Beaches of Bakkhali: West Bengal, India

Cox's Bazar near the Bakkhali River Estuary. Photo by Flickr/eutrophication&hypoxia
Cox’s Bazar near the Bakkhali River Estuary. Photo by Flickr/eutrophication&hypoxia

Known for its proximity to the Bay of Bengal, Bakkhali is a small seaside resort located on one of the deltaic islands in the southern part of the state of West Bengal in India. It’s uniquely crafted from the Sunderban cluster of forests and is joined to the mainland with bridges that are connected over a narrow creek. It beckoned us ardently hinting at a mesmerizing holiday with the sun, sand and sea. We easily surrendered to its call in order to experience the surf-drenched adventures it promised.

As our car was pushed onto the steamer that would ferry us across the creek, we sat shivering with excitement. This was a new experience for us, and we were just hoping that we didn’t all sink into the creek together. Diminishing all thoughts of fatalities, we landed safely on the other side and looked back to see another vehicle being nonchalantly driven aboard for the next trip. The uniqueness of Bakkhali had already started to set in.

Swathed with fields draped in bright yellow sunflower blossoms running parallel to the white sandy beaches, Bakkhali is different from the traditional sea side resort. It has no unruly waves thrashing around on its beaches. It also does not provide a thriving shopping boulevard on the beaches selling seaside goodies at bargain friendly prices. However, it wins over tourists with the pockets of barren nooks located on its windy coasts, even when you are surrounded by a crowd. Just like the millions of small hermit crabs that dive into their holes as they sense footsteps moving towards them, Bakkhali allows its visitors to create their own little space behind a boulder, in the midst of a thick foliage or even by simply sitting before the sea facing the ripples of waves that kisses its shores every now and then.

Flowers on the beach. Photo by Amrita Chatterjee
Flowers on the beach. Photo by Amrita Chatterjee

Just when the sun dims its light, the Bakkhali shores light up with a different illumination. The numerous food stalls start their daily business. You will soon be gifted with the smell of freshly fried fish and an assortment of evening snacks that seduce your taste buds with the typical flavor of street food from Bengal.  This is the quintessential character of a seaside resort in West Bengal. Born natural foodies, the people of Bengal carry their favorite pastime wherever they travel.  So munch as much as your tummy allows, and wash it down with a drink of your choice.

The history of Bakkhali, like most tourist spots in India, is largely dominated by the British and their penchant for identifying new places for habitation. As the history books opine, Andrew Fraser, Lt. Governor of Bengal, was once shipwrecked on these islands. A beautiful local woman named Narayani saved his life.  Enamored by her beauty, Fraser fell in love with her. However, their romance was cut short when Fraser’s wife came to hear about his affair and had the woman killed with the help of the British troops. To commemorate their unfinished love affair, locals named a section of the island as Narayanitala. This was however, subsequently renamed as Fraserganj and is still known by the same name.

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