The Chhattisgarh Chronicles
Chhattisgarh is a beautiful and exotic place, very little visited and best example of rural India.
As you travel past the city, you would find fewer and fewer people around you. Most places have no tuk-tuks, auto rickshaws or uber. All of a sudden, you would feel as if you have travelled back in time. The unhurried pace of life would make you feel ecstatic. And as you travel deeper, you will discover a whole new world far from the modern world we know.
Chhattisgarh is clearly for niche and offbeat travel. Unspoilt, undiscovered and unique to its core.
Here are 10 reasons why you should plan a visit to Chhattisgarh real-soon:
1. Live into the WILD
The Kanger Valley National Park is one of the densest national park well known for its virgin forests. This rich wildlife presents an exhilarating escape to those who seek to find peace in the lap of nature. There are mystical limestone caves developed here and the forest is home to the rarest bird – Bastar Myna (the state bird of Chhattisgarh).
When to Visit: Monsoon season (June to October)
You could also enjoy a Safari ride at Barnawapara Wildlife sanctuary which is a forest trail surrounded by sal, teak and bamboo trees. The sanctuary is open only from November to June. If you happen to travel during other months, there are still some picturesque landscapes to enjoy. The Kailash Caves and Kotamsar caves were discovered here and it took over millions of years to create some of the formations.
Where to Stay: Hareli Eco Resort, Muba’s Machaan (recommended)
Pic Credit: Chhattisgarh Tourism (chhattisgarhtourism.co.in)
2. Witness magnificent Waterfalls
Chitrakoot Waterfall is truly the largest and the most magnificent waterfall in India. I have seen several waterfalls in India, but this one has set a whole new record. We got a chance to stay in a nearby government sponsored guesthouse with a view of the Chitrakoot waterfall through its glass walls and balcony. It really makes you wonder from where all that water comes from, every single second of time. We were glued to this remarkable sight all throughout the day. In the night, this majestic beauty paints all together a different spell.
Best time to visit: Monsoon season (June to October)
Stay options: Dandami Luxury Resort
Tirathgarh Waterfall is my next favourite. The views from the top are breath-taking and there are several stairs to get to the bottom most point of the waterfall. Depending on the season and volume of water, you can climb down up to a certain level only. I had the best tribal food just outside the waterfall and the lady was so generous while serving.
At each level the waterfall looks different. While most tourists are stuck on first level, the crowd is fairly minimal to none at all till the last level. The rocks are extremely slippery and while you are tempted to get into the waters, it is safe not to.
3. Experience Royalty at The Kanker Palace
The Palace breathes life into history with its colonial style architecture, an array of vintage cars and large gardens. We have all grown up listening to stories of kings and queens, grand beautiful palaces and hunting skills of the Kings. Kanker Palace is just a proof of all these stories. The large living room showcases some of the hunted trophies when hunting was a royal past-time. Although I imagine how creepy it would look in the night to be alone in this room. Their bedrooms still have the manually run Pankhas on the ceiling. Swords, guns, daggers, antique artwork and black and white photos from an era gone by decorates this palace. You could either opt for a guided day tour or an overnight stay at the Heritage Hotel. I also got a chance to meet Prince Jai, who remembered even my Parents visit at the Kanker Palace.
4. Dive into the Tribal Culture
Tribal tourism would clearly be the highlight of your time at Chhattisgarh. It is one of the few places in the world where age old tribal customs, traditions and rituals are still practiced. And it is this experience that makes you feel, you have travelled back in time. The tribes of Chhattisgarh are truly content with minimalist lifestyle and nature that surrounds them.
They are a bit shy, but friendly – they are as curious about you as you are about them! I have seen them being warm and welcoming to our interests in them and counting upon us in their celebrations. What they most enjoy is their group dances, playing drums and singing folk songs. They wear brightly coloured attire and unique pieces of traditional silver jewellery around their neck, ears, hands and feet. I have seen women piercing on either sides of their nose and wear unique hair clips. My happiness knew no bounds when I set to explore Bastar, an undiscovered part of India where time has not travelled much.
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Tribal Haat is a weekly market where different tribal communities from the nearby villages bring homegrown goods. It is believed that barter system is still practiced here.
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Chhattisgarh is the tattoo capital of India
Tattoos have a deeper meaning amongst the tribal people. It is considered as the only thing a person can take along in the next birth life. Each community follows its own tattoo design.
