Chattisgarh, the land of waterfalls, forests and rich cultural heritage, has many surprises in store for the traveller. Far from the hustle and bustle that is the bane of modern man’s monotonous lifestyle, it offers much more than an escapist’s wildest expectations. Chhattisgarh remains an enigma waiting to be explored and beckons the traveler with its natural charm and biodiversity.
ormed in 2000, this state has been carved out of Madhya Pradesh. There are sixteen districts in all, many of which were former princely states. Three national parks and eleven wildlife sanctuaries dot the state, which itself speaks volumes for its immense forest cover. This state is 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 main waterfalls are Chitrakote, Tirathgarh, Kanger, Gupteshwar, Malajkundam, Saat Dhara, Ranidah, Rajpuri, Kendai, Tata Pani, Damera Tamda Ghumar, Mendri Ghumar. Chitrakote Falls are a fascinating sight compared to Niagra Falls for their horseshoe formation. Wildlife includes tigers, leopards, warthogs, prawns, rhesus monkeys, etc. Rice, sugar cane, legumes, bananas, and wheat are the main crops.
Though only seven years old, Chhattisgarh is an ancient land, referred to in ancient texts, inscriptions, and travel accounts by foreign travelers such as Dakshin Kosala. It has a significant tribal population (32.5%) compared to 7.8% for the rest of India. Immensely rich in natural riches, Chattisgarh boasts of having 12% of India’s forests. The Vindhyachal mountain range dominates the state. Spectacular waterfalls add to the wild scenic beauty and coupled with rolling hills it is a feast for the eyes. There are also a number of ancient caves that contain impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations 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 which are celebrated with joy and festivity. The main mode of transportation is by road, which is very well maintained. A distance of 400 km can be covered in less than 6 hours with ease. The main religions are Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and the tribes.
Places to visit
Bastar is one of the largest districts in India that has a predominantly tribal population and remains an enigma for many travellers. This place is a potent blend of old and new with ample measure of natural beauty and cultural diversity. More than 60% of its land is covered by forest, which speaks volumes for the importance of the tribal population. Government policy is to develop this sensitive area through sustainable tourism.
Kanger Valley National Park’s expanse of pristine forest, diverse flora and fauna, ancient caves, waterfalls and rivers is a dream destination for botanists, adventure sports enthusiasts and artists. Danteshwari, the patron deity of the royal house of Bastar, is said to have led the fleeing king to safety from the invaders, to these wooded hills.
Tribal peoples comprised nearly three-quarters of Bastar’s population, each with their own indigenous culture of spirits, deities, dialects, customs, and eating habits. One of the notable aspects of this indigenous population is the way they are transported, whether for the local haat (weekly market) or for other purposes. With a firm step, balancing their enormous loads, men and women walk in single file, with baskets on their heads and children on their hips. The Muria farmers of North Bastar are more settled and are best known for their Ghotul. This is a special place meant for unmarried young boys and girls to gather away from their adults, where they carry out their own unique system of social education which also includes music, dancing, storytelling, etc.
Bastar is also famous for its simple and intricate handicrafts, which is a delightful fusion of old and new. The Harappan and Indus Valley flavor of Bastar’s crafts adds to their appeal among connoisseurs. Kondagaon, Narayanpur and Jagdalpur are famous for their terracotta handicrafts such as elephants with bells and a selection of decorative pots and tableware. Jagdalpur is also famous for kosa silk weaving.
Metal and wrought iron bell works are an integral part of Kondagaon and Jagdalpur artworks. Some of Bastar’s finest handicrafts are on display in many of India’s five-star hotel lobbies and urban shops.
It would be a great omission not to refer to the waterfalls, rivers and flora and fauna of this region. Vast expanses of rice fields, an endless expanse of virgin forest, and a dazzling array of flora, fauna, and ancient caves make this place stand out as one of the best biodiverse eco-travel vacation options on our planet.
Trees such as teak, salt, sirsa, tamarind, amla and mahua form an important part of this varied landscape. The forest range is home to a number of endangered species with the Bastar hill myna at the top of the list. This unique bird is perhaps the only one that can mimic the human voice to produce a real-time effect. Camping facilities are provided, especially the camp at Chitrakote Falls, which offers an experience to appreciate.
Bilaspur is best 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 city of Bilaspur can be used as a gateway to the virtually unknown north of Chhattishgarh.
Sirpur is a small town about 84 km from Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh. It is well known for its archaeological monuments. This city is situated on the banks of the Mahanadi River and has a rich cultural and architectural heritage. Sirpur during ancient times was a well-known center of study and art due to its political stability and religious tolerance.
Laxman Temple in Sirpur
This brick temple is one of the best brick temples in the country. Its original pattern, exquisite carvings and precise construction with excellent symmetry is unique. This panchrath type temple has a Mandap (Shelter), Antraal (Passage) and Garbh Grih (the main house). On both sides of the entrance there are many incarnations of Lord Vishnu, ornamental symbols of Krishna Leela, erogenous images and Vaishnava Dwarpal, giving the temple a purely historical look. The temple is believed to have been built by Emperor Magadh Suryavaman in 650 AD
This festival is celebrated on the Amavasya of the Bhadrapad month of the Hindu calendar, which falls mainly in August. Being an agricultural state, Pola in Chhattisgarh has a special significance as it is celebrated to worship the oxen for their year-long service.
It is celebrated on the Bhadrapad Skula Panchami of the Hindu calendar which falls mainly in August. As the name suggests, it is the celebration of the new harvest beginning to ripen. People wear new clothes, offer prayers at temples, and exchange the varieties of recipes made that day.
Dussehara in Chhattisgarh has a special meaning due to the different ways it is celebrated. Although Dussehara is celebrated as the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after his victory over Ravana throughout India, it is celebrated in Bastar for other reasons. It is about the importance of Danteshwari Devi in the lives of the people there.
Located 18 km from Kawardha on the Raipur Jabalpur road, on the banks of the Sankari river, among the Satpura hills and its picturesque valleys, the Bhoramdeo temples have a special appeal for lovers of history and archeology. The temples were built by the famous King Ramachandra of the Nag dynasty. These temples are excellent examples of contemporary architecture and have sculptures similar to those of the Khajuraho temples.
how to reach
Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh, is connected to other cities in the country by air and rail.
There are two national highways connecting Chhattisgarh with the rest of India:
* NH 6 which runs west to east from Nagpur in Maharashtra to Orissa, where it branches off to Kolkata and Bhubaneshwar.
* NH43 (one of the best-laid National Highways in India) runs north-south from Kawardha through Raipur to Jagdalpur and on to Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.
Summer can be uncomfortably hot, with temperatures reaching over 40 degrees. The monsoon, which is from mid-June to October, is a wonderful time to visit with rain showers providing a respite from the sweltering heat and the entire state being swathed 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, as temperatures drop and the air is less humid.
If you have the opportunity to visit Chhattisgarh, believe me, it will be a unique experience. So grab it with both hands!