Who goes camping during the festivals in India? We Indians have always been renowned for celebrating festivities with families. True, very true. But last year during Holi (March 2016), we decided to give the family affairs a miss and joined a group who was going for a 3 days- 3 night’s camp to Sirkabad, Purulia to celebrate this colorful festival.
Your first question might be where this place is? Sirkabad is a village in the Purulia district in West Bengal. Situated at a distance of approximately 330 kms from Kolkata, this place could be easily reached by road. The nearest railway station is about 10 kms far and the nearest major railway station is Purulia Junction at a distance of 29 kms.
We were travelling with a group called TODO which organizes holi camps in different villages of Purulia every year. They are a group of 3 young professional from Kolkata who are working for rural welfare services in Purulia. All we had to do is pay them a fixed amount and all was taken care by them, food, lodging and travelling. You can travel there alone too, but it’s fun connecting with new people and group tours save costs.
TIP – They provide delicious freshly cooked food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and evening snacks, but if you suffer from munching habits like us, please carry eatables as there are high chances you would not find anything nearby.
We were a group of 40 people, so they had hired a bus from Kolkata to Sirkabad village. Leaving at around 9:00 PM from Kolkata, it took us approximately 10 hours to reach with two stops, might take lesser in a car. The adventure had already begun as some of us decided to enjoy the bright sunny morning and take a walk till the Mango farms, where we were camping, while others preferred tractors that were arranged to transfer luggage. We made our way through the muddy roads to our camp location. It was a lovely farm with tree shades widespread in the arms of Ayodhya hills.
We were provided with tents that was equipped with mattresses, pillows and bulbs and we shared it with friends. These were mountaineering tents hired from professional suppliers in Asansol which could easily accommodate 4 persons. TODO is doing it quite professionally and they arrange for temporary toilets and bathrooms that makes life a lot easier in such interior locations. They also take care of proper hygiene and pest control so that the travelers do not have to worry about any infections.
TIP – Carry your bed sheet and a warmer to cover yourself at nights as it gets pretty chilly and for hygiene reasons of course.
Day 1 started with playing holi, lots of fun, music and food.
There was a beautiful sitting area where holi colours were kept creatively and mud bottles were being used to keep the drinking water cold to beat the heat. Another heavenly experience was having hard drinks in mud glasses (kulhers), we had never had it that way before.
A few of us were carrying guitars, djembe, ek tara, egg shaker and a few other instruments and were blessed to have some good singers in the camp to create the festive mood.
There were provisions for archery as well for people to try hands.
As the day was approaching dusk, a truck full of Chhau dance troop had arrived for their performance.
Chhau dance ranges from celebrating martial arts, acrobatics and athletics performed in festive themes of a folk dance, to a structured dance with religious themes. Their themes could range from Mahabharata to Mahishasur Mardini Durga.
The dance is usually performed by an all-male troop and it was an experience to see how men were getting ready in their costumes and larger than life masks. A lot of us must have seen this dance form in different cultural shows but witnessing the raw and humorous conversation between the artists while they dress up so closely gives a glimpse of their life.
And just when it was about to get dark, they began their act. A full moon night and the hills in the backdrop were a perfect stage to their show.
TIP – Although there are generators, lamps and bonfires, it is advisable to carry your own torches and power banks to charge your phones.
Day 2 was again full of activities. We went for a nature walk to the nearby villages and were amazed to see the skill they possess. Beautifully hand painted houses using various animal forms and religious characters were the key charm. Mask-making is another fabulous art confined to Purulia and the knowledge is transferred orally down the generations.The locals were pretty excited to see outsiders camping in their village.
On day 2 we were to witness another beautiful dance form called Majhi Dance or Santhali Dance. This dance is performed by a group of women clad in traditional white and red border sarees forming a long chain by holding hands and dancing to the dhol beats played by the men.
The composure and simplicity of the dance form is mind-blowing. A lot of women from our camp tried to dance with them. Although matching steps looks a lot easy, but actually it is not. It surely needs immense practice.
Well, that was an end to our first ever camp trip and we left for home on Day 3 morning. We always have mixed feelings when a holiday ends, sad because it ended and happy because it’s time to explore a new place.
The good news is TODO is organizing this camp again this year and it will be held in a village called Ichadih near Barabum in Purulia from 11th – 13th March 2017. In a forest location at around 15 kms from Barabum Railway Station, the major attractions are welcome songs by Jhumur players, ice-breaking events, local traditional performances, hammocks, archery, painting canvases, candle floating in nearby lakes, adventure activities, sky watching workshop with telescope and of course Holi events. Rates, itinerary and all other details could be derived from TODO’s Facebook page. The organizers could be contacted in case you would like to plan your holi experience.
TODO Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/Todo-1646047555676351/
KanchanChatterjee : 9748860398
1. This Taraf suggests visiting these places in groups due to interior locations.
2. Travelling with kids is fine and safe, however we would not suggest accompanying infants or kids below 5, mainly due to hygiene reasons and medical emergencies.
3. It is advisable to carry some regular medicines, basic first-aid and packed food like biscuits, chocolates etc. for sudden cravings.
4. Packing light is always beneficial while camping.