If you want to visit a place other than the beach and Himalayas you are left with the midlands. There isn't anything called "midlands" in West Bengal, I came up with the name because the area I want to refer to sits in the middle. So Purulia, Bankura, and Burdwan are midlands according to me.
There are various small hills, forests, and water reserves in Purulia which can be perfect weekend destinations for Bengalis. I have already been to Garpanchkot last time so this time we decided to go to Ayodhya hills. Ajodhya Hills is located in the Purulia district of the state West Bengal, India. It is a part of the Dalma Hills and an extended part of the Eastern Ghats range. The highest peak of Ajodhya Hills is Gorgaburu. The nearby populated town area is Bagmundi. There is a myth that is related to Ramayana, but that is not the reason why its name is Ayodhya. According to Hindu mythology, Rama and Sita had come to Ayodhya Hills and stayed during their exile. Sita was thirsty and Ram pierced an arrow through the Earth's soil crust and through that water gushed out. Sita quenched her thirst. The place is known as Sita-kunda. During the full moon day in Baisakh (Baisakh is a Bengali month, which starts in mid-April) every year tribal of nearby areas come and join in the game of hunting wild animals. However, we didn't find any wild animals other than a few foxes.
Ayodhya is around 350 km from Kolkata which is around 7-8 hours of driving time. One can go to Ayodhya using different routes, the one we took was from Asansol, where we had to take a left turn and bypass the main city. This route took us to Raghunathpur and then to Purulia town.
Finding a good hotel in Ayodhya is a painful task if you haven't pre-booked. This place has very few hotels/hostels. We started visiting each of them and in the end, we couldn't find any good one. Even the Lions club in that area had few rooms but all of them were shabby. Eventually one of the locals suggested checking Bharat Sevashram. For those who don't know of Bharat Sevashram please read here. We spoke to the person in charge there and he offered us 3 rooms. The rooms were clean and better than any other hotels over there. And damn cheap, only 300 per room. The only downside was there was no food available and we couldn't consume any non-veg items there in the Ashram premises. The ashram had a large compound where we parked our cars.
Ayodhya hills have many waterfalls, deep forests, tribal villages, water dams, and wild animals. After lunch we visited Brahmi Falls which is also known as Bamni falls by the villagers. One has to get down the road and walk 10-15 minutes downward to see the actual fall. We also got an awesome view of the lower dam from the walk. The road towards Brahmi falls leads to Mukhosgram Village and Baghmundi Water reserve. Baghmundi water reserve is also known as the upper dam, there is an upper dam and a lower dam.
Mukhosgram is a name given by the locals of a specific area beside Ayodhya hills. The actual name of the village is Charida. The word "Mukhos" means masks and "gram" means village, so it is a village where people make masks for decoration and "Chou Dance". Chou or Chhau dance is a traditional dance in eastern India that is still practiced mostly in Purulia and a few parts of Orissa. These masks were made of clay and newspaper. Local cuisine here includes desi chicken and one must try them.
Murguma is another beautiful place near Ayodhya Pahar. Murugma Dam is famous for its scenic beauty. I guess there are a few staying options in Murguma one of which is Palas Bitan Eco resort. Ayodhya is very scenic and beautiful, especially during the monsoon. Every year lots of tourists come to this place. But I felt tourism here was ignored by local people and the government. They should focus on building better infrastructure and public transport. Purulia is one of the few districts of West Bengal which has lots of natural beauty. My last trip to Garpanchkot gave me the impression that any weekend trip to Purulia is far better than South Bengal.
While returning we had our lunch at Durgapur Sher-a-Bengal restaurant at around 4 pm and then non-stop back home.
Road Trip Stats -
Total distance covered - 731 km
Total fuel consumed - 46 L Diesel
Route - Kolkata > Durgapur > Raghunathpur > Purulia > Ayodhya Hill > Murguma > Purulia > Bankura > Durgapur > Kolkata.
Sevashram overnight cost - Rs. 300
Foods and Extra - Rs. 2000