16 October 2017

Burying the hatchet: Where the Kings Ate Rice!

Of the nearly 11000 stations that the Indian Railways boasts of, most are mundane, non decrepit single platform affairs, catering to an odd passenger train a day and having a name that few would be able to recall beyond its immediate surroundings. A few, are big junctions, having sometimes up to a dozen platforms, seeing a flurry of activity all through the day and often late into the night. Quite a few of these Junctions have been named (or renamed) after historic or political figures, as per the whims and fancy of the powers that be. In either case, the names of the stations are nothing much to talk home about.
However, there are a minuscule number of stations that boast of a name that means something strange or hilarious or even commonplace but definitely sounds strange as the name of a railway station. Take "Methai" (station code MEE) on the East Central Railways in North Bihar. This truly tiny station's name means "Sweets" in Hindi. How it got its name and why? It is a matter of pure speculation. Perhaps it had an ancient Buddhist "Math" (Monastery) and the name got corrupted from Math to Methai. In Northern Railway, there is station by the name of "Tanda Urmar" (station code: TDO). I don't know what it means, but it certainly scores points for rhyming! Mumbai, of course, boasts of a busy suburban station called "Andheri" (station code ADH) literally meaning "Dark". But the station is so busy and is populated by so many people in so much hurry, that perhaps they do not have the time to marvel at the inconsistencies on the meaning of the name of the railway station they are alighting at!
What takes the cake is a small station on the North Eastern Frontier Railway: Raja Bhat Khawa (station code: RVK). It means the place where the Kings ate Rice! The station is a smallish affair with two platforms. It lies deep in the elephant country of Buxa Wildlife Sanctuary. The station was on the metre gauge track connecting Siliguri in West Bengal with Rangiya in Assam. Subsequently, it has been converted into broad gauge. As a child, I had traveled on this line many a times and marveled at the curious name. I often wondered, why was the rice so special that the king had to come all the way, to this middle of nowhere, to eat it. In the 80s, the jungles were very dense and the train movements were often interrupted due to elephant activity. In the jungle, it became quite dark even during the day time due to the dense foliage. For many years, my mental image of a jungle, was the dense poorly lit train travel near this curiously named station of Raja Bhat Khawa. Later, I read about the history of Koch kings and of their internecine warfare with the Bhutanese. On one of the occasions, for making peace, a neutral venue was decided, in the middle of the dense jungle. The Koch king and the Bhutanese made peace and apparently, the mode of burying the hatchet, was eating rice together, hence, Raja Bhat Khawa came to be! Today, it is a place, remote and practically in the middle of nowhere, but it is not without character. It is the entry point to the formidable Buxa Wildlife Sanctuary and the mighty Tripadvisor, has a page on the place. Such is the fate of places that help make peace!

2 comments:

Varuna Verma said...

Such a entertaining story.. Always thought you were enchanted by trains... Loved every bit

pallavi_13 said...

Just "Awesome..."you have described nicely..