There cannot be any other verse than this, which can be a better testimony to the treasured collage of awe inspiring waterfalls, breathtaking virgin forests, ancient history, tribal culture and handicrafts that one witnesses on visiting the majestic places of Jagadalpur, Bastar, Dantewada and Barsur in CHHATTISGARH, located in the heart of India.
The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man.Author Unknown.
It is a sheer misfortune that despite having such a huge potential for tourism, neither has much been done to promote these incredible destinations nor many people would even have an iota of an idea about these incredible places.
It’s a pity that all that is projected about this place is the menace of naxal issue and that deprives countless tourists from visiting this place, apart from an unimaginable loss of potential revenue to the state, which in turn could have been utilized for development of the region.
Having visited these places, all on my own, without availing a tourist operator or even a local guide; having interacted with the locals in the remotest areas; having had a brief chat with the Jawans of the paramilitary forces; having traversed through the dense thick forests where roads literally don’t exist and most significantly; having witnessed and participated in the Cock-Fight that takes place in the tribal weekly market called Haat, you can trust my word that this place is definitely worth visiting once in a lifetime.
All that one needs is to have a good know-how of the places and a well planned itinerary. A little Googling and one can’t resist rushing there. It’s a pleasure sharing my wonderful experience of these places, which I, my friend and his his family shall cherish throughout life and would definitely be going back to cover the places that we missed during the last trip.
Jagadalpur and Bastar
Jagdalpur is located at a distance of around 300 Kms by road from Raipur, the state capital of Chhattisgarh. It is the administrative headquarters of Bastar district and was once the capital city of the princely state of Bastar. The road from Raipur to Jagdalpur is like an expressway. We hired an Innova from Raipur and even after the continuous night travel, we hardly felt any tiredness.
Being around 300 kms from Vishakhapatnam and 562 Kms from Hyderabad, reaching Jagdalpur should not be difficult. The nearest airport is at Raipur. Jagdalpur has its own railway station. One can avail the daily bus services from Raipur as well as from Hyderabad.
The best option would be to hire a bigger vehicle like Toyota Innova from Raipur / Hyderabad for the complete tour journey including local sightseeing.
One of the most economical yet comfortable staying options is at DEVANSH RESIDENCY, near Chandni Chowk at Jagdalpur. They offer a Suite room at a very economical price. The food is good, considering the very few options the place has.
Even while visiting the other two places of Dantewada and Barsur , we stayed here only as in those locations, finding a suitable and safe stay option is almost out of question. The entire stay of 2 nights and 3 days was a very pleasant experience. The Hotel staff was very hospitable as well.
Chitrakote Waterfalls | Monstrous Waters Unleashed..
On day one, early in the morning, we set off for Chitrakote waterfalls, located at a distance of 38 kms from Jagdalpur. We were filled with absolute excitement, as we could hear the deafening roar of the gigantic waters of river Indravati that rumbles and tumbles 96 feet down the steep hillside, long before we actually reached the water falls.
Once we reached there, we were simply breathless to see the crescent moon shaped waterfalls. Even though it is smaller, no doubt why it is compared with the great Niagara Falls of the US and is aptly named “The Niagra Falls of India”.
Winter was just setting in when we went there also as it did not rain much that year, the volume of water was quiet less. That permitted us to take snaps standing very near to the falls, from points where one can’t even dare to step in the monsoon time, when the entire crescent is hidden by the gigantic waters.
Having enjoyed the view from the sides, we climbed down the steps, adjacent to the government tourist rest house, to have a panoramic front view of the cascading waters. On the way down we enjoyed a cup of tea at a small tea shop. It is better to carry some snacks from the hotel as you do not have many options for eating out in the vicinity of the waterfalls.
If the view of these mammoth waterfalls is breathtaking in the morning, then the view of the waterfalls which is illuminated in the night is even more hypnotizing.
The way back from Chitrakote | Adventure of a Lifetime..
As we bid adieu to this remarkable creation of nature, we mistakenly took an adventurous diversion towards Barsur, a diversion which I cannot forget for a lifetime. Just a few kilometers ahead and we found the roads beginning to disappear; sight of human existence diminishing (only a few tribals who were staring at our vehicle for what, GOD only knew); the forests getting wilder and denser;
Elated we were to the brim as we saw the roads started appearing again and the signboard indicating “Barsur – 0 Km”. The first sign of human existence that we witnessed after quite a while were Jawans of paramilitary forces taking guard behind piles of sands and boulders that acted as barricades.
