Incredible India with its vast, unexplored geographies. Some friends were sitting and discussing all that makes up this sub-continent and I realized that I had not seen the heart of India. I needed to explore the inner veins of the country. We got talking about Chattisgarh and what all this lesser talked about state offers. Names and places bounced off. And I was fascinated by Bastar.
So, digging into my phone book, and going through my Facebook list, I decided to speak with some people who had travelled to Chattisgarh. Out came exotic tales of beautiful places, lovely people, amazing arts and crafts and simple life. So Alka Kaushik, Stephanie Langlet, Abhinav Singh gave me some reasons to visit Bastar which has the famous 75-day Bastar Dussehra. This starts around the monsoon season and goes on till October when the rest of the country celebrates Dussehra. But there are more interesting things about Bastar—it is known as the Kashmir of Chattisgarh. It is said to be the legendary ‘Dandakaranya’ forest through which Rama passed during his exile. Researchers even claim that Valmiki’s ashram was located in Bastar.
All about Bastar
A tribal region, Bastar offers an entire gamut of views–forests, waterfalls, wildlife, ancient temples, tribal dances and music. And it is not far from the capital Raipur, around 264 km.
This is one of the main cities and the 70-year-old Bastar Palace is one of the historical monuments worth seeing. With exquisite carvings and engravings on walls and ceilings, Kaushik said I must spend some time amongst the royal walls. There are also forests of Keshkal nearby; Nagarnar has some good terracotta crafts and Narayanpur offers a display of bell metal, woodcraft, wrought iron and bamboo artifacts.
This ancient temple of Devi Danteshwari is said to be one of the 52 sacred Shakti peethas. Goddess Parvati is the main deity here and the temple is most visited during Dussehra.
Kanger Valley National Park
Has the most amazing green views, crooned my Facebook friends. Based near Kholaba River, it is home to panther, tiger, bear, snakes, jackals, langurs, deers, and different kinds of birds. It is also one of the places in India where you find dense forests of sal, teak and bamboo trees.
Inside the National Park are some ancient treasures such as the 330-mt long Kutumsar Cave, which is the second longest natural cave in the world. The dark cave has enclosing stalactite formation of the Shiva Lingam. A natural carving of the idol of Lord Shiva is found in the nearby Kailash Cave. The caves were reason enough to see Bastar.
But added to the caves is the thundering Tirathgarh Waterfall in the forest and an ancient Shiv-Parvati temple on the spot.
Horse-shoe shaped Chitrakoot Falls, the largest waterfall in India, are a mind-blowing experience as per the recommendations. The stream of River Indravati falling down from the Vindhya mountain ranges is one of the memorable experiences that one carries of Bastar.
Bastar arts in Kumharapara
Kaushik stressed that I must visit this village where a NGO Saathi is working with local craftsmen to keep alive the traditional crafts of terracotta and bell metal works. Saathi has been formed by a group of ceramic professionals who help sustain, develop and market Bastar’s traditional arts and crafts in national and international markets. Someone will sit and explain how the exquisite works are made and I can see the entire process. The village is actually a potters’ enclave. The people make terracotta pots, glasses, pans, elephants, stone carving, woodcraft, terracotta, bell metal work and iron and bamboo craft. The tribal community has been making these for hundreds of years. There are all kinds of ritualistic objects, figures of Gods and deities.
It’s not ‘Selfie’ but Salphi, Kaushik spelled it out for me. This is a drink made from palm trees and drunk in the morning the fresh and yummy taste lingers for a long time, Kaushik emphasized and you don’t get it in any other part of the country!
I have found all the reasons to visit Bastar, maybe September would be a good time to see it.