Fabrics and Sarees of India Part 1

A flowing six-yard drape of beauty and grace, the saree can be called India’s national dress for women. Every state and community has their fabrics and materials that are unique to the region and drapes that instantly brings a specific community to mind. The saree consists of an un-stitched stretch of woven fabric arranged over the body as a robe, with one end tied to the waist, while the other end rests over one shoulder as a stole or shawl, with a part of the midriff showing. It may vary from 4.1 to 8.2 metres or 4.5 to 9 yards in length, and 60 to 120 cm in breadth. The saree is part of the traditional wear of women of the Indian subcontinent in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka & Nepal. There are various names and styles of sari manufacture and draping, the most common being the Nivi style. The sari is worn with a fitted bodice commonly called a blouse and a petticoat.

This post started as my ode to the different fabrics and sarees available in the country and I soon realised this is much larger than just naming the various fabrics in the country. So this is now a three-part short series because I wanted to showcase as much as I can of the amazing fabrics available. And on a personal note, this is also a repository for me to refer to because one of my dreams is to have a saree from every Indian state.

Sadee is a Hindustani word that means a strip of cloth that evolved to sāṛī in modern Indian languages. The word śāṭika is mentioned as describing women’s dharmic attire in Sanskrit literature and Buddhist literature called Jatakas which could be equivalent to the modern-day saree. The term for female bodice, the choli evolved from ancient stanapaṭṭa. Rajatarangini, a tenth-century literary work by Kalhana, states that the choli from the Deccan was introduced under the royal order in Kashmir. The petticoat is called sāyā in Hindi and Urdu, parkar in Marathi, ulpavadai in Tamil, sāẏā in Bengali and eastern India, and sāya in Sinhalese. Apart from the standard petticoat, it may also be called an inner skirt or an inskirt.

The history of a sari-like drapery is traced back to the Indus Valley Civilisation, which flourished during 2800–1800 BC around the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. Cotton was first cultivated and woven in the Indian subcontinent around the 5th millennium BC and dyes used during this period are still in use, particularly indigo, lac, red madder, and turmeric. Silk was woven around 2450 BCE and 2000 BCE.

The word sari evolved from śāṭikā a Sanskrit word mentioned in earliest Hindu literature as women’s attire. The sari or śāṭikā evolved from a three-piece ensemble comprising the antarīya or the lower garment; the uttarīya which was a a veil worn over the shoulder or the head; and the stanapatta, a chestband. This ensemble is mentioned in Sanskrit literature and Buddhist Pali literature during the 6th century BCE. This complete three-piece dress was known as poshak, a generic term for a costume. The ancient antariya closely resembled the dhoti wrap in the fishtail” version which was passed through legs, covered the legs loosely and then flowed into a long, decorative pleats at front of the legs. It further evolved into the Bhairnivasani skirt, today known as ghagri and lehenga. The  Uttariya was a shawl-like veil worn over the shoulder or head, and evolved into what is known today known as dupatta and ghoonghat. Likewise, the stanapaṭṭa evolved into the choli by the 1st century CE.

It is generally accepted that wrapped sari-like garments for the lower body and sometimes shawls or scarf like garments called uttariya for the upper body, have been worn by Indian women for a long time, and that they have been worn in their current form for hundreds of years. Based on sculptures and paintings, tight bodices or cholis are believed to have evolved between the 2nd century BCE and the 6th century CE in various regional styles.

After this short history about the saree, let’s take a trip around the country to see the various fabrics and sarees available in the different states of India. This is by no means an exhaustive list and I have probably missed many regional varieties, so apologies in advance if I have missed something I should not have.

Andhra Pradesh

Chirala: A coastal town also known as Kshiraputi, Chirala, which means saree in Telugu is renowned for its handlooms that are soft and durable. With more than 60% of the town’s population belonging to the weaving community, the looms used in the town are mostly pit or fly shuttle looms and the motifs in the fabrics and sarees are usually geometrical designs. The weavers of Chirala produce, cotton sarees, seico sarees that are a fine blend of cotton and silk fibres and kuppadam or the Gadwal type. The hand butta is another fascinating design feature of Chirala sarees, where colours are manually added in-between the zari design. Kalamkari printing is also a speciality of the Chirala saree.

Dharmavaram: Handloom silk sarees, Dharmavaram fabrics are textiles woven by hand with mulberry silk and zari which is fine thread traditionally made from gold or silver. The Dharmavaram fabric has a GI or Geographical Indications tag.  Kriya Shakthi Vodavaru Swamy named Dharmavaram after the name of his mother, Dharmambai around 1153–54 and by the 19th century, the silk handloom industry emerged as the main occupation. Paintings on the roof wall of Lepakshi temple and the Latha Mandapam depict the designs of Dharmavaram sarees. These saris are worn in the winter months or when it is cold and on special occasions and are mostly used by dancers of Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi.

Kalamkari: A type of hand-painted or block-printed cotton textile, Kalamkari is produced in Isfahan in Iran and Andhra Pradesh. Only natural dyes are used in Kalamkari, which involves twenty-three steps. There are two distinctive styles of Kalamkari art in India, the Srikalahasti style and the Machilipatnam style. The Srikalahasti style of Kalamkari is where the kalam or pen is used for freehand drawing of the subject and filling in the colours and is entirely hand-worked. This style flourished in temples centred on creating unique religious identities, appearing on scrolls, temple hangings, chariot banners as well as depictions of deities and scenes taken from the Hindu epics like the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas. The Machilipatnam style of Kalamkari involves vegetable-dyed block painting, where the dye is applied to the fabric with the help of wooden blocks. The natural dyes for the cloth are obtained by extracting colours from various roots, leaves, and mineral salts of iron, tin, copper, and alum and mixing them with cow dung, seeds, flowers, and milk.  Historically, Kalamkari used to be termed Pattachitra, an art form still found in neighbouring Odisha and other parts of India and Nepal. The term Pattachitra translates to patta, meaning a cloth, with picture or chitra. Paintings made on fabric and fabric scrolls are mentioned in ancient Hindu, Buddhist and Jain literature. Under medieval Islamic rule, the term Kalamkari is derived from the words kalam, which means pen in Telugu, and kari, which means craftmanship and this style became popular under the patronage of the Golconda sultanate.

Mangalagiri: Mangalagiri Sarees and fabrics are produced by handloom weaving in Mangalagiri, a town in Andhra Pradesh. Mangalagiri cotton silk sarees are a unique variety, woven from cotton, and feature characteristic features such as zari on the border and no woven pattern on the body. Borders in thick gold thread or zari, traditional patterns in Nizam, and simple mono or multicoloured striped pallus adorn the fabric. The sarees have various designs like leaves, mango, parrot, and gold coins. The soft and comfortable all-weather fabric generally has no pattern on the body and is known to have no gaps in its weaving with missing saree threads rarely found. As the town is also the abode of Lord Narasimha Temple, the saris are also used by the devotees for devotional purposes.

Uppada: The Uppada Jamdani Sari is a silk sari style woven in the town of Uppada in Andhra Pradesh and is known for its light weight. The saree was also accorded the Geographical Indication tag from Andhra Pradesh. The name Jamdani is a Persian terminology, in which Jam means flower and Dani means a vase. The Jamdani style of weaving originated in Bangladesh and was brought to the south and Uppada village in the 18th century and recreated with a local flavour. old The Jamdani style of weaving is about 300 years old and in 1972, Uppada weavers were recognised by the Indian government with the President’s award. The Uppada Jamdani saree is a beautiful textile with a silk-like texture and is lightweight. The weaving of the saree takes between 10 to 60 days for which least 2-3 weavers spend 10 hours a day. There are around 3000 looms producing Jamdani sarees in and around the Uppada and Kothapalli area. Around 40% of the local weavers are women. The saree consists of a cotton body with a silk pallu and is completely handwoven. The saree is woven in such a way that it can be folded and fit inside a matchbox. The speciality of the Jamdani saree is that the design is shown on both sides of the fabric.

Venkatagiri: Woven in Venkatagiri near Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh, this fabric has also been accorded the GI tag and is known for its fine weaving. The history of the saree dates back to the early 1700s in the Venkatagiri village and were encouraged by the Velugoti dynasty of Nellore and also by the Bobbili and Pithapuram dynasties. In those days, they were mostly woven fabrics for royalty and landowners.

Assam

Assam Silk: Assam silk refers to the three major types of indigenous wild silks produced in Assam —golden muga, white pat and warm eri silk. Assam was well known for the production of high-quality silk since ancient times. The knowledge of sericulture probably arrived with the Tibeto-Burman groups which arrived from China around 3000-2000 BC. Genetic research on silkworms shows that Assam silk originated in two specific regions of Assam, the Garo Hills in the ancient Kamrupa Kingdom and Dhakuakhana in the ancient Chutia kingdom.

Muga silk is the product of the silkworm Antheraea assamensis endemic to Assam. The silk produced is known for its glossy, fine texture and durability and has a natural yellowish-golden tint. It was previously reserved for the use of royalty. This silk can be hand washed with its lustre increasing after every wash. Very often the silk outlives its owner. The silk has been given the Geographical Indication (GI) status since 2007.

Pat silk is produced by the Bombyx textor silkworms which feed on mulberry leaves. It is usually brilliant white or off-white and must be dried in the shadows and not in direct sunlight. Eri silk is made by the Samia cynthia ricini which feed on leaves of castor oil plant. It is also known as endi or errandi silk. Because the manufacturing process of eri allows the pupae to develop into adults and only the open-ended cocoons are used for turning into silk, it is also popularly known as non-violent silk which is soft and warm and is popular used as shawls and quilts.

Bihar

The Bhagalpuri or Kosa or Tussar Saree is Tussar silk that is valued for its rich texture and natural deep gold colour. The tussar silk weaving industry in Bhagalpur is more than a century old and has about 30,000 handloom weavers working in producing the sarees. Bhagalpuri silk is made from cocoons of Antheraea paphia silkworms which are only found in India and is processed at Nathnagar at Bhagalpur. The unique dyeing technique of these Bhagalpuri silk sarees sets them apart from the art silk sarees. The saree was supposed to have been produced in ancient times and even Mughal rulers patronised the weavers. But the technique soon got extinct and was revived about 200 years back by the weavers. The silk fabric is extremely soft and lightweight and is known as the queen of fabrics.

Chhatisgarh

The Chattisgarh Kosa saree is Tussar silk similar to the Bhagalpuri Kosa. Kosa silk is mainly derived from Antheraea mylitta, an Indian silkworm and is special type of tussar silk that is drawn out of the cocoons grown on trees like Saja, Sal, and Arjun mostly grown in Chattisgarh. The silk is widely popular owing to its sturdiness, purity and soft texture. The dull golden brownish texture of the silk is its signature trait, but can also be found in natural shades of dark honey, fawn, orange, pale golden and cream. The actual colour of kosa is a dull gold, but the finished fabric is dyed with natural dyes extracted from natural dyes. The towns of Champa and Korba are known for their production of Kosa Silk, and the silk produced in Champa is considered to be the best silk.

Gujarat

Bandhini: A type of tie-dye textile decorated by plucking the cloth with the fingernails into many tiny bindings that form a figurative design, Bandini or Bandhani dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization where dyeing was done as early as 4000 BC. The earliest example of the most pervasive type of Bandhani dots can be seen in the 6th-century paintings depicting the life of Buddha found on the wall of Cave 1 at Ajanta. The main colours used in Bandhana are natural. As Bandhani is a tie and dye process, dying is done by hand and hence best colours and combinations are possible in Bandhanis. The fabric used for making Bandhani sarees and dupattas are loosely woven silk called Georgette, or cotton known as Malmal. The knots are tightly tied, and the rest of the fabric is dyed in multiple stages. This leaves the knots undyed and hence a beautiful flower-like pattern appears all over the cloth as a design.

The term bandhani is derived from the Sanskrit verbal root bandh which means to bind or to tie. Today, most Bandhani can be found in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Sindh, Punjab and Tamil Nadu where it is known as Sungudi and is known as chunri in Pakistan. The art of Bandhani is a highly skilled process with the technique involving dyeing a fabric which is tied tightly with a thread at several points, thus producing a variety of patterns, depending on how the cloth is tied. The main colours used in Bandhana are yellow, red, blue, green and black.

The Bandhani work has been exclusively carried out by the Khatri community of Kutchh and Saurashtra. Bandhani work is also done in Rajasthan, where different colours and designs are used than in the Kutch and Saurashtra regions of Gujarat. Establishments of varying sizes in the entire Kutch belt in Gujarat produce many varieties of Bandhani. This Bandhani style is called Kutchi Bandhani. Bandhani tying is often a family trade, and the women of these families work at home to tie patterns.

