Thongsa GompaWest Bengal
Religious | Scenic
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The Sweetest part of India, West Bengal is the land of diversity. The state shares its borders with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, and is the gateway to many a scenic wonder. With one of the richest cultural heritage, the state is a wonderland for travellers waiting to explore the depths of his travel fantasies. From the cultural heritage at Shantiniketan, to the thrill of the Royal Bengal Tiger in the mangroves of Sunderban, the idyllic beaches of Mandarmani & Digha, to the call of the Himalayas in the north, the famous Toy train ride in Darjeeling to chasing wildlife in their natural habitat in Dooars, and everything in between – you name it and the state it ready to mesmerize you with its beauty.
Kolkata, or the erstwhile Calcutta, is the most important city of West Bengal, home to the quintessential Bengali Babumoshai. The state has given birth to countless scholars from different walks of life, and is easily the home of the cultural renaissance in India. Known for the warmth of the hosts, Bengali’s obsession with food, adda and travel are world famous. The language is as sweet as their food and hospitality, and undoubtedly it is a must-visit destination for every world traveller.
Bengalis love fish and have a sweet tooth. The maach vaat is truly the staple Bengali lunch in every household, regardless of their social standing. For the non vegetarian foodies who are travelling to Bengal, you should not miss the steamed Hilsa fish curry in mustard sauce and the Jumbo prawns served in coconut shells. There are a host of other fish recipes you must try – Pabda, Topshe, Vetki to name a few. If you are a red meat lover, your pick is the Kosha Mangsho – a unique preparation of mutton in thick gravy cooked with a combination of rich Indian spices.
Most of Bengal eats non-veg, but vegetarians too will be impressed with Bengal’s vegetarian cuisine. Do not miss the Shukto (bitter mixed vegetables), Enchorer Dalna – green Jackfruit curry, Dhoka dalna (Cubes of grounded pulses in spicy thick gravy), Channar dalna (cottage cheese balls in gravy).
And when talking about food, who can miss Kolkata’s famous street food? For starters, Bengal streets serve the best Fuchka (not golgappa or panipuri); visit Vivekananda Park, Victoria Memorial, Rammandir and Ultadanga to sample some. Follow it up with the egg chicken rolls at Park street, New market and Ballygung. Try the veg and non-veg chops, cutlets and fish fry at North Kolkata eateries.
Dessert time. When in Bengal, you must taste Bengali sweets – they are to die for! Rasogolla – a round ball of cottage cheese dipped in warm sugar syrup – is the ultimate poison for Bengalis. Originated in Bengal, besides the classic simple white rasogolla, today there a wide variety of flavours available, all really good. Common rasogolla varieties are chocolate, mango, strawberry, vanilla and gurer rasogolla (gur- jagerry syrup). Other must try delicacies are Misti doi, Sandesh, Malpoa, Channar payesh (sweetened milk delicacy), and patisapta (coconut or kheer filled delicacies).
Wrap it up with a sweet paan!
For any tourist or backpacker visiting Bengal, the annual Durga Puja is an overwhelming experience. It is the biggest celebration of Bengal, unlike any other in the whole world. The entire population of Bengal dresses up in their best and gathers on the streets making it a huge loving happy family. Humans of all ages come out pandal hopping, eating out and making merry. The women in sari and the men in ethnic wear look their gorgeous best. There’s music in the air, of dhaak, kashor, and ghonta – unique musical instruments associated with Durga Puja. The streets light up before dusk, the intoxicating fragrances of incense sticks and dhuno (resin incense burnt on coconut husk) mesmerize, and the frenzy continues for 5 days – making it a unique cultural experience for a foreigner. Schedule your visit in a way that you get to spend at least one day in the city during Durga Puja. But remember – as an outsider in the state, it will help to be hosted by someone you know, else stay put in your hotel and stand by the window for the views. Tune in to any cable channel for live updates from all corners of the city.
Other notable festivals include “Dol Jatra” ( festival of color), “Kali Puja”, Rath Jatra and Saraswati Puja ( Bengali valentines day). Famous places of dol jatra celebrations are Nabadwip and Shnantiniketan.
