Publisher Swati Mitra soaks in all of West Bengal, notes NANDINI NAIR

Starting from the swamps and culminating with a view of the Kanchenjunga, West Bengal is remarkable for its diversity. “West Bengal”, a travel guide, published by Good Earth and supported by the Directorate of Tourism, Government of Bengal, systematically chronicles the state’s many faces. Through 90 destinations, it lays out Kolkata’s trademark lanes, sips at Darjeeling tea, drives through Dooars and boats down the Hooghly.

Released only last month, the book is a collaborative effort of different authors and photographers.

Editor and publisher Swati Mitra has a special attachment to the book as she was born and brought up in West Bengal. The variety in the state she points out is most obvious in the book’s covers itself, made from a collage of different images.

She says with a laugh, “We had to have the mountains, the tiger, Kolkata and the British influence — that’s why we chose Victoria Memorial.” Goddess Durga and the terracotta temples of West Bengal also find their slot on the cover.

The central entity

Talking about the state, she says, “The river (Ganga) is very central to West Bengal, if not for it, the foreigners would never have arrived, and Kolkata would have never happened!” But there is much more to Bengal than Kolkata. And that is exactly what the book records.

Kolkata is like London to England, feels Mitra. People most often fail to realise that there is more to the region than just the capital city. Towns which are battling anonymity and are the most interesting to her include South Bengal gems like the “Moorish town” of Saptagram and the temples of Bishnupur. A particular treasure is also the Hanseshwari temple in Bansberia, built in European style with 13 turrets. People in Kolkata, are more familiar with the hill-stations of north India than with their own state, she rues.

If South Bengal is scantly discovered so is North Bengal. Familiarity with this region begins with Siliguri and ends with Darjeeling. But it is also home to different sanctuaries and breathtaking sites. Mitra, who travelled extensively herself for the book, recounts, “The Buxa Tiger Reserve is splendid. You stand near the river and all you can see is water and jungle and on the other side is Bhutan. It’s unbelievably beautiful.”

These sites are slowly drawing Mitra more into the world of photography and away from the world of writing.

With the West Bengal guide out on the shelves, readers can look forward to travel books on Orcha and Mandu.

Shortly, readers can also discover Red Fort, Hyderabad, Assam, Chanderi and Panchmadi through the Good Earth staple.

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