Cholon Beel(চলন বিল) is a vast water land located at the Northern part of Bangladesh. During the rainy season it's size increases further. This is the largest Beel(বিল) from Bangladesh which is shared between four districts from Bangladesh. Natore(নাটোর), Sirajganj(সিরাজগঞ্জ) and Pabna(পাবনা) are sharing the major portions, and Rajshahi(রাজশাহী) is sharing very tiny amount.
Most of the people explore this Beel(বিল) from Natore(নাটোর) or from Sirajganj(সিরাজগঞ্জ). You'll find very few who are visiting this from Pabna district(পাবনা জেলা). I have formed a team of four to visit this Cholon Beel(চলন বিল) from Pabna(পাবনা) district. This time the team comprises of Ehasan(এহসান), Abir(আবির) and Mahfuz(মাহফুজ) with me.
Using a bus of Natore(নাটোর) we have started the journey at 6:45 of morning from Kollanpur(কল্যানপুর), and before 11:00 of morning dropped at Kachhi Kata(কাছিকাটা), a place tha lies on the Sirajganj-Natore(সিরাজগঞ্জ-নাটোর) highway. This place has a specialty. You can say it as the center point of the Cholon Beel(চলন বিল). From that place, you can easily move to Gurudashpur of Natore(গুরুদাসপুর, নাটোর), Tarash of Sirajganj(তাড়াশ,সিরাজগঞ্জ), Chatmohor of Pabna(চাটমোহর, পাবনা). All the three Upozila(উপজেলা) are sharing the massive portion of the Beel(বিল).
As it was a tour of Pabna(পাবনা), we were concentrating on Chatmohor(চাটমোহর). There were no boats or similar kind of things available at Kachhikata(কাছিকাটা). After asking to local people, we learned about the Chhaikula(ছাইকুলা) union of the Chatmohor(চাটমোহর). According to the people, that place may have some boat, but still uncertain.
Using a van for 40 taka, we have reached at the Chhaikula nouka ghat(ছাইকুলা নৌকা ঘাট). And luckily there was a boat available and it was full with passengers. We have hired the boat for the whole day. It will drop all passengers to the destination Handial, another union. And after that it will be all ours. The contract was only 800 Taka.
We have started our boat at 11:40 with other local passengers. Few hours back we were tensed about a boat, but that was vanished when we found one. We were enjoying the every bit of the beauties during the ride. Lot of trees were amid of the Beel(বিল) and surviving proudly. Several scattered houses were inside the beel(বিল) too.
The route from Chhaikula(ছাইকুলা) to Handila(হান্ডিয়াল) was in fact through the beel(বিল), then crossing the Atrai river(আত্রাই নদী), and then again through the beel(বিল). Lot of waves were available at the water. It sometimes swerved boat mildly. Other passengers from the boat were curious about us. They are not habituated by seeing lot of tourists at their place. We have answered all of their queries politely.
There is a Hindu temple at Handial(হান্ডিয়াল) union. We have paid a visit to to that temple and returned back to the boat for further exploration. The boat started again at 1:45 and that time we four were the only passengers.
Our next destination was Bhangura Upozila of Pabna(ভাঙ্গুরা, পাবনা). I have instructed the boatman to take us to the Bhangura(ভাঙ্গুরা) bridge over the river Boral(বড়াল নদী). It was basically a rail bridge which built during British period. It was predictably a journey of 2 hours and more. So we were resting on the boat, taking photos, chit chatting, and doing lot more other things.
Villages went under by the overflowing water from the river and Beel(বিল), also Ponds are merged. Sometimes lot of Kash flowers(কাশ ফুল) amid of water are waving by the wind. Locals are catching fishes at the banks or middle of the water. Local small boats are pulled by the villagers for transportation at short distance. Lot of different activities were happening in front of our eyes. I like these things. These kind of things coerce me to come out from my house and travel again and again.
While enjoying these and thinking about my future, we have suddenly found ourselves amid of water where everywhere was only water. Sky was getting darker, and the waves somehow got a roar. Possibly that portion of the beel(বিল) was having maximum depth. A small boat on that place could easily be twisted in water.
As the sky was getting darker, a heavy rain started to increase the beauty of our tour. It was very hot day before the rain. God just blessed us with a shower of rain. Though it lasted for a short period of time as we were running away from that place.
After the rain, we found our boat on the course of river Atrai(আত্রাই নদী). Next few hours of our journey to Bhangura(ভাঙ্গুরা) will be over that river. Bank of the river has a different scenario. Kids were playing on the bank, jumping on water, cows were grazing, ducks swimming on the water, housewives were washing clothes, dishes, people takes bath. Lot of different activities happen regularly at river bank.
The river Atrai(আত্রাই নদী) was full with water. It seemed that the bank and the water level were almost same. At several portion the villages beside the river flooded too. I found several brick fields which were halted as it went under under water. Hopefully they will start functioning at summer and start polluting nature again.
The boat was coursing over the river Atrai(আত্রাই নদী), but according to my GPS the targeted bridge is over river Boral(বড়াল নদী). But the two rivers are flowing theoretically in parallel. While thinking on this issue, the boatman Abu Hanif(আবু হানিফ) came to me and mentioning that they would use a narrow canal that connects the two rivers.
The journey through that narrow canal was another lifetime experience of my life. Sometime it was a canal, sometime it was through the flooded paddy fields. Trust me, there were no place for a kid to play. Everything was under water, except the houses. Even people are catching fishes by fishhooks standing on pond's bank, and those banks even look like as an island.
Lot of small bamboo bridges locally named Shako(সাকো) were over the canal that hindered our journey. But those things are made using a masterclass mechanism. Portion of that small bamboo bridges were having a technology, that helps people to pull it upwards to pass a boat. I mean, if you push the bamboo upwards, it will just make a way for a crossing boat.
Lot of water hyacinths were available at the water. Also a pungent smell were hitting our noses. Lot of trees were having their branches, leafs under the water. It was giving a feelings about a swamp forest riding. We have enjoyed every bit of those moments. Though the life of the local people are sometimes miserable as they use to be in flood by the two massive rivers at either side of their houses. Every year during the rainy season, they have to face this fate whether they accept it or not.
After these things another open fields came on our way. After that our boat did have slide inside the river Boral(বড়াল), another beautiful river from Bangladesh. This river was having slightly less width compare to river Atrai(আত্রাই), but having more water. People are the bank of the river living their life on a risk of flood at anytime.
When it was around 4:00 at afternoon, we have reached at the Bhangura(ভাঙ্গুরা) bridge. It was a small one but nice. 10/12 days back two college students just killed by an accident over the bridge. They were from Tarash of Sirajganj(তাড়াশ, সিরাজগঞ্জ) and have never seen a railroad or train. So got too much excited and also they didn't know how fast a train can move. They have learned that fact by sacrificing their own lives under that massive locomotive named Neel Sagor(নীল সাগর) Express of NilPhamari(নিলফামারী). Hope God will take them to heaven.
We had a break of 20 minutes for our lunch at a local hotel beside the river. We have eliminated our hunger by the rice with fresh Shorputi(সরপুটি) fish from the beel(বিল). Rice was costly at that place, but fishes were cheaper.
After the break, we have headed for Nurnogor(নুরনগর) ghat of Chatmohor Upozila(চাটমোহর উপজেলা). That path was totally over the river Boral(বড়াল). Amid of the river Boral(বড়াল) we have had a break for swimming and enjoying the sunset. I'll write about that experience and more about river Boral(বড়াল) next time. Till then, have fun.