We were looking for someplace for our weekend-long drive and the name “Mukutmanipur” came up. Now honestly, the last time that I went there was when I was studying in class 9, so let’s not count that. And obviously, another attraction was that the road to Mukutmannipur crossed Beliatore and Bankura- remember the “Sweets Of Bengal” project of mine? And one Friday morning, we started for the place.
How to go
Mukutmanipur is approximately 5 hours drive from Kolkata. You take the road towards Durgapur and follow Google map (at least that’s what we did. A breakfast break at Azaad Hind Dhaba and again we started. The road is fantastic and a treat to drive. Considering a one-hour breakfast break and one tea break, we reached Mukutmanipur in 6 hours straight.
The nature resort at Mukutmanipur is at a slightly elevated area from the main road beside the dam. There is ample parking spot (open) inside. The rooms are made as a unit with 2 rooms in one unit. They are named by tree names. Now, here is the trick. If you take the Sal/ Piyal rooms or that unit, the rooms are much bigger and there is a private portico on the first floor. Tranquility is the keyword for that unit.
Wherein, the Amlaki/ Haritaki unit has a superb view of the dam from the rooms, but rooms are comparatively smaller in size. The dining area is at a walking distance from the rooms and it’s quite an uphill task. Considering the manpower available, the service is pretty decent and food, good. AC’s work and hot water are available. They serve food to your room and honestly, you should not expect anything else. Overall, I like the place and will definitely go back again.
Activities at the dam
An afternoon drive to the dam is definitely recommended. There is a 14 km driveway on it. A free entrance pass is needed and the place is brilliant for photo-op. A boat ride is available (1500/- for the full boat for a 2-hour ride). There is a ticketed system available, but we didn’t check for it. It’s a fantastic lazy ride and definitely recommended.
And finally Bankura
But the main idea of the trip (for me, at least) was to check the famous sweets at Bankura. And my good friend Amitava (Felu Modak Rishra) pointed me to meet Mr. Jayanta Barat at Kalika Mishtanna Bhandar, Bankura. Kalika Mishtannnna Bhandar or Kalika Sweets is located at Ranigunj More, Bankura town and the location can be found at Google Maps here. Let me be honest, it’s a pretty shabby looking shop. But once you start hearing the stories, it’s surprising. To start with, it’s a 150+-year-old shop. And when it started, literally, it was a village and Mr. Barat now is the fourth generation businessman.
A bit about Kalakand
I’ve heard Kalakand originated in Alwar, Rajasthan and with one Bhatia Brothers traveling to Jhumri Talaiya, it became a legend. But when Jayanta Da told me that his great grandfather invented the Kalakand, I was a bit skeptic.
The color should be like Kala – ripe banana and there should be kand or pores on the surface. The name Kalakand came from these two words and it was us, who had invented it first at Bankura
I can’t say, it was true or a bit exaggerated, but the man spoke with such confidence, that it was hard to not to believe him. Also, he said, another characteristic of a good Kalakand is that it should ooze ghee- that’s what makes it different. And actually, the kalakand at Kalika Sweets is probably among the best that I’ve tasted in my life. It was subtle in taste- not overly sweet and the aroma of ghee made it stand out. Honestly, I don’t care about the origin, as long as they make a superior product like this.
Also, at this small shop tucked inside Bankura, the Darbesh was made with Besan (made from powdered Split Bengal Gram). I’m not very sure whether it had anything to do with the local fascination with Besan or any special reason, but it tasted delicious. The hati khaja- the gigantic khaja was another marvel there.
Now, this item, Khaja, is an ancient sweet. We can see its mention at Manasollasa– the early twelfth-century book. This sweet is extremely popular in Oudh, Agra and also Bihar and Orissa. In Orissa, the shape is slightly different, but the essence of the layered puff pastry remained the same.
Kalika Sweets is definitely proud of their Rasogolla. Now, I can classify Rasogolla broadly into two categories- the urban sponge Rasogolla and the rustic soft rasogolla. The usage of Suji makes all the difference. Now, I am not qualified enough to go into the recipe details, so let’s skip that part. But, in this small town Bankura, they definitely made a superior product. It was soft and spongy at the same time. I’ve somehow lost the picture for Rasogolla there- my apologies for the same. The monda was good, but nothing extraordinary.
Kol Naru was rather interesting stuff. It was a modak shaped Laddoo made with boondi. This item is made typically after the Puja or on special orders.
Overall, if someone is studying the Sweets of Bengal Districts, Bankura definitely has to be taken into account. I am not very sure about the origin of Kalakand- whether it was invented in Alwar and traveled to Bankura, or it’s the other was round, but all I can say is that the product is superior to most of the hyped places.
I am sure there are many more hidden gems and places in Bankura. Do let me know about them so that I can go and have an experience. Till then, cheers !!!
Bon apetit !!!
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