As we were heading towards the Saat Dhara waterfalls, our progress was halted by the patrolling Jawans of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) at one heavily guarded barricade.
Daylight dwindling slowly as we traversed through the thick forests; breaking roads merging into muddy tracks less traveled and then came the biggest jolt – a patch of land, which our driver confirmed had been the remains of the road that had been blasted off recently.
To add to this we could see very small patches of paddy fields among the dense forests and tough terrains. The excitement of an adventure had soon turned into apprehensions of the unknown.
The only signs of fauna that we saw during the entire journey through these dark forests were the sight of a wild makdi, a few foxes and wild birds. Other than these, only one vehicle crossed us, that too carrying cargo and not humans.
A Brief Rendezvous with the Jawans
Our vehicle was searched and we were enquired about our identities, purpose of visit etc. Soon one of the Jawans noticed that the front wheel of our vehicle was just about punctured.
As we realized that the Stepney tyre was also in a very bad shape, we were instructed to wait at the barricade till the driver would get the tyres repaired at a nearby place called Geedam.
We had a brief chat with the Jawans and were truly moved to listen to their strenuous lives that they have in these remotest areas, Each Jawan had a different story to tell, from being married and staying away from the family that stays in Karnataka to being an eligible bachelor from the far northeast waiting to get married to his beloved, whose name was tattooed on his hand.
We had a succinct discussion about the problems they faced in these tough conditions, the way the naxalites operate, stories of ambushes in the past etc.
It was at this juncture that we came to know that the path that we took to reach Barsur from Chitrakote was actually an abandoned one and how dangerous it was to travel through that.
As this is one the remotest naxal affected areas, finding an option to have a proper meal was simply out of question. We were touched by the hospitality of the Jawans as they offered us lunch in their canteen.
We did not want to disturb their routine chores and hence managed to have the little snacks like Guajarati Faafras and namkeen that we were luckily carrying. One of the Jawans with whom we had interacted bought us sweets that his family had sent him. We were truly moved.
After the brief luncheon we got the go ahead to proceed to see Saat Dhara. Not everyone is allowed to go there. The Jawans have to inform the Control Room located on top of the hill and can permit you only if they are satisfied with your credentials and think that it is safe enough.
We were lucky enough to have been escorted by one of the Jawans as we helped them transport a carton of bananas for the Jawans stationed on the way up the hills.
Though we could not see the waterfalls, we cherished the scenic appeals that the serene river Indravati and the mountain ranges of the vicinity. We had some beautiful view of the valley through the binoculars offered to us by the Jawans.
We were told not to venture too far towards the Ending Bridge as that was the dividing line between the areas behind the mountains that is inhabited by naxals and the areas guarded by the jawans.
Hats off to these Jawans who sacrifice their life for the well being and safety our common folk in these remotest naxal affected areas. A few rare tourists like us who visit once in a while are the only people to offer some brief moments of pleasant company. If you happen to visit this place, do not forget to spend some time with these dedicated jawan.
Peeping through the window of the ancient past.. the remains of the archaic temples and sculptures.
We had collected information about the remains of splendid temples and had a fantastic experience witnessing these archaic creations of the ancient times.
Barsur was the prominent capital of the Gangavanshi rulers as early as 840 AD. It is believed that in its old prosperous times there were around 147 temples and ponds in this region. Now one can only see the magnificent ruins of the numerous temples.
This temple is dedicated to lord Shiva. Constructed on a high platform in the centre of tank, history has it that this temple was built by a feudatory chief, Mamandaleswara Chandraditya. There is a beautiful mandapa having 12 stone pillars that boasts of exquisitely carved images of several deities.
A striking Nandi that faces the garbagraha is stationed outside. The sculptures offered us an enticing eye warming experience, we would cherish for long.
This is one of the most appealing sculptures one would witness in this vicinity.The temple encloses two astonishing mamoth idols of Lord Ganesha that have been carved out of single rock pieces. The bigger sculpture is almost 2.5 metres in height.
We offered our prayers to the Vignaharata Bhagwan. The sheer size of the vibrant idols has left an lasting impression in our minds that we can not forget in our lifetime.
Mama Bhanja Temple
Just nearby the Ganesh temple is another archaic beauty, the Mama Bhanja Temple. It is believed that this temple was built in memoir of some uncle and nephew of the Naga dynasty. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple has an eye catching curvilinear shikara over the garbagraha. The entrance as well as the sides are decorated with excellent carvings.
Next we proceeded to the lat prominent temple, that is the Batissha Temple. This temple derives its name from the fact that the mandapa of this strikingly beautiful temple is supported by 32 pillars. 32 is pronounced as battis in hindi.
