I am capturing my memory from my early childhood; it made me feel pleasant every time it passed through my mind. I know, one day my son will read and love this write up, as I had always loved hearing stories from my mother and father about their childhood time. Yes, Mainaguri was the village where I groomed my youth.
The memories of my childhood days spent at Mainaguri village (now town) in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal are still fresh in my mind. Such memories led me to compare the existing situation in India, in general, and in villages, in particular, with the past. An analysis left me sad for the undesirable transformation which India has undergone over the last few decades. Those were really golden days.
Our village was famous for the Maina Maa (Kali ) Temple, the Jalpesh (Shiva) and Petkati (kali) temple. Petkati Kali Temple is an ancient Kali temple located in Mainaguri in the district of Jalpaiguri . Petkati Kali Temple was also mentioned in Satyajit Ray’s crime thriller ‘ Royal Bengal Rahasya’ as ‘Kata Thakuranir Mandir’. Dasbhuja Goddess Vigraha is seated on the inflamed lotus here. In the left side It has two broken hands and the remaining three have been holding elephants, human skeleton and veena ( musical instruments). One the other side one right hand has been broken and the other four are holding elephants, human head, human skeleton and bell. On both sides there are statues of foxes and peacocks. (ref: তিন তীর্থে, শিবশঙ্কর ভারতী, সাহিত্যম্, ১৮বি, শ্যামাচরণ দে স্ট্রিট, কলকাতা-৭৩, প্রথম প্রকাশ- ১৮ই জানুয়ারী, ২০০১ ). Kalapahad or Kala Pahar was a Muslim General of Bengal Sultanate under the reigning Karrani Dynasty, who is mentioned in the Mughal Empire records as the one who attacked Cooch Bihar with his army to tear down the Pet Kati or Kata Thakurani temple. His original name was Rajiblochon Roy (Bhaduri). Later he converted to Islam. That is a different story.
Jalpesh Temple is an old temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is situated at a distance of around 15 km from Jalpaiguri town. It was built by the last successor of King Baghadatta, called Jalpash, who built the temple around 800 AD. The temple bears a long history to trace back. Bhaktiyar Khilji when invaded Kamrup destroyed this temple of Jalpesh. However, one of the Kings of Bhutan again restored it in the 12th century. But subsequently the temple was lost in the jungle. Again, in the year 1665, King Pranannarayan of the Cooch Behar dynasty excavated the temple site and re-established the temple. Then after refusing to hold the Royal Umbrella at the coronation of the then King Luxminarayan of Cooch Bihar, in 1621 Mahi Deb Raikut, signified his independence and refused to pay tribute. From then onwards the temple of Jalpesh was looked after by the Raikat’s of Baikunthopur.
It was reconstructed by Rani Jagedeswari Devi, the wife of Raja Jogendra Deb Raikut on Jan 30 1899.
The Jalpesh Mela (fair) was celebrated for one month at a stretch. It attracted crowds from all surrounding villages and towns. Ray also mentioned Jalpesh Temple in the same thriller. Small traders from all over North Bengal participated in this mahamela. Children, and even adults, used to crowd the shops for the whole day. Things which attracted the women wear, cookware of all types, readymade clothes and cosmetics. The children liked howai mittai, a sweetmeat in white colors. Jilapi (Jalebi) was an attraction as well. Girls used to crowd ribbon, bangle and wooden and doll shops and boys crowded shops selling kites and tops. There were bioscopes through which we can see “cinema bits” and the merry-go-rounds, and folk arts performances provided us enough entertainment. The best part of the Jalpesh Mela was the display of religious tolerance.
The Jalpesh Temple is approximately 4 kilometers away from Mainaguri, and is dedicated to Lord Jalpeshwar (Siva). The temple was built in a style similar to Islamic architecture. Inside the temple, there is a Shivling. Mahashivaratri is the key festival celebrated in this temple.
Our village had panchayat-run Bengali medium primary and secondary schools. Private schools were unheard of. Students belonging to the rich, middle and poor classes studied in the same school. Our teachers were respected by not only students but also by the village elders. Independence and Republic days were celebrated with patriotism. Life was simple and stress-free. We spent our childhood playing out on the paddy field, the open ground for the entire evenings. We played in rainy and summer seasons. We played in mud and clay, but were never discouraged from playing for a long time and we never felt sick because of dust or pollution. We never had heavy homework. Going to school was fun since we could meet all our friends and exchange our eatables. We studied before the examinations. English was introduced only from Standard V. Yet many of us could get higher educational qualifications and a decent status in our life.
Mainaguri village was very beautiful that time. It was packed with coconut trees and beautiful green paddy fields. The ponds were protected by the coconut trees and palm trees lined up around them. I can still feel the chillness of breeze in my memory that came from the fluttering rice plants, when we walked through this almost deserted road. As a child, I exactly felt in love for the beauty of the waving rice plants with their exclusive “shhh” sound from the breeze.
There were 407 bus and haat bus that ran through the road in some long intervals. In the mud near our house I could see, there were one or two farmers walking with a towel tied around their head. Some women carried hay in their head when they were coming back home to feed cows. Today, I was curious to walk more on those roads or just be there for some extra time to be in part of the loneliness of nature.
There was also ‘haat’ at notun(new) bazar area twice in a week (probably Wednesday and Friday) apart from a fixed market at purono(old) bazar area. A ‘haat’, is an open-air market that functions as a trading venue for local people in rural areas of Bengal. ‘Haat’ are conducted once, twice, or three times a week and in some places every two weeks. Every Wednesday and Friday as the sun comes up into the sky, huge blue plastic bags and large gunny sacks were brought in on strong and able shoulders in Mainaguri haat. There were over-stuffed tempos and arguing van drivers. Haat was such a place where you could get variety of things to buy, and, that too, on a cheaper rate. From vegetables, grocery, dress materials, household articles, shoes, watches to sweets and snacks – everything was on display at Mainaguri haat
We lived in a big house. It was beautifully constructed with multiple bedrooms, drawing room, study room, wash rooms, kitchen, verandah and a “well” in the backyard and lot of trees in the backyard. There were bamboo trees, beetle tree, mango tree, jackfruit tree, guava tree, litchi tree and lots of flower plants which my mom planted. I loved the rustling sound of bamboo trees, when there was a breeze. When there were strong winds, the bamboo trees bent to the earth and came back. Whether it was breeze or storm, the sound of bamboo trees was very much soothing and perfect for the late afternoons. I loved the house. My mom fetched water from the well for all the household uses. We drank that water from the panchayat run tap water. School time was wonderful with friends, studies wasn’t the first importance at all! However, we studied together and got appreciated together with friends but punished as well if any of our friends scored higher than us! We weren’t forced with tons of books and a huge syllabus, as we hardly had 5 subjects till 6th grade. Today we have 6 subjects in Kindergarten!
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