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It is hard to believe that amidst the humdrum of the city, lies a Japanese Forest.

The Japanese Forest is a lesser-known attraction at Eco-park. It has been beautifully landscaped on 3.5acre of land. Amongst several things, the Japanese have pioneered and excelled in gardening and landscaping.

Shintoism, the East Asian religion has its roots in Japan. It is also known as the nature religion. This Forest has intelligently amalgamated both, the elements of nature and God to enchant the visitors. The principle, that nature and God are one and all the same, has been captured in this mesmerizing forest.

A Shrine At A Theme Park?

When HIDCO was constructing a public park in New Town, the excavations led to several interesting finds. Amongst the many relics, they dug out stone lanterns, Chimes, statues of Buddha, and his disciples. Several other artefacts and objects of Shinto belief were rescued from the site. The find dated back to a Japanese monk, who had travelled to Kolkata post World War-II to propagate Shintoism. He practised the religion diligently in this very land for close to 50 years along with his disciples. The Japanese Forest has been built as a mark of respect to the noble monk.

Shintoism

Shintoism is also known as Kami-no-Michi (Kami meaning god or spirits). It has been practised in Japan since the 300CE, exactly when Buddhism entered the region. The religion has taken specific best practices from Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and other East Asian religions. Shintoism believes that every animate and inanimate object has spirits. It reveres supernatural entities and the religion is built around the same belief. Various rituals and practices have been designed and established and have been propagated around the world since then.

Komainu

These are lion-dog statues considered to be shrine guardians. A series of ferocious-looking Komainu carved out of stone stands at the entrance of the shrine. They are usually in pairs with either an open mouth or closed mouth. The open mouth pronounces the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet “a” and the closed mouth pronounced “um”, the end.

Torii

Torii gateway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Torii gateway is an entrance to every Shinto shrine. This symbolizes the transition from the worldly space to the sacred. Going forward, a series of Torii gates will catch one’s attention from a distance. The brightly coloured vermillion gates arranged closely to each other is a gift. A wealthy businessman has offered the Torii gates to the shrine as he has received blessings from the Kami in manifolds. The names of people who donate the Torii gates are inscribed on the pillars. One is supposed to walk mindfully along the pathway and count one’s steps till the end of the series. Many get to hear a mystic rhythm emanating from within the pathway.

Walk it, to believe it!!

Alcove of Buddhas

Alcove of Buddhas

Past the Torri is an alcove of several small Buddhas carved by the disciples themselves. Every statue has a different expression and pose. The disciples resemble the smiling buddhas. It is said that they come to life at night to protect the premises. The disciples make way to a beautiful arched walkway covered with flowering creepers.

 

 

Labyrinth

The labyrinth has been designed in an interesting way with concrete slabs and aromatic tuberose in between. One would be intrigued to walk along the concentric circles, to the fragrance and sight of aromatic flowers. One is supposed to walk along the designed pathway. It is said that one would be able to concentrate and get rid of worldly worries, if walked with a strong faith.

Bamboo Groves

The display of yellow bamboos in the bamboo grove is fascinating. Bamboo has been considered lucky amongst several religions. The Japanese get inspiration from the bamboo tree with regards to resilience, the power to spring back, and a commitment to continuous growth.

The Sacred Shrine

Sacred Shrine

The shrine has been built in reverence of the monk who travelled all the way to India to propagate Shintoism. The bright yellow walls are decked with several animal figures glittering in gold. The rhythmic beats of the gong greet one to the humble site. The entrance makes way to prayer wheels with scrolls of prayers within. The sanctum sanctorum has the kami (god) painted white seated in all his grace. The authorities have plans to renovate the three-storied pagoda and the courtyard.

The 7 Disciples

In Shintoism, the followers are as important as the kami. The seven prime disciples who have stayed here and practised together with their leader have their place in the landscaped patch of green. The seven disciples seated together in peace just by the waterbody signifies the power of meditation. It is said that by sitting next to the disciples and meditating for a while, one gains serenity and peace of mind.

Wish Fountain

A Sori Bashi (little wooden bridge) build over the waterbody signifies calmness, wonder, and continuity. Shinto shrines and Zen gardens are incomplete without a water body, as water signifies purity. Toro, decorative stone lanterns which were found as relics are being placed in strategic places along with other important relics of significance.

