Written by Surabhit Gupta.
Chhattisgarh lies centrally in India and is reachable from almost anywhere in the country. It has one of the most striking spectra of people. From tribals to city-dwellers, from the marginalized to the affluent, the daily wage earners to the mining barons.
Chhattisgarh is one of the greenest states of India, with a greater than 40 per cent forest cover. It is one of the most vibrant biodiversity hotspots of the sub-continent. It has 36 major and minor forts and hence the name.
The state has many ancient monuments, rare species of flora and fauna, exquisitely carved temples, Buddhist monasteries, waterfalls, forts, caves and rock paintings. Most of these sites are off the beaten trail and unexplored and offer a unique and alternate experience as compared to some of the more mainstream and often overcrowded destinations.
The city of Bilaspur has a mostly migrant demographic. Most of the people migrated here from neighbouring states of Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. The town has ancient mentions, but it really started gaining traction in the 1880s after the introduction of railways. Bilaspur is referred to as by some as the rice bowl of India. The main economic activities are weaving, agriculture, railways and coal mining. It is surrounded by hills rich in dolomite ore. The climate is pleasant in the winter, while the summers are scorching. It is best to avoid visiting in the summer.
The culture is very diverse, owing to the large immigrant population. Bilaspur has some native dance styles, cuisine, music and traditional folk songs, of which Sohar songs, Bihav songs and Pathoni songs are the more known ones. The Odia Rout dance is also celebrated in the local Odia temples.
The dev bhog rice originally from Pendra has a unique aroma and a sticky texture. It is heavily used in local cuisine.
Madku Dweep is an island formed in the Shivnath river and is named after a monk. There is an old archaeological remain of a temple
Bilaspur is a major rail hub and connected to all parts of the country through rail.
It is an ancient temple site and is particularly renowned for its four-handed idol of Lord Vishnu.
Mahamaya Temple Ratanpur It is one of the most religiously-celebrated, architecturally magnificent and culturally rich temples of south-east India. It is said to be built on the spot where King Ratan, upon whom the city got its name had a sighting of Goddess Kali.
3. Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary
It is a 550sq km wildlife sanctuary, which is an hour’s drive from Bilaspur. It is best to visit it as a day trip as there is no facility for overnight stay. At night the National Highway passing through the sanctuary is closed due to the increasing incidences of human-animal encounters. It is one of the country’s most dense forests. The sanctuary is completely closed during the monsoon season.
4. Chaiturgarh Fort
It is one of the Strongest Natural Forts out of 36 forts from which the name CHHATISGARH is derived. The fort was built by PRITHVIDEV I in the 11th century by the king of the Kalachuri dynasty. Its also known as the KASHMIR OF CHHATTISGARH because of its ambient climate, mesmerizing scenic beauty. It has religious significance too, as in its vicinity, it is having the famous MAHISASURAMARDDINI TEMPLE as well as SHANKAR GUFA.
It is a must-visit place because monuments are the grappling Iron that binds one generation to another and helps in inculcating a spirit of cultural nationalism in us making us aware of our rich cultural heritage
Amarkantak though technically in Madhya Pradesh, is a cultural extension of the Pendra district of Chhattisgarh and is the meeting point of the Vindhyas and the Satpuras.
The legendary poet Kabir is said to have meditated on Kabir-Chabutra located in Amarkantak
6. Bhoramdeo Temple
Bhoramdeo Temple, or the ‘Khajuraho of Chhattisgarh’ not far from Amarkantak, is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and was built in the period of 7th to 11th century A.D and is beautifully located amidst the mountains.
7. Tirathgarh Waterfall
The Tirathgarh falls provide a panoramic view of the Kanger River tumbling down. The splashing streams of Tirathgarh waterfall with incredible speed. Since this is a popular site, you may find hordes of people sitting under the waterfall. Still, you can walk further down the levels to find an isolated spot. Numerous tourists visit the highly famous waterfall, mainly during the months between Octobers to February.
Nested in hilly plantation, this Tibetian Buddhist settlement is probably the most tranquil place in all of the states. It is better to skip the waterfalls as we will get to way better ones in a day or two. One of the best Chinese foods I have had was at the Tibetian Monastic Canteen. The lady who owned the place was amiable. Since we didn’t get what we ordered first, she offered us to pay half the price although we insisted that it was alright.
Daldaliya is a valley where the soil is such that it acts as a natural trampoline. The panorama of the hills and forest from here is simply breath-taking.
9. Rock Paintings
The paintings are done in natural colours that have hardly faded despite the years. The strangely carved figures are seen holding weapon-like objects and do not have apparent features. Notably, the nose and mouth are missing.
In Chhattisgarh, painted rock shelter was discovered by C.W. Anderson in the early 20th century. Since then, over 150 sites have been found.
Most of these 150 paintings are in the tribal regions of Bastar and Jagdalpur and are not worth the risk. They lie deep in the forests and often in Maoist disturbed areas.
10. Chitrakote Waterfalls
It is located in the Jagdalpur district of Chhattisgarh and is about 30 meters in height. It is also the widest waterfall in India with a width of up to 300 meters in the monsoon. It has a distinct horseshoe shape and is called the Niagara Falls of India. During the monsoon, rainbows are formed with sun rays reflecting on mist from the waterfall, giving rise to a surreal view.
Chitrakote Falls is one of two waterfalls adjacent to the Kanger Valley National Park, the other being the Teerathgarh Falls.
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