The temple houses two astonishingly alike garbhagrihas. There is a large Nandi placed in between the two garbhagrihas. Each of the 32 pillars is around 2 metres high and the temple offers an excellent ambience for rejuvenation of the mind and soul.
Having covered the archaic temples of Barsur, our next destination was Dantewada. Jagdalpur is the nearest city, around 87 kms from Dantewada. The roads are strikingly beautiful and one of the best in the entire state of Chhattisgarh.
Dantewada is easily accessible by road through private bus services available from almost all the big cities of Chatthisgarh , like Raipur, Bilaspur, Durg & Rajnandgaon. It is also connected by road with Hyderabad, the capital city of the neighboring state Andhra Pradesh on which APSRTC runs a regular service.
Dantewada derives its name from the Godess Danteshwari Devi. The prominent attraction of this place is Danteshwari Devi Temple.
Danteshwari Devi Temple… A Soul Refreshing Experience
The temple is dedicated to six-armed goddess, Mahishasuramardini and the idol has been exquisitely carved in black stone. This splendid lendid temple of Goddess Danteswari tops the list of places of interest, in the town. Countless devotees visit this sacred temple throughout the year.
The temple is located at the confluence of the holy rivers Shankini & Dhankini,. It is believed that the Godess Danteshwari is the protector of the town. The entire ambience of the temple offers a soothing experience, peace and tranquility to the minds and souls of devotees who visit.
This temple is a Shaktipeeth and encompasses a sanctum garbhagriha with a pyramid shaped shikhara, a pillared sabhamandapa and a pillared natyamanadapa.
Sculptures of Lord Vishnu’s avatara, Narasimha and a Garuda Stambha also add up the divine appeals of the majestc temple. We cherished the soul refreshing experience by offering our prayers and seeking the blessing of Godess Danteshwari.
The Haat…. Cherishing the Tribal Culture
Evening was setting in and we had started back for Jagdalpur. We noticed a huge gathering of local people and hearing the hustle bustle of the place, we enquired from our driver, what was that. He explained that it was the weekly market, known as “Haat” and is the lifeline of the rural economy of the region.
The weekly market happens in one at one specific location very week. Luckily that day the Haat was at Dantewada.
Destiny had in store for us an experience that we simply can not forget for a lifetime…the experience of mingling with the locals and tasting the traditional culture, the tribal way !
We were spell bound to notice the prevalent system of “Bartering”, a practice of exchanging goods for goods that we used to read in our history books in childhood. Typical agriculture forest produce of the tribal and also handicrafts made by them are bartered in exchange for commodities like salt, tobacco, vegetables and even cloth.
The Haat also presents an opportunity that brings various rural communities together. Tribal folk dressed in traditional costumes, apart from buying and selling goods in the market, also catch up with their relatives and counterparts from other areas, enjoy local brew and watch a cock-fight.
Wandering through the Haat, we could not resist from tasting the Mahua, the locally brewed alchohol, served in Dongas (cups made of leaves). A glass of Vodka is known to give you a click rather slowly. But just a few sips of mahua , I believe was enough to take have shaken us.
Who knows even 007 would change his famous “Shaken Not Stirred” choice, if provided an oppurtunity to taste the Mahua,the tribal way !!
Next stop at the Haat was at the Cock-Fight site.
Just as we were jumping up and down, amidst the local crowd, to get a glimpse of the cock-fight going on inside the ring, a local chap caught hold of my hand and dragged me into the fighting arena, asking me to put money on a cock and try my fortune.
Shaken by this sudden move, there was no option but to give in. Just before I consented to participate, the local chap bought one such Cock and explained in detail how a tiny sharped edged knife is tied to the legs of the Cock, how the Cocks fight and most importantly the rules of the game..
I did lose the money that i had put on the cock, which was beaten to slow death by its counterpart but was fortunate enough to have experienced the thrill from such close quarters.
The Sun was setting down and having thoroughly cherished the rural Haat we got onto our cab and hit the beautiful roads less travelled towards our abode at Jagdalpur for a sumptuous dinner and a nice little slumber to recharge our baterries for next day’s excursion of the tribal land..
Having enjoyed the same to heart’s content, believe me any tour to this region is simply incomplete without a visit to one of the Haats.
After having a relaxing night at the hotel, we had our breakfast early, thanks to the hotel staff who managed to arrange the same quiet earlier than the routine timings for breakfast at the hotel.