Moon Gate

Moon Gate

Walking past the crescent-shaped Moon gate is considered to be extremely lucky. Newly-weds are recommended to walk along the path for a prosperous and happy beginning of a new phase in life. Besides the gate, is a collection of Bamboo lights that looks transcendental during the night. Hollow bamboo shoots cut strategically with lights emanating, adds an enigmatic experience to the tour. Wind chimes are of great significance in many South Asian religions. A walk along the gallery of wind chimes will lend a magical meditative state to the body and mind.

 

 

 

Japanese Restaurant

A Japanese restaurant, within the forest, is coming up shortly with some exotic Japanese delicacies to treat your taste buds. For the time being, you can relish a hot cuppa and reminisce this Japanese wonder.

I was at the Japanese Forest on a lovely winter afternoon with a bunch of my college buddies.

Click on the link below to know more about Japan.

15 Tips While Travelling to Japan

 

STD(SanchitasTravelDiary) Rating – 4.5/5

 

Bengal has an extremely rich culture with age old traditions, fine arts, music and craft. Several Nobel laureates were born in this blessed land of Bengal and have called it their home. Bengalis love to relish their food, read Sarat Chandra, sing Rabindra Nath and travel frequently. A visit to Kolkata is incomplete without shopping for the famous Kantha work, Batik or Rosogolla. Carry a bit of Bengal and create memories forever.

Here is a list of the 7 must buy things from Kolkata.

1. Rosogolla

The humble white wonders are the pride of Bengal since the Raj days. Right from Mini rosogollas to the Jumbo rosogollas, it all melts in your mouth and disappears into your soul only to crave for more. Look out for K.C.Das and Nobin Chandra Das who are the best in the industry and have appeased since generations. In Kolkata the chenna balls have got brighter and colourful, they are now available in 100+ flavours all doled out with love without the use of any artificial additive.

 2. Red and white cotton saree

The quintessential Bengali attire is incomplete without a Red and white saree. You may want to buy it in silk (Gawrod) or cotton (Tant). Artistically woven red and white sarees handcrafted by local artisans with intricate designs all over are available in most of the traditional saree showrooms in Gariahat.

3. Alta, Sindoor, Shakha and Pola

Signifying the marital status, every married Bengali woman is supposed to don sindoor in their parting of their hair, a sindoor bindi on their forehead and a pair of Shakha and Pola bangles. The Sindoor available here is of a typical red colour very specific to this land and is known to have therapeutic properties. Shakha, the conch shell bangle is delicately carved and at times inlaid with gold filigree to pair up with red coral bangles worn in both the hands for that ultimate bong look.

4. Sandesh

Delightful sweet meats made out of chenna and sold in various patterns and flavours is yet another speciality of Bengal. Abar Khabo, Jol Bhora, Chocolate Sandesh and Kancha Golla are a few Sandesh -es that one must try out at either Girish Chandra Dey and Nakur Chandra Dey, Balaram Mullick or any other old world Mishti shop.

5. Nolen Gur

Planning a trip to Kolkata during the winters? Indulge in packing the soulful Nolen Gur, the speciality jaggery of Bengal. Jaggery derived from date palm with a lot of love and patience.  This winter delicacy is available as Nolen Gur er ice cream, Nolen Gur er Sandesh and can also be accompanied with traditional pan cakes. Pack a few tubes of the liquid which is sold at Biswa Bangla stores.

6. Kantha stitch

Kantha which had once originated in Bangladesh was used by homemakers to upcycle old sarees is now a rage in the fashion industry. By courtesy of a few Fashion influencers Kantha has hit the global market and created a niche for itself. Invest in a silk Nakshi Kantha saree for your loved one or an intricately embroidered Kantha scarf for that corporate outfit. Plan for a day trip to Shantiniketan to witness an extraordinary collection of Kantha work.

7. Batik

A visit to any of the WB Government run emporiums can showcase the exquisite Batik work done on leather and textile. Leather Batik bags, batik sarees, dress materials and garments don the highly popular craftwork using the process of repeated dyeing process in certain patterns and designs.

What did you buy during your last visit to Kolkata?

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