Bastar, Chhattisgarh

This is account of a trip which I did in July 2007 along with 3 other friends from Hyderabad.

Ever since I and my friends went to Bhadrachalam in Andhra Pradesh for our trip to coastal Andhra, we resolved to come back once to Bhadrachalam and visit Bastar in state of Chhattisgarh from there. The area though pristine is affected by Naxalite movement because of which the state remains underdeveloped and not many tourists visit it. Our main aim was to drive through this hitherto unknown region and visit beautiful waterfalls around it and take things as they come. We decided upon itinerary like this – Hyderabad -> Bhadrachalam -> Jagdalpur -> Bhopalpatnam -> Warangal -> Hyderabad spread over three and a half day with trips to Chitrakote falls, Tirathgarh falls and Ramappa temple near Warangal.

Teerathgarh waterfalls

First day we drove to Bhadrachalam late in the night, in between checked by Greyhounds of AP police which were specially out to keep watch on infiltration of naxalites/maoists around Andhra Pradesh-Chhattisgarh border due to a recent battle between naxals and police in Chhattisgarh with heavy casualties on both sides. We stayed overnight in beautiful and plush AP tourism’s Punnami hotel at Bhadrachalam. Next day we visited the Ramadoss temple for which Bhadrachalam is famous. Immediately after breakfast we started for Jagdalpur, district headquarter of Bastar district. It was only around 250 km from Bhadrachalam and we were expecting leisurely drive and plenty of time to cover the distance. But our hopes were dashed a bit as we got a taste of the road ahead. It was single lane, bumpy, pot-holed and slushy because of which our average speed reduced drastically. There were numerous streams which were swelling with water and forest around. One stream had interesting bank of rocks which were carved by flowing water. There were very few people we saw and we were jittery about that.

Road from Bhadrachalam into Bastar

Hills enroute

 

A stream enroute

Eroded rocks

 

Overflowing river

 

We passed through Konta, Sukma which are small towns in Chhattisgarh and couple of militia camps where tribals have been kept to protect them from naxals by police and Salwa-Judum combine. At one post we were stopped and searched by a boy carrying a gun, wearing a military like shirt and colored half pant. When asked whether he is from Salwa-Judum, he said “police” in a way which proved contrary. The terrain was all green with different hues, ground all carpeted with grass, misty hills in distance, cloudy throughout but luckily not raining. The houses were all built with wood, dried leaves and sometimes having tiled roofs. We did not spot many “pucca” houses built of bricks.


Quaint homes enroute

 

Kids playing around

 

Around 40 kms before Jagdalpur Tirathgarh fall is situated. Tirathgarh fall was amazing to look at. The river on which these falls are, originates from a small lake (called “phool” in local parlance) a small distance away. The falls look as if water is rushing through a very steep staircase. The falls create a valley and there are lot of vantage points from where falls could be looked at. The water was white clean and tasted sweet.

Milky Teerathgarh waterfalls

 


Close up

 


Needle hole

 

Another angle

 

See through the foliage

 

Second stage (of Teerathgarh waterfalls)

 

Layers in the hills around

 

Due to lack of time we had to start back for our destination at Chitrakote falls where we had booked log huts for stay. The road from Jagdalpur towards Chitrakote is excellent and terminates at the falls.

Signboard

 

We had a misadventure there as we approached the log huts through slushy ground when our car got stuck. Only after lot of pushing and hard work did it come out and we breathed easy. The stay was comfortable with our caretaker and his helpers taking good care of us. The falls are illuminated with bright lights at night fall for few hours. We trooped towards it and caretaker specially switched on lights for us when he saw two tripod totting photographers. Dinner was basic but caretaker included one local dish of a mushroom like vegetable which grows only under “Saal” trees. He also got us local drink “Mahua” which is made of mahua flowers. It is distilled at different concentration levels. Ours was strong so we had to dilute with water but I did not like its smell and taste. There is another drink “Sulfi” which is available only during summers.

Next day we woke up to see the brilliant Chitrakote falls. There are no words to describe size, volume and magnanimity of falls. It seemed as if all water on earth is getting channelized gushing through these falls. The water enveloped the entire vegetation in the valley down below. The falling water was creating a magnificent cloud of mist around it but sky being overcast, we could not witness the rainbow.

Chitrakote falls from a distance

 

Look at the cloud of mist formed

 

Our enthusiastic guide was eager to take us to a sandy beach along the river in valley down below and one more smaller waterfall. We climbed down upto river’s edge through thick foliage on a small sandy beach which was lovely.

Small beach at the banks of Indravati river

 

Locals trying to fish in swollen waters

 

After sometime we came back but due to fatigue decided not to go for another walk to the smaller falls. After sometime we were back again to river edge in valley below this time facing the chitrakote waterfall. It was clicks galore from then onwards trying to find every possible angle to shoot, finding subjects in or out of falls to shoot, capturing every facet of the falls. After an hour and half we stopped and sat silent to sink in the enormity of the falls.

Gigantic volume of muddy water flowing through

 

Scary

 

Only if you could hear the falls roar!!

