THE MIGHTY Himalayas in the North; the fathomless Bay of Bengal in the South; the mountains and dense forests, the rolling Gangetic plains and the near impregnable mangrove forests of the Sunderbans with its unique eco-system if nature has to be seen at her kindest best, then one has to visit West Bengal.
The snow-capped peaks in the winter, the sweltering heat of the summers, the rain-washed deluges of the monsoons, the nip in the autumn air, the riot of colours heralding the arrival of the spring – it is in Bengal that one can cherish the seasons at their majestic best. Here, in the cornucopia of nature’s bounties, live a people whose hospitality is as legendary as their ability to welcome all in a celebration of union; a people whose traditions may be as solid as the mountain ranges in the North, but whose culture is as fluid and inclusive as the mighty Ganges that soothes the parched land – moulding life as it moves on, spreading prosperity of incalculable proportions. Little wonder then that legend says there were a thousand roads leading to Bengal in the days of yore – not one leading away from it.
Bengal has a fair share of natural wonders to attract tourists. Historical sites, architectural marvels, built legacies from an illustrious past, traditions seeped in history – she has everything that tourists need to satisfy their wanderlust. She also has on offer experiences that are unique to her, things that are exclusively Bengali. Things that make Bengal a must-visit destination.
Here tourism trails connect tradition al legacies of hospitality and warmth with a culture that celebrates unity in diversity celebrating Life in all its myriad hues. And it is from here that the concept of culturally oriented, inclusive and sustainable tourism has emerged.
This tourism is not about linking stray sites and building them up as soulless destinations of brick and mortar with historical facts strewn in as an additional measure. On the contrary, in Bengal, tourism is more of an experience an ecosystem in its own right crafted around a specific attraction that is as human and cultural as it is natural or historical. Take the Rural Craft Hubs of Bengal for example village hubs have been created around the traditional art forms of the people. Hubs where tourists can meet the actual practitioners of these ancient legacies – take part in the process of creation of living heritage – and then take a tour of the nearby attractions both built, non-built and natural, the development of this model of tourism has literally opened up the horizon for a number of reasons.
For one, new destinations have been created, which has reduced the stress on the popular, traditional tourist spots leading to their de-congestion Secondly, these spots, scattered as they are in the different corners of the state, have really helped spread tourism, creating a demand pull that has added to the tourist base with more and more locals moving out to touch base with the shared traditions. Thirdly, such culture based tourism has become a big draw with both national and international travelers seeking their fill of exotic cultural traditions.
These destinations have also helped push the State Government’s efforts to take socio-economic development to the grassroots as tourist arrivals are helping create necessary infrastructure in their wake, often supplementing the Government’s efforts through private participation And needless to say, the creation of infrastructure to support tourism, in effect, means the flow of resources into these hitherto unknown regions with the obvious benefits of employment generation and financial empowerment. When money flows into the economy at the micro level, the end result is often manifested in non-monetised outcomes like improved health and sanitation, spread of education and greater sensitivity to gender issues. In other words, tourism has been unshackled as an enabler in Bengal – a model that has already been taken note of by the agencies of development around the world and is even being honored by replication in different parts of the country and the world.
Such tourism initiatives have also addressed a Yawning gap that afflicts the traditional art and crafts sector around the world – that of last mile connectivity. In other words, artists and craftsper.. sons have suffered because of an abject lack of market connectivity down the ages as, creative as they are, they have traditionally lacked both the wherewithal and the capabilities to reach out to those who comprise their market. With the tourist trails now linking them up, the artists can create contacts and spread their ware in front of a much bigger, appreciative audience with obvious financial gains. This entire process has been further strengthened by the Government which has, very rightly, incorporated the local village festivals – Melas as they are called in Bengal – into the tourism calendar. These Melas, which were once localised affairs, have now started meta morphosing into standalone events attracting huge footfalls and acting as platforms to showcase local talent.
But it is not only traditional art and crafts that are driving the tourism effort. Spiritual Tourism that lets the pilgrim establish a soul-connect; historical tourism that helps the seeker relive events from the past; and nature tourism that allows the weary to nestle in the bosom of nature and free the mind and the body from the toxins of modern life are all gathering momentum under the aegis of the department of tourism, playing out the grand vision of the Chief Minister who has taken it on herself to put the state on the global tourist map.
And these efforts are not just restricted to the land – a ride up the river Ganges as she meanders towards the sea has also been made available. A journey that traverses both space and time as the travelers are exposed not only to the places of historical significance on her banks, but can also sample the influence the river has had on the land, shaping the destiny of the people who draw their sustenance from her.
Another draw is the cuisine of Bengal a melting pot of synthesis of the union of influences, of the celebration of all matters gastronomic Here Biryanis from Central Asia, Anglo-Indian creations, Chinese cuisine that is uniquely local in its flavour and recipes from every conceivable Indian palate Peacefully cohabit on the plates, moving through a constant state of flux as the road-side food vendors of Kolkata add their personal twists creating a revolution of another kind, It is to this unique ability to cook up a storm that can be dealt with a fork and a knife (not to mention the use of fingers, as is the local norm) that has also been Woven into the tourism trail. The best way to a man’s heart, in Kolkata is still through the stomach And yes, Bengal is more than the customary Rosogolla and Mishti Doi. In fact, it is much, much more.
So come over. Let us indulge your senses. You too will go back a convert.
If you are planing for Bangal or Sunderban tour, Traveoport Holidays will help you.