Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand

23rd Jan 2016

Winter season is so maddening in itself, it makes you leave home, urges you to re-discover the nature. over and over again. All you see is brightness, raging colors, the cold wind numbing your senses but the muscles in your leg push you to explore places.

The sun, the sky, the birds they all tend to invite you to put on the winter garb. We got off the hotel room, unfurled the map in front and looked for few getaways within 100 kms from Bolepur. Eyes stopped the scan, zeroed on Massanjore dam. We murmured and the next moment, we saddled our swift to spend a day in the lap of a river tamed by humans situated in the state of Jharkhand.

Photo of Massanjore Dam, Simdega, Jharkhand, India by Gautam Lahiri

Massanjore dam, was built over the Mayurakshi river, with assistance from Canada in 1956 and so it has a second name, the Canada dam.

Photo of Mayurakshi River, Deoghar, Jharkhand, India by Gautam Lahiri

The dam looks a bit old though and keeps you guessing which department should take over - the DVC or the Archaeological Survey. Standing around 155 feet high, stretching to about 0.66 km. The adjoining reservoir looks beautiful with a greenish haze lying over it and touching the horizon where you can see small hills that complement the panoramic view as you turn 180 degrees.

We fill ourselves with omelet, bread and down it with hot tea, in earthen cups which gave it an amazing rustic taste. The route we chose was Bolepur – Sreeneketan – Siuri – Massanjore.

From Chaurasta, we take the left arm of the 'Y' and over good to potted roads, we drive towards the Sreeneketan crossing. Siuri, the nearest big town is 35 kms from there and then you drive another 42-43 kms and reach Massanjore.

Any Bolepur road, if driven over feels like you are a student of 'Kuchipuddi', the left hand and left foot frequently alternates like a classical dance exponent as you constantly change gears and sway the car from left to right to miss the craters. Interestingly, once you leave Bolepur, road to Siuri was very good..though a bit narrow, you have to lurch a bit to give passage to vehicles coming from the opposite direction. The landscape for this part was flat land covered with a green and brown carpet of paddy fields and the road snaking its way.

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

The road in this section was smooth as a silk and the car unlike the dancing session she had was stable and we increased our gallop to cover more distance

Siuri is a small town with fairly wide roads. Typically, the traffic with all conceivable means of transportation exist as you carefully navigate the car from bumping people, car, bus, cow, and humans as they all converge on you.

Once you leave the populated Siuri area, the road becomes wide and very good...within minutes we crossed the Tilpara barrage. On the left, we saw a huge flock of Cormorant birds, resting on the barrage wall edge as we bump across the barrage road. As you come near Massanjore, the scenery starts changing; the metaled road furrows between a forest of Sal trees. The sun light and the tree shadows between the tall trees create an interesting effect over a moving truck if you approach the vehicle from rear in a car. The road is bordered by the same red soil of Santineketan.

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

We slow down and sweep the camera lens to the rear of the car, to catch the forested road with the car looking very handsome with a coat of red dust on azure gray with the 12 o clock sun flashing off the metal.

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

The red soil slowly settling on the car whipped up by the wheels

We leisurely drive for three hours and reach the dam and right on the road edge we suddenly see the massive reservoir with its pipes bobbing away under the green water. Cool wind sweep us as we settle for a view. The road has a high outer edge so instantly, you will see it suddenly out of nowhere.

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

The Massanjore dam reservoir from the bordering road

A great number of brown colored birds, probably migratory..can't recognize from a distance were having a field day, harvesting on the fish as they dived over the lake surface. The birds circled in batches and bird watchers kept their eyes glued.

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

Brown colored birds, a flock of them hover above the lake surface

As you cross the dam by foot, the scenery on either sides come into full view; the two sides were pretty contrasting..the great volume of water on one side is released in a controlled manner stays almost stagnant with gentle wind making little waves on top splashing against the wall. The other side is outrageously rugged can be seen by the lack of water over rough terrain of rocky outcrops.

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

Rocky river bed as water recedes in the winter

On the other side of the river, the bank has been tamed to certain degree by making an embankment, a long staircase made to cater to speed boat complex which entertains visitors. You can have a ride over the lake at speed and moor back.

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

Tourist attractions like a speed boat ride helps one taste the water

The lake from across the dam looks very placid and a continuous cool wind blows over the bank which gets reflected off the small hillocks that line the road side. As you take deep breaths of air, freshness charges your mind and soul

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

Lake from the other side of the dam

You sit their and watch the rustic activities, life seems to be geared down at an even pace...village women carrying loads of dry woods walking along the small hill road, a day's catch for their firewood needs. Scattered are few food stalls, briskly doing day time business as visitors approach them for refreshments. What you get for food is quite delicious, mainly fried stuff like onion rings, with chilies, potatoes, nuts and accompanied with hot tea; the whole combination in a cool season is indeed mouth watering.