Watch this video to get an idea.

Entire falls in single shot

 

We were visited by a gentleman in the morning who talked about other tourists spots in and around Bastar. He wanted us to visit Barsur where there are two monolithic Ganesh idols. He also gave us each a set of brochures including a couple of CDs about Chattisgarh tourism. Later I realized that the CDs were about a documentary about tourist places in Chhattisgarh which is sometimes seen on channels like Discovery etc. That set is one of my prized possessions. We reluctantly packed up and headed for Jagdalpur after tipping our caretaker-cum-guide heavily who insisted that its not needed. Small town innocence creating goodwill.

While going towards Jagdalpur we took a small detour to visit another small waterfall called “Chitradhara”. It was nothing compared to Tirathgarh or Chitrakote but terrain around it was beautiful. It was on a plateu so we could see the green fields around.

Fields enroute

 

Flower show

 

Chitadhara waterfalls

 

Jagdalpur was a chatoic small town with nothing much to boast of. The Anthropological museum was closed due to day being sunday and so were all workshops too where we wanted our vehicle to be checked. The town seem to have significant presence of Punjabis who are involved in transport, spare parts, workshop and eatery business. We had a delicious Chole-Bhatura at one such eatery. The Chhattisgarh state does not seem to have a state transport corporation as we did not see any govt bus, only private buses. Incidentally, the main transport company in Chhattisgarh is “Kanker Roadways” which is headed by a Sikh duo. We paid our homage to Railway station in town which is on KK line from Vishakapatnam upto Bailadila iron ore mines. The line has only iron ore freight traffic except one passenger train in day. We were banking on visiting a “haat” (local name for tribal market) in town but we are told there is no such market in town. Generally “haats” are organized in villages in the coutryside and a big one occurs in Narayanpur a long way from Jagdalpur, so we decided to miss this experience. Our wish of eating “Red Ant chutney” were crushed :)

Next day we started early as planned towards Hyderabad via Gidam, Bhopalpatnam, Warangal a 500+ km drive. The excellent road from Jagdalpur towards Gidam for some distance raised our hope of comfortable journey but again they were dashed by a long stretch of bad road before Gidam. We simply continued on road towards Bhopalpatnam which was playing bad and worse. However we spotted some real life of these parts.

Come here to experience remote life

 

A laborer on his way to work

 

Sometimes it was tricky to drive through slushy road and at few places car lost traction and we swerved like hovercraft much to the amusement of passers by. It is a different experience altogether to drive through Chhattisgarh. People are very obedient, as soon as we honked they would jump off the road clearing more than enough space for us to go through but cattle (cows and goats) were equally stubborn and would not budge for long time. We were cynosure of all eyes, four outsiders wearing modern clothing going around in a car out of which two being 6+ feet tall roaming around in this region of short and lanky people! The road was really giving us tough time but we were cracking jokes about it. One of us suggested that naxalites are probably all those disgruntled vehicle owners who had to suffer such bad roads. Because of govt apathy towards roads they have taken up arms :) At one place, there was a sign board annoncing shelter for flood affected people. We thought soon there will be a shelter for “road affected” people like us who don’t seem to reach anywhere :) Anyways, 10 kms before Bhopalpatnam we enquired a motocyclist about how much more is left. He asked us where are we headed. We casually said, Warangal and Hyderabad. He said, “but sir there is no road ahead”. We looked at each other with utter shock. Once we got our senses after few seconds, we asked why? Apparently, there is no bridge on the road towards Warangal on NH 202 over a local river and similarly no bridge over Indravati river towards Nizamabad which is NH 16. Since the rives were all swelling with water, there was no way we could cross it with vehicle and other interior roads are also blocked. We were told to go back to Gidam and then go to Dantewara and stay overnight there and return via Bhadrachalam. We had no option but to backtrack 120 km through that arduous road. This is the only time we got a little worried as our vehicle got stuck in slush 2-3 times and we had to push it to get it out and with evening approaching and this being heart of naxal territory. We reached Dantewara safely and stayed overnight there.
Next day we woke up early again and went to Danteshwari temple which is famous in this region. The temple was not open at 6:30 AM so we prayed from outside and started. We joined our onward road to Jagdalpur at Sukma and returned to Bhadrachalam without anymore hiccup. At our last moments of trips, we all agreed that it was a really worthy trip and we learnt a lot about rural and backward India and how hollow our urban development is.

22 Comments

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Just like Leh and that in-out coastal drive in AP, this post is too like a kunji. A kunji is a booklet which has small-font text with the aim of putting a tome worth of information, the goal is to have it short so that one can hide it easily in his watch-pocket.

    I also looked at flicker pics. Lovely.

    Probably it might have worked better if you could have split the story in couple of posts and put larger size photos (either of size 500 X 350 or choose “Largest” if you upload at ghumakkar).

    I haven’t read anything about this region. The information regarding the roads must be very useful, probably a google-map would help further.

    Great post.

  • Nice one. I heard about Bastar from my father where he use to visit for his business. Chtrikotte Fall looks amazing, giving a glimpse of Niagra Falls.