Patola: A double ikat woven sari, usually made from silk, the Patola saree comes from the town of Patan. Similar to Bandhani, Patola sarees are also a type of tie and dye process and are well known for not losing their colour at all. They are very expensive, once worn only by those belonging to royal and aristocratic families. Patola sarees are found in two different types – the Rajkot Patola and the Patan Patola. These two are differentiated with the Rajkot Patola having a single ikat weave that is dyed vertically, while the Patan Patola has a double ikat weave and is dyed horizontally. The word patola is the plural form; the singular is patolu.

To create a patola sari, both the warp and weft threads are wrapped to resist the dye according to the desired pattern of the final woven fabric. This tying is repeated for each colour that is to be included in the finished cloth. The technique of dyeing the warp and weft before weaving is called double ikat. The bundles of thread are strategically knotted before dyeing. Patola saris from Surat, Ahmedabad and Patan are renowned for their colourful diversity and geometrical style.

Silk weavers of the Salvi community from Maharashtra chose Gujarat as the home for their renowned patola fabric. It is believed that the Salvis went to Gujarat in the 12th century to acquire the patronage of the Chaulukyas Rajputs, who ruled Gujarat and parts of Malva and south Rajasthan, with Anahiwad Patan as their capital. Legend says that over 700 patola weavers came to the palace of Raja Kumarpal, at the personal request of the king. The Solanki or Chalukya rulers used to dress in patola silk on special occasions. The art of Patola weaving is an ancient one. According to some historians, the art of Patola weaving was known also in the 4th century as seen by the carvings at the Ajanta caves. After the decline of the Solanki empire, the Salvis founded a rich trade in Gujarat. Patola saris quickly became a sign of social status among Gujarati women and girls, especially as part of streedhan or the items that a woman can claim as her wealth.

There are four distinct patterns which are woven primarily in Gujarat by the Salvi community. In Jain and Hindu communities, double ikat saris with entire designs of parrots, flowers, elephants and dancing figures are generally used. In Muslim communities, saris with geometric designs and floral patterns are typical, being worn mostly for weddings and other special occasions. Maharashtrian Brahmins wear saris woven with plain, dark-coloured borders and body and a bird design called Nari Kunj.

Tanchoi: Tanchoi sarees are one of a kind, having spots all over the surface and woven with a dual colour warp. The stand-alone feature of the Tanchoi saree is that the fabric texture background has a satin finish. Extra threads are added to give these sarees the appearance of being embroidered. Famed for the intricate and small weaving patterns over the fabric, the commonly used motifs are those of flowers, small birds in flight, peacocks and parrots. Tanchoi silk is said to have been brought to India by Chinese traders in the 19th century and later adapted to suit the preferences of the Indian market. Three Parsi brothers are said to have travelled from India to China in the 19th century and were enamoured by the technique. After learning the skill, they came back to Surat, Gujarat and trained the weavers in the technique and then evolved the Tanchoi weaving technique into Indian versions.

Tangaliya: A handwoven, GI-protected textile, made by the Dangasia community, the 700-year-old indigenous Tangaliya is native to the Surendranagar district in the Saurashtra region. The textile was usually used as a shawl or wraparound skirt by women of the Bharwad shepherd community. Woven on pit looms at homes, the technique involves weaving knots in colours contrasting to the warp colour to create the effect of raised dots. The weaving is based on precise mathematical calculations. The weaver has to count the warp yarns each time, before hand-knotting the dot in acrylic yarn, to produce geometric patterns. A single mistake can lead to the final design looking faulty. The effect of the pattern also has a tactile feel, similar to braille, because of the raised surface of the dots. This has become the signature style of the textile. Another important aspect is the visual effect of dots, which is most striking and appealing on dark colour bases, especially black. The graphic quality of white dots mixed with other bright coloured dots gives the craft its special appeal. Moreover, due to the ease of knotting the white colour yarn compared to coloured yarns, white dots were common. Traditionally, most woollen shawls featured graphic patterns of white and maroon coloured dots on a black base. With every wash, the cotton textile tends to become denser and integrates the dots even more finely between the warp and weft. Today, there are only fifteen families in Surendranagar pursuing this craft.

Jammu & Kashmir

Jamawar: Jamawar is believed to have been derived from the word jam which means a shawl or robe and war, which implies the chest, in either Persian or Kashmiri. The fabric is believed to have found its way to Kashmir from Persia and reached its peak during the heyday of the Mughal dynasty in India. Owing to the elaborateness that goes into the making of the weave, it takes months on end to craft a finished Jamawar piece, and sometimes, even years, depending on the level of intricacy involved. Jamawar is traditionally woven with a rich blend of Pashmina wool, cotton and silk. Given the generous use of colours and motifs, the finished weave is highly iridescent. One of the many distinguishing factors of the Jamawar is that it is so intricately woven that its front and back, both look identical, with no stray thread sticking out of its surface. A dominating design element of the weave is the paisley, which derives inspiration from Persia; other motifs of flora and fauna, too, are seen. Jamawars also feature a wide use of hand embroidery and traditionally, a single jamawar piece was woven with up to 50 varying hues.

Kani: The Kani weave is said to have originated in Kanihama village of Jammu and Kashmir, and its exquisiteness earned it the Geographical Indication (GI) tag in 2008. The word Kani translates to bobbins in Kashmiri because the weave involves extensive use of wooden bobbins on which varicoloured threads are wound. Legend has it that the art of weaving Kani shawls was first brought to Kashmir in the 15th century by Persian and Turkish weavers, who introduced this art to Ghiyas-ud-Din Zain-ul-Abidin, the eighth sultan of Kashmir. One of the most defining characteristics of the Kani weave, colloquially known as Kaniwar, is its impeccably patterned motifs. These motifs, which include flowers, gardens, creepers and paisleys are brought to life through a technique called twill tapestry featuring double interlocking, wherein both the warp and weft yarns are mounted diagonally onto each other on the loom.

Traditionally, Kanis are crafted from the pashmina wool of the local Changthangi goat. At the time of weaving, the loom is packed with bobbins or kanis, through which the craftsmen carry out the fashioning of the weave; a total of nearly a thousand bobbins or more can be used for a single weave. Each colour is woven in individually, with the help of bobbins wound with threads of that particular colour. The designs are first drafted in the form of sketches, in a grid-like format called naksh, after which each step from the draft is dictated to the weaver. An elaborately woven Kani shawl can take anywhere from 9 months to a year to be made, with two artisans working on it.

Pashmina Silk: A fine variant of spun cashmere, the animal hair fibre forming the downy undercoat of the Changthangi goat, Pashmina today may refer either to the material or to the variant of the Kashmir shawl that is made from it. The word pashm means wool in Persian, but in Kashmir, pashm referred to the raw unspun wool of the domesticated Changthangi goats. Both generic cashmere and pashmina come from the same goat, but generic cashmere ranges from 12 to 21 microns in diameter, whereas pashmina refers only to those fibres that range from 12 to 16 microns.

Samples of wool fibres discovered from corroded copper artefacts from Harappa dating back to the Indus valley civilization are extremely fine and resemble Pashmina and Shatoosh. In Mughal times, this was used as an indicator of rank and nobility. Pashmina blankets were also vital additions to a wealthy woman’s dowry in India, Pakistan and Nepal. The wool for pashmina is collected by combing the undercoat of the goat, and not by shearing, as in other fine wools. The entire process is carried out by hand by specialised craftsmen. The approximate time put into producing a single traditional pashmina stole is about 180 hours. Kashmiri embroidery or Kashida as it is known, employs bright and colourful designs, with motifs of floral borders, paisley and chinar leaves and other inspirational settings of nature. The patterns and the colours of Pashmina silk saree harmonises with nature. A heavily adorned pashmina silk sari with zardozi aari embroidery is a must in any bride’s trousseau. China accounts for 70% of the world’s cashmere production.

In the next part, we’ll see more fabrics and sarees from other states.

Travel Bucket List: India – Chattisgarh Part 4

Mahasamund
One of Chaatisgarh’s largest and most important cities, Mahasamund is located about 55 km east of Raipur. It is also the biggest city in the Trans-Mahanadi area. Tourist sites in and around Mahasamund include Sirpur, the ancient capital of South Kosal and famous for its Lakshman temple, Buddha Vihar and many archaeological sites. The state government has decided to develop this area as a World Heritage site. Other nearby tourist sites include Kodar Dam, Rajim Kumbh, Rajiv Lochan Temple, and Khallari Temple. The birthplace of Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharya is in nearby Champaran.

Sirpur
Sirpur also referred to as Shripur, Sripura or Sripur which means a city of auspiciousness and abundance or Goddess Lakshmi is a small village located about 83 km east of Raipur and 38 km north of Mahasamund on the banks of river Mahanadi. The village is an archaeological wonder and is rich in its temple culture. The Buddhist monasteries of this village are said to be one of the most significant in India. The Chhattisgarh Tourism Board organises a music and dance festival here to promote Buddhist sites and celebrate its culture. There is also a major fair held here during Mahashivaratri.

Sirpur was the capital of the Panduvanshi dynasty in ancient times and hosts the Sirpur Group of Monuments consisting of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain temples and monasteries that date from the 5th to the 12th centuries. The site has been significant for its temple ruins of Lord Rama and Lord Lakshmana, as well as those related to Shaivism, Shaktism, Buddhism and Jainism. In the second half of the 1st millennium CE, it was the capital city with major commercial and religious significance for the Dakshina Kosala kingdom. The earliest documented evidence states that it was first the capital of the Sharabhapuriya dynasty, followed by the Panduvamshi dynasty. The Sharabhapuriya dynasty itself is dated to the late 5th century CE, but inscriptions mention its first capital to be Sharabhapura, as yet an unknown site. The abundant inscriptions of the mid-6th century CE in the region mention the Hindu Shaiva king Teevardeva and 8th-century King Shivagupta Balarjuna establishing temples and monasteries for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains in his kingdom.

The Sirpur Group of Monuments are an archaeological and tourism site containing Hindu, Jain and Buddhist monuments from the 5th to the 12th centuries spread near the banks of the river Mahanadi. The site excavations after 1950, particularly after 2003, have yielded 22 Shiva temples, 5 Vishnu temples, 10 Buddha Viharas, 3 Jain Viharas, a 6th or 7th-century market and a snana-kund or bathhouse. The site shows extensive syncretism, where Buddhist and Jain statues or motifs intermingle with Shiva, Vishnu and Devi temples. The location is mentioned in the memoirs of the Chinese traveller Xuanzang as a location of monasteries and temples. A report by Alexander Cunningham, a British India colonial official in 1872 on a Lakshmana temple at Sirpur brought it to international attention.

The Lakshman Temple is one of the most popular spots in this village, and the architecture of this temple has been a constant inspiration for many architects. Believed to be lost, the Baleshwar Temple was excavated recently. It is named after king Mahashivgupt Balarjun, who built the temple and many of his items have been unearthed in the recently conducted excavation. Another interesting fact about this temple is that there are not one but three more temples in this place and they are all dedicated to the great Shiva. The Rama Temple is one of the oldest ones and is believed to be dedicated to Lords Ram and Lakshman. A popular attraction, it has a star-shaped platform called Jagati and the place is situated near the Lakshmana Temple. Popularly known as the Sirpur Buddha Vihara, the Buddha Vihara is an 8th-century Buddhist temple built by Bhikshu Anand Prabhu. Not far from the Lakshmana temple, Teevardev is a Buddhist monastery that had Buddhist artworks, statues and Hindu themes such as tales of Panchatantra. A beautiful meeting of Buddhist and Hindu architecture, this temple is believed to be built by Shaiva Khan and his Buddhist Queen.

The ASI Museum has a rich collection of artefacts collected over the years in the various site excavations conducted. The museum is situated right in the Lakshmana temple so it’s easily accessible and a must-visit.

Rajim
Rajim lies 52 km southeast of Raipur and is named after the Rajiv Lochan Mandir which is Rajim’s principal temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. There is also the ancient Kuleshwar Mahadev Mandir dedicated to Lord Shiva in the Triveni Sangam. The town hosts the Triveni Sangam or confluence of Mahanadi, and Pairi Rivers, both physically & the Sondor river virtually. It is also known as the Prayag of Chhattisgarh. The Chhattisgarh Kumbh Mela takes place over here from Magh Poornima to Mahashivaratri every year. Pilgrims come together from several places across the country to take part in this auspicious event.

The Rajiv Lochan Vishnu Mandir is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. A 7th-century inscription recording the construction of the temple, dated to the reign of King Vilasatunga, has been found here. Vilasatunga probably belonged to a branch of the Nala dynasty. This temple is a notable example of the Panchayana Shaili or architecture. The temple structure is supported by twelve-towered columns embroidered with stone carvings, which bear the faces of the various gods of Hindu mythology. The temple is an important religious construct visited by devotees from all over the globe who arrive to offer their prayers to the Lord Vishnu. The statue of Lord Buddha in the meditative position under the Bodhi tree carved out of black stone is also popular in the city.

