Photo: Vyron Perelis, Greece
A temple and silk industry city about 170 kms north west of Kolkata. The place is famous for a series of quite unique terracotta temples scattered throughout the town. Most of the existing temples were built during the Malla dynasty from the mid 1500's to the mid 1700's. The Malla kings occupied the throne of Vishnapur dating back to 997 AD. It was also a centre for the advancement of a particular style of music and literature and was a leading centre for the arts, commerce, craft and trade. Crafts surviving today include terracotta ornaments, jewellery made of conch shell, lanterns and brass and silver ware. This trip can be combined with our village destination which is a short distance from Vishnapur. 
The place where the Buddha reached enlightenment, under the Bhodi tree, now a pilgrimage centre for Buddhists from all over the world. The centre of attention is the Mahabodhi Temple with its descendant of the famous tree and historic places where the Buddha walked and meditated. The town itself is small but dotted with monasteries from Buddhist communities from all over the world. It is about six hours by train from Varanasi and can be combined with a Varanasi visit that also takes in Sarnath, the place where the Buddha gave his first lecture. 
The birth place of ISKCON or the movement better known in the west as the Hare Krishnas. It receives over 1 million pilgrims a year and on the auspicious appearance day of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (full moon day of Feb-March), over 200,000 pilgrims visit Mayapur. Mayapur is 130km north of Kolkata, across the Ganges (Bhagarathi) River from the city of Nawadwip. It is an ideal destination for people who have only a couple of days to spare and want to see village Bengal as well as something quite unique.
Arriving in Kalimpong for the first time one may genuinely feel a little disappointed. If you have just experienced the niceness of 'The Mall' in Darjeeling, then Kalimpong can strike you as a little grubby. Its earthy market area however lies in stark contrast to its lush hillside residential areas. Kalimpong is not Darjeeling's poor sister, it is, simply, different. Never a rival hill resort, Kalimpong's antecedence is more colourful than that. 

Kalimpong is situated on a saddle at 4100 ft between the Durpin and Deolo hills. Its climate is so benign that it is said that the British finally came to realise that they had built their prize hill station in the wrong place. Winter maximums climb to 15 degrees celsius and seldom fall below 7 degrees. Summers climb to 27 degrees, with balmy nights of 17 degrees. Just perfect if you are an orchid. 

The growth of Kalimpong from a hamlet to a town was due largely to its strategic position on the wool trade route with Tibet and the influx of foreign missionaries, both occurring at the end of the 19th century. Trade with Tibet was increased after the Young-Husband expedition to Lhasa in 1905. Mule caravans and then bullock carts carried the trade of musk, furs, yak tails, precious stones, but above all wool. Large warehouses were eventually built in the north of the town, employing thousands of people to dry, sort, bail and dispatch the wool worldwide. After the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 the warehouses became refugee centres for fleeing Tibetans. The missionaries brought not only the word of a new God, they brought new ideas, especially in the areas of farming and education. They developed agriculture, dairying and bakeries. Seri-culture, the growth of silk worms on mulberry bushes also developed from this time. The first school was established by the Scottish missionaries in 1887 and education became something of a growth industry. 

Kalimpong has had to change with the closure of its border areas. The land around the town still supports an important agricultural and dairying industry along with its traditional medicinal herbs. The town however is now assisted by a strong flower nursery industry which also exports worldwide and the injection into the local economy that a large military presence can give. 

Kalimpong can be incorporated into a tour to Darjeeling or a Himalayan Walk.
Ganga Sagar Mela 
Ganga Sagar is where the Ganges flows into the Bay of Bengal. Sagar Island is 105km south of Kolkata, at the confluence of the Bay of Bengal and the Ganges. At this point the Ganges is about 24km wide. Every year on Makara-sankranti (mid-January), always on the 14th January in the English calendar, there is a large, three-day Festival in which hundreds of thousands of pilgrims come to bathe, hoping to be liberated from rebirth, or to wash away all the earthly sins or find an attractive partner, depending on the version you read. The bathing festival is attended by people from all over India, mostly poor peasants who can travel great distances, often on foot to enter the river at the auspicious time. A large market or fair which sells everything from food to kitchen appliances springs up for the three or so days and sadhus from all over make it a pilgrimage point on their yearly meanderings.  More Information.
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