    -Upanshu

  • Celine says:

    I love waterfalls, and this post captured my attention. Having been to the Niagara Falls, Jog Falls, Dhuandhar Falls (excluding smaller falls in other places), I have had on my list the Chitrakote Falls too and thanks to your post, I can now add Thirathgarh Falls to that.

    From the pictures here, it seems Thirathgarh Falls seem to be cascading from a higher point than Chitrakote Falls.

    The parts on the Mahua (I’ve tasted a few drops of that arghhhhh liquid while in Khajuraho), the loss of opportunity to taste red ant chutney and the dead end of the NHs are interesting. Fabulous pictures Roopesh and thank you for sharing your experiences.

  • Celine says:

    And now…
    Quiz time:
    Why did vehicle owners of Bastar become naxalites?
    Answer: Because of bad roads..haha!

  • Roopesh says:

    Thanks all for your comments.

    Nandan – The story could have been told better but that is the best I could do :) Many times it happened that I resolved to write a huge, idiom filled prose but could never contain it like my Ladakh trip, so something is better than nothing :) About photos, I gave link to flickr, so I thought no need for bigger ones. About Google maps, they are not my cup of tea. They can give idea about terrain but that can change with season and there is nothing more info that they can give about roads. There is just one road and you have to follow. We go more by reading up, personal experiences and leave rest to fate. For example, Chitrakote falls if you look in Google Maps or Live Maps, the region is shown as dry and look at the flow in monsoon. The NH-16 fiasco could not have been averted as every guide map shows it!!

    Celine – Chitrakote is loosely called Niagra of India as it very broad but that kind of deluge can be seen only in monsoons. Tirathgarh is probably similar in height but less flow. One can take bath under it. I would put them as “beauty” Vs. “brawn” :)

    One more interesting way to enter this region is to take a train from Vishakhapatnam all the way to Jagdalpur around 400 kms which will take one from such regions in Andhra/Orissa/Chhattisgarh which one can never see safely by road.

  • nandanjha says:

    By the way, this is the first story on ‘Chhattisgarh’ at Ghumakkar. And Roopesh has done this again since his earlier story was on ‘Andhra Pradesh’, again a first.

  • Celine says:

    Thank you for the additional information.:)

  • lakshmi says:

    Umm until know I have only heard of Bastar art..and I have a few of them at home..now I know a little more that tempts me to go on a trip..will do for sure :)

  • manish khamesra says:

    Reading your post Roopesh I felt pity about the beautiful places that become prey to Naxalism, terrorism.

    I don’t know when it will end and I would be able to go through it. Right now, I am enjoying Chattisgarh travelling with you.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Rahul says:

    My best friend wrote a book on Chhatisgarh last year for their tourism board, so I was mildly aware of the untouched beauty in the tribal areas, the falls and the ‘red-ant chutney’ :)
    Glad your post made the knowledge more alive.

  • Parvinder Singh says:

    Yes, it is a quite good place but very backward. There are no proper food places, accomodation and life looks remotely.

    I had gone there with for some business to Raipur and went ahead to this place.

    Though it is called Tourism but I nver ever saw any Tourism like scenery. ONly locals or people from around cities visit this.

  • RAJENDRA says:

    hi sir aapka consiment is so sweet i idol for this photography

  • All the beautiful places are disturbed by Naxalite / terrorism.

    Beautiful Post & beautiful Pictures !

  • Ashok Sharma says:

    beautiful post about a great but totally untouched area. the falls are lovely.wish to visit this gem of nature,but side by side i am afraid of the naxalism/terrorism. the common citizen has nothing to do with it, but he has to pay the price and keep away from such beauty.may god make this area peaceful someday.

  • Roopesh says:

    @Mahesh – Thanks!
    @Ashok – The place is not entirely out of bounds. It can be visited with little care like travel during good weather and daytime, sticking to main attractions and hiring a local tour operator. I would suggest contact Chattisgarh tourism directly and they should be able to help.

  • Rishi G says:

    Very well written, and kudos to you for your bravery in visiting a naxal infested area. good photos too.

  • yadwinder singh says:

    very nice. chattisgarh is land of natural beauty. pics of waterfalls are wonderful.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    And I got to read this again only now. I didnt remember a lot of details of falls and drinks (Sulfi) but I clearly remembered that you guys had to go back quite a distance after learning about the missing bridge.

    Only yesterday, there was another incident and it pains to read more. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Maoists-attack-CRPF-team-in-Chhattisgarh-16-killed/articleshow/31839056.cms

    Though you said in a lighter vein but no-access to a basic life (road, power, shelter, freedom and so on) is indeed one of the reasons behind this whole movement. Hope things get better.

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  • anubhavshunya says:

    Dear roopesh, thanks indeed for a wonderful travel account of an unknown terrain. I am planning to visit the region soon, i am particularly interested in Konta and Sukma and exploring these places, could you enlighten me about the terrain and connectivity of these places from bhadrachalam and jagdalpur. And are they safe??

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