The Rajesvar Temple is located opposite the western entrance of the Rajiv Lochan Temple and comprises a mandapa, an antarala and a garba-griha. Its architectural style is regarded to be similar to the Rajiv Lochan temple. Other temples dedicated to the various incarnations of Lord Vishnu like the Vamana and the Narasimha are close to the Rajiv Lochan Mandir. The Kuleshwar Mahadeva Mandir stands in glory in the city even at night. The Ghatoria Mahakali Mandir is another temple on the banks of Mahanadi river. The Bhagavan Parashvanath Temple was constructed about 15 years back when some people found a 2000-old-year idol of Parshavanatha Bhagwan.

The Rajim Kumbh is celebrated every year around mid-Feb to March spread over 15 days and attracts thousands of Naga Sadhus, Sants, Mahatmas, Rishis, Munis and Margdarshak Gurus from across India and beyond. The Rajim Kumbh is arranged at the confluence of the three rivers in Rajim also known as Triveni Sangam. Within the same festival, the Rajim Lochan Mahotsav is held between 16 February and 1 March and has various music and dance performances showcasing Rajim’s rich culture.

Jagdalpur
Previously the capital of the former princely state of Bastar, Jagdalpur is the fourth largest city in Chhattisgarh as well as the commercial, financial and political hub of south Chhattisgarh. Jagdalpur has a rich history of political activism and has developed a very rich culture over time. Today, it is most famous for the monuments and palaces in the city as well as the natural wonders like lakes, waterfalls and forests that are still untouched by tourist activity. Jagdalpur so one of the emerging destinations that are being aggressively promoted by the state tourism department. The town has a primarily agrarian economy and it is the second biggest market after Raipur in the state. It also has many small-scale and large-scale industries as well with furniture factories and rice mills being the most common industries in this region. Tourism is also a major source of revenue for the town which has plenty of wildlife, temples, waterfalls, caves, lakes, museums and historic monuments to cater to everyone’s tastes. The Indian Tourism Ministry has identified the Jagdalpur-Teerathgarh-Chitrakoot-Barsur-Dantewada-Teerathgarh Circuit as one of the 45 Mega Tourist Destinations and Circuits in India because of footfall and future tourism potential.

The broadest waterfall in India, Chitrakote is popularly known as the Niagara of India, because of its width. Situated on the western part of Jagdalpur, this waterfall originates from the Indravati river. The falls drop from a height of about 30 m with a width of 985 feet, and during monsoons, one can watch the falls at their full glory cascading from the top of the cliff in 3 streams during the summer months. A significant attraction below the fall is the shrine of Lord Shiva with many small shiva lingas. During the low season, locals and tourists are seen to be swimming, bathing or even using paddle boats on the river. The boat ride in the pool formed at the bottom of the waterfalls offers stunning views of the waterfall and boatmen can also take visitors up to the sprays and let them experience the gushing mist that emerges from the waterfalls. There is a flight of stairs that have to be climbed down to take the boat ride, the view from the bottom of the stairway is the best and provides for a great photo op.

A recent discovery, the Tamra Ghoomar Waterfalls are tucked away in a sequestered spot away from the city and surrounded by lush green pastures on both sides. A natural waterfall that falls from a height of more than 100 feet, the falls are usually formed during the monsoon showers. It is a 20-minute drive from Chitrakote falls and a perfect spot for a picnic. The Mendri Ghoomar Waterfall is another natural waterfall that forms during the monsoon months and is around 11 km from Chitrakote falls. Mendri Ghoomar is nestled between Chitrakote Barasur and Tirtha and is located in Jagdalpur. The height of descent of the falls is approximately 70 m with lush green covers enveloping the waterfall which overflows during the rains and has a more relaxed flow during the summer months.

A beautiful picnic spot, the Chitradhara fall is like a gorgeous white cascade of water gushing down the hill. Situated in the small and remote village of Potanar, the Chitradhara fall takes the form of a horseshoe and the water is seen to be gushing down at a breakneck and exciting pace, making it an excellent spot for outdoor and adventure lovers. Not as glorious and big like the Chitrakote falls, Chitradhara is less popular and gives the tourist an experience of a remote village and surrounded by serenity.

Chhatisgarh’s biggest artificial lake on the River Indravati, Dalpat Sagar is a 400-year-old lake built primarily to harvest rainwater and is now also being used mainly for fishing and tourism. There is an artificial island built in the middle of the lake for visitors to enjoy picnics and the island has a light tower, a musical fountain and even a temple surrounded by nature. The government has also started boating facilities for tourists so that they can enjoy the gorgeous sunsets. Spread over an area of 350 hectares, this lake was built by Raja Dalpat Deo Kakatiya so that the collected rainwater could be used for irrigation, washing and drinking. The surroundings of the lake have some rare and beautiful flora and fauna too. Dalpat Sagar is constructed across 350 hectares of land in the river Indravati. It is situated in the Bastar region and was built 400 years ago by Raja Dalpat Deo Kakatiya for harvesting rainwater. The lake undergoes maintenance by the Government of Chhattisgarh. There is an island constructed in the centre of the lake which is accessible by boats. There are also platforms built across the lake at different points for the boats. All this makes it very convenient for the visitors to enjoy their visit to the lake.

The Danteshwari Temple is dedicated to Goddess Danteshwari, the deity of the earlier Kakatiya rulers, also known as an incarnation of Shakti. Built in the 14th century, the temple was constructed in a typical south Indian style of architecture. Chiselled out of black stone, the idol of the Goddess is supposed to possess divine powers. Every year during Dusshera, all tribals and locals from the surrounding towns and villages come here to pay respect to the Goddess. Situated in the middle of a spacious courtyard with beautiful pillars, the temple has four parts that a visitor can explore. An important spiritual centre, the temple is known to represent the cultural and religious beliefs and the history of the Bastar region. The temple is considered one of the fifty-two Shakti Peethas of Sati, and it is believed that the tooth of Sati fell here. The temple is divided into four parts which include the Garbh Griha, the Maha Mandap, the Mukhya Mandap and the Sabha Mandap. The Garbha Griha and Maha Mandap are made of stone pieces and there is a Garuda pillar located at the entrance of the temple. The idol of Goddess Danteshwari is chiselled out of black stone.

Popularly known as the Balaji temple, the Venkateshwara Swamy temple is dedicated to Lord Balaji or Shri Venkateshwara Swamy, the lord of the universe. The temple architecture is typical of the South Indian style and is very impressive. Initially a famous pilgrimage destination for only locals, today this temple attracts visitors and Hindu pilgrims from all over.

Dating back to prehistoric times, the Bastar palace used to be the chief administrative building of the Bastar district. Constructed by the kings of Bastar, this palace is home to some of the most beautiful figurines, etchings and drawings on the ceilings and walls. With wide corridors and a beautiful garden in the front, the palace makes for a perfect day trip from Jagdalpur. The main visitor room has been transformed into a museum which consists of thrones and paintings. The palace is lit up during the Dussehra festival. There are vibrant and green enclosures located outside the palace that includes a variety of flora which enhances the surroundings.

Deriving its name from the Indravati River, the Indravati National Park is located about 386 km south of Raipur. The Indravati River flows from east to west and forms the northern boundary of the reserve with Maharashtra. One of Chhatisgarh’s three Project Tiger reserves and home to one of the last remaining populations of the endangered wild water buffalo, the park has a total area of approximately 2799.08 sq km. Indravati attained the status of a national park in 1981 and a tiger reserve in 1983. As of 2022, the park is reported to be largely under Naxal control.

The park is best visited during the winter and summer seasons between November to June. Indravati National Park is easily approachable from Jagdalpur with Kutrue as the main entry point which is about 145.6 km from Jagdalpur. The park is open daily from 7 am to 6 pm.

The Zonal Anthropological museum situated in the office of the Anthropological Survey of India, located 4 km away from the town was established in Jagdalpur in 1972, to provide an insight into the culture and lifestyle of the Bastar tribe. The museum has a brilliant and well-curated collection of ethnographic items that shed light on the life of the Bastar tribes. Artworks depicting their daily life, sculptures, and a variety of objects like clothes, footwear, headgear, ornaments, wood carvings, weapons, utensils and masks among many others can be seen here. The museum is open from 10 am to 1:30 pm and then between 2 to 5:30 pm.

Dhamtari
Dhamtari which lies about 80 km south of Raipur was home to the Chalukya empire of the 14th century and is an important tourist town known for its temples. Its name comes from Dhamma and Tarai which means the plain of Dhamma, which alludes to its Buddhist origins. Situated in the fertile plains of Chhattisgarh due to the presence of many rivers and their tributaries, the chief crop of this region is paddy. Asia’s first-ever Siphon dam was built in 1914 at Madamsilli. The town attracts many tourists every year, particularly during the monsoon season to the Ravishankar Water Dam and is also famous for its folk culture and wildlife sanctuary. Formerly a part of the Raipur district in Madhya Pradesh, Dhamtari later became part of the new state of Chattisgarh and was a popular stop on the Bombay-Calcutta railway line passing through it.

Sihava is one of the most important pilgrimage centres situated on the banks of the Mahanadi River and is surrounded by forests and mountains. Amrit Kund, the Danteshwari Cave, Ganesh Ghat, the Karbeshwar Temple and the Ashram of Hringi Hathi Khot are other major attractions in this area. The Bilai Mata Mandir is dedicated to Goddess Durga and is a beautiful temple known for its exquisite architectural carvings.

Rudri was believed to be the capital of the Kanker Kingdom during the reign of Rudra Dev. Located on the banks of River Mahanadi is its prime tourist attraction is the Rudreshwar Temple and there is also a large reservoir built nearby.

Gangrel Dam is the longest in Chhatisgarh and has been built across the Mahanadi River. A stunning feat of architecture, the dam length is a whopping 1,830 m, approximately 15 km from Dhamtari. The dam overlooks the swift torrents of the Mahanadi River making it an enjoyable sight. On the banks of the waters, there are several resorts and sandbanks. The dam was built to perform various activities such as irrigation, generating power and also to provide water to the Bhilai Steel Plant and the city of Raipur. The immediate surroundings of the dam are well-maintained and have landscaped gardens and a beautiful view of the catchment area. Water sports are a recent addition and visitors can go jet skiing, paddle boating and speed boating in the catchment area. The best time to visit Gangrel Dam would be during the monsoon season from July to September as the reservoir fills up and the high tides are a beautiful sight. The views of sunrise and sunset here are also popular.

The Charre Marre Waterfalls is a refreshing and offbeat place to visit where the waterfall is 16 m high and the clear water falling is a sight to see. The bountiful and pristine Jogidhara river is the reason behind the waterfall. The reservoir that forms at the bottom of the waterfall is perfect to take a dip in. The Shivani Temple is an important pilgrim place dedicated to Goddess Shivani and is visited by a large number of devotees every day. The falls are perfect for picnics and a perfect getaway destination to rejuvenate the body and soul. The monsoon season between October to December is the best time to visit the falls.

Dantewada
Also known as Dantewara, Dantewada lies about 357 km south of Raipur. Dantewada was known as Tarlapal and Dantawali in pre-historical days. It is the fourth largest city in the Bastar region and the town is named after the Goddess Danteshwari, the presiding deity of the Danteshwari Temple located in the town.

Encompassing hilly tracks, dales & valleys, numerous brooks & rivers, and lush green and virgin forests, Dantewada is a paradise to nature lovers. Apart from the Goddess Danteshwari Temple, Dantewada has many ancient and historically important temples and structures. Dantewada is inhabited by several tribal groups and watching the famous Dandami Mariyas or Gonds of Bison Horn dancing in groups, wearing a turban with the Bison Horns is certainly a treat to the eyes. The town also houses the recently developed stretch of Rowghat mines. However, currently, the area is affected by Naxalism and well-versed research is advisable before heading out into the area.

One of the Shaktipeethas, the Danteshwari temple is dedicated to Goddess Danteshwari. This 600-year-old temple has been constructed in South Indian style of temple architecture in the 14th century by the rulers of the Chalukya Dynasty. The goddess is worshipped as an incarnation of Shakti and the temple is held to be one of the fifty-two sacred Shakti Peethas. it is believed that the tooth of Sati fell here. The temple is known for its black stone idol and a Garuda pillar and is segregated into four zones, namely the Garbha Griha, Mukhya Mandap, Maha Mandap and the Sabha Mandap. It is located at the confluence of the holy rivers Shankini & Dhankini. The Bastar Dusshera is the longest festival in the world which is the world’s longest festival.

Dholkal Ganesh is a beautiful spot located 3000 feet high in the Bailadila mountain ranges. A 3 feet beautiful stone idol of Lord Ganesha believed to be made during the Naga dynasty between the 10th and 11th centuries is the main attraction here. Located 13 km from Dantewada, this is the perfect spot for nature lovers, and for those who love to trek amidst lush green hillocks.

