Everything You Need to Know About Baghrol Basa, A Homestay Establishing Ecotourism Through Protection of Endangered Species


Baghrol Basa, verbatim for the nest of the fishing cat is a local heritage building turned homestay. Erstwhile known as Ghosh Bari of Kalbansh, it is located in the heart of a village of Howrah district of West Bengal. Imagine yourself cycling through the paved village road, through the bamboo bushes and a number of ponds. On reaching, be sure to be received with homely smiles. We were similarly welcomed by Mr. Asim Ghosh, the owner, and proprietor of Baghrol Basa.  



    How It All Started?

    It all started off when Shantanu Prasad and his colleagues recorded a chestnut capped babbler, out of the blue. Thereafter the zone became a catch for birdwatching. Well, that was 2011. Following up, other wildlife interests became known. And it emerged as a biodiversity hotspot. Come 2015, endangered fishing cats were photographed. Sooner or later, the potential of the floodplains was realized. And that led the foundation of the conservation program. However only seeing the endangered fishing cat was not enough. A homely environment culminated the project. Restoring the 17th Century Ghosh Bari building into a functional heritage thus provided the required cultural touch to the development.


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    It is not very often that you get to travel back in time to the 17th century and yet feel at home. Living the Zamindari routine of the then Bengal is just the kind of experience that Baghrol Basa has to offer. A perfect staycation amidst the sweet cacophony of village life. The colorful illustrations on the clay walls of a typical village mud-house are likely to get your attention. However, the eco-friendly aspect of the property makes it all the more compelling. Baghrol Basa of Amta, Howrah (West Bengal, India) thus offers a package of a delightful rustic stay.

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    The Ghosh Bari doibedouin baghrol basa
    The Ghosh Bari 


    The all-clay affair of the annex building doibedouin baghrol basa
    The all-clay affair of the annex building


    ***

     On the way to Baghrol Basa we came across several ponds. Children having their fill of merrymaking in the waters. Some sailing on a “Donga”, a boat hewn from the trunk of a palm tree. I have heard similar stories of my mother getting along with my cousin-brother on donga on our (maternal) own pond. But what fascinated me more was sneakily observing the Komodo Dragon lurking from beneath the pond scums.

    ***



    How to Reach Baghrol Basa


    It is in the interior of an Indian village. So direct transport is not available. However, pick up is arranged from the airport, if informed earlier. The nearest airport is Kolkata International Airport (CCU).
    One can reach Amta station by train from Howrah station
    Buses are available from Howrah to Narit and Jhikira. One can get down at Gajipur Bazar and walk through the paved roads.  



    Why Baghrol Basa? Because of Its Connection to the State Animal- An Approach to Conservation of an Endangered Species


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     “Baghrol” meaning fishing cat in Bengali and “Basa” means nest or house. As the name suggests, Baghrol Basa is thus home to the endangered fishing cats.

    ***

    How many of us know about the State Animal? Well, it is Baghrol or the fishing cat. The fishing cat is an endangered species and is declared the state animal of West Bengal. A few days back, I was made aware of the fact, courtesy the whereabouts of the homestay. 

    A decade back people used to kill the fishing cat. But now killing a fishing cat is as punishable as killing a Royal Bengal Tiger. The homestay, besides the pleasant stay, also offers a lucrative catch for wildlife photographers. It also actively participates in imparting the knowledge of saving the species which is nearing extinction. In India, the fishing cat is included in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and thereby protected from hunting. Under this Act, an offender found guilty can be punished with imprisonment for a term of up to three years or with a fine, which may extend to Rs. 25,000/- or with both.


    bichitrapur. doibedouin
    bichitrapur. doibedouin
    The wildlife pictures were taken on the grounds itself by Shantanu Prasad. [Courtesy: Baghrol Basa]




    Besides the fishing cat, other species of animals include jungle cat, black jackal, Bengal fox, Indian wolf, Himalayan crestless porcupine, Indian porcupine, Indian pangolin, Asian palm civet, small Indian civet. These animals are typical in Bengal flood plains. Variants of Komodo Dragon namely water monitor lizard, Bengal Monitor Lizard, Golden Monitor Lizard is also common. 

    Whether to call it lucky or not, one may get a sight of Spectacled Cobra, Monocled Cobra, Common Krait, Russells Viper, Green Vine Snake, Ornate Flying Snake, Yellow-spectacled wolf snake, Buff-striped keelback etc. 

    The neighborhood is a paradise for ornithologists too. Over 300 species of birds are found here and some of these are, Chestnut-capped babbler, striated babbler, Siberian ruby throat, blue throat, Indian Pitta, Large-tailed nightjar, Slaty-legged crake, Stork-billed Kingfisher, rufous woodpecker, Fulvous-breasted woodpecker, streaked-throated woodpecker, crested-Serpent Eagle, Oriental Honey Buzzard and many more. So if you are one, you could go bird watching here, although these are very common birds. 



    Why Baghrol Basa? Because of Architectonics Defined in Simplicity


    Stepping into the inside of the house one would wonder at the sheer excellence in its very simplicity. It would represent the meager living in a village mud house with a touch of sophistication. 

    From the chandeliers made of the clay curd-pots to the engraved wooden mini fountain in the mini porch, all add up to the dramatic surrounding. Even the dim-lit hurricanes hanging on the corridors are attractive enough to cast its spell on you. The wall motifs in the dining, the verandas flecked by straw would always kindle the love for mystery in you.


