November mornings in Jamalpur are typically once filled with a lot of fog ,damp,dew drops ,shadows of cyclists and cowbells everywhere. It has been a usual walk through the woods for me through the Kali hills to the railway tunnel on the day of Bihaniya Arghya ( the last day of chatt puja ,one of the holiest pujas that I have seen my mother and elders subscribe to when I was in Jamalpur).On the final day of Chhath Puja, the devotees, along with family and friends, go to the river-bank before sunrise, in-order to make the offerings (arghya) to the rising sun. The festival ends with the breaking of the fast by the Vratti (devotee) and the friends visiting the houses of the devotees to receive the prashad.
People used to walk to the lake below Kalipahad on that day even before you could hear the birds wake up in the morning with their dalas (puja offerings to the sun god).Then their used to be the set of ladies who used to do the main puja (offer their prayers) through different hat yogs by even walking a couple of steps on the asphalt and then prostrate themselves to god and again repeat the process for kilometers.
I bet you wont be able to do it unless you have faith in the act with the desired standard of piousness in your hearts.
I used to hear the chhat songs blaring on the loudspeakers as I crossed the golf ground to head towards the lake and stand between the two palm trees where there used to be free tea stalls for people offering prayers.There used to be innumerable volunteers to help you out.
After taking a sip of tea,meeting a friend or two, placing my obeisance I used to start my climb.There are well traveled steps and now they also have electricity to the top of the kali temple on top of the hill.As you climb up with the sun rise in progress ,the august view of Jamalpur comes in it full bloom.The clear sky will make you take a lung full of fresh winter air something that you would give your right arm for in kolkata.
On the right the panorama would extend up to the Pir Pahad where you can see the radio tower ,the railway line surrounding Jamalpur from east to west.,the Ganges river appearing as a white strip on the horizon and the shimering railway shed on the left.Below as you loom where the puja is in progress you can see thousands of lighted lamps floating in the water as you see people standing in the freezing water unaware of the freezing cold in holy bliss offering their prayers.The clear winter sky appears red with the sun just showing on the horizon.
It is at this time God stands beside me and makes me aware of the divine presence .Give me a pause here to just soak in what I have written.I need to close my eyes and take a deep breath before starting again.
As you start climbing the steps you will see lining of low grade quartz like stones on the rocks ,some ferns ,bushes and yes that one berry called bhutkun violet or red in color.At the top of the track there is a banyan tree .Beside which you will see the Kali temple and a small place where they still make the animal sacrifices on the eve of Kali puja.Move ahead and there is a small pond with stagnant water.They still use this water for all temple activities.There is a pucca ghat here.Following which are some winding steps which lead to the temple on the top dedicated to Lord Shiva.
If you go beyond this point there is a dilapidated structure and the vast greenery of the Kali hills calling out to you.If you have a sharp eye you may catch a group of Nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus) grazing in the distance.And yes hares.You can also hear the call of the peacocks at a distance.Take a round about and head east on the well made tracks and follow the town below over the hills.Dont worry ,you wont need fancy shoes.I used to cover this with my slippers( chappals) .
As you move towards the tunnel ,you will cross the railway diesel shed on the left,a few goods wagons down below loading stone chips from the quarries below .As you come across the tunnel you can see how the railway line goes beyond Ratanpur how the road from Ratanpur takes a curve towards the village.You will also be able to see how the railway line takes a bend after crossing the tunnel towards Jamalpur.
Start climbing down.Nothing stops you from taking a look at when the tunnel was built(1860-61) yet to be declared defunct.
Years back when I was introduced to Bernoulli’s theorem I had tried to experiment that inside the tunnel when the Brahmaputra express passed the tunnel aroud 9.20 AM.I assure you I wont do it ever again!!
As you keep on walking on the tracks or beside it , hunger will build up.Get down at the underpass and take a left towards the fish market,cross chura mill,and you will see jalebis being fried fresh.Try them.
At least buy some good chura (rice flakes of katarni variety).You can just smell them and know you have the genuine thing.
That is Jamalpur for me