Once the capital of Nagavansh Raja Banasur, Barsur is filled with archaeological treasures. The town of the Gangawanshi rulers who ruled in the 9th century, Barsur is located on the banks of the river Indravati and is known as the city of temples and ponds because of the 147 temples and 147 ponds located here. Along with the ruins of various temples, the Battisa Temple, the Mama-Bhanjaa Temple and the Chandraditya Temple can also be visited. The Chandraditya Temple crafted out of sandstone is a major attraction here. Besides a huge statue of Lord Ganesha, an ancient pond can also be visited. Housing idols of Lord Ganesha and Lord Narasimha, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the Dravidian-style Mama-Bhanjaa Temple is well known for its sculpted murals and the dome that is 50 ft high. There is also Shiva Temple and a Ganesha Temple situated close to the Mama-Bhanjaa Temple.

The Fulpad Waterfall is a waterfall located in a lush green hilly area. Recently, the administration started river rappelling to boost tourism in the area. The Saathdhara Waterfalls are located about six km from Barsur with a bridge which connects Abujhmarh with Barsur. The bridge is on the Indravati river and reaching the bridge, there is a trek of around two km to reach the waterfall. The Indravati river streams are separated by seven sub-streams and flow through rocky terrain and form the Saathdhara waterfall.

Kanger Ghati National Park
Known as one of the densest national parks in India, the Kanger Ghati National Park lies about 320 km south of Raipur and offers rich biodiversity, breathtaking landscapes, natural waterfalls, and beautiful limestone caves. It is also home to Chhatisgarh’s state bird, the Hill Myna. The park is spread over 200 sq km and is a biosphere reserve nestled amidst the stunning Kanger Valley which stretches for 34 km. The park consists mainly of aberrant terrain and is home to a sizeable tribal population.

The park is named after the river Kanger, which flows through it. It was declared a national park in 1982 and the park has notable geographic diversity with land formations ranging from gentle low areas to valleys, steep slopes, streams and more. And because of this, there is a wide variety of flora and fauna inside the park, making it a prominent biodiversity hotspot in India. The River Kanger is the lifeline of this park as the park is dependent on the river for electricity generation.

The Kanger Valley happens to be one of the last regions where virgin and pure forests are still left. There are According to various surveys, there are 555 herbaceous species in the park, out of which 45 species are said to be rare, and 12 species are new and recently added. Moist deciduous forests mainly cover the forest area of the park. November to April is the best time to visit the park when the temperatures are cold with a clear to cloudy sky. The park has about 50 species of mammals, 145 species of birds, 56 species of fish, 16 species of amphibians, 90 species of butterflies, 110 species of spiders, and 25 species of moths.

Bhainsa Darha is a pure and natural water pool. Bhainsa means buffaloes and Darha translates to water pools created by rivers. Crocodiles and tortoises found in the water make a great attraction and because the pool is covered with lush greenery in all directions, it is ideal for a picnic or hike. The Darha remains closed during the rainy season, so the ideal time to visit this place is during the winter months. Travelling by bikes and other two-wheeled vehicles can get risky as roads here are narrow and slippery and so it is advisable to travel in a car.

The Kanger Dhara Waterfall is a picnic spot located inside the park. Permission from the District Forest Office is required and this can be gotten at the entry gate of the park to enter the waterfall area. The cascading falls are attractive to look at and one can also take a bath in the natural waters. Summers are the best time to visit the waterfall when the water temperature is comfortable to take a dip. The falls remain closed during monsoons.

Tirathgarh Falls is one of the most frequented tourist spots in Chhattisgarh and provides one with the perfect blend of entertainment, fun, picnic and adventure. Tirathgarh Falls is also regarded as one of the best picnic spots in Jagdalpur with the fall’s unique feature being that it splits into multiple falls on its way down, offering a spectacular view to visitors. This block-type waterfall plunges 300 ft in one drop. This mesmerising waterfall is also named the milky fall as the water takes on a white colour while gushing downward. There is a small temple located beside the falls, and the lush, green forest surrounds the entire region. Tourists can also climb down to the base of the fall and indulge in a bath with two hundred and ten steps leading the way to the bottom. The waterfalls are surrounded by a dense cover of trees and hence the temperature is moderate. The best time to visit the Tirathgarh falls is during the early winter season as the temperature during this time is cool and pleasant. During this period, the flow of water is strong and wide and hence the falls have many tourists visiting.

The park has vast limestone deposits. Some are in the form of caves and the rest are in the form of beds or layers. The limestone caves are a significant tourist attraction and are spectacular to look at with the main ones being the Kailash Cave, the Devgiri Cave, the Dandak Cave, and the Kotumsar Cave. These structures take millions of years to form and there are still some caves in the park which do not have an opening and remain undiscovered.

Located near Tirathgarh falls, the Kailash and Kutumsar caves are underground caves situated 35 meters below the ground level. With a length of two km, these are considered to be the second-longest natural caves in the world. With incredible formations of stalactites and stalagmites, the caves contain five chambers. The caves have rocky floors with water pools in several spots and have no natural light inside the cave. There is one stalagmite formation in the shape of a shiva linga towards the end of the cave. The Kailash and Kutumsar caves are only accessible to a certain extent because of the lack of oxygen.

The Kotumsar Cave stretches for about 1370 m and has frequent depositions of limestone since it lies in the Kanger limestone belt. The cave also has significant ecological importance and has also attracted researchers. The enormous vertical fissure formed in the wall of the hill acts as an entry point to the cave. There is a concrete path created which extends to the end of the cave. The main tunnel of the cave is 200 m long with many lateral and downward passes. The cave is one of the most biologically explored caves in India and many new species of living creatures including plants and animals have been considered to be sourced from these caves. Recently in 2011, a new chamber has been discovered by groups of forest officials, but because of its low accessibility and other potential dangers, it is not open to tourists. There are several interesting tribal tales attached to the caves. The caves also house several species of reptiles and insects.

The Kailash Caves were discovered in 1993 and are around 250 m long and 40 m underground, these limestone caves have religious links attached to them. At the end of the caves, one will find a magnificent structure in the shape of a Shiva ling with hollow walls of the cave. When struck, the walls reverberate soothing and acoustic musical sounds. The best time to visit the caves is during the winter season. This is due to the weather being cold and pleasant. The monsoon season is considered the offseason because there is heavy precipitation in the valley and the accumulation of water in the cave makes it dangerous to visit the cave for the tourists.

And this brings us to the end of this yet unexplored state known for its natural beauty and remoteness. I didn’t have any idea of how much this state has to offer before I started working on this mini-series, but now that I know, I can’t wait to explore it further. Let me know if you have been to Chhatisgarh and let me know if I have missed any place that must be seen and visited.

Travel Bucket List: India – Chattisgarh Part 3

Achanakmar Tiger Reserve
The Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary is a sanctuary about 146 km north of Chattisgarh’s capital, Raipur. It was established in 1975, under the provisions of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, and declared as a Tiger Reserve under Project Tiger, in 2009. It is a part of the Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve. As of 2021, the area is reported to be under heavy Maoist influence.

Linked by the hilly Kanha-Achanakmar Corridor to the tiger reserve in Kanha in Madhya Pradesh, the sanctuary comprises 557.55 sq km of forest. The park is part of the Mungeli and Bilaspur Forest Division in northwest Chhattisgarh. The sanctuary is close to Amarkantak, the source of the Son River and Narmada River.

Categorised as a tropical deciduous forest, Achanakmar Tiger Reserve is breathtakingly beautiful with the most varied flora and fauna. This tiger reserve is a part of the huge Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve, and hence, it is home to more than 600 species of different medicinal plants. The scenic Maniyari River flows right from the centre of this reserve which is the lifeline of the forest.

The Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary was established in the Mungeli district in 1975, under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act and its provisions. It was declared a Tiger Reserve under the Project Tiger initiative of 2009. A short trek through the park is enough to reveal its outstanding biodiversity and mesmerise the visitors. This prominent wild tourist hub is spread over 557 sq km of area. The natural sanctuary attracts wildlife enthusiasts from several places and promises to astonish you with its varied biodiversity. The wildlife sanctuary also has a restaurant, coffee house and other facilities on its premises. There are forest cottages and resorts that provide accommodation to visitors. Travellers are advised to make their bookings in advance if they are planning on staying.

A visit to Achanakmar Tiger Reserve would be incomplete without a jungle safari which starts each year from November and go on till June, however, the peak tourist period is between November and January. The park remains closed during the monsoons, between June and October. There are two safari options and one can take either a bus or a jeep safari. The jeep safari runs between 6 and 10 and then again between 3 to 7 pm. The costs range from INR 2,000 to INR 3,000 per jeep and each jeep can carry six tourists, one guide and one driver. The bus safari timings are the same as the jeep safari and the cost is INR 500 per person. A bus safari carries 20 tourists plus the driver.

Bilaspur
Also known as the City of Festivals, Bilaspur lies about 117 km northeast of Raipur and is the administrative headquarters of the Bilaspur District and Bilaspur Division. Situated on the banks of the rain-fed Arpa River, which originates from the Maikal Range of Central India, Bilaspur is a dolomite-rich region surrounded by dense forests in the north and the coal mines of the Hasdeo Valley in the east. It is also known as Chhattisgarh’s Law Capital because the state’s High Court is located here. This city is the commercial centre and business hub of the northeast Chhattisgarh region and an important city for the Indian Railways, as it is the headquarters for South East Central Railway Zone or SECR and the Bilaspur Railway Division. Chhattisgarh’s biggest power plant operated by NTPC is in Sipat which pools electricity from other power plants in the region and transmits electricity to Delhi via one of the longest HVDC lines. Bilaspur is known for its aromatic rice variety known as Doobraj rice and handloom woven colourful soft Kosa silk sarees.

Historically, Bilaspur was part of Dakshina Kosala and was near the capital of Malhar. From the 5th century onwards it was controlled by the Kalachuri dynasty of Ratanpur, the historical capital of Chhatisgarh state for many different dynasties. Bilaspur city, however, came into prominence around 1741, the year of the Maratha Empire rule, when a Maratha official took up his abode there to control the dynasty of Ratanpur. The British took over Bilaspur under the British East India Company in 1818 after Bhosales lost territory in the Third Anglo-Maratha War. After India’s independence, the Bilaspur district was constituted in 1861, followed by the Bilaspur municipality in 1867.

Guru Ghasidas who lived between 1756 and 1836 started a religious movement, Satnamis meaning the worshippers of Satnam, between 1820 and 1830 primarily around the Sonakhan forests. This religious movement preached against idol worship and instead stressed that God is synonymous with truth. His community was a farming community. The university at Bilaspur is named after him as Guru Ghasidas University.

Historical records like Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol 8, 1908 note that the city is said to be named after a fisherwoman by the name of Bilasa who lived in the 17th century, and for a long period it consisted only of a few fishermen’s huts. Another book called The highlands of Central India authored by James Forsyth and published in 1889 states that Bilaspur is named after the Palash tree or the Flame of the Forest which is found in abundance in the area.

Bilaspur is rich in archaeological sites and temples that attract tourists from all over the world. There are more than 20 centrally protected monuments and sites by the Archaeological Survey of India nearby. The Achanakmar Wildlife sanctuary is one of the renowned ecotourism spots in the state while the Hasdev Bango Dam which lies 105 km from Bilaspur is also a must-visit place.

Malhar and Ratanpur are centres of archaeology with ruins of forts and ancient temples found here. Malhar is of historical significance, as it was visited by Xuanzang, the Chinese historian and is situated about 40 km from Bilaspur. Many ancient temples have been found such as the Pataleshwar temple, the Devri temple and the Dindeshwari temple. The four-handed idol of Lord Vishnu is also significant as it is the earliest sculptural representation of Lord Vishnu. There is also a museum at Malhar. Ratanpur is well known for its Mahamaya temple and Ram Tekri Mandir. Talagram is where the Deorani-Jethani temple is located while Tala which lies about 20 km away, is famous for the Rudra Shiva temple. There is an ancient Shiva temple near Kirari Godhi, which is from the 11th or 12th centuries as well as the Dhoom Nath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva which is said to belong to the 12th century and is constructed by the Kalchuri dynasty.

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Belpan has a huge pond as well as samadhi while Khutaghat is a scenic spot and is frequented by nature lovers. Forests, dams and hills surround Khutaghat and the Kabir Chobutara about 41 km from Bilaspur is a hub for saints. Sonmuda is another tourist attraction which gives a panoramic view of valleys, hills and forests. The River Sone originates here while the Narmada and Son Rivers originate in Amarkantak.

Raigarh
Known as Chattisgarh’s Cultural Capital or Sanskardhani, Raigarh lies in the eastern part of the state about 246 km northeast of Raipur. It is also known for its coal reserves and power generation for the state as well as the country. A rapidly growing industrial city and home to one of the oldest jute mills in India, Raigarh is also a major producer of steel and iron ore as well as a major rice-producing district.

