I moved to Raipur (capital of Chhattisgarh) around 5 years back. There were days when my friends back from Gujarat asked me, ”Why are you moving there? I have heard it is infamous for the Naxalite attacks and violence.” Even to this day, it would hurt me that this beautiful land’s prominence is fabricated in such a manner. I wouldn’t blame them for it, but I surely want people to know what this land holds. Chhattisgarh’s reputation precedes it. As I cannot urge my readers to visit Chhattisgarh in these times of the pandemic, so yes, here I will bring my state’s actual picture to your fingertips. It is home to 42 scheduled tribes, 150 species of birds, numerous varieties of fauna and most of all, a mixture of people belonging to different ethnicities, religions, castes, and cultures.
Here I unravel the secrets of the land of ‘36-forts’, Chhattisgarh.
Expedition to the untouched beauty
Contrary to most people’s beliefs, tranquillity is one’s best companion while exploring Chhattisgarh. It is often called the land of tribal art or the land of waterfalls. Which reminds me, India has its own variance of Niagara Falls, which might be even better. Chitrakote Falls (hailed as the Niagara Falls of India) in the Bastar district is a serene sight to see and is absolutely pleasing to the eyes. The grand structure roars the sound of the water, inciting thrill and shudder at the same time. Its beauty intensifies after the monsoon rains in July-October when one can witness the milky waterfalls graciously flaunting nothing but beauty.
While we are talking about waterfalls, I cannot fail to mention Tirathgarh Waterfall. This picturesque waterfall will not fail to leave you in awe. When I first visited this place, it reminded me of a movie set. The tourists are so fascinated by this place that they do not feel like going back home. I can confirm this feeling to be true because the entire environment around it is so captivating.
Chhattisgarh is known as the ‘Rice Bowl of India’, and finding paddy fields adjacent to highways is a prevalent sight. There are over 20,000 varieties of rice located in the region, which is really a fascinating fact. Having 3 National Parks and 11 Wildlife Sanctuaries, Chhattisgarh is rich with diverse flora and fauna. Indravati National Park is the most famous of them all. I have visited the Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary (famous for its bison) twice! It was nothing but a great escape from the mundane routines into the lap of mother nature.
All the other mountains, landscapes, quaint haats, small white temples, even the ruins of the millennia-old temples at Sirpur – there is just so much more waiting for you to be explored!
Tribal life, Culture, & Handicrafts
There are 42 different tribes that make up about a third of the population, mostly concentrated around the forests of Bastar. That makes this central Indian state one of the best places to go and visit first-hand little-known tribes and learn the cultural heritage and way of living.
As forests cover nearly half the state, tourism in Chhattisgarh is still in the works. But this comes to us as an advantage as it connects us to the local guides and tour specialists that have spent years building relationships with such tribal communities and help us understand them better.
It makes a lot of difference to have a local guide alongside us that helps us interpret stories, beliefs & folklore, or just help you identify plants and animals in the dense areas. This allows genuine cultural exchange rather than just one-way communication.
The handicrafts here are internationally renowned and provide a valuable income to the people here — the intricate wooden carvings, terracotta sculptures, metalwork, jewellery, vessels and whatnot. Tourists never leave these markets empty-handed; they always buy something as a souvenir to keep. Kosa silk sarees are a speciality of the handlooms here. This special silk is obtained from the Indian silkworms.
Being rich in minerals, mining is a very prominent activity that is undertaken here. We have India’s leading steel-producing unit, Bhilai Steel Plant, in Chhattisgarh.
Everyone here is a hardcore foodie; the culinary is just so good! Prepared with lots of passion, the food here is rustic, spicy and ‘desi’. As I mentioned, it is also called The Rice Bowl of India; most items from the Chhattisgarhi culinary are dominated by rice. Some of the most common dishes are ‘Fara/Muthiya‘ and ‘Cheela‘ (Dosa-like dish prepared with rice batter). Just to enhance your experience, make sure you eat them with the special ‘tamatar chutney‘ (a mixture of tomato, chillies and some garlic). It will give you the tangy and spicy edge and balance out the rice made dish’s plain flavour. Most tribal & traditional dishes contain Green-leafy vegetables. Lal bhaji, Cholai bhaji, Kanda bhaji, Cheech bhaji, and god knows how many more types of bhajis! Some tribal people also make a special chutney from commonly available Red Ant, but let’s not go there.
The loving, kind, & helpful people
When I asked my friends what their favourite aspect of living in this state was, there was one thing common in each of their answers – the people! Chhattisgarh is a lit junction of people living in harmony with this beautiful blend of people from different backgrounds, cultures, and rituals. The first year of my moving in here was full of surprises. Enthusiasm was always in the air when it came to festivals. From Makar Sankranti to Christmas, every festival was celebrated with great zest. Chhattisgarhi people are very social and outgoing; they will help you in their full capacity. We definitely have very grand weddings too.
Despite the presence of diversity, there are no communal disputes. Every individual respects each other, and therefore we even have a significantly low crime rate.
We have great road safety; people have always been disciplined when it comes to signals and traffic rules, whether they are or are not under police supervision. I can go on and on about how polite and soft-spoken people are here. Thankfully enough, we are not even prone to any major natural disasters.
Artists support each other’s works & beautiful collaborations between organizations take place frequently. Everything mentioned above is evidence of the presence of harmony and love in this state.
Again, Chhattisgarh is so much more than this 1000 word article. I promise you would not regret your visit. As the tourism of the state calls it, it indeed is ‘Full Of Surprises’. I would urge you to visit Chhattisgarh someday and embark upon this journey of serendipity!