CHHATTISGARH

CHHATTISGARH

Chhattisgarh is a newly formed state created out of Madya Pradesh and bordered by Maharashtra, Andra Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand. It is known for its forests forest and tribal people. Tourist sites include Jagdalpur, Chitra Kote Falls on the Indravati River, Tirthgarh Falls, Indravati National park, at the stalagtite caves in Kotamsar. Bastar lies at the center of a region and is occupied by the Marias and Murias tribes.

Chhattisgarh state covers 135,191 square kilometers (52,198 square miles), is home to about 25.5 million people and has a population density of 190 people per square kilometer. Most of the population lives in rural areas. Raipir is the capital and largest city, with about 1 million people.

Chhattisgarh has caves, lush green forests, ancient monuments, rare wild life, exquisitely curved temples, Buddhist sites and hill plateaus. About 44 percent of the state is covered by forest and 32 percent of population is made up of tribal people. Checking out the region’s tribal culture and nature are Chhattisgarh’s main attractions. Places in Chhattisgarh are featured in the two great Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The state boasts of the widest waterfall in India, Chitrakote. In monsoon when the Indravati River is in full flow, this waterfall in Bastar District becomes almost 320 meters (980 feet) wide.

Raipur

Raipur (400 kilometers southeast of Bhopal) is the capital and largest city in Chattisgarh, with about 1 million people, and the gateway to the state. The stronghold of several kingdoms, the city offers a mix of heritage and everyday Indian life. While the old part of city is shaded in history, offering glimpses of the region's kingdoms and colonial heritage and culture, its modern counterpart has features of a smart city.

Said to be in existence since the 9th century B.C., Raipur was once the capital of the Haihaya kingdom and a part of it was also ruled by the Satawahana kings. The Gupta king, Samudragupta, ruled the region until the A.D. 6th century, after which the Nala kings took over, followed by rulers of the Somavanshi dynasty. The famous brick temple, the Lakshman Temple, is said to have been built by Somavanshi queen, Vasata. Boasting several temples and lakes, Raipur represents the natural and cultural diversity of Chhattisgarh.

The modern city is best reflected in its Solar Energy Park, which uses various renewable forms of energy for running boats and other tourist attractions. The Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International Cricket Stadium is another modern feature of the city. For shoppers, the well-planned city offers a plethora of options from beautiful bamboo-work product, woodcraft articles to Gond paintings and handmade and handprinted Kosa silk. The city is also a major industrial hub, home to several industries including steel, aluminium, coal and power, and one the largest steel production centers in the country.

Mahant Ghasi Memorial Museum (opposite the Collectorate's Office) is housed in a building believed to have been established by queen Jyoti Devi of Rajnandgaon. It contains fascinating artefacts, intricately crafted idols, ancient stone inscriptions and rare coins. Purkhouti Muktangan (in the Naya Raipur area) is an open-air art-museum-garden that gives visitors a glimpse into the various folk art forms and practices of the state with special focus on tribal culture. On display are artefacts and folk artworks depicting the habitat, folk dances, lifestyles and food habits of the tribal groups in the state.

Getting There: By Air: The main airport connecting Raipur to other major cities of the country is the Swami Vivekananda Airport also known as Mana Airport. It is located near Naya Raipur, 15 kilometers from the main city. Regular flights are available to and from all major Indian cities. By Road: Buses run regularly to and from Raipur to Sambalpur district of Odisha and Nagpur, Maharashtra. The NH (National Highway) 6 that connects Kolkata to Mumbai, counts Raipur as one of the major cities. By Train: Raipur Junction Railway Station lies on the way of a major railway tract of the country, the Howrah-Nagpur-Mumbai line.

Near Raipur

Solar Energy Park (8 kilometers from Raipur) was set up by the Chhattisgarh Renewable Energy Development Agency. Created on the theme of generation and usage of various forms of renewable energy, it boasts lush greenery, colorful flowers, playful fountains and pretty waterfalls. There are indoor and outdoor exhibits, working models, interactive games and quizzes for children, along with solar-powered toy cars for toddlers. Another highlight of the park are solar boats that people can use in an artificial lake. These boats are powered by batteries that are charged by solar modules mounted on their roofs. The Solar Energy Park is located on Mana Road reached via Bhawanipatna-Raipur Highway and VIP Road. It is open between 10:00am and 6:00pm every day.