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

A village lady with wood on head skirt the hill road as we stare at the view

On the edge was a small hillock, partly shrouded with some wild bush and a make shift road over boulders and loose rocks was made by local boys. If anyone dared to climb the road on it, will need some balancing act to scale up...we tried, and little did we know what was in store. City beaten souls like us, with less physical activity, were panting even to climb a 35 to 40 feet of the hill phase. However, we rested and made it to the top and were presented with a splendid view.

Photo of Jharkhand, India by Gautam Lahiri

Hill top view of the lake through the trees

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

The south face view of the vast water body

While coming down, the locals were gathered with their bikes and were having a good time, chatting, and puffing away. The world at this place came to a stand will relax and just stare away at the nature's creations around you. Even a tiger toy model, quite big in size, looking almost realistic made us gasp as we suddenly saw it..was made to rest on a bike. It seemed, even the tiger had casually parked to catch the wind blown scenic beauty.

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

A tiger toy balanced itself on a motor bike caught everyone's attention

The day was filled with activities - hill climbing, almost lost balance while trying to reach the hill top, bumped into a goat on our way down; you should have seen the goat's speed, they are natural climbers and that to without any fancy sneakers on..with sprinkles of red dust on shoulders, we started back to cross the river and the dam. The road which skirts the dam is pretty unique..on the opposite side bordered a upright hill face, has a series of small food stalls and you name it, you can get all kinds of delicious chaats, a very popular Indian fast food variant.

The mixed smell of 'aloo tikia, or fried potatoes, with tomatoes, coriander, a host of masalas, our appetite just multiplied many folds and we hurriedly cross the road to grab one of the tasty ones, that could please our eyes and nose.

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

Mouth watering 'chaat' comes straight at you as the tongue awaits to smack them clean

We ordered twice for each of us, and stopped only when were not able to move...filled to the neck, we sipped the tea to have a final look at the area around and climbed back into the car.

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

The food stalls that border the road across the dam and make your salivary gland very active

The road which goes to Dumka or the nearest town from Massanjore is very smooth and the car hardly did any 'Bharatnatyam' as we danced on our way from Bolepur. We pushed a bit to see the undulating short plateaus, filled with vegetation and crops. You need to keep your eyes wide open as village boys cross right across your path and vanish into the undergrowth. As we were driving back, we saw a series of very heavily loaded trucks, wondering how many hours it would have taken to pack so much stuff into a lorry..the trucks were driven as you can well imagine by expert drivers who were slowly making their way on the winding roads through the hills. We dared to tail them all the way and overtook couple of them and felt like a pack leader when they were all behind us. Swift with its weight and length was looking like an ant beside these road behemoths.

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

A heavily loaded truck comes straight for our car through the winding roads

Jharkhand has a mix of both green and barren landscape. Roads go up and down through forest patches as we traveled along the highway. Acres of mustard fields under the blue sky was so colorful that we stopped several times to catch memories of it.

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

Mustard fields formed a yellow velvet carpet under the blue sky made us park and tocuh the soft plants

As the sun slowly tilted to the west, long shadows reminded us of the day coming to an end. This beautiful bright day will be replaced by a starry night, none of the natural objects we are seeing will be discernible...replaced by dark eerie structures, so I stepped on the accelerator as the Swift increased her gallop towards Bolepur. The burning excitement in the morning was ebbing away, nothing else seemed new as we have seen it all as we head back. The long road between the sal trees looked like as if someone has cleaved through the earth and we were sailing over the base as the trees whistled by.

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

The huge sal trees rushed at speed as our Swift skimmed over the asphalt that furrowed the sprawling forest

As we came back to Bolepur two sets of dance welcomed us. As soon we touch the town roads, we started our 'salsa' ballet with our Swift and other vehicles missing each others out stretched front ends by a whisker. We were heading home, distant drum beats of a santal village attracted our attention. We were passing a sprawling area dotted with podiums and huts in an enclosure which was known as "Shilpagram'.

We parked, and got out to visit it. The place is very artistically decorated but manned by people who has no knowledge of 'customer handling'...we went in and saw a group of village lass forming a ring were dancing to the beats of a drum.

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

Santal village girls dancing to the tune of the rustic music which stopped us on our track

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

Mud baked figures depicting the tribal history were strewn across the grounds

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

A lone santal boy stands with a workers tool reminding visitors of the challenges and accomplishments of the tribes

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

A line of tribal villages along a pond as the setting sun peeping over the trees

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

A tribal cottage on display looked cozy enough, and tempted visitors to step in to enjoy the warmth from the hay stacked roof

Photo of Touching Massanjore in Jharkhand by Gautam Lahiri

Another tribal cottage styled beautifully that one can seriously believe that a group of villagers with bows and arrows will rush out to greet you.

A great day ended with touches of tribal history as we put back all our recording tools like the camera, our own mind and contemplated on the incredible diversity of our country.

This blog was originally published on 'The Voyager'