One of the perquisites that come with a transferable job is the opportunity to see the remotest parts of the country while rubbing shoulders with the locals. At times, some places seem like bonus. We were just about 300 km away from a wonderful place that boasted of having the densest forests after the Amazon and also houses India’s answer to the Niagara Falls. It has some of the most interesting caves with stalactite and stalagmite formations that go back more than a million years, and of course the blind fish that reside in the water body within the caves.
The 300-km drive from Raipur to Jagdalpur, the heart of Bastar, is a dream as the car races over the smooth road flanked by soaring trees. You don’t need any music in the car as the live orchestra of warbling birds keeps you entertained. The sun peeps through the thick awning of teak, tendu, sal, tamarind and mahua trees.
As we neared Jagdalpur, we crossed women in bright attire, carrying baskets. It is the day of the ‘haat’!
Once a week, a haat is set up in the village. This is where tribal people buy and sell their produce. In reality it is much more than a market.
The waterfall makes its
presence felt from afar. We heard it from a distance – the roar of
the majestic waterfall. All of a sudden, without a warning, the
horse-shoe shaped waterfall came into view. It was an awe-inspiring
moment as we halted and gasped. The frothy deluge of the water falls
30 metres down. Before our wondering eyes, the froth dissolved into
clear waters of the river once it reached the bottom, mirroring the
At the far end of the waters, a tiny boat bobbed valiantly, its occupants revelling in the cool and refreshing stream. We weaved our way through the jagged rocks, eager to immerse our feet in the magnificent sheet of water.
A bright rainbow mirrored in the falling water held everyone spellbound. Dancing in myriad colours over the gushing flow, it amplified the glory of the waterfalls. Down below the Indravati river flowed sedately.
The falls are India’s answer to Niagara. We wanted to stay the night amid the wild roar of the falls. That night, sitting outside under the blue sky, watching the lit-up waterfalls and the tribal dance performance by the ‘bison horn marias’ organised for our benefit, one realises that the state has one of the world’s oldest tribal communities. There is so much more to Bastar than the Chitrokote Waterfalls.
Next morning we left for the Tirathgarh Waterfalls. The spectacle was a breath-taking one as the water cascaded hundreds of metres down steep ravines into a crystal clear pool that was inviting. All around us lay a thick curtain of lush green forests and the only sound we heard was the roar of the water as it dropped down. Across there was a small Shiva Temple on a rock - ancient and lonely.
Silent and reflective we
made our way to the Kutumsar caves. The narrow entrance descending
into pitch black darkness is quite deterring. But the guide goads us,
armed with a powerful lantern. Dark, damp, scary and unexplored, it is
just what a cave should be. There is no artificial lighting, no
gimmick and no flurry of tourists. A few bats sailing overhead are
scary. It seems like one of the scenes out of an eerie Bollywood
production; only this time it was real. All around are humungous
stalactite and stalagmite formations that have taken millions of years
to form. Picking our way gingerly in the dark, through the slippery
and uneven path, we reached the pool where reside the ‘blind fish’.
Denied light for millions of years, the fish have mutated into blind
Next on the agenda is walking on the trekking trail in the forests of Kanger National park. Owls hoot admonishingly. We were trespassing into their zone.
A host of ancient temples in the nearby places like Dantewada and Barsoor, form a part of the itinerary. It is a two-hour drive to the Goddess Danteshwari temple. The Goddess is revered by the locals, including the erstwhile rulers of Bastar. In fact, the famous Bastar Dasehra celebrations are devoted to this goddess. The temple was built by Chalukya kings in the 14th century. At the meeting point of two rivers, Shankini and Dankini, it is a beautiful spot.
Then there is the Ganesha temple, with mammoth Ganesha idols and a Shiva temple with its 32 pillars as well as the Mama-Bhanja Temple that has no idol, but we didn’t have time enough to visit them all. Leaving the spiritual visits for a later day, we drove back to our base, reassured by the fact that we would be staying at Raipur for at least two years and there would be many more visits to make.
Places of interest