Durg (17 kilometers west of Raipur, on the banks of River Shivnath) is home to the state’s most vibrant folk traditions. Durg boasts numerous folk dances, songs and dramas. It also houses the ancient building of Hindi Bhawan, which has now been converted into a municipality office. Travelers can also visit Chandi Mandir, which is dedicated to Goddess Chandi. The Jain temple of Nagpura nearby is also worth a visit. While in Durg, visit Maitri Bagh, a joint initiative of the Indian and Russian governments as well as Devbaloda, which is famous for an ancient temple of Lord Shiva. It is said this temple was built by kings of the Kalchuri dynasty in the 13th century. The east-facing temple houses a 1.5-ft-high lingam (phallic symbol honoring Shiva) and the pillars are decorated with intricate carvings, depicting gods and goddesses. A carved door leads one to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. The exterior wall has carvings of animals such as horses and elephants, and divine figures. A square pond inside the complex draws devotees, who take a dip in it.

Champaran (60 kilometers from Raipur) is known for being the birthplace of the first Satyagraha movement by Mahatma Gandhi, in 1917. When Gandhi returned from South Africa in 1916, he saw farmers being oppressed by indigo planters. He used the same methodology he had once put to use in South Africa to organise mass protests against this injustice, where Britons grew indigo forcibly to extract opium for their trade with China. At village Barharwa Lakhansen, Gandhi started the first ever basic school in November 1917. Champaran is believed to be the birthplace of Saint Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharya, the founder of Vallabh sect, Champaran is a quaint village, about. Formerly known as Champajhar, it is home to two temples constructed in honour of the saint: Prakatya Baithakji Mandir and Mool Prakatya also known as Chhatti Baithak. A small stream of River Mahanadi flowing nearby is worshipped in the form of River Yamuna.

Arang

Arang (40 kilometers from Raipur) is a medieval temple once ruled by the Haihayas Rajput dynasty. Today, it is noted for a number of Hindu and Jain temples belonging to the 11th and 12th centuries – Bhand Deval Jain Temple, Panchmukhi Temple, Hanumana Temple and Mahamsmaya Temple. It was during an archaeological excavation that a copper plate, Arang Plate of Bhimasena II of the Rajarsitulya clan, with an inscription that dated back to the period of Gupta empire was unearthed here. It established that historically the town was a Hindu and Jain religious center.

The name arang is made from two words – ara meaning saw and anga meaning body. According to legend Lord Krishna, disguised as a Brahmin, appeared before king Muratdhwaja who offered him dakshina. But Krishna as a Brahmin had other plans and asked for one half of the body of the king who instructed him to be sawed in two. Just as he was about to be cut, a drop of tear fell from his eyes on which Lord Krishna asked him if he regretted his decision. The king replied in negative and told the Brahmin to take dakshina from the half from which no teardrop fell. It was then that Lord Krishna revealed his true identity and gave blessings to the king. During the archaeological findings, a few Jain images made of gemstones were found.

The Bhand Deval temple, revered by the Jains, is a major tourist attraction here. It features beautiful black stone sculptures of Jain tirthankaras, and the shrine is believed to be one of the rare spots where the images of all 24 Jain tirthankaras can be found engraved on one stone. The Bhag Deval temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is worth a visit too. It was built in the 11th century in the same style as the Khajuraho temples in Madhya Pradesh.

Chitrakote Waterfalls: the Niagra Falls of India

Chitrakote Waterfalls (275 kilometers from Raipur, Bastar district of Chhattisgarh) is the widest waterfall in India. In monsoon when the Indravati River is in full flow, this waterfall becomes almost 320 meters (980 feet) wide. Surrounded by the majestic Vindhya ranges, the waterfalls cascades down a height of 32 meters. It is believed that herds of deer once lived in its scenic surroundings and this is how it derives its name - chitar is the word for deer in the local Halbi dialect.

