Location– Ayodhya Hills in the Purulia District of West Bengal.
How to reach– By Train, The nearest railhead is Barabhum Station. By road, you can reach Baghmundi (which is the nearest village connected by public transport) via Kharagpur and Balarampur via State Highway 5. You can also take a slight longer detour via Durgapur, Purulia and reach Baghmundi but the roads would be better. One can take a bus (Which Rarely ply) or a rented vehicle from Baghmundi to Ajodhya Hills.
Best time to visit– Between October to April. Less Rains and moderate temperature with a blue clear sky.
What to do– Trekking, Rock Climbing, sight seeing and a cultural walk through Santhal tribal Village.
Ayodhya Hills or as the locals call it Ajodhya Pahar are extensions of the Eastern Ghats range (Dolma Hills of Jharkhand). These hills are an abode of several deep forests and beautiful waterfalls. A culturally rich tribe of Santhals finds their habitat amidst these dense forests. They are one of the largest Schedules tribes of India. Baranti, Bheti, Muradi are some small tribal villages nested inside these beautiful landscapes.
Folklore: As per local legends Lord Ram and Sita, stayed here during their exile. Sita was thirsty. To quench her thirst, Rama shot an arrow right through the earth’s crust, out of which water gushed out. The presence of Sita Kund validates this truth. Sita Kund is situated in Bagandi Village.
History – Santhals at Ajodhya Pahar region are descents of a Pre-Aryan tribe and were great fighters during British India Regime. Tilka Majhi, Sidhu Murmu, Kanhu Murmu and Birsa Munda were the greatest among the Santhal warriors who led a strong Santhal Rebellion against Britishers.
Culture– Santhalis or as they call them Santal people in Ajodhya Region are laborious and hardworking. Women also plays important roles in all household activities.
Dance and music has always been an important part of their fairs and festivals. They relax themselves after a hard working day with light music and dance.
Karam is their famous yearly festival usually celebrated in the month of September / October.
Tirio (A flute with seven Holes), Phet Banam (A three stringed fretless instrument), Bohok, hotok etc are some innovative musical instruments used by Santal People to produce an exquisite array of musical notes. Very soothing and calm.
Religion– The Santal People follow Sarna Religion. Marang Buru which literally means a Big Mountain is worshipped in Santals as the Supreme source of power. Which doesn’t possess any shape,face,idol. Marangburu is worshipped in the shape of nature.
Sarna Religion- An interesting Story of Its Origin
Santals had gone to the forest for hunting and they started the discussion about their ‘Creator and Savior’ while they were taking rest under a tree. They questioned themselves that who is their God? Whether the Sun, the Wind or the Cloud?
Finally, they concluded that they would leave an arrow in the sky and wherever the arrow would target that will be the God’s house. They left an arrow in the sky; it fell down under a Sal tree.
Those men came and yes got the same arrow to that Sal tree.
Then, they started worshiping the Sal tree and named their religion as ‘Sarna’ because it is derived from word ‘Sar’ which means arrow in Santali.
Occupation- The Santhals from Ajodhya Region mostly rely on forests. They are mostly involved in cattle rearing, wooden crafting, mat-basket making, hunting, fishing and agriculture.
The Ritual of hunting
Ajodhya celebrates an annual Hunting fest in which the Santal People from Orissa, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh reach Ayodhya for hunting.
The Hunting is allowed by the government for this single day to all parts of ajodhya pahar area except few prohibited areas.
The train tickets are waived off for this day to facilitate people reach ajodhya.
There is a famous saying that:
“The Lady who has never been to Chakoltore fest in Puruliya, can’t be called a Lady. Similarly a Man who has never hunted in Ajodhya doesn’t qualifies to be called as a Man.”
A local Santhali Narrating the rituals of Hunting at Ajodhya Pahar Area.
The Purulia Pumped Storage Project
It is a power project with 225*4=900MW capacity situated in Ayodhya Hills. Murugama Dam presents a scenic view of this forest. The clear blue sky and the lush green forests makes this place a photographic paradise for enthusiasts.
The Bamni and Turga Falls
These falls are situated on the way to Baghmundi from Ajodhya. The stepping water and colorful mosses grown around the rocks makes the waterfall a picturesque view.
The Ajodhya Trek
This is a two days trek with moderate risk level. The trek starts from Kishore Bharati Ashram School. It cuts through dense forests of shimul and palas – bright red flowers makes the trek route more colorful.
The Bamni and Turga Falls comes in the route and a lake called Lake Tarpaniya are major attraction of this trek.
The sunrise at Mayur Pahar (Peacock Hills) is a treat to watch. The descend is via Baghmundi side. You can see Sita Kund on the way. Gorgaburu is the highest peak (2250 Feet) of Ajodhya Hills which can be seen on the way back.
Why Ajodhya Pahar is Special
This area is full of natural beauty, colors and heavenly landscapes.
It forces you to re-think if, the evolution from a tribe to an urban was really a boon to us?
It made me feel that people in cities are so deprived of the actual wealth of life.
The Santhals are way richer than us. They have wealth of nature, purity, peace and beauty.
You got be very lucky to be a Santhal. Not every one is that lucky.