Chattisgarh, the land of waterfalls, forests and rich cultural heritage has lot of surprises in store for a traveler. Far away from the hustle and bustle which is the bane of the modern man’s monotonous life style, it offers much more than the wildest expectations of an escapist. Chhattisgarh remains an enigma waiting to be explored and beckons the traveler with its natural charm and bio- diversity.
ormed in 2000, this state has been carved out from Madhya Pradesh. There are sixteen districts in all, many of them being erstwhile princely states. Three national parks and eleven wildlife sanctuaries dot the state, which itself speaks in volume of its immense forest cover. This state has been blessed with rivers and waterfalls. Mahanadi, Indravati, Shivnath, Hansdeo, Arpa, Pairi, Kharoon, Maniyari Jonk, Shabri, Dankini-Shankini, Mand, Tandula, Ib and Kotri. being the important rivers. The major waterfalls are Chitrakote, Tirathgarh, Kanger, Gupteshwar, Malajkundam, Saat Dhara, Ranidah, Rajpuri, Kendai, Tata Pani, Damera Tamda Ghumar, Mendri Ghumar. Chitrakote waterfalls is a mesmerizing sight which compares it with the Niagra falls for its horseshoe formation. Wildlife includes tigers, leopards, wild boars, langoor, rhesus monkey etc. Rice, sugarcane, pulses, banana and wheat are the major crops.
Though only seven years old, Chhattisgarh is an ancient land, referred to in ancient texts, inscriptions and in travelogues of foreign travelers as Dakshin Kosala. It has a significant tribal population (32.5%) as compared to 7.8% for the rest of India. Immensely rich in natural wealth, Chattisgarh boasts of having 12% of India’s forests. The Vindhyachal mountain ranges dominates the state. Spectacular waterfalls adds to the wild scenic beauty and along with rolling hills is a feast for the eyes. Also there are a number of ancient caves which contains awesome formations of stalactites and stalagmites that have taken eons to grow.
Hindi and local dialects are the languages spoken. There are also a number of festivals like Pola, Nawakhai, Dussehra, Deepawali, Holi, Govardhan Pooja being celebrated with gaiety and festivity. The main mode of transportation is via road which are remarkably well maintained. A distance of 400 km can be covered in less than 6 hrs with ease. The major religions are Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Tribal.
Places to visit
Bastar is one of the biggest districts in India which has predominantly tribal population and remains an enigma to many a traveler. This place is a potent combination of antiquity and modernity with an ample measure of natural beauty and cultural diversity. More than 60% of its land is under forest cover, which speaks in volume of the importance of the tribal population. The Government policy is to develop this sensitive area through sustainable tourism.
The Kanger valley national park’s expanse of virgin forest, diverse flora and fauna, ancient caves, waterfalls and rivers is a dream destination for botanists, adventure sports enthusiasts and artists. Danteshwari, the tutelary deity of the Bastar royal house, is said to have led the fleeing king to safety from invaders, into these forested hills.
Tribal people comprise almost three fourths of Bastar’s population, each with their own indigenous culture of spirits, deities, dialects, customs and food habits. One of the noticeable aspects of these indigenous population is the way they carry themselves around, be it to the local haat (Weekly market) or for other purposes. Sure-footed, balancing their huge loads, men and women walk in a single file, baskets on their heads and children on their hips. The agriculturist Muria of North Bastar are more settled and are best known for their Ghotul. This is a special place meant for young unmarried boys and girls to meet away from their adults, where they conduct their own unique system of social education which also includes music, dancing, story telling etc.
Bastar is also famous for both simple and intricate crafts which is a delightful fusion of antique and contemporary. The Harappan and Indus valley flavour of Bastar’s handicrafts heightens their appeal amongst the cognoscenti. Kondagaon, Narayanpur and Jagdalpur are famous for their terracotta crafts such as elephant with bells and a selection of decorative pots and tabletop items. Jagdalpur is also famous for kosa silk weaving.
