Nov 21, 2008

Travel to Kanker - Bastar

Recently we traveled to Chhattisgarh and got an opportunity to explore the pristine beauty of the untapped area of Bastar. We, living in outside world know very few things about this area and we have a lot of misconceptions as well. That’s the precise reason of sharing this information and first hand experiences with all.

At the time of planning the itinerary, we were in dilemma since there were elections in Bastar region amidst threats and boycott announced by naxalites. Some travel agents were reluctant to give their taxis on hire to travel in that area. Finally after canceling the plans a couple of times, we decided to go for that since polling was over in Bastar region in the first phase of polling and we hired a taxi.

We stayed in Kanker which is a district place and almost 375 kms away from Nagpur. From Nagpur, first we have to reach Rajnandgaon which is on a National Highway. From Rajnandgaon a road goes to Bhanupratappur via iron mines of Dalli Rajhara and from Bhanupratappur, if we turn left, Kanker is about 50 kms away.

First thing we did was that we gathered the information from our relatives staying there about the naxalites threats. Interesting facts came out. Everybody told that the area in which we were planning to travel was completely free from naxalites. They told us that in media we hear that there is a bomb blast in Bastar, but actually it happens 100 kms deep inside the jungles and more than that we came to know that there are hardly any instances of naxalites hurting common man and tourists. They target only police and military men.

Elections amidst Naxalite threats

The Government has done a remarkable job in conducting pretty much peaceful elections and huge military forces were deployed. We saw huge military convoys moving out of the area after polling was over. EVMs were taken to safe places along with polling officers in helicopters as well. The voting percentage was high and in some places it went upto 80-85 % and as per my understanding, if it’s against naxalites, then it must be pro government. That will be clear after counting of votes.

Bastar Area

Bastar, The Land of Tribals and Natural Resources, is also enriched with natural beauty and pleasant atmosphere. It is surrounded with dense forests, hilly mountains, streams, waterfalls, natural caves, natural parks etc. It is firmly a tribal area, where the natural beauty can easily attract the tourists at first sight itself. Here the art & culture is the valuable ancient property of the Bastariyas. From the view point of tourists and tourism, Bastar is called the 'Kashmir of Chhattisgarh'.

The deep forest area between bushes and bamboos where one always feels the absence of sunlight, wide and thick forests , costly woods such as Sal, Teak, Sheesam ,Bija etc., between high mountains cool flowing stream, mountain valleys,caves , high waterfalls , sky-touching valleys and in the valleys the spread of greenery and in between this , the huts made by bamboo sticks, the fearless life style of the tribals and their culture, our heart and mind can be filled with new wonders and pleasure.
There are so many places which are worth seeing, not only in Bastar district, but also in the neighbouring districts Dantewada and Kanker, which are in Bastar division. It is being heard that there are many places of worth seeing which are still unexplored. Bastar will imprint an unforgettable memory in the mind of a tourist if once he visits here.
The important tourist places in Bastar district are Chitrakot and Tirathgarh (both are waterfalls), Kotamsar and Kailash caves, Kanger Valley National Park etc. Indravati National Park, known for tigers and wild buffaloes is situated at a distance of 200 Kms, west of Jagdalpur, is another place worth seeing. There is another tourist spot virgin Kurschel Valley, with its gigantic trees, situated 40 Kms. northwest of Narainpur. There are two wild life sanctuaries Bhairamgarh and Pamed which are in Dantewada district. The famous historical temple of Goddess Danteshwari is situated in Dantewada. Another place of historical interest in Dantewada district is Barsur.
Bastar is the name of the area, name of the district and name of the village as well. Bastar area covers many districts. Surprisingly, name of the District is Bastar while District headquarters is Jagdalpur. Bastar is a very small village with hardly 30-40 huts which you even fail to recognize while traveling from Kanker to Jagdalpur. It’s about 15-20 kms away from Jagdalpur. Kanker Jagdalpur road is covered with dense forest on both the sides. The noticeable thing was that the villages in this entire area are very very clean. There is wall to wall spray of cow dung mixed water everywhere.

