Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A four-day trip to the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh - Day 1 and 2

Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.
                                                                            -Edward Abbey

Related Links:
Day 3 and 4

Itinerary: 2nd - 5th October, 2014

  • Day 1: Arrive at Raipur airport, leave towards Jagdalpur via Gangrel reservoir, Sitanadi, Kanker
  • Day 2: Jagdalpur to Chitradhara waterfalls, Chitrakoot waterfalls, Tamra-Ghumar waterfalls. Local Dusshera celebrations at night.
  • Day 3: Jagdalpur to  Kanger Ghati national park, Tirathgarh waterfalls, Mandwa waterfalls.
    Local Dusshera celebrations at night.
  • Day 4: Jagdalpur to Raipur airport via Kondagoan for handicrafts; ancient cave paintings near Udkuda

How safe is Chhattisgarh?
First things first, how safe is Chhattisgarh? This was a question uppermost in our minds as we ventured on this trip.

Raipur and Jagdalpur are as safe as most other typical Indian cities. The villages even more so!
You can see the hustle bustle of a normal small-town city in Jagdalpur (which is the heart and capital of Bastar district). There will be oddities as one can see lots of tribal people roaming freely as we saw especially during the Dusshera festive season for which this place is famous.

The popular tourist spots of Chitrakoot and Tirathgarh are full of hundreds of people and felt  extremely safe. Even the non-popular spots which we went to, like the other waterfalls which were mostly at the back of some village; felt quite normal as we roamed around freely even in local village markets and communicated with villagers all of whom were friendly though stared at us with curiosity on occasions.

Barring one discussion with CRPF personnel (on day 3 - will talk about in another post); nowhere were we warned or felt worried at all at least at any of the inhabited places.

Of course, all this must be taken with a pinch of salt; because a place is as safe until you experience the first incident yourself. However, by and large, there is no reason for tourism to not thrive in Chhattisgarh.

Road conditions:

A special mention needs to be given for road conditions in this state. They are absolutely in stunning condition. Not only the highway from Raipur to Jagdalpur (NH 43 as per maps, and NH 30 as per local signboards) is in impeccable condition; even the many times where we deviated off the normal tracks and went inside village roads we encountered only excellent roads. This fact alone made our journey more comfortable and worthwhile.

The only place where roads were not good was in the forest area in the heart of Kanger Ghati which was to be expected as that is not a often-travelled road.

Day 1: Raipur airport to Jagdalpur via Gangrel reservoir, Sitanadi, Kanker

We arrived at Raipur airport - a newly constructed beautiful airport by 9am and set forth on our way to Jagdalpur. Having booked a vehicle for four days and the driver was waiting at the airport, this allowed us to bypass Raipur and we hit the highway right from the airport. The airport surroundings were particularly green and it seemed someone had put in a lot of effort in making the airport look aesthetically appealing.

Soon, as we made rapid progress on the highway,we reached Dhamtari town and took a diversion towards Gangrel to visit the vast reservoir off Mahanadi river. After crossing the vast water expanse, we continued in that direction to just touch Sitanadi Wildlife Sanctuary. We crossed some parts of the forest area where the trees encompassed the road with their shade whilst the dense shrubbery could be seen along the road. No wildlife was spotted nor expected; being so close to human settlements.
Gangrel Reservoir

Thereafter we reached Kanker bypass, and continued on towards Jagdalpur stopping for lunch along the way at a small dhaba. Getting water to drink in a bathing mug was a unique feature of the same.

We reached the forested hills of Keshkal where we began to ascend over a steep dusty hill. With groaning trucks crossing us, we made to the other end and continued on towards Kondagaon and Jagdalpur.

Eventually we reached Jagdalpur by evening and were slightly surprised at the absolute normalcy of a small city that greeted us. After hunting for hotels for an hour, we finally settled for one which was average at best, but had air conditioned rooms.

