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Rustic Bastar 

Jagdalpur is a tiny spot on the Indian map that many urban Indians have no inkling of. The adjoining dense forests, tribal people, their age-old art forms and Arcadian lifestyle lend it a unique rustic charm. Sage Valmiki in his ‘Ramayana’ described this forest region with its lush greenery, innumerable waterfalls and caves as ‘Dandakaranya’, through which Lord Rama is said to have passed. This region as a whole is better known as Bastar. A few days in the tribal country, swigging Mahua, dancing with the tribals and meandering at the ‘haat’ (weekly market) transported me back to a bygone era where mobile phones, TV, Internet and even electricity seemed right out of Science fiction.  

Bastar is an adventurer’s delight and a nature lover’s paradise. You can pick from National Parks, caves, waterfalls, palaces, museums and places of religious importance. With in a radius of 200 Km from Jagdalpur are forests of Keshkal, princely states of Kawardha and Kanker, Nagarnar and Narayanpur towns. Kawardha is 120 Km north of Jagdalpur. The palace and the nearby cultural sites mainly the Bhoramdeo temple complex is well known. Nagarnar is famous for its terracotta crafts and Narayanpur is known for its bell metal, woodcraft, wrought iron and bamboo artifacts. The Ramakrisna Mission centre here, has people involved in welfare activities for the tribals. The anthropological museum on the route to Chitrakoot waterfalls, gives valuable insight into tribal history and culture.

 All the forests in the region abound in rare species of birds, reptiles and other larger primates. Places of interest within 70 Km radius of Jagdalpur include famous waterfalls, national parks and caves. There are also temples such as the Danteshwari and Venkateshwara temple. Since Jagdalpur also has a long history of rulers, there is the Jagdalpur palace and museum. An interpretation centre at Kutumsar, 32 Km from Jagdalpur, imparts knowledge to visitors about the wild life and forests. Nature trails are also a unique way of learning from sights and sounds of the forests.

Wildlife Spots 

Kanger Valley National Park: Kanger Valley was declared a National Park in 1982. It has breathtaking wilderness and abundant fauna. Located on the banks of Kholaba river, 27 Km from Jagdalpur, it is the ideal place for nature lovers and wild life enthusiasts. Wildlife here includes panther, tiger, bear, snakes and many species of deer’s.  

Indravati National Park: This park derives its name from Indravati river which flows through it. Lush green forests, streams, and creeks give the place a serene charm. Wildlife is abundant and it is a haven for those who seek tranquility, away from the urban chaos. Animals found here include tigers, wild buffalo, nilgai, flying squirrel and barking deer among others. 

Bairamgarh Wildlife Sanctuary: This sanctuary abounds in Chital, considered the most beautiful of the deer species. They are found roaming in open grasslands as well as dense forests. Apart from its wildlife, the park has beautiful landscapes. 

Bhainsa Darha: Kanger River flows into this lake, which is spread over nearly four hectares in the thick bamboo forests. Famous residents of this place are Crocodiles and tortoises. It is 63 Km from Jagdalpur.

Cascading Waterfalls 

Chitrakoot Waterfalls: 50 Km from Jagdalpur is the crescent moon shaped Chitrakoot waterfalls. It is often compared with the Niagra falls of the US for its shape, although it is smaller. River Indravati plummets down from the Vindhya mountain ranges and forms these waterfalls. The waterfalls and surrounding areas are spectacular in their beauty and extreme challenge for adventurer’s. 

Tirathgarh Waterfalls: Tirathgarh, 32 Km from Jagdalpur is famous for this waterfall that drops into Mugabahar river. On descending down the steps you can get a grand view of the falling sheets of water that falls from a height of 50 metres. There is also an old Shiv-Parvati temple at the site. You can go up the watchtower to enjoy the panoramic view of the waterfalls and surrounding forests.b Waterfalls abound and range from zig-zag trickles to roaring falls. Smaller waterfalls include Kanger Dhara near Kutumsar, Mandra, Chitradhara, Tamada and Dhoomar. Although smaller, each one surrounded with greenery is a treat to the eyes.

Dark Dungeons

Kutumsar Cave: This underground cave is 330 metres in length and is known to be the second longest natural cave in the world. It is about 32 Km from Jagdalpur and was discovered in the year 1900. There are stairs at the entrance and once inside, you can see stalactite formations. No sunlight reaches the cave and in little puddles of water there live blind fish and frogs. The cave has many connecting compartments. At the end of the cave is a stalagmite Shiv-linga, which is revered by tribals and visitors alike.

Kailash Cave: 40 metres above the ground level and 200 metres in length, this cave derives its name from the natural carving of the idol of Lord Shiva. It is located on a small hill in the Kanger Valley National Park. It was discovered in 1993 and the salt deposits here, called the music point, sound musical when tapped with a stone. Presently solar energy is used to light this cave. The Stalagmite and Stalactite formations inside the cave are beautiful.

Dandak Cave: This underground cave was discovered in 1995. It is 200 metres in length and divided into two compartments. To go from the first compartment to the second, you need to go on your knees. White stalactite formations here look resplendent. Solar lamps are used to light the cave.

 The whole area of Bastar has many smaller caves such as Kanger, Karpan and Devgiri among others. All the caves are a geologist delight as their rocks are said to be millions of years old.  

Getting There

 Jagdalpur is in Chattisgarh state and is 303 Km South of the state capital Raipur and 313 Km north-west of the urban city of Vishakhapatnam. The nearest airports and railheads are Raipur and Vishakhapatnam. Hyderabad is 565 Km from Jagdalpur. The best time to visit is between the months of November to June. During the monsoons the caves are closed for visitors as water fills in them.  

Since the area is full of dense forests, an experienced guide is essential. It is also dangerous to roam freely in the forest away from your parked vehicle. Feeding animals is prohibited, as it will disturb the ecosystem. Going around in the caves too requires help from a guide, or you may lose your way. Enjoy the waterfalls but do not attempt to climb the slippery rocks, as it can prove dangerous. The National Park and adjoining areas are polythene free zones. Be a responsible traveller and do not leave a trail of packets, wrappers and other wastes behind you. Visitors are required to take permit slips before entering the premises. Vehicles are available on hire and personal vehicles need permission to enter. For Rs 125/-, you can avail buses that ply from Jagdalpur to Kanger Valley National Park every Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Places to Stay 

For the adventurous, there is the Royal Bastar Camp near the Chitrakoot waterfalls. Living in tents in the dense forest and trekking through the many trails are truly exciting. There are many small and big hotels available at Jagdalpur at prices starting from Rs 200/- per day. There are also restaurants and eating joints. Forest guest houses are available at Kutumsar, Jagdalpur, Darbha, Tirathgarh and adjoining regions. Booking for this can be done at the Directors office, Kanger Valley National Park, Jagdalpur, by phone on number 07782-227596/ 222303. These guest houses are situated in pristine locations and have basic facilities. Cooks are available at each of them but you need to stock up the grocery for your duration of stay. 

Visitors to Bastar retreat to their urban lifestyles refreshed and rejuvenated. Nature has indeed been bountiful and vibrantly displays her many hues in myriad forms.