Bell metal and wrought iron works are part and parcel of Kondagaon and Jagdalpur art works. Some of the finest works of Bastar crafts are showcased in many of India’s five star hotel lobbies and urban stores.
It would be a big omission if no reference is made to the waterfalls, rivers and flora and fauna of this region. Vast tracts of paddy fields, endless expanse of virgin forest and a dazzling range of flora, fauna and ancient caves makes this place stand out as one of finest bio-diverse eco travel holiday options on our planet.
Trees such as teak, sal, sirsa, tamarind, amla and mahua forms a major part of this varied landscape. The forest range is home to a number of endangered species with Bastar hill myna at top in the list. This unique bird is perhaps the only one which can imitate human voice to produce a real time effect. Camping facilities are provided especially the camp at Chitrakote waterfalls which offers an experience to cherish.
Bilaspur is better known for its Kosa silk and its quality. It is the second largest city in the state. The city is about 400 years old and the name is derived from Bhilasa which means fisherwoman. The town of Bilaspur can be used a gateway to the virtually undiscovered northern chhattishgarh.
Sirpur is a small town about 84 kms from Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh. It is well known for its archelogical monuments. This town is situated on the banks of the river Mahanadi and has a rich backgound of cultural heritage and architecture. Sirpur during the ancient days was a well known centre for study and art due to its political stability and religious tolerance.
Laxman temple in Sirpur
This brick temple is one of the finest brick temples in the country. Its original pattern, exquisite carvings and precise construction with terrific symmetry is unique. This panchrath type temple has a Mandap (Shelter), Antraal (Passage) and Garbh Grih (the main house). On either side of the entrance are many incarnations of Lord Vishnu, Krishna Leela ornamental symbols, erogenous pictures and Vaishnava Dwarpal, which gives the temple a purely historic look. The temple is believed to be constructed by Magadh emperor Suryavaman in 650 A.D
Festivals of Chattisgarh
This festival is celebrated on the Amavasya of the Bhadrapad month of the Hindu calendar falling mostly in August. Being an agriculatural state, Pola in Chhattisgarh has special significance as it is celebrated to worship the oxen for the year long service rendered by them.
It is celebrated on the Bhadrapad Skula Panchami of Hindu calander falling mostly in August. As the name suggests, it is the celebration of the new crop that starts ripening. People wear new clothes, offer prayers in temples and exchange the varieties of recipes made on that day.
Dussehara in Chhattisgarh has a special significance because of the different ways in which it is celebrated. Even though Dussehara is celebrated as the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after his victory over Ravana all over India, it is celebrated in Bastar for other reasons. It is about the importance of Danteshwari Devi in the lives of the people there.
Situated 18 kms from Kawardha on the Raipur Jabalpur road, on the banks of the river Sankari, among the Satpura Hills and their scenic Valleys, Bhoramdeo temples have a special attraction for lovers of history and archeology. The temples were built by the celebrated king, Ramachandra of the Nag dynasty. These temples are superb examples of contemporary architecture and have sculptures similar to these in Khajuraho temples.
How to reach
Raipur the capital of Chhattisgarh is connected to other cities of the country by air and rail.
There are two national highways that connect Chhattisgarh to the rest of India:
* NH 6 which runs west-east from Nagpur in Maharashtra to Orissa where it branches off to Kolkata and Bhubaneshwar.
* NH43 (one of India’s best-laid National Highways) runs north-south from Kawardha through Raipur to Jagdalpur and out to Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.
The summer can be uncomfortably hot, with temperatures soaring to above 40 degrees. Monsoon which is from middle of June to October is a wonderful time to visit with rains providing respite from the sweltering heat and the entire state is engulfed in green. The waterfalls provide a spectacular sight during this season. Winter which is from November to January is also a good time to visit, with temperatures falling and the air being less humid.
If at all you get a chance to visit Chhattisgarh, believe me it will be a unique experience. So grab it will both hands!