Forests and Wildlife

Bastar area is covered with dense forests in which you can hardly see through even 100 mtrs. Sadly there is little wildlife left in these forests. We didn’t even see monkeys or deer which are easily seen in all the forests in Vidarbha. Now there are two schools of thought for that. Some people say that the forests are so dense and widely spread deep inside the road that the animals don’t easily get spotted on the roads. Some people say that there was massive hunting after some outsiders came in the region and the tribals eat most of the animals as well. Whatever might be the reason, the fact remains that there is very little wildlife left in the area. So don’t expect to see the tiger while travelling through the forests.

Places Visited around Jagdalpur

We had planned to return to Kanker on the same day from Jagdalpur, so we were a bit short of time. That’s why we visited only three important places, 30-40 kms around Jagdalpur on either sides. The three hour journey from Kanker to Jagdalpur was as exciting as the destinations. We visited Kotamsar Caves, Tirathgarh and Chitrakot waterfalls.

Kotamsar Caves

Kotamsar is the place with pitch dark underground caves with Stalactites and Stalagmites. These are 35 mtrs below ground level, with stalactites and stalagmites in fantastic formations. About 1370 m long, Kotamsar is the world's second longest natural cave. You need to enter the cave with a guide who carries torch which is the only source of light inside.

This is narrow entrance of the cave and the only source of oxygen deep inside below the ground.

Stalactites hang from the ceiling or wall of limestone caves and are formed by the deposition of calcium carbonate other minerals, which is precipitated from mineralized water solutions.

Natural formations on the ceiling with dome like formation.

Natural shivling formed due to stalagmites which rise from the floor of a limestone cave due to the dripping of mineralized solutions and the deposition of calcium carbonate.

Chitrakot Waterfall

This is the largest waterfall in India. About 38 km to the west of Jagdalpur - a one hour drive on an excellent road - this spectacular fall is formed when the river Indravati abruptly collapses into a 100 feet deep cavern. The mouth of the fall, when in full profusion, is over 1,000 feet wide. The Chitrakot waterfalls can be called as the smaller form of the world famous Niagara waterfall. The rainbow colours of the falls attract the tourists at the first sight itself. This is the prime attraction for all tourists and worth seeing in rainy season, between July and October. These waterfalls are in a horse-shoe shape and often compared to the great Niagara.

Tirathgarh Waterfall

This 300 ft high waterfall is actually situated in the Kanger Valley National Park (about 15 minutes from the park entrance), about 35 km south of Jagdalpur. The fall here splits into multiple falls, creating a stunning vista. While the Tirathgarh falls are not as wide as Chitrakot, you may stand almost under them, or walk across the top to sit on a rock rising up out of the middle. Well maintained steps lead down to the bottom. There is a small temple on a large rock opposite the falls. All around are the ruins of a 1,000 year old, advanced, Hindu civilization. Tirathgarh makes a lovely picnic spot. The best time to visit is from October to February.

Places Visited around Kanker

We visited only two places near Kanker. The first one was Gadhia Pahad which is the highest peak in the Bastar region. This is in the heart of the city and you can get the spectacular view of the entire city and adjoining areas from the top. There are steps to climb and takes almost three hours to climb and come back from the top. Earlier this hill used to be the residing place of leopards and bear and this was the scene till 5-6 years back. Now there is hardly any danger of these animals on this hill though this wildlife is present on other hills in Kanker city.

Other place visited was Malach Kudum waterfall which is 15 kms away from Kanker. This place is regularly visited by bear after sunset so it’s better to come back before day ends.

About Chhattisgarh State

My impression of Chhattisgarh as a State is pretty good. Infrastructure is good. There are schools and school going children were seen in remote areas like Kanger Valley National Park and Malach Kutumb. Roads are excellent in remote places and there were boards displayed everywhere that the road is built through Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana which means that the funds are being utilized in proper manner. This State is one of the few states in India with surplus electricity and no power cuts. This is a new borne state and surely headed for great development in the years ahead. Only thing that needs to be done is to promote tourism and create awareness amongst people about the tourist destinations in the state.

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