The tradition preserved by the ruling family of the erstwhile state of Raigarh maintains that the Raj Gond family migrated to this region from Bairagarh or Wariagarh of the Chanda district of Maharashtra around the beginning of the 18th century and first stayed at Phuljhar and from there Madan Singh, the head of the family migrated to Banda of the present-day Raigarh. Before Indian Independence, Raigarh was the capital of the princely State of Raigarh and after independence, the state was one of the first to join the Union of India. The palace, Moti Mahal is in dilapidated condition and has recently been declared a heritage site by the state government. The Rajas of Raigarh also owned the estate of Bargarh and so held the title of Chief of Bargarh. Around 1625, the Raja of Sambalpur installed Daryo Singh as the Raja of Raigarh. However, under the British, it became a princely state only in 1911, during the reign of Raja Bahadur Bhup Deo Singh. The last ruler was Lalit Kumar Singh, his son succeeded him to the throne of Raigarh and ruled briefly before Raigarh State was merged into the Union of India.

Raigarh derives its name from the fort named Rai, hence Raigarh and was established by Raja Madan Singh at Munga near the river Mahanadi. Raigarh is well known for its Kosa or Tussar, a kind of fine silk created by the silkworm feeding on mulberry fruit. Dhokra or bell metal casting is the world acclaimed art form of Raigarh. Based in the village of Ektaal, the bell metal structures are noted for their aesthetic value. The leaf of the tendu tree or the Asian ebony tree which is widely found in central India and used to make bidis, the poor man’s cigarette is one of the major sources of income for villagers in the district. Places to visit in Raigarh include the Pahad Mandir at Gajmar Pahadi, the Ram Jharna in Bhupdeopur, Teepa Khol, and the Maa Chandrasini Devi Temple at Chandrapur, and the Banjari Mandir situated in the Raigarh-Tamnar road.

Korba
Previously part of Bilaspur district, Korba lies about 205 km northeast of Raipur and is an industrial town. Known as Chhatisgarh’s power capital due to its coal reserves and thermal power plants, Korba also has Asia’s second-largest and India’s largest open-cast coal mine in the Gevra area of Korba Coalfield. Korba produces 140 million tonnes of coal annually which accounts for 17% of the country’s total coal production and 85% of Chhattisgarh’s coal production. Korba is home to the protected tribal tribe Korwa or Pahadi Korwa and is blessed by lush green forests all around and is a tribal majority district situated in the north-central part of Chhattisgarh. 68% of the population engages in agriculture with paddy being the major crop.

Located on the banks of the Chornai River, Devapahari is located about 58 km northeast of Korba and has a beautiful waterfall known as Govind Kunj. Chaithurgarh or Lafagarh is a fort that is located around 70 km from Korba at a height of 3060 feet on the top of a hill. It was constructed by Raja Pratwidev the first and archaeologists consider it one of the strongest natural forts. The fort has three main entrances which are named Menaka, Humkara, and Simhadwar.

The Madwarani Mandir is situated on the Korba-Champa Road at a distance of 22 km from Korba and is dedicated to Goddess Madwarani at the top of the hill. The legend behind this temple is that during the Navaratri festival, jowar or sorghum was growing under the Kalmi trees near the temple. During the Navratri festival, there is a fair celebrated by the locals. The Shiv Mandir at Pali is situated around 50 km from Korba and it is believed that Pali was where King Vikramaditya belonging to the Banna dynasty used to worship. There is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shivs at the side of a large pond. Many other remnants can also be seen here. This temple faces east and its entrance is octagonal with the plinth of this temple stood upon 5 platforms. A famous temple, Sarvamangala is dedicated to Goddess Durga. The temple was built by the ancestors of Rajeshwar Dayal, a zamindar or landowner and is surrounded by the Trilokinath Mandir, the Kali Mandir and the Jyoti Kalash Bhavan. There is also a cave, which goes under the river and comes out on the other side. Rani Dhanraj Kunwar Devi used to use this cave for her daily visits to the temples.

Kudurmal is a small village around 15 km from Korba and is of historical importance. There is a tomb of one of Saint Kabir’s disciples that is about 500 years old. There is also a temple named Sankatmochan Hanuman Mandir, built by Mahatma Kevlal Patel, who was a prominent Saint. An idol of Lord Hanuman has been installed in the centre of the temple. Surrounding the temple there are many smaller temples dedicated to various gods and goddesses and a fair is held each year in January and February on the occasion of Magh Purnima.

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Kanki is a village on the banks of the Hasdeo river near Urga, about 20 km from Korba and is famous by the name of Kankeshwar or the Chakreshwar Mahadev temple. It is believed that the temple was built around 1857 by the zamindars of Korba. The temple is adorned with many beautiful images made of stone as well as many idols of various gods and goddesses. There is also an ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Durga. This village is surrounded by dense forest and several ponds can be found there. The area is visited by migratory birds who visit here to breed.

At Mouhargarh, the remnants of the fort can be found at the height of 2000 ft on the Pouna Khara hill, which is situated around 15 km northeast of the Rajgamar coal mines. Ancient writing can be found on one of the pillars on the hill and there are also some idols there. The dense forest around the fort is home to various wild animals and birds.

Tuman is a small village with a rich history. According to ancient history, Tuman was the capital of the kings of the Haihaya dynasty. There is an ancient temple here dedicated to Lord Shiva and it is believed that the temple was built during the reign of the Kalchuris around the 12th century by King Ratnadev the First.

Chaithurgarh or Lafagarh, located about 70 km from Korba town is situated at a height of 3060 ft on a hilltop. It was constructed by Raja Pratwidev the First and archaeologists consider it one of the strongest natural forts. Since the fort was protected by strong natural walls, walls were only built in some places. The fort has three main entrances known as Menaka, Humkara, and Simhadwar. Outside the fort, on the hilltop, there is an open area of 5 sq km where there are five ponds, of which three are perennially filled with water. The famous Mahishasur Mardini temple is also located here. The idol of Mahishasur Mardini with 12 hands is installed in the sanctum sanctorum and the Shankar cave is situated 3 km from the temple. This cave which is like a tunnel is 25 ft long and one can go inside the cave only by creeping since the cave is very narrow. There is a visitor rest house here and the temple also has some rooms for tourists. The temple has special prayers during the Navratri festival. At Kendai, a village located about 85 km from Korba, there is a beautiful waterfall that falls from a height of 75 feet and is also a local favourite picnic spot.

Ambikapur
One of Chhatisgarh’s oldest cities, Ambikapur lies about 338 km northeast of Raipur. Ambikapur was the capital of the princely state of Surguja before Indian independence. The city’s name is derived from the Hindu goddess Ambika or Mahamaya Devi, who is the central figure of worship in the area. As of Swachh Survekshan 2020, Ambikapur is the cleanest city in Chhattisgarh as well as the cleanest city in India amongst cities with a population of 1 to 10 lakhs.

Also known as the Raghunath Palace, Surguja palace is one of the prime palaces in Ambikapur. It is a white, two-storey palace and is open to the public only on the day of Dussehra annually. It is an old tradition that the heir of the royal family of Surguja meets and greets the visitors on Dussehra and the festival is celebrated lavishly.

Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary
The Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary is located about 130 km northeast of Raipur. It was established in 1976 and the Jonk River flows through the sanctuary, which is a tributary of the Mahanadi River. The sanctuary is spread over an area of about 245 sq km. The Balamdehi River forms the western boundary and the Jonk River forms the north-eastern boundary of the Sanctuary. The sanctuary has undulating terrain dotted with numerous low and high hillocks. The sanctuary is filled with tropical dry deciduous forests with bamboo amongst the most commonly spotted tree here. The sanctuary has a large number of wildlife and a large population of birds. Bird watching in Barnawapara is one of the most enjoyed and popular activities.

There are several scenic waterfalls in the sanctuary, like the Dhaskund waterfall, the Siddhakhol Waterfall and the Nakuti Darha waterfall. Other tourist attractions include the Gond Nagarjuna caves, which the local Gondi people consider as sacred and have been worshipping there. The Gonds call it Chanda Dai and it is said the Dalai Lama meditated here once. Other places like Turturiya Dham are situated on the northern boundary of the sanctuary beside the Balamdehi river is believed to have been the abode of Sage Valmiki and where Goddess Sita lived in exile and gave birth to her twins, Luv and Kush. The Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary is home to the Bar and Nawapura forest villages established in 1976 and is spread over an area of 245 sq km. The landscape is mostly flat terrain with occasional low and high hillocks.

The Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary is open from 6:45 to 11 am and then again between 2:30 and 5:30 pm during the summer months. During the winter season, the sanctuary is open between 6 to 10:30 am and then between 3 to 6:30 pm. The sanctuary remains closed from July 01 to October 31, due to the monsoon season. The best time to visit the Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary is between November and June when the weather conditions remain pleasant.

Entry fees are INR 55 per person for Indian tourists and INR 200 per person for foreign tourists. A guide can be requested at an additional cost of INR 250. A safari is also available at different rates depending on the kind of vehicle opted for. However, booking for the safari will have to be done in advance through resorts or tour operators. Charges for 30 km can vary from INR 1300 to INR 2800 for an eight-seater vehicle. There is no fee charged for photography or videography for non-commercial purposes.

Mainpat
366 km northeast of Raipur, Mainpat is an underrated hill station with green pastures, deep valleys, breathtaking waterfalls, dense forests and untouched rivulets. The hill station hasn’t been completely commercialised yet and receives a relatively smaller influx of tourists compared to its counterparts. Often called the Shimla of Chhattisgarh and Mini Tibet owing to its huge Tibetan population and influence over the area, Mainpat has a large number of Tibetan refugees who were rehabilitated in Mainpat after the Chinese invasion of Tibet and have since found a home here.

Mainpat is famous for the Ulta Pani or Bisar Paani which seems to defy gravity and where the water seems to flow upstream. The locals have made a canal for watering crops and water flows upward 30 ft on its own.

The Dhakpo Shedupling Monastery is the most prominent in Mainpat and belongs to the Gelug order. It is relatively smaller than its northeastern and Nepalese counterparts and has Buddhist relics and artefacts. Fish Point lies around 17 km from Mainpat, nestled amidst hills with stunning panoramic views. This viewpoint has a flowing river called Machali Nadi which ends in a waterfall with a descent height of 80 metres in the same area. The tourist attraction was named after a specific species of fish found in the Machali Nadi. Tiger Point is another scenic waterfall 7 km from Mainpat and originates from the Mahadev Muda river and is encircled by thick jungles on all sides. Local legend says that there were a few tigers spotted at this sight years ago, which resulted in the falls named Tiger Point Falls. The water plunges from a height of 60 metres from atop the cliff into an underlying pond. The falls are visible from road level but there is also a stairway that leads to the bottom of the falls and offers a better view. Although the stairway leads to a better view, the path is unkempt and slippery and one may exercise caution whilst taking that route.

Mercury Falls are relatively untouched falls nestled in the hills of Mainpat and are a little difficult to reach with no proper pathway. The falls are said to be the tallest waterfalls in Mainpat with a height of over 400 feet. The water stream glides over eight steps to form a gorgeous cascade. Daroga Jharna is another offbeat place located 6 km from the Mainpat bus stand. The place has an abundance of water and offers a plethora and tranquil settings away from the more mainstream tourist spots. Bhutahi Jalprapat located 6 k, from Mainpat bus stand is a flowing stream of water that is said to resemble the movements of a snake as it makes its way in a zig-zag pathway. The flowing stream looks white as a pearl and moves with sheer force that it produces a loud sound. This characteristic sound is also the reason behind the name of the place Bhutahi Jharna

Parpatiya Sunset Point lies about 30 km from Mainpat and is famous for its unparalleled views during sunsets, and it is said that the neighbouring hills appear as cubes from this point. The drive up to this point is filled with scenic views and is reason enough to visit. Mehta Point is yet another viewpoint offering a bird’s-eye view of the sprawling lush landscapes and the green-covered hills, the viewpoint is set at a higher altitude and has a fair amount of clouds at the top almost giving one the sense of walking amidst clouds. Jaljali which is located about 10 km from Mainpat, is a natural wonder with the land having a trampoline-like surface and behaves exactly like one when one jumps on it and produces subtle vibrations. It is often referred to as the bouncing land and is a treat for kids and adults alike.

Malhar
Chhatisgarh’s most historic town, Malhar lying 144 km northeast of Raipur is of utmost archaeological prominence. It has a spot in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains of National Importance list that is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. A few of the remains found in Malhar date back to 1000 century BC and are attributed to the Kalchuri regime. Malhar was once a major city and served as a capital in the 1st millennium and has been referred to as Mallar, Mallari and Sarabhapur in inscriptions and Indian literature. In contemporary times, it is more of a village with mounds and the ruins of an ancient fort, two restored Shiva temples and a museum with the ruins of a major group of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples.

There are many references to the ancient Kosala Kingdom of northern India in ancient Indian literature and the Surya Vanshi Ikshvaku dynasty kings ruled Kosala with Ayodhya as their capital. After Lord Rama, the kingdom was divided among his two sons, Lava and Kusha with North Kosala going to Lava with Shravasti Nagari as his capital and Kusha receiving South Kosala. Kusha established his new capital, Kushasthalipura on the river Kushavrate near the Vindhya mountain range, which divides north and south India. Kushasthalipura is identified as near Malhar.

