Bastar during Dussehra

#1 Oct 20th, 2014, 21:42
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#1
Many of my friends here know that I am relocating to a new city where I have to stay without my family. So, this Durga puja I wanted to do something special with my family. What better way than to experience something new together? Visiting a new place, observing local tribal cultures and having a different experience of Durga Puja/Dussehra celebrations - all culminated in a family trip to the Bastar area of Chattisgarh. This beautiful place hardly finds a mention in India's most visited tourist destinations but it rightly deserves to be there. The lush green mountains and valleys, unurbanised way of life and some breathtaking vistas makes a visit to this place truly memorable. Without further ado, let me start narrating my experience.

Getting leaves from the respective offices and matching them for my different travel companions and arranging for tickets at the last moment allowed us only about a week to enjoy the vacation. With one day each for to and fro journey we were left with only 3 days in Bastar. So we decided to stay one night in Chitrakoot and two nights in Jagdalpur. Our itinerary was:

29th September: Board Jnaneswari Express from Howrah at 22.50 pm.
30th September: Reach Raipur at 11.30am. Board Durg-Jagdalpur Express at 13.30pm
1st October: Reach Jagdalpur at 4.40 am. Move to Chitrakoot. Visit Kondagaon in the evening.
2nd October: After breakfast move to Jagdalpur after visiting Barsoor and Dantewada on the way. Evening at Jagdalpur.
3rd October: Visit Tirathgarh waterfalls in the morning. Rest of the day at Jagdalpur.
4th October: Board Koraput-Howrah (Samaleswari) Express at 4.15 am.
5th October: Reach Howrah at 6.15 am.

As we had planned our trip only one month earlier, getting train tickets and reservations at the various hotels was a bit dicey. Normally tourist flow in Jagdalpur is less but as it was the time for Dussehra, most of the good hotels (centrally located) were booked. Also, as we had to leave Jagdalpur in the wee hours of the morning, we thought it fit to book a hotel close to the railway station (Hotel Reekha). At Chitrakoot we booked the tents of Dandami Luxury Resort run by the Chattisgarh Tourism Board.

Nothing significant needs to be mentioned about the journey to Jagdalpur except that both Raipur and Jagdalpur stations are very clean. Trains were very punctual (I was not expecting that but relieved as we had only two hours in between to change trains). At Jagalpur even in the early hours we could manage to get vehicles for Chitrakoot.The little bit of time that we had to spend in the railway premises was most enjoyable. Greenery abounds in Bastar and it starts right from the railway station. Infact, the place has such a healthy atmosphere that morning walkers were found aplenty. We managed to hire an auto from the station to take us to Chitrakoot (for Rs. 800) which is approx. 40 kms away. On the way we also visited the Chitradhara waterfalls. The auto was big enough to carry 9 of us along with our luggages. Though not very comfortable, we were happy to be on our way.

The peaceful little Jagdalpur station:


Our first taste of the celebrations, in front of the railway station:
#2 Oct 20th, 2014, 22:10
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Even by Bastar standards, Chitradhara waterfall was a little known place even for the localites. Our auto driver had never been there but was glad to take us on our insistence. On the way to Chitrakoot from Jagdalpur, the auto took a left turn and soon we were amidst green paddy fields. Local people were up and about and were eager to give us directions. The road was nicely paved throughout the way and we soon halted at a place shown to us by the locals. Only rich green paddy fields could be seen on all sides.


Walking a few steps ahead brought us to the the small waterfall hidden amongst the fields. A small stream also flows by.


What makes the place really charming is its remoteness and ofcourse no tourist footfall (we were there in the early morning). Villagers could be seen tending to the fields, fetching water from the stream. The fatigue of our journey were washed away by the cool water of the stream. We were content to sit there for a long time dipping our feet in the water, listening to the sounds of birds and insects.

Some more views:




#3 Oct 20th, 2014, 22:23
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#3
Excellent pics. And TR.
Thanks.
#4 Oct 20th, 2014, 22:31
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#4
Great reporting and photos, as always, trisha.
"Only the guy who isn't rowing has time to row the boat."
(Jean-Paul Sartre)
#5 Oct 20th, 2014, 22:32
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Re: Bastar during Dussehra

Ooh hoo... Top stuff. Following
#6 Oct 20th, 2014, 22:35
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By then the sun had come up and we had to reluctantly leave the place. With a quick breakfast of pakoras and tea on the way, we reached Chitrakoot by 10 am. As the check-in time is 12pm, our tents were not ready yet but the staff were obliging enough to quickly ready one in which we could freshen up. We had a small glimpse of the famed waterfall on our way inside and were eager for more. The roar of the water was deafening and as some members of our group made use of the facilities of the tent, we went to the falls to have a look.

Our first glimpse from the resort:


This resort is built right in front of the waterfall and besides the Indravati river. View is best from the cottages than the tents but the best view is from the PWD guesthouses perched right in front (the red building that can be seen in the above picture).

