Eco Tourism Park is already a huge hit among visitors and with its newest addition, a Japanese Forest, it is bound to give other city attractions a run for their money. Although a few of the installations were handed down from a well-known Durga Puja organising club, the need to preserve the artefacts once the annual festival gets over, ensured that Kolkata was rewarded with its own serene corner where one can come face to face with nature, as well as with self.
Enter through the first gate of the Eco Tourism Park and continue straight beyond the car parking to reach the huge lake. A soft right turn from there will lead you to the gate of Japanese Forest, fiercely guarded by two pairs of Komainu (lion-dogs). Once you enter through the gate, you would come across an 8 feet tall statue of Lord Buddha which was part of Suruchi Sangha’s pandal decoration during last year’s Durga Puja. Chief Minister, Miss Mamata Banerjee has encouraged preservation of the rich sculptures that adorn Durga Puja pandals every year instead of relegating them to a watery burial. From the statue turn left and walk down the beautiful garden pathway meandering through the greenery and miniature statues of Lord Buddha. These miniature statues, according to Japanese culture represent different types of people and accordingly a carved black marble plaque beside it reads:“Look carefully, you can find yourself among them”. Throughout the Japanese Forest you will find such introspective proverbs scattered around, philosophical enough to make you stop in your tracks and ponder for a while.
The entire Japanese Forest has been designed to help you catch your breath from the materialistic world around you, away from the smartphones and innumerable gadgets and connect with nature. Beyond the miniature statues of Lord Buddha you will find a maze considered to be a meditation tool by the people of Japan. It is said if one truly concentrates and walks on a single file in the labyrinth, they can resolve all of their predicaments. After the labyrinth you will come across a yellow bamboo grove while on your way towards the monastery. It is believed if you write down your wish on a pink slip and tie it to the leaves of yellow bamboo; it will fill you up with positive vibes to achieve it.
At the monastery, you get the feeling that you have been transported all the way to Japan. The outer walls of the monastery have sculptures of garudas that were sourced from the same Suruchi Sangha Puja pandal along with the statue of Lord Buddha at the entrance of the Japanese forest. There are prayer wheels inside the monastery which has 1000 prayers written on paper which in turn are put inside the wheels. The idol of Lord Buddha inside the monastery is made of red sandstone and behind it are two motorised prayer wheels which strike a bell after an interval of every few seconds. The ambience created with contrasting light yellow and bright red accents is a visual delight.
After exiting the monastery, take a walk through the series of red cylindrical pillars called Torii that are joined at the top. In Japanese culture, people construct these to show their gratitude towards nature when their wishes come true. It is said to bring more positive energies and make one feel connected with their inner soul when they take a walk through a series of Torii which in literal sense means an abode of birds. Some other features of the Japanese Forest includes a Zig Zag Bridge, Seven Lotuses which represents the seven deities of prosperity, the Seven Gods of fortune which are important figures in Japanese mythology and a Moon gate which is shaped like a full moon and is considered auspicious to walk under by newlywed couples.
Mr Debashis Sen, Managing Director and Chairman of HIDCO said, “It is our constant endeavour to present new experiences to visitors at Eco Park. ” Mr Sen went on to add, “The Japanese Forest was developed by HIDCO with the help of consultant Ms A Rathore and experts nominated by the Japanese consulate in Kolkata. Prof Makato Suzuki from Tokyo and his team held field inspections and a day’s workshop with the engineers from HIDCO.”
The Japanese Forest is designed to touch one’s core through all the five senses and allow people to be more in sync with nature. And given the hectic lives we all lead, a walk around the mystical Japanese Forest might truly be an experience in self discovery.