‘Bhim Er Maayer Chula’ is mentioned as one of the seven prominent tourist destinations in Nilphamari on the official website of the district, http://www.nilphamari.gov.bd/site/view/tourist_spot.
But the unprotected site, in Putimari village of Kishoreganj upazila, with distinctive geological features is on the verge of destruction.
During a recent visit to the place, this correspondent came to learn that almost two-thirds of the elevated land mass, surrounding the site, was already levelled by local farmers while the remainder of the site lies unrecognisable under a cloak of shrubs and brush.
Anil Chandra, a senior citizen from the area, said when he was very young, the diameter of the furnace area of the stove was around 80 to 100 metres and the surrounding earthen wall was about 10 to 12 metres high.
Aminur Rahman, a local, was found doing agricultural work at the site. When asked how he could grow crop at a tourist spot recognised by the government, he said he and his brothers have genuine proofs of inheriting the land.
The legend behind the name Bhim Er Maayer Chula, meaning stove of Bhim’s mother, is narrated in several books including Rangopurer Itihash, Rangopurer Protno Sampad and Nilphamarir Itihash, published by Bangladesh Academy.
Bhim or Bhima, the second of the Pandava brothers, was one of the physically strongest characters depicted in the Hindu epic of Mahabharata.
According to the legend, Bhim’s mother Kunti set up a massive stove at the site, which is in present-day village of Putimari, to cook rice for her sons. As she poured liquid starch or maar from the boiled rice, the river named Maargala was created in the area.
In an explanation found in the books, during a war with King Rampal, Bhim started building a fort in a densely forested area of Putimari village under the then Rangopur region, which is now known as the division of Rangpur.
The construction of the fort was later stopped due to a change in the course of the war. With the passage of time, people later on started to call the abandoned structure Bhim Er Maayer Chula.
Contacted, Mehedi Hasan, assistant commissioner (land) in Kishoreganj upazila, said the 2.55-acre land of the site was always recorded as private property in government land surveys.
Upazila Nirbahi Officer Roksana Begum said as part of their efforts to protect the site, they issued orders banning removal of earth from the site and they were considering legal action against violators.
Nahid Sultana, regional director of the archaeology department, said she would visit the site soon so necessary steps can be taken to bring the site under government protection.