The second day was planned for viewing the grandiose scenes of the famous Tirathgarh waterfalls, other places in and around Bastar and finally sparing some time for screening and shopping of the striking handicrafts covering Bell Metal castings, Iron crafts, wood carvings and bamboo crafts amongst others,in the local markets in the vicinity of our hotel.
Tirathgarh Waterfalls…. in the company of tranquil waters
We started early towards the picturesque waterfalls of Tirathgarh, located at a distance of around 39 kms from Jagdalpur. This amazing waterfall is formed from the Mungabahar Nala that gushes down resembling steps of huge volume of pure white milk, tumbling from a heightof around 35 metres. The serene waters merges into the Kanger river that flows through the Kanger Valley National Park.
If contrast to the Chitrakote waterfalls that is gigantic and treacherous, this waterfalls is comparatively quiet serene and soothing. One can cherish the opportunity of having a nice bath in the waterfalls, though one should be careful of the probable stone boulders that may fall from heights.
Since we were visiting the place after monsoons, it was quiet safe and we just could not resist the temptation of rushing to have a bath in the gorgeous waterfalls. Having spent more than an hour and a half near the waterfalls, we then visited the abandoned old Shiva-Parvati Temple on a large rock facing the waterfalls.
Having enjoyed the waterfalls to our heart’s content we then proceeded towards the famous Kutumsar caves and Kailash Gufa. It was our sheer misfortune that these incredible gifts of nature were closed for tourists during that time. We swore to come back to view these majestic natural caves in the near future.
We spent some good amount of time wandering in the lush green ambience of the Kanger Valley National Park, though we could not view much of fauna except a few wild birds.
This marvellous castle, also known as Jagdalpur Palace, was constructed when the capital of Bastar was moved from Barsur to Jagdalpur. It continues to remain home to the erstwhile royal family. We enjoyed the wall paintings and crafts displayed inside the palace that took us around the history of various rulers that ruled this kingdom in the past.
Other seasonal waterfalls around Jagdalpur are Kanger Dhara, Madhwa,Chitradhara,Thamada and Mendri Ghumar. Since we had little time left, we could cover only the major waterfalls of Chitrakote and Tirathgarh. One would need an additional day if one wishes to cover these smaller waterfalls.
After visiting the Bastar Palace, we returned back to the hotel as we did not want to risk of losing a proper meal in the afternoon. After enjoying an opulent lunch, we took a small nap for about an hour and then set off to see the Dalpat Sagar lake and Hanuman Temple nearby.
This is the largest artificial lake in the region and was excavated around 400 years ago by the rulers of Kakatiya dynasty. There a few sculptures around and one can enjoy a brief walk around the lake. In the recent times the upkeep of the lake has not been up to the mark and the absence of boating facility for is a big letdown for the tourists.
After having a nice little stroll around the lake, we moved towards the famous Hanuman Temple. One should definitely visit this beautiful temple which houses a huge striking idol of Lord Hanuman.
We offered our prayers to the deity and spent some time in the temple admiring the other sculptures inside the temple. The Hanuman Temple is worth a visit. We then proceeded back to our hotel for some tea and snacks, before leaving for the final activity of the excursion…. Shopping Handicarfts !!
Handicrafts in Chattisgarh
Bastar craft is famous quiet sought after all over the world over. How can one miss the opportunity to have a closer look at these majestic antiques created by splendid imagination and artistic skill of these tribals.
The tribals of the region have evolved an extremely rich tradition of handicrafts that includes Bell Metal Castings, Iron Crafts, Wood Carvings and Bamboo crafts. These tribals have perfected these arts and we were spellbound by the creativity and the precision with which these antique pieces have been created.
Handicrafts are one of the very important sources of income for these tribal folk. We spent more than an hour and a half in the local markets witnessing these amazing creations of man and ended up buying quiet a good number of antiques to be taken back home as mementos of the incredible tribal land.
One need to do a good bargaining for these handicrafts as these are sold by the shopkeepers, to whom the tribal folk supply these handicrafts and the shop owners attempt in making good amount of profit by often charging extraordinarily.
Having done a good amount of shopping we returned back to the hotel, had some tea and snacks and decided to have some rest and an early sleep, so that we could leave back for Raipur the next day morning.
The overall experience of these majestic places was simply awesome and whoever visits these places of the great tribal land will definitely come back to cherish the collage time and again. This tour which I aptly call the Naxal Tour has been the best outing I have ever had in my life.
Hope you too will look forward to have a glimpse of the majestic Chhattisgarh and explore the Hidden Paradise !!