In Malhar, many ancient temples have been found, such as the Pataleshwar temple, the Devri temple & the Dindeshwari temple. Ancient deposits and Jain memorials were also found here. The four-handed idol of Vishnu is significant. The remains found here are of the period from approximately 1000 BCE to the Ratnapura Kalachuri regime. Temples of the 10th and 11th centuries are also conspicuous here, among them, the Pataleshwar Kedar temple is one, where the Gomukhi Shivling is the main attraction. The Dindeshwari temple of the Kalachuri regime is also significant. Artistic idols are present in the Deor temple.

The Pataleshwar Temple is the main attraction of Malhar. The temple structure is presently under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India and major renovation and repair activities have taken place in the temple. It was constructed on a high-raised platform and entrances having been provided from three sides. The sanctum is situated below the ground floor and hence the name of the temple. The doorway of the sanctum flaunts life-size statues of river goddesses and dvarpalas and the sanctum has a Shiva linga in it, with an open Nandi mandapa constructed in front of the temple.

Jain religious memorials have also been excavated here. Malhar also has a museum that is managed by the Government of India. It displays a good collection of sculptures that were discovered in this region.

Travel Bucket List: India – Chattisgarh Part 2

Bhilai and Durg
Known as twin cities, Bhilai and Durg are approximately about 32 km and 50 km west of Raipur. With a population exceeding 1 million, Bhilai is the second-largest urban area in Chhattisgarh after Raipur as well as a major industrial city and an education hub of central India. Durg lies east of the Shivnath River and is part of the Durg-Bhilai urban agglomeration and is the headquarters of the Durg District. Bhilai is home to several industries as well as the Indian Institute of Technology Bhilai. The Jama Masjid in Bhilai is one of the largest mosques in India and the state’s oldest zoo, Maitri Bagh lies in Bhilai.

It is believed that Bhilai is derived from the Bhil tribe which originally inhabited this region and continues to dwell in the nearby forests even today. The Bhilai word means the Bhils arrived. Bhilai was a small village and a part of the Haihaiyavansi Kingdom until 1740 when it was conquered by the Marathas. The foundation of the modern city of Bhilai was laid in 1955 when the Indian government signed a historic agreement with the Soviet Union in Magnitogorsk to establish a steel plant near the village. The first blast furnace of the plant was commissioned in 1959 by the first President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad. The number of steel rails produced by the facility till 2007 can go around the circumference of the earth 7.5 times and this is depicted on the monument at Globe Square in the heart of the city. The facility underwent modernization and expansion and is amongst the leading manufacturers of iron and steel in Asia.

An ancient fort and a temple, Dhamdha is located nearly 35 km from Bhilai on the way to Bemetara. There are several restaurants and hotels for overnight stays, should one want to do that. Lying 60 km from Bhilai, Tandula is known for a man-made dam built over the Tandula River. Serving as a perfect picnic spot, this place is flocked by tourists, especially during winters. The Irrigation department has guest houses for visitors to stay overnight. About 100 km from Bhilai, amid a dense forest, tunnels and hills, Hajra Falls offers a spectacular view falling from a height of 150 m. Famous as a picnic spot among locals as well as tourists, one can also find accommodation in form of a Forest Bungalow.

Maitri Bagh, which translates to a Garden of Friendship, is a zoo cum park that caters to both adults and children. It is the biggest zoo in the region and offers a wide array of options for entertainment. Maitri Bagh was established as a symbol of friendship between the USSR and India, in 1972 and was developed by the Bhilai Steel Plant and the Steel Authority of India Ltd. The entrance to the zoo has a pair of giraffes that welcome visitors. The zoo is spread over an area of about 167 acres and is home to about 39 species of animals, birds and reptiles, including some endangered species with the white tiger the main attraction of the zoo. There is a musical fountain situated on the island in the artificial lake of Maitri Bagh and is lit in colour during the show that takes place each night. There is a toy train called Maitrey Express that covers the entire zoo and is a hit among children. There is also a flower show held annually. The entry fee to the Maitri Bagh Zoo is INR 20 for Indian nationals and INR 10 for Indian children while adult foreigners need to pay INR 20 and their children can enter free. Maitri Bagh remains closed on all Mondays while on other days, the zoo is open between 10 am to 5 pm while the park is open between 10 am to 7:30 pm and the musical fountain takes place from 7 pm onwards only on Saturdays and Sundays. The operating hours of the toy train ride are from 3 pm to 6 pm on the days Maitri Bagh is open. Guides are available on request.

Lying amid a picturesque location, Siyadevi is known for its Sita Maiya Temple. And for those visiting between July and February, one can enjoy the beautiful views of the natural waterfall. Named after the devout wife of Lord Ram, Goddess Sita, Siyadevi is believed to be one of the places where Lord Ram, Lord Laxman and Goddess Sita lived during their vanvaas or exile. Housing an ancient Shiva Temple, Deobalod is situated about 3 km from Bhilai. Located about 60 km from Bhilai, the Ganga Maiya Temple at Jhalmala has a very interesting legend attached to it. According to the legend, a local fisherman found the deity of the temple in his net but ignored it instead of recovering it. Later, a villager from the same village had a dream in which the idol ordered the person to retrieve and keep it in a hut near the village. Sometime later, a temple was established there by Bhikam Chanda Tiwari.

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Situated on the bank of river Sheonath, amidst entrancing natural scenery, the Uwasaggharam Parshwa Teerth is the shrine of the 23rd Teerthankar Lord Shri Parshwanath and commemorates his visit to this region about 3000 years ago as a Shraman or a wandering mendicant dedicated to self-realization through self-sacrifice. Founded in 1995, the temple is also home to a garden, temples, a Yoga centre and a guest house all built on the banks of the River Sheonath. The entrance to the resplendent marble temple of Shri Parshwanath is through a 30 feet gate that has the idol of Parshwanath, supported by four pillars representing the four essentials of spiritual atonement, wisdom, introspection, good conduct and penance, being worshipped by two elephants. Sacred water or amiya, oozes from the idol here and hundreds of pilgrims visit this shrine on the day of the full moon.

Rajnandgaon
Located about 72 km west of Raipur, the district of Rajnandgaon came into existence on 26 January 1973, as a result of the division of the Durg district. Originally known as Nandgram, Rajnandgaon State was ruled by the Somvanshis, the Kalachuris of Tripuri and the Marathas. The palaces in the town showcase tales of the rulers, their society and culture, and their traditions.

The city was ruled by a dynasty of Hindu caretakers or Bairagis, who bore the title Vaishnav and Gond rajas or chiefs. Succession was by adoption and the foundation of the dynasty is traced to a religious celibate who came from Punjab towards the end of the 18th century. From the founder, it passed through a succession of chosen disciples until 1879 when the British government recognised the ruler as a hereditary chief and it came to be known as the princely state of Raj Nandgaon and the heir was conferred the title of Raja Bahadur. The first ruler Mahant Ghasi Das was recognised as a feudal chief by the British government in 1865 and was granted a letter of adoption. Later the British conferred the title of Raja on the ruling mahant.

In ancient times Rajnandgaon, like the rest of the Chhattisgarh plain, was part of Dakshina Kosala and part of the Mauryan empire during Emperor Ashoka’s time. Coins of the Indo-Sassanians have been found near Rajnandgaon dating from the 3rd century, implying the region had indirect contact with the rest of the world. In the 4th century, Dakshina Kosala was one of the regions which were subdued by Samudra Gupta on his southern expedition. However it was unlikely the Guptas ever directly controlled this territory south of the Mahanadi, rather the local rulers acknowledged Gupta overlordship. Gupta coins have been found in Dakshina Kosala. Parts of the region were controlled by the Nalas of Bastar at times, while other areas were controlled by the Vakatakas for periods in the 5th century. In the 6th century, the area was under the control of the Somavamshis while it fell back into Nala hands in the 7th century. In the 10th century, the Somavamshis returned to power, but were soon overthrown by the Kalachuris, who claimed Haihaiya origin. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the southern part of the district fell into the control of chieftains from Kanker. The Kalachuris or Haihaiyavansis continued ruling the district until the 18th century. Khairagarh and the northern part of the district were ruled by the Raj Gonds of Garha-Mandla. After the struggle of Rani Durgavati, these rulers, as well as the Kalachuris of Raipur who ruled the southern part of the district, became vassals of the Mughals. In 1742, the Marathas under the Bhonsles of Nagpur invaded Chhattisgarh and quickly overthrew the last king of the Haihaiyavansis and took over what is now Rajnandagaon district. In 1753, the Bhonsles of Nagpur confiscated all the territory that is now Chhattisgarh, and Raghoji gave the area to his son, Bimbaji, who ruled it virtually independently. The territory continued to be controlled by the Marathas until the Third Anglo-Maratha War when it fell into British hands who then returned the territory to Maratha hands. Until 1836 it was administered by a series of subadars obedient to the Nagpur state. In 1853, Nagpur was annexed by the British under the Doctrine of Lapse and Rajnandgaon fell under direct British administration under the Central Provinces and Berar. Rajnandgaon remained a Princely State in independent India and in 1948, was merged into the Durg District of Madhya Bharat, later Madhya Pradesh. Rajnandgaon district was carved out from the erstwhile Durg district on 26 January 1973. Later, Kabirdham district was carved out from this district on 1 July 1998. Rajnandgaon is a part of the Red Corridor.

Situated on a hilltop at a height of about 490 m about 26 km from Rajnandgaon, is a significant religious site. Also referred to as Badi Bambleshwari, the temple is located in Dongargarh and is half a km from the main temple complex at the foot of the hill known as Chotti Bambleshwari. Thousands of devotees from in and around Chhattisgarh flock to the shrine during the ten days of Navratri in September and October as well as during Ramnavmi in April. During this time, fairs which are run 24 hours are organised in the temple premises. It is said that about 2,220 years ago, a local king, Raja Veersen performed several Pujas and worshipped the gods to be blessed by an offspring. When after a year, the queen gave birth to a son, the king who believed it to be a blessing from Lord Shiva and Parvati, constructed the temple here.

Another site of interest is the ancient place of Mata Sheetala Devi Shakti Peetha. This temple, which is more than 2200 years old, lies 1.5 km from the railway station. Pragyagiri, a famous Buddhist Vihara is another attraction as is Barfani Dham where pilgrims throng. Other places of interest are Ambagarh Chowki, Ambagarh Devi Mandir, Mongara Dem and Sankar Dahara Tipagarh Pahadi.

Chirmiri
Chirmiri is a hill station about 298 km north of Raipur and not far from its border with Madhya Pradesh. It was a part of the Koriya district until 15 August 2021 when the separate Manendragarh-Chirmiri-Bharatpur district was created. Chirmiri is known for its coal extraction as the area is rich in coal. Chirimiri is referred to as the Heaven of Chhattisgarh due to its lush greenery, mountains, and rivers that make it a perfect getaway destination. There are several temples and other places famous among tourists. Located at an altitude of 579 m above sea level, Chirimiri lies along the banks of the Hasdeo River, one of the most prominent tributaries of the Mahanadi River. Chirmiri’s weather is pleasant all year round, and there are dense forests in the region housing exotic flora and fauna. The best time to visit Chirmiri is March just in time to celebrate Shivratri with the locals. It is one of the most popular festivals in the region. Otherwise, the monsoon season between October to April is when the city is clean and green with the dirt and grime washed away.

One of the chief tourist attractions of the region is the Lord Jagannath Temple which is a replica of the Jagannath temple in Puri, Odisha. The Kalibadi Temple is located in Haldibadi on a hill and is very close to the main train station. Baigapara is a temple located in Bartunga where there is also an ancient Sati temple dedicated to the Goddess Sati. The Gufa Mandir is located in Godaripara while the Maha Maya Temple in Ratanpur is one of the 52 Shakthi Peeths, and is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati. The temple was built by the Kalachuri King Ratnadeva in the 12th or 13th century. The architecture is of the Nagara art, facing north with a big water tank. There are also temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Hanuman respectively on the premises. The oldest temple here, built in 1039 is a temple dedicated to Kantideval and is said to be constructed by an ascetic known as Santhosh Giri. The temple is guarded by Kalabhairava residing in another temple on the approach road. There are also ruins of an 11th-century Kadaeideol Shiva temple on a hilltop near a fort.

17 km from Chirmiri lie Amrit Dhara Falls which are located in Barbaspur. There is a famous temple dedicated to Lord Shiva near the waterfalls. The falls are also a favourite picnic spot for locals. Apart from being a famous waterfall, the place is used for picnics by the locals. The local authority has developed the banks of the Hasdeo River and now this is a preferred picnic spot.

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Madku Dweep
A beautiful island, Madku Dweep lies on the River Shivnath about 87 km north of Raipur and about 40 km south of Bilaspur. The name Madku came about because the island has the shape of a frog. The picturesque Madku Dweep has an area of around 24 hectares and is full of greenery and is famous for its ancient temples and their historical and archaeological importance.