A word of caution for the peaceful traveller – you will experience utter commotion, congestion, traffic and noise on the streets. And at the same, you will witness happiness lights and laughter all around. Know what you are getting into.
West Bengal is, in a lot of ways, the cultural hub of India. Kolkata has been the main center of educational excellence, as well as excellence in spheres of art, science, literature, philosophy and music. The most notable cultural hub of West Bengal is Tagore’s Shantiniketan in Bolpur, where he built the Visva Bharati University, one of India’s most renowned centres of higher learning. Additionally, the Presidency college and the Calcutta University are among the top centres of learning in Bengal.
Besides education, art takes precedence in Bengal, especially in Shantiniketan. All forms of performing arts, music, dance, literature were an integral part of Tagore’s education system. Baul evolved as a folk music form in Bolpur, as did the art of batik on handloom.
Other parts of cultural interest in WB include Bankura and Purulia. Bankura has the largest number of historical temples than anywhere in the state, with their magnificent temple art, architecture and construction. Bishnupur, in Bankura, is renowned for its exquisite terracotta carvings, as well as its rich handloom (Baluchari and Swarnachuri sarees made of tussar silk with intricate designs of mythological figures). Purulia also boasts of a rich cultural heritage drawing considerable influences from the neighbouring states of Jharkhand and Orissa. Purulia is famous for its Chhou dance, Jhumur song and other folk culture of Tusu and Bhadu songs.
When you are visiting any part of West Bengal, there are some excellent pieces of art that can be bought as a souvenir from this place, and gift your friends and family.
Depending on your budget, there are a whole lot of Traditional Indian souvenirs to choose from. Bengal’s handloom is one of the richest in the country. Choose from the simple and classic cotton taant sarees, or the elaborate Kantha stitch, even from the wide variety of gorgeous Bengal silk. Bengal’s hand-spun modest Khadi has made a comeback as a sought after comfort fabric, and you may pick a sample to take back with you. Other souvenir options in Bengal include Bishnupur terracotta sculptures, wall paintings, and fancy jute handicrafts. There are a wide variety of traditional local musical instruments that are an equally unique parting souvenir from the state like the ektara and flute. You must buy a sample Darjeeling tea if visiting up north – the wide range of exclusive Darjeeling flavoured tea is world renowned among tea connoisseurs.
Bengali language is the most widely spoken language in all of Bengal. That said, West Bengal in itself has several dialects within its parts – up north people speak differently, influenced from the neighboring hills, and in the south the dialect changes drastically. However, in the cities and towns people are well versed with Hindi as well as English. Men in Bengal are commonly referred to as Dada (meaning brother) and less frequently as Babumoshai (a name immortalised in the 80’s in Bollywood). Married women are referred to as Boudi (sister in law) and maidens as didi (sister). Elderly women are often called maashi/pishi (or aunt).
By Road: This monastery is at the meeting point of RC Mintri and K D Pradhan roads in Kalimpong. Hire any car from Darjeeling and reach this place with no problem.
By Train: The New Jalpaiguri is the nearest rail head. It has connecting trains to Ranchi, Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Sitamarhi and other places.
By Air: Bagdogra is the closest airport to reach this Gompa by air. It has regular flights to the cities like Mumbai, Kolkata in India, Bangkok and Thimphu.GET DIRECTION
Hill Top Tourist Lodge, Elgin Silver Oaks, Orchid Retreat, Dhardo Retreat and many such hotels are spread across Kalimpong.
There are ample food joints, cafes, and restaurants in Kalimpong catering local fares like churpee, momos, dalle and others.
Private cars, shared taxis and buses are the main local transports. Toy train is also an important means of local transport in North Bengal.
From March till June are the most preferred months to explore this place.
The striking architecture of the renovated building, small prayer flags, calm and serene environment, prayer hall, and regular mediation classes are the main attractions of this Gompa! Besides, Buddha Purnima and mask dance are the famous festivals of this monastery.
The Ghoom monastery: Situated 8000 feet above the sea level, Ghoom Monastery plays a pivotal role in Tibetan Buddhism!