Chitrakote Waterfalls is often called the Niagara Falls of India. It has a horse-shoe shape and spectacular at any time of the year, but is at its roaring best during monsoons (July to October). Surrounded by dense sal forests, the falls is a sight to behold as the sheer water curtain drops down in a roar, which reverberates through the craggy hills, the cliffs and the neat paddy fields.

During the rainy season, the otherwise white water turns into various shades of brown, heavy with silt. If you are lucky, you will catch a rainbow or two hanging above the water, emerging from its misty depth. You can hire a local fisherman's boat to take you as close as possible to the falls. You can also swim in the river downstream or try water rafting. A popular picnic spot, most tourists prefer making a day trip to the falls from Jagdalpur (around 40 kilometers away). You can also explore the surrounding region for a glimpse of the local tribal culture.

Sirpur

Sirpur (80 kilometers from Raipur) is a tiny hamlet located on the banks of River Mahanadi, approximately It boasts archaeological remains associated with Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. Excavations have revealed ruins of ancient structures across the village area, out of which the Buddhist viharas are believed to be older than even the famed Nalanda University, in Bihar. There are also a multitude of temples and monasteries, the most important of which are Lakshman Temple, Gandheswara Temple, Swastika Vihara and Anandaprabhu Kutir Vihara.

The Lakshman Temple, featuring Gupta architecture, is believed to date back to the A.D. 7th century and is one of the most beautiful brick temples in India. In 1872, British army officer and archaeologist Alexander Cunningham visited some of these monuments and published his findings, especially about the Lakshman Temple and its beautiful and intricate carvings. This resulted in the place gaining international recognition. The temple faces the east and is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It stands on a massive platform that is accessible from the north and the south by steps. The temple has a garbh graha (sanctum sanctorum), an antarala (a small antechamber between the sanctum and the hall) and a mandapa (pillared outdoor hall). Another highlight is the popular Sirpur Music and Dance Festival organised in the premises every January.

There are many Buddhist sites to explore and one can start from the most noted one, the Buddh Vihar, which is known for its beautiful carvings that narrate stories about life back then. The biggest monastery in Sirpur is Teevardev Maha Vihara, around a kilometer, from the Lakshman Temple. During recent excavations, 12 Buddhist viharas, one Jain vihara, monolithic statues of Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira along with 22 Lord Shiva and five Lord Vishnu temples and an underground granary market have also been found.

Bhoramdeo Temple

Bhoramdeo Temple (in the Kabirdham district, 130 kilometers from Raipur) is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Its architecture is noteworthy and due to its similarity to the temples of Madhya Pradesh, Bhoramdeo Temple is also called the Khajuraho of Chhattisgarh. Its pinnacle is said to look like a blooming lotus flower, while its mandapa (pillared outdoor hall) is supported by 16 pillars, each of them having unique and intricate carvings. A highlight of the temple are the lingams (phallic symbols honoring Shiva) placed inside, along with the idols of Uma-Maheshwar, which are beautifully carved.

The temple sits atop a 5-ft-high platform or plinth which, on its exterior faces, has sculptures of Hindu deities. As one enters the sanctum sanctorum, not-to-be-missed are the exquisitely carved sculpted images of Lord Vishnu’s Dashavtaar or the 10 incarnations, along with images of Lord Ganesha and Lord Shiva. The sanctum sanctorum’s roof is topped by a circular-shaped kalash (a holy metal pot). The entrance door has the images of Goddess Ganga and Goddess Yamuna on its doorpost.

Another temple worth a visit is the Madwa Mahal, around 1 kilometers from Bhoramdeo Temple. It is set against a picturesque backdrop of the Maikal range of hills in Dakshin Kosala region. The name 'madwa mahal' in local dialect means marriage hall. Also known as Dullhadeo, the temple was constructed in 1349 by Nagavanshi dynasty ruler, Ramchandra Deo. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is worshipped in the form of a lingam (phallic symbol honoring Shiva), which is erected over 16 pillars.

Jagdalpur: Center of Bastar Tribal Culture

Jagdalpur (250 kilometers south of Raipur) is a city with about 125,000 people in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh endowed with gorgeous scenery and rich cultural traditions of its local tribal population. In and around the city are parks, waterfalls, palaces, museums, to natural caves and religious sites and serves as base to explore the Bastar region’s rich tribal culture.