    The chandeliers made of the clay curd-pots doibedouin baghrol basa
    The chandeliers made of the clay curd-pots


    ***

     As in the night crawls in, the chirps of the birds are overcome by the songs of crickets and cicadas; often punctuated by the croaks of the toads in the monsoons. This Nature's lullaby is somewhat guided by a theatrical luminescent light-dance of the fireflies. One might choose to spot the Baghrol over the CCTV and continue to snuggle on a couch. Or to quietly wait for the perfect timing, in a bamboo-straw made watchtower by the primary fishpond, to capture (in your lens) the Baghrol preying, in the dark hours of the night.

    ***


    The bamboo-straw made watchtower doibedouin baghrol basa
    The bamboo-straw made watchtower 

    To top it all, one’s hunger is met by the local Bengali cuisine which not only feeds the appetite but also one’s heart. Even after weeks, one would cherish their stay on a fulfilling weekend here.



    The Interior

    The annex clay households a four bedded clay zamindari suite with attached western toilets and balcony. Adjacent to this is a pakka double-bedded classic zamindari suite with attached western toilets and balcony. The dining is decorated with a sophisticated old housing touch with the ceiling held by the “kori-boroga” style typical of the old houses of Bengal. Find the pictures and details here.


    The Exterior

    The exterior exquisitely highlights the fusion of a Jamindari House and a local Kaccha housing. The walls are illustrated depicting the local culture and the theme of the homestay. The house stands as a flamboyant canvas of green and yellow. 


    Baghrol basa doibedouin
    The flamboyantly painted canvas of green and yellow


    ***

     This exhibits the survival against the odds of nature, as a witness to the history of the place itself. The flood of 1978 swept away all the clay houses of the area.  The region recovered from the flood and came a long way since then. Not in the recent past, the Damodar river (which flows through the heart of Amta) generally overflowed during the monsoon. This turned the surrounding areas into wetlands which flourished the survival of faunas such as the fishing cat and monitor lizards.

    ***





    Baghrol basa doibedouin
    The iconic Baghrol Basa

    Baghrol basa doibedouin
    The Clay walls are filled with the artistry of the local painters

    Baghrol basa doibedouin
    The typical mud house roofed with straw sheds



    The Garden

    The garden is a literal pandemonium of Greens all around with various plantations sprouting here and there. Jackfruit trees grew wild around the garden with flanks of other shrubs. The property is fenced by paan-leaves twined bamboo hedges. Other flowering plants spread throughout the garden. Straw sheds frequented the plantations. A wood motif depicting the Baghrol hunting the fish directs to the primary fishpond. One may sit on the ‘ghats’ of the ponds in the day hours. Be sure to have a peep of the stork-billed kingfishers, jungle babblers, and treepies, often a catch for the camera here. 

    The garden is frequented with sheds, to offer an overall eco-friendly stay.  The local transport is also going eco-friendly with the availability of e-vehicles. Cycles (local) are also available for pedaling out on the village roads.


    A wood motif depicting the Baghrol hunting the fish paves the way to the primary fishpond doibedouin baghrol basa
    A wood motif depicting the Baghrol hunting the fish paves the way to the primary fishpond

    Best Time to Visit

    Open all through the year.
    March and April: During this time the species breed.
    Kali Puja. The village lights up in the essence of Deepavali.


    Nearby Places to Visit

    Melaichandi Temple in Amta, one of the fifty-one Shakti Peeth  



    Contacts

    One might contact through their Facebook page for booking.
    One might directly book over the phone: +91 6291282879




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    bichitrapur. doibedouin
    bichitrapur. doibedouin







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    8 comments

    1. That looks like a pretty crazy place to stay, but definitely worth the experience.

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    2. I always try to give value to the eco friendly vacation even if it is too out of my confort zone. What I often don't understand is that they are too expensive compared to the service they give and this makes me many times to go for a normal hotel option.

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    3. Looks amazing place to visit and I love at the end how you have done the best time to visit, nearby places to visit, how to reach and contacts - as it gives more of an overview of the whole destination rather than a singular area

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    4. I'm quite aware of the Zamindari system that existed in Bengal for centuries but I have never heard of this place before. I believe there are many beautiful mansions of Zamindar even now that narrate the grand life the Zamindars lived.

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    5. I hadn't come across the Baghrol or fishing cat before but good to hear they are now protected. Being able to stay somewhere and contribute to conservation aims is an excellent model for travel. Thank you for sharing.

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    6. Baghrol Basa looks like an amazing place to visit. There are so many interesting places all around rural Bengal that can become great tourism destinations. I loved the way how you narrated your childhood stories with your travel stories. Would love to visit this place someday!

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    7. Oh My goodness!! Yoi are right! It was a step back in time. Thank you so much for affording me the opportunity to live vicariously through your travels because I don't know if I would be able to navigate to that location. As a disabled traveler, some places i have to visit through others. Your pictures are beautiful!

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    8. This looks like a wonderful experience, made all the more special by your family connection. I have never heard of Fishing Cats and am so glad they are now protected! (All cats are such amazing creatures, in my opinion.) I particularly like the artwork that appears throughout the homestay. What a unique place to visit. I think I would really like it!

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