The Kurumbhera Fort in West Midnapur, West Bengal -- that we had 'discovered' in my previous post -- holds interesting possibilities for the economic and cultural life of South Bengal. We are aware of the dance festivals at Konarak and Khajuraho so why can we not conceive of a similar cultural festival at Keshiary with the Kurumbhera Fort as the venue ?
Located on almost one acre of enclosed space and with a ready made stage already built in -- as is evident in the picture of the North West corner shown above -- the fort will lend itself very readily to any kind of dance or dramatic performance with room to spare.
Keshiary is located 30 km south of Kharagpur on perfectly motorable roads and there are enough bus routes that connect it not only to Kharagpur but also to traditional tourist spots like Digha in East Midnapur. However hotels or other forms of accomodation are hard to come by in this corner of the state that has missed the economic opportunities that have become available in the more vibrant regions. Which is why we need a catalyst or stimulus to kick start some socio-economic activities here.
An annual festival of dance, drama and music -- perhaps with bauls, jatra troupes and other folk performers -- could easily be organised here by the Keshiary Chamber of Commerce ( if such a body exists ) or a newly created Kurumbhera Festival Committee with the assistance of district administration. The only real challenge could be accomodation of the guests but I am sure that enterprising farmers -- whose lands lie fallow after the paddy is harvested -- could easily set up tents for accommodating visitors and earn money in the process.
Rural Bengal is awash in culture but rarely have we made an attempt to monetise it for the economic benefit of either performers or the environment from where they emerge. Rabindranath Tagore conceived of the Pous Mela at Shantiniketan not just to patronise the bauls but because he realised the need to stimulate the moribund economy of Birbhum. A Kurumbhera Festival in this lovely venue could play a similar role for West Midnapur -- a region that has become synonymous with poverty and violence.