Archaeologists have discovered prehistoric stone tools, epigraphs, and coins on this island. Stone inscriptions have also been found, which are believed to date back to the 3rd century. One stone inscription was in Brahmi script and another in the Shankha script. Madku Dweep is also home to several ancient and unique idols of Lord Shiva, Ganesha, Shiv-Parvati, Nandi, and various other Gods have been found. There are temples, both old and new, that are frequented equally by devotees from across the globe. Madku Dweep is popularly known as Kedar Tirth and Harihar Kshetra Kedar Dweep. Archaeologists have successfully excavated 19 temples on the island of which 18 face east, whereas the middle temple is the only one that faces west. The architectural style of these temples along with the sculptures and idols is believed to be similar to that of the Great Kalchuris. The festivals of Mahashivratri and Hanuman Jayanti are celebrated enthusiatically and there is a seven day fair held with utmost devotion on this island. There is also a 7-day mela or fair that is held in January during Paosh Purnima.

Mudku Island is divided into two parts of the river Shivnath river. Two very ancient Shiva temples from the 10th and the 11th centuries are situated on the smaller island. One of them is situated at Dhanmanteshwar and to its right side is an ancient valley located in the north, which drains the water. Two ancient inscriptions have been found at this place. The first inscription is the Brahma inscription of about 3rd century while the Akshaya found and the second inscription has letters of the Shankhalipi script. A statue of a man without a head appears to be from the 10th or the 11th centuries. Archaeological excavations have found ancient idols of Gupta and Calcutta carvings. The statue of the Culturary Chattrabhuji dance is found in the statue of Ganesh under the tree of Bakul which dates to the 11th century.

Bhoramdeo Temple
Bearing a striking resemblance to the Konark Sun Temple, the Bhoramdeo Temple is located about 135 km north of Raipur and is believed to have been constructed between the 7th to the 12th centuries and is popularly known as the Khajuraho of Chhattisgarh as it also resembles the Khajuraho Temple in Madhya Pradesh. The Bhoramdeo Temple is a complex of temples dedicated to Lord Shiva in Bhoramdeo and comprises a group of four temples of which the earliest is a brick temple. The Bhoramdeao temple complex is built at the foot of the thickly forested scenic backdrop of the Maikal range of hills, in the Daksina Kosala region.

The temple complex, rich in history and archaeological details, is dated to the Kalachuri period between the 10th and 12th centuries, which ruled over areas in Central India in west Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and were called Chedi, Haihaya or Heyheya or the northern branch with a close identity with the sculptures found in nearby archaeological sites such as Janjgir, Kalachuri, Narayanpur and Ratanpur sites. The brick temples were built during the rule of Pandus and are similar to those built in Kharod, Palari, Rajim and Sirpur in the state.

The temple was built by Laxman Dev Rai & Gopal Dev of the Faninagvansh Dynasty. The temple complex, highlighted as scintillating poetry in stone, is credited to the Nagwanshi Kings who practised tantrism and who ruled in the then Southern Koshal region, which is now the state of Chhattisgarh. Its construction is dated between the 7th and 12th centuries and the temple is named Bhoramdeo because the Gond Tribals of the area worshipped Lord Shiva whom they called Bhoramdeo.

The main temple is the Bhoramdeo temple built in stone and is older than the Khajurao complex and has an abundance of carved images on its walls, especially the exterior ones. The structural uniqueness of the temple stems from having receding rows placed consecutively upwards in the upper part of the temple tower. It has the standard Hindu temple composition of a mandapa, followed by a passage leading to the sanctum sanctorum or Garbhagriha. The sanctum sanctorum is the primary enclosure of the temple where the presiding deity Shiva, in the form of a Shiva linga, is worshipped. Four main central pillars support the mandapa, along with several peripheral pillars. All the enclosures are linked through passageways. The temple is built facing the East, with an entry door that faces the same direction. In addition to this, two more doors open in the South and North directions. However, there is no door facing the Western direction. The main entrance door of the temple flaunts sculpted images of Ganga and Yamuna. The entrance to the sanctum sanctorum or Garbhagriha has finely sculpted images of all the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu. Intricately sculpted images of Lord Shiva and Lord Ganesha can also be found.

Another temple about 1 km from Bhoramdeo, which is mentioned along with the Bhoramdeo complex is the Madwa Mahal, which means marriage hall in the local dialect, also known as Dullhadeo. It was built in 1349 during the reign of Ramchandra Deo of the Nagavanshi dynasty and has a unique Shiva Linga erected over 16 pillars. It was built to commemorate the wedding of the Nagwanshi king, Ramachandra Dev, and the Haihawanshi Queen, Raj Kumari Ambika Devi. Interestingly, this temple is west-facing. Since this temple’s structure is similar to a marriage hall or pandal, it gets its name Madwa. The entrance of this temple flaunts traditional architectural embellishments.

The Istaliq temple or the temple built with dried or burnt clay bricks adjoins the main Bharamdeo temple. It was the first temple built between the 2nd and 3rd centuries. This temple is in a dilapidated condition and only has sanctum sanctorum without an entrance hall or mandap. The tower above the sanctum sanctorum is extant only to half its height and there is a wall projecting out of this temple which is known as the Allinda. Other existing structural features seen in the sanctum sanctorum are a few sculpted pillars as well as a sculpted Shiva Linga that is deified here along with images of Uma Maheswar and that of the king and queen standing in a worshipful pose.

Cherki Mahal, the last temple in the complex, is not easily locatable as it is situated in a thinly forested area. A Shiva Linga form, not carved is deified in this temple. The roof of the sanctum of the temple has lotus decoration. The entrance porch has many aesthetic repeated patterns. A temple washed in red colour was recently built for the deity Hanuman, located on one side of the temple courtyard.

An open-air museum is located within the temple complex that is home to a massive collection of archaeological artefacts that were unearthed in this area, some even dating back to the 2nd or 3rd centuries. The Sati Pillars are also on display here that have a unique architectural motif, showing couples in squatting amorous postures. The museum complex also boasts collections such as dilapidated images and friezes of Linga and Nandi.

Guru Ghasidas National Park
A beautifully protected reserve located about 320 km north of Raipur, the Guru Ghasidas National Park is also known as the Sanjay National Park as it used to be part of Madhya Pradesh’s Sanjay National Park. After Chhatisgarh’s formation, 60% of the park came under the new state and was renamed Guru Ghasidas National Park.

Stretching over an area of 1441 sq km, the park is a must-visit while in Chattisgarh and is part of the Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve, located in the Narmada Valley dry deciduous forests ecoregion. The park has a network of small streams cutting through forests which contain distinct flora and fauna. The park also offers safaris which highlight the park’s excellent features and allows picnics to be held inside the premises, with a choice of backdrop for the meal.

The history of Guru Ghasidas National Park dates back to 1981 when it was established. During this time, Guru Ghasidas was called Sanjay National Park and was a more significant area in Madhya Pradesh. The area of the park was then divided into two parts during the formation of the state of Chhattisgarh in 2000. During this time 60 per cent of Sanjay National Park fell under the district of Koriya in Chhattisgarh and this part of the park was then renamed Guru Ghasidas National Park after the famous Satnami reformist hero. The national park is now an individualistic thriving community of different plant and animal species under one roof.

The park is mostly composed of tropical forests of Sakhua or Sal trees. Many species are to be found here including the Bengal tiger and the Indian leopard as well as 309 species of birds, including the Golden Hooded Oriole and the Racket-tailed Drongo, among others and the park and its environs is the last known territory of the Asiatic cheetah in India.

The national park is smack in the middle of two very prominent tiger reserves, the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh and the Palaman Tiger Reserve in Jharkhand. The geographical topography of the national parks includes several small hills that are separated by grassy, open plain areas as well as sandy soils. The forest area is mostly a mixed deciduous type along with patches of mixed subtropical vegetation. Aside from the array of streams that criss-cross through the terrain, the primary source of water for the animals is from two important rivers on the premises. These rivers include the Banas River in the west of the Guru Ghasidas National Park which is renowned for its diverse flora and fauna that spreads through the area.

The Guru Ghasidas National Park is open between 8 am and 6 pm daily and has an entry fee of INR 100 per adult and INR 50 per child. Guides who have extensive knowledge of the national park and its inhabitants are also available during the safari.

Travel Bucket List: India – Chattisgarh Part 1

A landlocked state in Central India, Chattisgarh is the ninth largest state by area, and the seventeenth most populous. It borders seven states – Uttar Pradesh to the north, Madhya Pradesh to the northwest, Maharashtra to the southwest, Jharkhand to the northeast, Odisha to the east, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to the south. Formerly a part of Madhya Pradesh, it was granted statehood on 1 November 2000 with Raipur as the designated state capital.

One of India’s fastest-growing states, Chattisgarh is known for its scenic beauty and its cultural and traditional history. A resource-rich state, it has the third largest coal reserves in the country and provides electricity, coal, and steel to the rest of the nation. It also has the third largest forest cover in the country with over 40% of the state covered by forests.

There are several theories as to the origin of the name Chhattisgarh, which in ancient times was known as Dakshina or South Kosala. This was said to be Lord Rama’s maternal home. The name Chhattisgarh was popularised later during the time of the Maratha Empire and was first used in an official document in 1795. The most popular theory claims that Chhattisgarh takes its name from the 36 ancient forts, from chhattis meaning thirty-six and garh meaning fort in the area. However, most historians disagree with this theory as 36 forts have not been found and identified.

Another view, more popular with experts and historians, is that Chhattisgarh is the corrupted form of Chedisgarh meaning Raj or the empire of the Chedis. In ancient times, the Chhattisgarh region had been part of the Chedi dynasty of Kalinga, in modern-day Odisha. In the medieval period up to 1803, a major portion of present eastern Chhattisgarh was part of the Sambalpur Kingdom of Odisha.

In ancient times, this region was known as Dakshina Kosala and has also been mentioned in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. One of the earliest statues of Vishnu has been excavated from the Shunga period site at Malhar. Between the sixth and twelfth centuries, the Sharabhpurias, the Panduvanshis of Mekala and Dakshina Kosala, the Somavanshi, the Kalachuri and the Nagavanshi rulers dominated this region. The Bastar region of Chhattisgarh was invaded by Rajendra Chola I and Kulothunga Chola I of the Chola dynasty in the 11th century.

Chhattisgarh has a significant role in the life of Lord Rama, who, along with his wife Sita and his younger brother Lakshmana started his vanvas or exile in the forest in the Bastar area, then known as Dandakarayna and they lived more than 10 of their 14 years of exile in different places in Chhattisgarh.

Chhattisgarh was under Maratha rule from 1741 to 1845 and then came under British rule from 1845 to 1947 as the Chhattisgarh Division of the Central Provinces. Raipur gained prominence over the capital Ratanpur with the advent of the British in 1845. In 1905, the Sambalpur district was transferred to Odisha and the estates of Surguja were transferred from Bengal to Chhattisgarh.

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The area constituting the new state merged into Madhya Pradesh on 1 November 1956, under the States Reorganisation Act of 1956 and remained a part of that state for 44 yearsSome areas constituting the Chhattisgarh state were princely states under British rule but were later on merged into Madhya Pradesh. The demand for Chhattisgarh to be a separate state first arose in the 1920s, with similar demands appearing at regular intervals; however, a well-organised movement was never initiated. In 1954, when the State Reorganisation Commission was set up, the demand was put forward but was rejected. In 1955, the demand was raised in the Nagpur assembly of Madhya Bharat. In the 1990s, the demand became more prominent, resulting in the formation of a statewide political forum known as the Chhattisgarh Rajya Nirman Manch and several successful region-wide strikes and rallies were organised under it, all of which were supported by major political parties. The new National Democratic Alliance government sent the Separate Chhattisgarh Bill for approval by the Madhya Pradesh Assembly, where it was unanimously approved and then submitted to the Lok Sabha. The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, which allowed the creation of the state of Chhattisgarh which happened on 1 November 2000.

The outline of Chhattisgarh is like a sea horse. The northern and southern parts of the state are hilly, while the central part is a fertile plain. Deciduous forests of the Eastern Highlands Forests cover roughly 44% of the state and the edge of the great Indo-Gangetic plain lies to the north. The eastern end of the Satpura Range and the western edge of the Chota Nagpur Plateau form an east-west belt of hills that divide the Mahanadi River basin from the Indo-Gangetic plain. The central part of the state lies in the fertile upper basin of the Mahanadi River and its tributaries and has extensive rice cultivation. The state has 3rd largest forests by area with the wild Asian Buffalo the state animal and the hill myna the state bird and the state tree the Sal. There are multiple National Parks, Tiger Reserves across the state with the Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve a UNESCO recognised Biosphere with a total area of 3835.51 sq km. India’s oldest tribes dwell here, some of them for almost 10,000 years. About 80% of the population of the state is rural and the main livelihood is agriculture and agriculture-based small industries. The Odia culture is prominent in the eastern parts of Chhattisgarh bordering Odisha. Chhattisgarh is known for its Kosa Silk and Dhokra or Bell metal art.