View of the Indravati river seen from our tents:


Another view of the waterfall as we got closer


and finally the magnificent body of water rightly nicknamed as "The Niagara of India". The cherry on top of this beauty is the rainbow which can be seen omnipresent at the falls.
#7 Oct 20th, 2014, 22:41
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#7
Thanks pammi, TD and somnathda....more to follow soon..
#8 Oct 21st, 2014, 11:48
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Nice photos .. Following the TR !
#9 Oct 21st, 2014, 16:17
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.....continued

It was our plan to visit the craft's village of Kondagaon during the afternoon. Accordingly we arranged to have lunch in the resort as early as possible. Though a bit expensive, the food quality and quantity is good in the resort and it was by far the best throughout our trip. As we had not arranged for a vehicle earlier, we persuaded the resort staff to make some arrangements for us and they could come up with a Tata Magic ( for 1500 bucks). The distance to and from Kondagaon was approx. 120 kms and some part of the road was really bad. The journey was especially rough and long in this small vehicle but as we had no other option, we had to take it. We had not estimated that it would take us more than 2 hrs to reach the Saathi Samaaj Sevi Sanstha at Kondagaon. We expected to see the ironsmiths making the bell-metal artifacts at this place and have a look around the famed bell-metal and wrought-iron items of Bastar. But we were disappointed to learn that this centre only sells the items made locally in the village. Even then the items on display for sale were very interesting - various figurines of animals and tribals, decorative items of bell metal, wrought-iron window frames, terracota lamps, ganesha idols all were beautiful to watch.



Tribal music in Dokra (Bell-metal):


Smile and the world is yours..


The wrought-iron window frames were exquisite:




A tribal couple:


Beautiful terracota elephants:


Though we could not see the bell-metal crafters, we did see some potters and clay workers going about their work making pots, lamps and dolls.

The potter's shed:




These pots are getting ready for Diwali:


The finished product:


The people here are very genial and ready to answer any query you may have about their work. They even let us try our hand at the potter's wheel . To gain more understanding of the techniques of work, one can stay here (accommodation can be arranged by them) and also visit other places in Kondagaon where the bell-metal items are being crafted. As we were short on time, we could only take a passing flavour of this enchanting environment.

By the time we got back to our resort, we were dead tired from all the journey. After dinner, we had a lazy stroll upto the falls. The waterfalls is lighted up at night but the overall ambience is very tranquil. With the thick vegetations surrounding the region and no visible human habitation about except for the resort, it gives a very odd feeling of being completely in the wild. The silence of the place except for the roaring waterfalls can only be seen to be believed. With the thought of a day well spent, we were content to retire for the night.
#10 Oct 21st, 2014, 16:53
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#10
Your experience is so different from mine Trisha! I found bell metal craftspeople working at Saathi when I visited. Hope you met Bhupeshji - he does excellent work. Did you meet Shakeel Rizvi near Tirathgarh or in Jagdalpur? Did you visit any tribal haat (markets) in any village?

Look forward to the rest of the report.
#11 Oct 21st, 2014, 18:49
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Hi VA...yes we had different experiences. In fact I had included the visit to Kondagaon after reading you report. What I came to understand from them is that the bell-metal crafters were finding it difficult to work in Saathi and manage their household duties, so it has now been arranged that they will work in their homes and the finished product would be sold at Saathi. Also, we could not meet Mr. Bhupesh Tiwari as he was away for some meeting during our visit.

I could not reach Shakeel Rizvi at the number you had provided in your TR. So, we just soaked up the ambiance of Jagdalpur during Dussehra and conversed with many locals and also some tribals in Hindi (some of them are really fluent and others can understand if not speak). During Dussehra, the place was full of tribal people mingling with the locals and enjoying the festivities. The entire atmosphere was jubilant. Though we did not visit any particular haat, we came upon many local markets by the roadside and also the "Bastar Fair" which was held at Jagdalpur during this time.I will discuss more about them in my successive posts.
#12 Oct 21st, 2014, 23:18
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#12
Nice report ...... & snaps ...... Just mind blowing
A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.
Garhwal | Dooars | Dhabaleswar | Dabu | PURI | Gujarat | Kamarpukur-Jairambati
#13 Oct 26th, 2014, 23:45
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#13
Sorry friends for not being able to update this thread more regularly. I am currently busy with my relocation to Delhi. I promise to post further as soon as I get a bit settled here. Thanks for your patience.
#14 Oct 27th, 2014, 00:09
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#14
Waiting patiently for them trisha,you get settled in Delhi first...
#15 Oct 29th, 2014, 00:19
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.....continued

The Dandami luxury resort is a good place to stay at Chitrakoot. The resort is huge with about 19 cottages and 13 luxury tents. It is run by the Chattisgarh tourism department and is located just in front of the waterfalls. Lots of greenery abound in the campus with beautiful benches and sitting areas to enjoy the beauty of the place. Viewing points have also been arranged to savour the grand and scenic waterfalls.

The tents where we stayed...


Inside the tents






The picturesquely landscaped dining area


Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served here but order has to be placed well ahead of time. Quality of food is good though a bit expensive. Overall service is OK.

In general, the resort is understaffed. The same staff who manage bookings and reservations also manage the restaurant. Any complaints regarding accomodations are also to be made to them. And as a result, the service is not prompt. As the tourist flow is not very high except for some seasons, these few people have a difficult time managing things during rush period.

Bookings to the resort can be made online from the Chattisgarh tourism website. The process is very smooth and hassle-free.
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