East Himalaya

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Xuan Zang’s Maynaguri, a lost trade and culture hub of Southeast Asia

Millions of Indians have joined the queue since last evening to please Lord Shiva across the country. on the occasion of Shiva Ratri.  
This has been a tradition with the Heritage Jalpesh Temple of Maynaguri from time unknown. The 10 days Jalpesh Mela (festival) inaugurated by the District Magistrate of Jalpaiguri District, Bandana Yadav yesterday will  conclude on the 12th of March, 2011.
Xuang Zang or Hiuen Tsang, whatever we call him is one of the greatest foreign travellers to India, who as a Buddhist Pilgrim has left some of the best historical records for the Indian subcontinent on the trade and cultural routes of those days. The glorious past which we boast of today was documented by this great traveller and we all from this subcontinent will be ever grateful to him. Several persons, starting from Aurel Stein, Alexander Cunningham or author Sun Shuyun and many others discovered and rediscovered Xuang Zang’s travel routes. Some areas still remain grey and one such area is known as Maynaguri, a part of the legendary Bengal Dooars of the British India and a small isolated kashba, almost lost, waiting to be rediscovered.

Venerable Shilabhadra, a superior from the Nalanda Mahavihara (University) had dreamt of the arrival of the great traveller from China and he knew that it is because of Xuan Zang the ‘Holy Law’ will spread far and wide. Not only the ‘Holy Law’, but many stories of kings, people, monasteries and rivers spread far and wide. One such story is of the River Karotoya, which flows like a small stream today, was once a major river that came down from the Himalaya and met Jamuna (Brahmaputra).  After Nalanda, Xuan Zang visited the Sompura Mahavihara and the great city of Mahasthangarh, both now in Bangladesh, the ruins of the later beside the River Karotoya.

As he travelled up the Karotoya towards Pragjyotishpur (the present city of Guwahati in Assam), he passed through this busy hub which connected the Silk Route in Tibet, which still has its traces at Deomali in Maynaguri. This area was then the border of the two great Kingdoms, Pundravardana and Kamrupa, and the traces of the unbelievable nature then described, can still be found as the Gorumara National Park. This was the place which witnessed the meeting of communities of Austric, Mongoloid and Dravidian origin. The cultural traces can still be found in the living temples of Jalpesh and Jatileswar temples and the ruins of Bateswar temple and Sadarkhai. With all the living and the ruined stones of architecture, Maynaguri is a living archaeological museum.

As traders travelled from the high Himalayan mountain trade routes to the sea (Bay of Bengal), the south of the legendary ‘Silk Route’, so travelled the several religious philosophies and music. With time Maynaguri became the seat of various folk music forms and different religious faiths, the roots can still be felt in this sleeping kashba of today.  The natural, cultural & historical evidences on the Xuang Zang’s trails at Maynaguri can be experienced even today in bits and pieces. The elaborate Jalpesh Mela, to be held between 3rd to 12th of March this year, which sees the assemblage of hundreds and thousands of pilgrims and travellers every year is the proof of the living heritage.

In the year 1866, J.Tweedie, Deputy Commissioner of Western Dooars carried out his administrative works from Maynaguri. In the adjoining area of Domohoni, the headquarters of the ‘Bengal Dooars Railway’ was established in 1880 on 800 acres of land, 210 living quarters for railway men with J.A.Polwhel as the first General Manager. The enthusiasts can still find the abandoned Railway Heritage Pride. The quarter in which Polwhel lived can still be seen and the school established in 1892 in the railway area has been named after him.    

Today also Maynaguri stand as a hub for traders from Bhutan and Bangladesh, the seat of Lord Shiva and a major attraction for tourists to the Dooars.
Note: Do not forget to send your travel stories to the Editor through email to atishdipankara@gmail.com.
Chautare has decided to award the best rated stories sent by travellers and uploaded by the editor on this blog with the ‘Xuan Zang Traveller Award’ every year on the 15th of April. The readers have to rate them with A, B, C or D and mention their comments with full name and email addresses.
So friends, lets meet at the ‘Chautare’.

1 comment:

  1. you might like to read this post on the same subject: