Sasaram : Tracing history in rice bowl of Bihar

Exploring nature and heritage

Tourism

September 12, 2022

/ By / Sasaram

Sasaram : Tracing history in rice bowl of Bihar

Kaimur Range has a glorious heritage and is one of the most vibrant regions of Bihar (Photo -Bihartourism)

Though barely 100 km from both Varanasi and Gaya, two of the most well-known destinations in India, Sasaram in western Bihar is unknown to even most Indians. However, lying in the cradle of history, the district which is known as the rice bowl of Bihar, Sasaram definitely makes for an offbeat destination.

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After hours of sleep in the bus enroute to Bihar from New Delhi, as I opened the window, a gust of cool breeze hit my face, forcing me to shut my eyes immediately. After winking momentarily, when I reopened my eyes, all I could see was an endless and widespread greenery, which captured me and the sense of tiredness and the motion sickness disappeared instantaneously, making me feel so much better.  Wherever I turned my head, all I could see was a similarly stunning view, with men and women working on their farms, while some were driving tractors to the land, others had a spade in hand and a smile on their face.

Somewhere else, a group of women was moved in perfect harmony, bending to plant the paddy and then raising their head to move to the new row. Some were singing their favorite folk songs. “They are singing the Kajari song, a seasonal folk song of Bhojpuri which is usually sung in the monsoons in this region,”” my fellow passenger told me.

As the bus continued to trundle ahead, we came across a large group of people, mainly men, dressed in a monochromatic saffron attire, carrying metal tridents or sticks with a small percussion instrument on top, singing hymns of Lord Shiva. They were the pilgrims called kanwariyas who headed for an annual pilgrimage towards Deoghar in neighboring Jharkhand. Those who cannot do the entire journey, go to the nearest point where River Ganga flows to offer their prayers as part of the pilgrimage and bring some holy water of the river back with them.

After some time, the bus comes to a halt at a small bus stand in the small town that we were crossing through. I alighted for a quick snack and joined some of my co-passengers in getting my fill of local food, a drink of Sattu (gram flour) and snacks like chana ghugni and a savory, tilkut. After another hour’s ride, I finally reached my destination, Sasaram, in the lap of Kaimur hills.

Sasaram in cradle of history

Like other parts of Bihar, Sasaram is densely populated with over 350,000 people, but unlike some other parts of the state, Sasaram boasts of a high gender ratio with 12 women for 13 men and at 80.28 pc, the literacy rate is higher than not just than the state average, but also the national average that is 74 pc.

Some historians believe that the entire district was home to aboriginals whose chief representatives now are the Bhars, the Cheers and the Orans. Some myths say King Sahastrabahu and Saint Parasuram, the legendary Brahmin protector fought a fierce battle here in which Sahastrabahu was killed. The name Sasaram is believed to be a mélange of Parsuram and Sahastrabahu. Sasaram was part of the Mauryan Empire from 6th century BC to 5th century AD.In the medieval ages, Sasaram was under various Muslim rulers, notably Sher Shah Suri, who defeated the mighty Mughals under Humayun and established hi Suri Empire in 1540. Sher Shah brought about very major land reforms in north India and extended the Grand Trunk Road all the way from Afghanistan to Kolkata and also built the Old Fort in Delhi, his capital. However, after his death in an accident in 1545, his successors could not defend his Empire and Humayun led the Mughals back to power.

Places to visit

With its rich history, Sasaram has several places of interest for tourists.

1. Sher Shah Suri Mausoleum

The Mausoleum of Sher Shah Suri in Sasaram is truly an example Indian, Afghani and Iranian architectural heritage, it was designed by Mir Muhammad Aliwal Khan and built between 1540 and 1545, during Sher Shah’s lifetime. This red sandstone mausoleum and the dome section of these monuments look inspired from a Buddhist Stupa shape. This architecture resides in between an artificial lake. This 50 m high monument is surrounded by an exquisite garden in Iranian style. In 1998, it was added to the UNESCO‘s tentative list for inscription in the World Heritage List.

2. Rohtasgarh Fort :

The history of Rohtas in Sasaram is obscure. Some say that the Rohtas hill here was named after the Rohitaswa, a son of the legendary King Harishchandra. However, the legends about Rohitashwa make no mention of this area, and no pre-7th century ruins have been found at the site. The Rohtasgarh Fort is on a hill, about 600 m above sea level. The 2000 odd limestone steps leading up the hill to the fort were probably meant for elephants. For the visitors, it is an exhausting climb of an hour and a half. At the end of the climb, one reaches the boundary wall of the fort. A dilapidated gate with a cupola can be seen there, which is the first of many gates built as well-guarded entrances to the fort. From here one has to walk another 2 km or so before the ruins of Rohtas can be seen.

3. Sundial :

At Dehri in Sasaram, there is a sundial that dates back to the British era. Built in 1871, it is the only sundial in this part of the country. Installed on a rock, it has Hindi and Roman numbers inscribed on it to indicate the time. It is still being used by the Bihar irrigation department.

 4. Exploring Kaimur hills:

Kaimur Ranges near Sasaram form part of Vindhyas. These ranges are home to a large biodiversity of flora and fauna. In the womb of these mountains are thousands of waterbodies and fountains which emerge in rivers downstreams and shelter several aquatic species. The ranges also boast of numerous scenic landscapes and have several  pilgrimage spots.

5. Indrapuri Barrage and Karamchat Dam :

These two water bodies have ensured that this region is wellirrigated and as a result it has become a large producer of foodgrains and other crops. Many canals that criss-cross the state depend on these two water bodies for their water. It is due to the bounty of water and fertile soil that this region is also acclaimed as “the rice bowl of Bihar”, because of the huge production of rice in this region. It is also amongst the greenest parts of Bihar, without thousands of trees in the ranges.

6. Gupta Dham :

Gupta Dham Mahadev Temple, also known as Gupteshwar Dham, is one of the most ancient temples in Sasaram, It is situated in Kaimur plateau and 20 km south of Sasaram. The Shiva Linga in the sanctum sanctorum of Gupteshwar Mahadev is a natural one, made by the drops of water falling from thousands of years from the top of the limestone cave. It is a very popular pilgrimage spot in Bihar due to its unique formation of Shiva Linga.

How to Reach Sasaram

Sasaram is well connected to both by road and rail.-The Grand Trunk Road or National Highway 19 passes through Sasaram and connects it to major cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Varanasi, Allahabad, and Kanpur. Sasaram railway station is well serviced by trains to key cities in the country.

Where to Stay Sasaram

There are a few 3 or 4 star hotels in Sasaram which are extremely affordable at INR 1000-2000 per night. There are several restaurants offering a variety of cuisines.

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