Map for Day 1

Day 2: Jagdalpur to Chitradhara waterfalls, Chitrakoot waterfalls, Tamra-Ghumar waterfalls. Local Dusshera celebrations at night.
After breakfast, we set forth on day 2 in the quest for multiple waterfalls. Whilst most people visit the more popular Chitrakoot and Tirathgarh (and rightly so!); the other lesser known ones were devoid of any visitors altogether apart from us.
This link along with the wikipedia link for Jagdalpur talks about the multiple waterfalls in the area.

Chitradhara Waterfalls-

The first waterfall that we visited (on the way to Chitrakoot and around 20kms from Jagdalpur); was near a village and we had to ask for directions for the same. On finally reaching the same, we saw a pleasant sheet of water falling in steps (step-waterfall). The only visitors apart from us were some locals along with their cattle who had come by to drink water and a gigantic spider that we spotted near the same.

Chitradhara Waterfalls. A small multi-step waterfall!
A large spider which had cast a web and made its home at Chitradhara!
Next to it is another smaller spider in the same web.

Chitrakoot Waterfalls-

How does a large waterfall get formed? Typically there is a river with a river bed underneath; and then suddenly there is no river bed; and the river falls off generating a waterfall! Chitrakoot was one such example.

We moved on to the major attraction of the day – Chitrakoot. Stunning, gigantic, amazing, spell-bound and all the other adjectives I can come up with still fall short of describing the best waterfall I’ve seen in India so far. The largest by a distance, this gigantic cavern spits water in stunning volumes. This must be near full capacity as we saw it with tremendous amounts of water falling from five different portions of the gorge. The 20-30 meter high waterfall but with a width of maybe half a kilometre, also generated a consistent rainbow and copious amounts of water droplets.

Chitrakoot Waterfalls!
Stunning, copious amounts of water falling from five different parts of the immensely wide gorge.
A rainbow can be seeing glistening at the base of the falls.

A closer view. The base where the water falls is not even visible due to the steam that gets generated!

This place has to be seen to be believed. It is very easy to organize tourism better at this place and monetize the same for the benefit of Chhattisgarh government. We spent a lot of time at this waterfalls; eventually we also went down (through a series of steps) to get a front view of the falls and enjoyed a boat ride which took as close as possible but still some distance away from the impact point.
Front (zoomed out) view of the falls from a distance.
Don't get misled by this pic about the height of the falls

A boat trying its best to get near the falls; this was still some distance away from the same!

Tamra Ghoomar (तामड़ा घूमर) waterfalls-

After visiting Chitrakoot, all other waterfalls would appear extremely trivial; but still we persevered as we made our way towards Tamra Ghoomar. Again isolated with literally no one other than ourselves, we made way through till we caught a first glimpse of the same. And we were in for a surprise!

This is a fabulous almost hidden waterfall falling again at a height of more than 30 meters; with dense forests all around. The lengthy gorge runs into a dense forest and there may be a way to go to the base as well. However what we got was a view of the same from a reasonable distance as we wondered why the same was absolutely devoid of tourists.

Tamra Ghoomar Waterfalls. Height > 30 meters
Almost hidden, the same can only be seen from one corner of the ledge where we were ensconsed.
Below (not in pic), a deep gorge covered with dense jungle.

Bastar Dusshera

Thus ended a day full of waterfall visits as we made our way back to Jagdalpur by evening. The day being Dusshera, we ventured out to Palace Road in Jagdalpur at night to watch the famous Bastar Dusshera celebrations. The entire city and its people were out on that night of festivities. With local melas, local celebrations and the like; the city had a vibrancy to it. The Dusshera celebrations itself was something we found a bit hard to understand as most people waited for a rath (chariot) and we duly did the same. The rath finally arrived amidst dense crowds, pushing and shoving along with a plethora of fire-crackers. Wikipedia explains Bastar Dusshera in greater detail, subsequently we understood a bit more of the same.

Related Links:
Day 3 and 4
Note: Google maps doesn't seem to show the other waterfalls on searching; however we relied on wikimapia and google maps during our entire trip to visit all the noteworthy places.


  1. Chattisgarh is such a beautiful place, it is high on my wishlist.... Really nice pictures....