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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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.