5. Visit the Archaeological finds at Sirpur
Recent excavations at Sirpur has found two large Buddhist monasteries, ancient figures that back to 5th and 12 century. A civilisation that lived and lost in time is seen at – Surang Tila, Laxman temple, Harshagupta Vihara and more places at Sirpur. Laxman temple amongst them is very well maintained and under protection of Archaeological Survey of India. It houses a museum with beautiful idols of an era gone by. The civilisation at Sirpur is compared to that of Harappa for the markets, a huge bath and inscriptions from different regions discovered at this place. I quite liked the museum with different figurines of Buddha meditating, broken chariot, large goddess figures and other interesting sculptures.
6. Tribal Food
Chhattisgarh is called the rice bowl of India and rice is one food item that is eaten widely in various forms. Tribal foods include Basta (Aamath) that’s made of bamboo shoots, Chewy mushroom called ‘phooto’ and red ants chutney (that’s right, they have red ants chutney). Indian breed black winged chicken, Kadaknath is also quite popular not only because of its taste, but also due to its low cholesterol and high protein content. Hence selling five times the price of normal broiler chicken. Mahuwa drink is also extremely popular amongst the tribes, which is prepared from Mahuwa flowers. Women collect Mahuwa flowers at dawn in huge baskets and sell them in kilos at the Tribal Haat market.
A family seen collecting mushrooms for dinner
A lot of people usually eat naturally grown fruits, berries, stems and roots. They serve food in neatly stitched leaves rather than plates or bowls. Cutting of trees is considered a sin in their region.
7. Trek up to the hill
Dholkal trek is one of the most popular treks in Chhattisgarh. The trek passes through pristine forests where you get to witness giant trees, birds, colourful flowers and tribal villages. The trek is enthralling and more than that, what sits atop the peak is what will blow your mind – it is the mysterious 1000-year old Ganesh idol. No one knows who mounted it there or where it came from. But, it proudly sits atop with the best view in all of Bastar!
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Another place to trek is the Gadiya Pahad in Kanker. It stood as the capital once when the Kandra King, Dharma Dev, won the city of Kanker and declared the mountains as his capital. This is the first time I ever heard mountains turning into a Capital rather than a city. There lies a Cave, green pond, few temples and a little house mounted on the edge of a rock.
8. Experience life in Rural India
Chhattisgarh is the ideal place to experience rural life in India. Some of these listed below are common sights at Bastar you are sure to stumble upon on the highway roads or in the interiors:
** Old man with wrinkles on his face, a stick in hand, wearing a turban and sitting under a tree, while his goats are grazing grasslands.
** School kids returning home from school riding on a bicycle, all in a straight line along the highway road
**Farmers and cattle working hard on the rice bowl of India
**Colourful bright attire, silver jewellery, lots of body piercing and tattoos, a lot of blush and shyness on the face are what tribals of Chhattisgarh look like
**Blue washed houses where women socialise every evening sitting outside their homes
9. Temples of Chhattisgarh
Chhattisgarh is home to beautiful temples that range from modern ones located at Raipur with white marbles, bright lights, polished floorings to the old carved temples located at Bhoramdev. The Bhoramdeo temple is called the ‘Khajuraho of Chhattisgarh’. It is famous for its captivating 11th century Lord Shiva temple complex.
10. Collect Bastar Art to decorate your homes
Bastar art is the most renowned tribal art form sold worldwide.
Tribes are believed to be the first metal smiths of India.
If you are a cultural traveller or love collecting souvenirs from different places then Chhattisgarh has so much to offer. Kosa silk textiles, bell metal artefacts, coin jewellery, terracotta pottery, almost every region of Chhattisgarh is known for its unique art. Most of their art work displays their day to day lifestyles and their love for cattles. The creativity of Chhattisgarh craftsmen knows no boundaries. Each handicrafts are painstakingly crafted by adhering to timeless traditions and with most natural raw material like honey wax is used to make thread.
The tribes live in such harmony with nature, eating what they grow and being happy with what they have, made me wonder if we have been doing it wrong all this while. Chhattisgarh tourism is not artificially crafted with fancy amusement parks or in a commercial sense to attract visitors. It is where you can experience life’s simple pleasure watching authenticity successfully retained in day-to-day lifestyle.
Visit Chhattisgarh for the most rewarding experience of your life!
Visit the official Chhattisgarh Tourism Website here