One place of interest where boundaries between castes are blurred is the haat (market), that is organised every Sunday and is attended by adivasis (tribal people), acting both as shoppers and sellers. However, to get the full measure of adivasi life, one would have to explore the surrounding villages. Some also believe that Bastar region is home to the famous Dandakaranya forest mentioned in the Hindu epic Ramayana, through which Lord Rama passed during his 14 year exile.

Bastar Palace is one of the most important heritage sites in Jagdalpur. This historical monument boasts fascinating art and architecture, complemented by exquisite carvings and engravings on walls and ceilings. Surrounded by well-laid gardens and housing artefacts and figurines that tell the tale of past kings' glory, the palace invites history-lovers and tourists from far and wide. Another special feature of the palace is that it glitters in the sunlight and looks particularly charming. The palace is believed to have been built by the rulers of Bastar when they shifted the kingdom's capital from Barsur to Jagdalpur and the best time to visit the palace is during the Dussehra celebrations in autumn when it comes alive with festivities.

Anthropological Museum (in Dharampura, four kilometers from the city center) houses various artefacts that give a peek into the lifestyle and cultures of adivasis (tribal people). While the colorful headgear, footwear, ornaments and musical instruments are amazing, the dresses, paintings, wood carvings, weapons, masks, artwork and sculptures leave one wonderstruck as well. The museum was established in the year 1972 and was set up with the aim to preserve the rich tribal culture of the state, and give visitors an insight into the life of various tribals living in the state, with its ethnographic collections. The museum is located in the office of the Anthropological Survey of India, situated at Dharampura.

Getting There: By Air: The nearest airport is Vishakapatnam airport, about a seven-hour drive away (292 kilometers). By Road: Jagdalpur is about 15 kilometers from Madpal, 21 kilometers from Dhanpunji, 36 kilometers from Kotapad, 133 kilometers from Raighar and 290 kilometers from Raipur. Regular bus services are also available. By Train: The railhead at Jagdalpur is well-connected via trains to major cities of India and regular trains ply to and fro from here.

Near Jagdalpur

Kutumsar Caves (an hour away from Jagdalpur) is famous for unique stalactite and stalagmite formations, the Kutumsar Caves are hidden amid a dense sal forest inside the Kanger Valley National Park. Around, the prehistoric caves are also a spiritual site, attracting devotees who come here to worship Lord Shiva. Located at the end of the cave, the place of worship is accessed through a narrow passageway that runs along limestone rocks. The red-gravelled path to the caves winds through the forest and gigantic mounds of termites! Inside the caves, adventure-seekers strap on headlamps to negotiate their way avoiding the wet needle-shaped limestone formations. Inside, several species of frogs and fish can be spotted. The caves make for an intriguing experience that can be enjoyed at any time.

Chitradhara Waterfalls (Potanar village, 19 kilometers from Jagdalpur) is shaped like a horseshoe and is a popular picnic spot among locals and tourists. The sound of gushing water echoes beautifully through the remote village and one can unwind in this serene setting. The place is bestowed with abundant natural beauty comprising dense forests and pristine waters. The source of the waterfalls is a stream of River Indravati, which winds its way through thick forests and rough terrain and finally takes a plunge from the highest point. The waterfalls is among the eco-tourism sites in Chhattisgarh and attract visitors in hordes. The best time to visit this waterfalls is in monsoon when it is flowing furiously.

Tribal Tour from Jagdalpur includes visting: 1) villages of Maria and Halba tribes, sub group of Gond tribes, to see Bison Horn dance group and the dance of Maria Tribes; 2) the Bastar tribal market of Raja Marias and other Gond tribes; 3) Lohandiguda, home of one of the largest tribal market attracting tribal groups from all over South Bastar; 4) the tribal villages of the Dhurwa, a sub-group of Gond and have their own different style of houses, customs and lifestyle; and 5) the Mardoom tribal market attracting many Dhruwa and Maria tribal people.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: India tourism website ( incredibleindia.org), India’s Ministry of Tourism and other government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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