Our next stop was the Pancharatna style Lakshmi Janardan temple of the Bandopadhyay family. As per the foundation plaque , the temple was constructed in 1846 A.D. When we visited , the local priest was performing the Pujas and he showed us around the Durgadalan and dilapidated mansion of the Bandopadhyay family. This temple is also rich in terracotta decorations. Some of the plaques depicts episodes and figures of Rasmandal, Giri Gobardhan saga,Gosthalila , Mahisasurmardini, Shiva Durga, Ram Ravana war , Ram Sita.etc. The one I liked the most was that of the scenes of Krishna and Balaram going to Mathura.
Our first destination was the Haat tala market which houses the unique octagonal shaped Mahaprabhu temple currently protected by the State Archaeology department of West Bengal. First we had kachoris and jalebis from the bustling flea market vendor. The said temple is located in the middle of the market. A makeshift roof of the temple has been made with tin. The temple houses idol of Gouranga and Mahaprabhu. The walls of the temple is richly decorated with terracotta sculptures and is a sight to behold. The Dasmahavidyas and Dasavataras are vertically placed from top to bottom. Besides them, sculptures of European ladies and sahibs, Rasmandal, Camel rider, Tiger, Peacock,etc. are easily identifiable among many.
Amkhoi was a small undescript village within the Ilambazar Forest. Until one day while excavating a pond , something was discovered. The local tribal people informed the forest officer. Geologists came from Shantiniketan to examine the area. A million years old fossilised forest land was thus discovered. It was a casket of geological treasure for the experts. Earlier fossil remnants were discovered from Ausgram in Burdwan, Sonamukhi in Bankura, Garhbeta in Midnapore and the bank of Murabala river in Mayurbhanj, Odisha. But such a large stretch of fossilised area like Amkhoi was beyond imagination.Large chunks of fossilised tree trunks were discovered one after the other during pond excavation. The geologists sent the samples to Birbal Sahani Institute in Lucknow. The experts after examination suggested that the fossils were around 15 million years old.The angiosperm wood fossils which are displayed here were collected during pond digging from Amkhoi village of Illambazar Forest, Birbhum District. These specimens are definite proof of the presence of a vast dry deciduous forest with a few evergreen elements in this area, which prevailed 15 to 20 million years before present (Late Miocene). Wood fossils can also be found in different places of Birbhum, Bardhaman, Bankura and Medinipur Districts of West Bengal as well as in Mayurbhanj District in Orissa.Few families and genera of the past forest of south West Bengal were identified by scientists. Dipterocarpacea, Anacardiacea, Combretacea and Leguminosae are some of these. At the present time these families occur in this area. However, some genera are extinct here, but occur in the present day forests of Western Ghats, Myanmar and Malaysia.This past forest thrived in the uplands of Rajmahal Hills and Chota Nagpur Plateau at the North West of Birbhum. It is presumed that the trees were carried by occasional floods of the river system flowing from North West of the river basin towards South East in Birbhum, Bardhaman, Bankura and Medinipur Districts and deposited under find sand and clay gradually to transform into wood fossils. The petrified woods are found in two different laterite beds. This is a pioneering effort of West Bengal Forest Department in preserving the priceless fossils woods and to educate people about the natural heritage of West Bengal.It was a unique experience for us. We enjoyed our small discovery and returned back to Shantiniketan by evening.