 meter long irrigation area remains filled with water all throughout the year and has become just like a natural lake.
Hundreds of migratory birds visit this Baranti Lake every year in the winter season. The lake is also used for growing fishes. The delicious rui and katla fish that the tourists in Baranti hotels are served come from this lake itself.
Another interesting aspect of Baranti lake is that one side of the hillocks is the village of Baranti and the other side of this dam and lake is Muradi. Both of these places are equally loved by visitors, and especially photographers for the sublime sunset. Muradi Hill and Baranti Hill also offers a lot of adventure. If you want to explore, you can trek in these hillocks. It is not that difficult to climb the hillocks with a little effort. When you reach the top and see the panoramic view, it will be worth the try.
At the foot of the hills there is also a small village of the Santal people. The Santals have been living in these forests for hundreds of years. You can arrange a guide to let you visit their village and see their unique ritual and lifestyle. They worship their deity Marang Buru who is the God of mountain and Jaher Ayo , the Goddess of forest. In the winter season, their annual festival Sohrai is celebrated. It is the ritual to decorate their house with painting. The women paint the outside of their hut’s mud walls with amazing tribal art. This form of tribal art is considered very valuable in the global community of archaeologists. It is said that this tribal painting of Santals is being practiced since 10,000 BC. In other words, this is a form cave painting. Even today the Santals put into practice this cave art in their house. Do not miss this one!
Baranti has many places to see all day but it is best used as a spot where you can simply spend the day laying around in the sunlight and under the trees, breathing in pure oxygen away. Stay away from any noise or sound pollution. It feels good to be lazy here. You can stroll and wander the red mud trails or the lal maatir rasta without any worries.
During the blooming time, the Palash trees simply transform the ground into an astonishing red carpet of nature. The smell of Mohua will softly start to intoxicate you.
The forests around have smaller wild animals like the wolf, fox and bear. Elephants can also be found but it is not easy to spot them and one has to go deep into the forest. However you may be lucky to spot some wild boar, rabbit, deer, mongoose or a porcupine. The Baranti hill area also has a secret. It is home to a wide variety of butterflies. It is mesmerizing to watch so many of these winged beauties.
Visitors get another amazing experience in Baranti at night. It may be one of the most beautiful experiences you could ever have. Hundreds of fireflies gather at night, especially near the Baranti Lake. Imagine standing in the dark night without any artificial lights anywhere and being surrounded by hundreds of fireflies around you. It truly becomes a magical world around you.
Baranti Lake is a great fishing spot also. As this place is maintained by Ramchandrapur Irrigation Project you might have to do take permission for fishing. Fishing equipment is also available at rent. You can also camp near the lake and fish your time away.
In a safety point of view, till date Baranti is quite safe for tourists to wander around even at night. However, if you are doing a bonfire, the smell of roasted chicken may attract a wolf or a hyena from the forest!
Related: Visit the Kashmir of Orissa
How to go
Nearest airport is Kolkata.
Take a train to Asansol from Kolkata. Many trains are available from Sealdah or Howrah Station to reach Asansol. From Asansol you have to take a private car to Baranti. One option is to take the Ranchi Shatabdi express train that leaves Howrah Station at 6.05 in the morning. You will be served tea, water etc on the way. It will reach Asansol at 8.22 am and almost always runs on right time. From there you can hire a car to Baranti but it is better to ask your hotel to arrange for a pick up. It will take about an hour and half to reach Baranti from Asansol by car.
From Asansol you can also take a local train to Muradi station. From there, autos, rickshaws and taxis are available to take you to Baranti. It is only 6 km away from Muradi station.
It is approximately 260 km from Kolkata by road and on an average it will take about 5 to 6 hours to drive. Take Durgapur expressway to Raniganj, turn left to Mejia Ghat Bridge, and drive to Saltora. From Saltora, take right turn ahead towards Baranti.
By bus you can also come to Asansol or Ranigunj. From Ranigunj, mini bus is available for Saltora. From there you can take a rickshaw or auto to Baranti. Another way is to come to Adra by train from Howrah station and then take a transport till Baranti.
There is also a less taken route of trekking from Asansol to Baranti with a professional guide.
Hotels in Baranti
There are many budget and premium hotels in Baranti. Nowadays many hotels in Baranti are offering tour packages that cover many other tourist destinations around Baranti. Hotels in Baranti are also coming up with camp facilities so that tourists can have a full experience of nature.
All hotels in Baranti have their own restaurant or food service. You will hardly find any eateries outside the hotels in Baranti. Maybe you can get a few chai shops and snacks at the most. Most hotels in Baranti serve Bengali food. The freshly caught fish from the lake makes the food quite palatable. In some hotels in Baranti you might find cuisines other than Bengali, like North Indian and Chinese.