We shall be exploring the state starting from its capital, Raipur.

Raipur
Chattisgarh’s largest city and state capital, Raipur is a major commercial hub for trade and commerce in the region. It has seen exponential industrial growth and has become a major business hub in Central India. Regarded as one of the best cities to do business in, Raipur is abundantly rich in mineral resources and is among the biggest producers of steel and iron in the country with about 200 steel rolling mills, 195 sponge iron plants, at least 6 steel plants, 60 plywood factories, 35 ferroalloy plants and 500 agro-industries in the city. In addition, Raipur also has over 800 rice milling plants.

Archaeological evidence indicates the existence of Raipur since the 9th century. However, there is enough literary evidence that defines the history of Raipur since the time of the Maurya Empire. Raipur was once part of Southern Kosal and considered to be under the Maurya Empire and had later been the capital of the Haihaya Kings, controlling the traditional forts of Chhattisgarh for a long time. The Satawahana kings ruled this part till the second and third centuries. Emperor Samudragupta conquered this region in the fourth century, but the region came under the sway of the Sarabhpuri kings and then Nala Kings in the 5th and 6th centuries. Later on, the Somavanshi kings and then the Kalchuri kings of Tumman ruled this part making Ratanpur as capital. It is believed that the King Ramachandra of this dynasty established the city of Raipur and subsequently made it the capital of his kingdom.

Another story about Raipur is that King Ramachandra’s son Brahmdeo Rai established the city. His capital was Khalwatika, now Khallari and the newly constructed city was named after Brahmdeo Rai as Raipur. It was during this time, in 1402 that the temple of Hatkeshwar Mahadev was constructed on the banks of the river Kharun which remains one of the oldest landmarks in Raipur. After the death of king Amarsingh Deo, this region became the domain of the Bhonsle kings of Nagpur. With the death of Raghuji the III, the territory was taken over by the British and Chhattisgarh was declared a separate Commission with its headquarters at Raipur in 1854. After independence, Raipur district was included in the Central Provinces and Berar and became a part of Madhya Pradesh on 1 November 1956. After the formation of Chhattisgarh on 1 November 2000, Raipur became the capital of the new state.

Raipur is located near the centre of a large plain, sometimes referred to as the rice bowl of India, where hundreds of varieties of rice are grown. The Mahanadi River flows to the east of the city and the southern side has dense forests. The Maikal Hills rise on the north-west of Raipur while on the north, the land rises and merges with the Chota Nagpur Plateau and on Raipur’s south lies the Deccan Plateau.

The Banjari Mata Mandir is dedicated to the Goddess Banjari Mata and is thronged by devotees during the Navratri and Dusshera festival. Many devotees from neighbouring states and across the country flock to breathe in the sacred aura.

Located in Gariaband, about 85 km from Raipur, the Jatmai Temple is situated amidst lush greenery. The temple, devoted to Mata Jatmai is constructed with granite and has beautiful murals at its entrance. The temple is lit up and decorated during the festival of Navratri. The temple is open from 5:30 am to 8 pm daily. One of the few temples dedicated to Goddess Jatmai in India, the Jatmai Temple is also known as the Jatmai Ghatarani and is believed to be very powerful. The Shivalinga within the temple premises has a fascinating and mythological story behind it. It is believed that the fishermen of the city wanted to take the Shivalinga with them and so began digging deep to pull the idol out, but the Shivalinga kept going in deeper into the hole. Eventually, they gave up trying to move the idol. Located inside a forest, the architecture of the temple is astounding with one massive tower and many smaller ones featuring as its Shikhara or its spire. The temple is carved in granite, with many murals at the entrance of the temple with the Goddess inside a sanctum. On the way up the pathway, there is a beautiful Shivalinga in another small sanctum with water flowing down a huge rocky hill that gets collected in a reservoir. The temple is open all days of the week and can be visited between 5 am and 7 pm.

The Kevalya Dham Jain Temple is spread over a large area on the outskirts of the city with several temples within the premise dedicated to Jainism. Entirely made of marble, it is a quiet pause from the hustle and bustle of a fast-paced life.

Popular for its magnificent architecture and rich heritage, the Rajiv Lochan Mandir is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Located in Rajim, a one-hour car ride away from Raipur, the temple’s edifice rests on 12 columns with stone carvings around them. The best time to visit this temple is between 16 February and 1 March, when the sacred Rajim Lochan Mahotsav is hosted.

The 900-year-old Mahamaya Temple, with its rich history and architecture, attracts not just devotees, but also historians and archaeologists. Home to several gods and goddesses including Mahakali, Bhadrakali, Lord Shiva, Lord Hanuman, Lord Bhairav, and more, this temple has 18-inch walls surrounding the temple, and 16-inch stone columns supporting the temple’s structure. According to historians, the temple was built by King Ratnadev in the 11th century.

Located about 9 km from Raipur, Shadani Darbar is a massive pilgrimage space spread over 12 acres. Named after Sri Shadaramji Saheb, the place has a massive hall with Dhuni Saheb’s idol, and many other gods and goddesses are engraved all over the place where devotees perform Dukh Bhanjan Dhuni every day. Other attractions at Shadani Darbar include beautiful musical fountains and statues of religious idols.

The Ghatarani Waterfalls are located about 75 km southeast of Raipur and are the largest waterfalls in the state. Surrounded by lush greenery, the falls are a popular picnic spot. A small trek through a forest would lead one to the falls, at the bottom of which lies a naturally formed pool. Although the waterfall’s beauty is at its peak in the rainy season when the water is in full flow, it is best to avoid going during this time because of slippery terrains and mudslides.

The Kankali Talab is an ancient pond where it is believed that legendary sages, including the Goswami Naga sages belonging to the Dashnami Sanyasi sect, spent time near here. They meditated and prayed to the divine deity and so also decided to build a small temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in the middle of the pond. There are stones arranged on the sides of the pond. Even today, medicants can be seen meditating near the pond.

Swami Vivekanand Sarovar is also known as the Burha Talab which means an old lake. Fenced by many trees, especially palm trees, it is a tranquil place to visit. There are several food stalls just outside the park that provide cheap and good-quality street food. Apart from that, the lake is a popular picnic spot and a joggers’ paradise. The best time to visit the lake is in the evening, just before sunset. At a height of 37 feet, the statue of Swami Vivekananda in the lake has been added to the Limca Book of Records as the largest statue of Vivekananda. In the evenings, the fountain is brightly lit and the colourful light illuminates the place. Also, boating can be enjoyed on the lake with a minimal charge. During his time in Raipur, Swami Vivekananda was believed to have visited the lake for a bath every morning and hence the lake has been named after him. Having no entry fee, the lake is open between 6 and 9 am and then again between 3 and 8 pm.

Located in the heart of Raipur, the Gandhi Udhyan Park extends to the famous Bhagat Singh Chowk. With a lot of natural vegetation spread over the park, the walking area is neatly tiled. There is also a playground where yoga classes are held early in the morning. With a walking area of about 400 meters, it is an excellent place for a morning or evening walk. Located close to the Chief Minister’s residence, it is well-maintained and attracts a lot of people from the neighbourhood. The park is more pleasant during sunrise and sunset when the place is airy with many visiting the park at this time. The park is open between 5 and 9 am and then from 4 to 7 pm.

Also known as the Urja Park, the Solar Energy Park is an energy education park whose primary objective is to create awareness about energy savings. It is a fun-based theme park where children can learn while they play. Set up by the Chattisgarh Renewable Development Agency, CRDA, the park uses renewable sources of energy, especially solar energy, to run most of the rides. The park has lush greenery accompanied by exciting science puzzles, boating and musical fountains. In the artificial lake within the park, children can paddle solar boats and play in solar toy cars.

Purkhauti Muktangan is a delightful garden reflecting the rich culture of Chhattisgarh with folk art, life-like tribal figures, and vibrant sceneries that add to the beautiful experience. Located in Naya Raipur, about 19 km from Raipur, the gallery in the garden also has miniature models of Chhattisgarh State tourism sites like Karwadha, Bhoram Dev, Mata Danteshwari Temple in Dantewada, Chitrakote of Bastar, the Jagdalpur Forest and several folk dance models. One can see the entire state under one roof here. There is a restaurant available outside the park and several other places for snacks. Purkhauti Muktangan is a popular film and television shooting spot and one may run into local actors filming here. The garden is open between 8 am to 6 pm daily and is open on all days except Mondays when it is closed. The entry fee for children below 12 years is INR 2 and for those above 12 is INR 5.

Nandan Van Zoo & Safari is located at Naya Raipur and its primary objective is to protect and conserve animals. There is a jungle safari and boating and is a perfect spot to spend the day with kids. The zoo offers safari rides through the jungle lasting for about two hours which is very exciting. There are also boating rides in the zoo on a lake which is quite broad and spread over 130 acres known as the Khandwa Reservoir. The safari rates are INR 100 for adults and INR 50 for children between the ages of 7 and 12. No charges are applicable for children below the age of 6. It is up to the visitors to choose their safari vehicle the charges of which are in addition to the basic safari charges. There are two options, the first is an air-conditioned vehicle which will be charged INR 300 and the other is a non-airconditioned vehicle that will be charged INR 200. It is to be noted that separate charges have to be paid for taking photographs and videography and foreigners pay separate rates. There are four major safaris offered by the zoo. The herbivores safari is in an area of about 30 hectares where many species such as Blackbucks, also known as the Indian Antelope, Nilgai or Blue Bull and more especially the Sambar deers and spotted deers, all of which are widely spread. There is also a Tiger safari that is home to many Bengal tigers spread over an area of 20 hectares. There is also a Lion safari, spread over 20 hectares where Indian Lions can be spotted. Apart from these, there are also other carnivores and omnivores such as Mongoose, Leopards, four-horned Antelopes, and Jackals which roam freely around the forest area. The zoo also has a Bear safari with a collection of Himalayan Black Bears and Albino Bears spread over 20 hectares. The zoo also has a waiting area with an iMax theatre, museum, canteen, and food courts.

The Raipur Town Hall is a government office as well as a tourist site that is brimming with history. It houses information about the different dynasties that once ruled Raipur. Constructed in 1889 and inaugurated in 1890, the town hall has been renovated once. Earlier known as the Victoria Jubilee Hall, the Town Hall was constructed from stones transported from Raipur Fort in 1887. The Town Hall stands on several pillars and is painted red and white. Its construction took three years and comprises modern manufactured materials after renovation, including bricks used from Raipur Fort used in the original construction.

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The Mahant Ghasi Memorial Museum is small but packed with the rich history of Raipur. This well-maintained museum boasts an impressive collection of tribal artefacts, inscriptions, coins, carvings, models, and other things related to anthropology and natural history. There are five galleries spread across two floors and a vast library. The open-air restaurant located on the ground floor has cheap but good tribal food. The entry fee to the museum is INR 5.

Champaran
Formerly known as Champajhar, Champaran or Champaranya’s name is derived from the Champa flower. There is a myth that in the past Champaran was a forest of Champa Flowers and so the place came to be named initially Champajhar where Jhar means a house and the place means a house of Champa flowers. Located about 46 km southeast of Raipur, Champaran is famous because it is the birthplace of Jagadguru Shrimad Vallabhacharya Mahaprabhu, the reformer and founder of the Vallabh sect also known as Pushtimarg. It is thus, a popular Vaishnava Peeth. Champaran is home to two temples that are dedicated to Shri Mahaprabhuji – the Prakatya Baithakji Mandir and the Mool Prakatya or more commonly known as Chatti Baithak and also holds an annual festival.

There are two temples dedicated to Shri Mahaprabhuji in Champaran. The first one is known as Prakatya Baithakji Mandir, while the second Baithakji is Mool Prakatya normally known as Chhatti Baithak. Apart from this, there is a Haveli temple dedicated to Shree Girirajji and Shree Balkrishnalalji. A small stream of the Mahanadi River flows near the temple which is believed to be from the Yamuna river and is worshipped. Mahaprabhuji’s Prakatya Utsav is celebrated every year on the eleventh day of Baisakh and many followers of the sect gather at the temple to pay homage. The annual fair of Champaran is held with great festivities in the month of Magh, which corresponds to January or February every year. The Champeswar Madadev Temple has a rare idol of Lord Shiva dedicated to Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati and Lord Ganesh. The temple is usually open from 7 am to 7 pm daily, though it may be closed during the afternoon hours. The best time to visit Champaran would be during the winter months between October and March as weather conditions are suitable to explore the temples and their architecture. Visitors can also plan a trip during the Annual Festival of Champaran to witness the wide array of colours and festivities. It is recommended to avoid travelling to these parts during the summer as the sweltering temperatures make for an extremely uncomfortable trip.