At a comfortable three-hour drive from Kolkata lies Mukutmanipur. Legend has it that this place got its name from the hills that look like tiny crowns forming the backdrop of meandering rivers. Once there, you will see that it is, in fact, the Mukutmanipur Dam that is actually the crowning glory of the Bankura region.
Built in the 1950s over the confluence of Kangsabati and Kumari rivers, the dam is Asia’s biggest earthen dam (11 km long). The deep blue lake created by the dam, nestled among thickly forested hillocks is what you should go there for. The serenity of the lake is best experienced through a boat ride (INR 350 for four hours). Don’t let the condition of the motorboats deter you because once you’re in it, the gentle lapping of the water, cool breeze and lush greenery around you will make it the highlight of your trip. The surroundings are so quiet that barring the drone of the boat engine, all you will hear is either the call of an Oriole or the shrill laughter of a Kingfisher.
The 86 sq km lake is home to several islands. A half-an-hour boat ride to the middle of the lake will take you to a small island that houses the Bonpukuria Deer Park, which is also a bird-watcher’s paradise (Timings: 8 am - 5 pm daily). The rocky side of the shore acts as the border with Jharkhand. While the other side is dotted with patches of green scrub and hillocks that are part of the Bangopalpur Reserve Forest.
When you are done with the boat ride, take a laid-back stroll around the lake and watch the sunset behind the hillocks. A sight so beautiful, you might run out of your phone battery or storage clicking pictures endlessly. Shift your gaze from the sky to the pathway below and you might notice colourful artwork of boats and fish for nearly a kilometer-long stretch. If the walk gets tiring, you can hire an auto-rickshaw to travel over the top of the dam road for a good view of the confluence river.
Mukutmanipur is well connected through bus services and can be reached by Rupashi Bangla, which leaves Howrah station for Bankura at 6 am. There are options for all budgets. Reservations at the West Bengal Forest Development Corporation’s resort can be made at 6A Raja Subodh Mullick Square, near Hind cinema. The state tourism department’s lodge can be booked 60 days in advance at Tourism Centre, 3/2 BBD Bag (East). Reservation at Peerless Resort can be made at Peerless Travels, 6A AJC Bose Road.