You can visit Baranti anytime of the year but the summers are dry and uncomfortable. In summers, the evening time is pleasant. Visitors prefer to take walks in the forest in the early morning and enjoy the coolness under the trees. Winter is the best time to visit Baranti. Hotels in Baranti may get booked in advance in the winter season so remember to get your rooms booked before you come.
Some hotels in Baranti also provide additional services like bonfire and tribal dance.
Resorts of Baranti
There are two reasons why there is a rising popularity of resorts in Baranti. First is the pure experience of nature and forest. Secondly Baranti has beautiful sunny weather with ample attractions around the place. Resorts in Baranti would be more expensive than staying in hotels but if you want to spend a few days in luxury, go for it. The accommodation prices of resorts in Baranti may range from Rs. 1500 to 12,000 per night. It depends on the quality of service and the ambience the resorts are offering to provide for you.
Some well known resorts in Baranti are the Palashbari, Spangle Wings Resort and Ankhaibari family village resort. Some of these resorts provide tent rooms on their ground with modern facilities. You can also use their tour packages to see around Baranti. When you plan to stay at the resort in Baranti, ask them if there are any festivals or occasions coming up of the tribes and if they arrange tours for that. These kinds of trips will give you an unforgettable experience of Baranti and the Purulia area.
Recently the tourism department of the state government has taken initiatives to make the area of Baranti and Purulia more tourist friendly. Out of the many plans, one effort is to develop more resorts in Baranti.
Hotels in Purulia
In case you do not get reservation or do not want to stay at Baranti, there are many options available. There are ample hotels in Purulia. One of the best hotels in Purulia is provided by the WBFDC (West Bengal Forest Department Corporation Limited). The Garpanchkot Prokriti Bharaman Kendra is quite popular in Purulia. In this case, you can enjoy the beauty of both Garhpanchkot and Baranti. These two destinations are about 25 km. The best part about Baranti and other areas in Purulia is that it has a lot to offer to the traveler. Do not plan to see it all at once. Stay for at least two days. To know about Garhpanchkot, see here.
Depending on the hotel in Purulia that you choose to stay, they may offer or arrange for the visitors to visit the nearby attractions. Many tourists, especially women prefer to visit the Raghunathpur town. It is well known for its silk fabrics. Many buy silk from there as it costs quite low there than from the markets in Kolkata.
What more to do
Be sure to watch the sunrise around the hills and sunset beside the lake. Wander along the Baranti and Muradi hills and stroll around the dam. If you want you can go deeper into the forests but do take a guide along with you. You can get lost or might even come across a wild animal. You can also visit the good people of the Santhal village and even buy a few things from them. If you like fishing, you can spend all day fishing at the Baranti Lake.
There are many more spots to visit around Baranti. The most popular is the Biharinath Tample. It is a dense forest area of the Eastern Ghats and the Biharinath hill is the tallest one in its district. Located in the forest is an old Lord Shiva temple, popularly called as the Biharinath Dham. The Damodar River flows nearby and this area is one of incomparable beauty and serenity. If you want to trek up the Biharinath hill, you can hire a local guide at a very low rate who will guide you to the top through the dense foliage. People also like to take a dip in the Damodar River but it is not recommended as it many areas of quicksand.
You can also pay a visit to Garhpanchkot, see more here. Some people also visit the Maithon Dam which is about 33 km away. This huge dam is made on the Barakar River, which is actually a tributary of Damodar.
If you have an extra day in your itinerary, do visit the Ayodhya Pahar. The hills are actually part of the Dalma, famous for its elephants. Ayodhya Hills is a very charming spot for nature lovers and explorers. The area is filled with streams and waterfalls. You can climb the hills and enjoy the picturesque panoramic view. The area is full of smaller wild animals and numerous species of birds.
Other than Ayodhya Pahar you can also visit Joychandi and Susunia Pahar. These destinations are growing as popular rock climbing destinations. Even if you do not want to go for an adventure, you could enjoy the peace and greenery around the place. Around the new year, a celebration takes place known as the Joychandi Pahar Pariyatan Utsav. It is a great time to enjoy local artists showing their art and talent and handicrafts.
One more popular spot tourists visit in Baranti is the Kashipur Rajbari. The Rajbari makes an interesting visit although it is now abandoned and unoccupied. The best time to visit it is during the Durga Puja when the old Goddess Durga Temple is opened for all to visit and experience the old zamindari days.
Note – Please keep the place clean and in nature as you found it. If you have to throw any plastic bottle or bag, keep it with yourself and throw it in the hotel dustbin only. Also, the village folk are very innocent and honest, be nice when you interact with them.
Here is a video by YouTuber Arig Chakraborty showing the peace and serenity around Baranti –
Image credits: baranti.blogspot.in, indiamike.com, palashbari123.blogspot.com, tripadvisor.in, Wikimedia Commons, tribalartofhazaribagh.blogspot.com