Jagdalpur, the district headquarter of Bastar. Situated on the banks of the seasonally turbulent Indravati, it has been the seat of an ancient kingdom ruled by several dynasties. The present Bhanj Deo-Kakatiya Ruling House traces its ancestry back to the 14th Century A.D., and even today commands an enviable loyalty among tribals. Jagdalpur is also a virtual museum of tribal life and arts. At any time of the year, Muria, Maria, Dhurwa, Bhattra and other tribal community, attired in the distinctive dress, headgear and ornaments, can be seen walking around its many tree-lined roads.
Workshops scattered about the town preserve and encourage an array of brilliant handicraft, developed with industry and ingenuity by a people living amidst nature. Wood, stone (especially the semi-precious corundum), Kosa (a local variety of silk), terracotta and bell-metal, among others, are fashioned into objects with a charm all of their own.
The real feel of the region, however, comes from a day or two spent in the villages and hamlets of Bastar, observing the timeless rituals and customs of the tribes. The Bison-horn Marias of Tokapal, known for their hospitality, dance and weaving, promise a wonderful time.
Within a radius of 30Km around Jagdalpur, a host of scenic sites take you deep into the jungle. The stupendous falls of the Indravati at Chitrakote, the deep caves at Kailash and Kotumsar, with their stalactite and stalagmite formations, the lively cataracts of Tirathgarh and the crocodile sanctuary at Bhaninsadarra, offer exciting prospects for exploration and picnic.
Haats (markets) These are a major part of life in Bastar and happen all over the district. Different places have their haats on different days so when planning an itinerary it is critical that you get the right days for the right markets and so that they fit in with day’s activities. A complete list of the market days will be forwarded to you soon. The other important thing to remember is that you do not want to visit a village when there is a nearby haat on as the villages empty out on these days.
These haats are the most colourful, friendly, fun and easy going markets. Tribals and villages will walk up to 20kms to get to the haat, hence they never start before midday and end by 5pm. Some are in village market areas with a proper market set up and others take place in the open fields, under the trees. They are extraordinary to walk around. Although, to begin with you feel uneasy taking photographs, if you smile and involve them, they are happy enough. Ideally it is better to stand at a distance with a zoom if wanting to photograph. The women dress up in the most colourful saris of bright and often fluorescent saris. The main colours are bright red, bright blue, fluorescent pink, yellow and green. Many markets are specific to certain goods, hence in a week many villagers may attend more than one market. There are ‘drink’ markets where you come across a great many happy souls chilling out drinking the local brew and selling it (Mahua). There are vegetable markets, clothes and fabric markets and more mainstream, general goods markets. It is worth visiting at least one or two in an itinerary as they are fascinating and all you need to do is smile at the people and they give you a huge grin back and communication begins. They are almost as interested in us as we are in them! At least an hour can be spent wandering round each haat.
Tribal Village – Throughout the state and this area you will come across tribal villages which have changed little over the centuries. The houses are made entirely of mud with either thatched or red tiled roofs. In some villages you will find slate roofs as it is mined in the area. Each tribe has its own distinct dress, culture and way of life and after spending a little while in the area one is easily able to identify the different communities by their specific costume, jewellery, headdresses, baskets and tools. Each tribe as a chief known as the Serpanch who could be male or female. He or she then has a team of 5 advisors, each called Panch. They are respected and constantly called upon for advice, to mediate and to help. They do not live in particularly different houses and are very much an integral part of the community. When celebrating it is the men who tend to be more elaborately dressed than the women. During the daytime, the women tend to work in the fields whilst the men do some of the heavier work or little at all. They tend to live in communities of families and they marry into their own tribes. Some tribes practice the G(h)otal system (dormitory system on reaching puberty). All the tribes tend to wear wonderfully bright and colourful saris.
The main tribes in Chhattisgarh are:
Bastar - Gond , Abujmaria , Bisonhorn Maria, Muria, Halba, Bhatra, Parja & Dhurvaa .
Dantewara - Muriya , Dandami Mariya or Gond, Dorla and Halba
Koriya - Kol, Gond and Bhunjia
Korba - Korwa, Gond, Rajgond, Kawar, Bhaiyana, Binjwar and Dhanwar.
Bilaspur and Raipur - Parghi, Savra, Manji and Bhayna
Gariabandh, Mainpur, Dhura and Dhamtari - Kamar
Surguja and Jashpur - Munda
Jagdalpur Anthropological museum – An anthropological museum which is sadly tired and neglected but has a selection of rooms showing various items from tribal culture and ways of life. It is open from 10 – 12.30 and from 14.30 – 17.00 Monday to Friday.
Chitrakote Falls – Situated 1 hour from Jagdalpur, these falls are on the Indravati River, are the widest in India and are truly spectacular during and after the monsoon. 96ft high, they are often compared by locals, with Niagara Falls but this should not be used as a comparison. They are truly spectacular and indeed I paid 3 visits there as they were so extraordinary but cannot really be compared with Niagara. It is also worth bearing in mind that there is good water until November and it slowly diminishes until Jan and from March onwards there is virtually no water. However, it’s still a great sight. For photography, the light and sun position is best in the afternoon
Dantewara – This district was formerly part of Bastar and lies to the south of the current state of Bastar. Its capital is Gidam and people go here to see the small Danteshwari Temple. Covered over and very much a living temple, it is not necessarily a place for tourists. It is an active and busy temple and you feel you are rather invading their privacy and worship by entering. Equally, men are required to remove their trowsers and wear a lunghi to enter into the inner areas. Although a lovely drive to get there, the temple does not really warrant the detour unless you have real temple buffs. It is 1 ½ hours from Jagdalpur
Barsoor – One of Bastar’s gems and well worth spending time at. It takes approximately 1 ½ - 2 hours to get there from Jagdalpur. You can come on the slower route via Chitrakote or on the main highway to Gidam and then turn right to Barsoor. I would suggest travelling there by one route and returning by the other depending on the time of day clients are travelling. If going in the morning, go via Chitrakote to see the falls in the morning. If going in the afternoon, return via Chitrakote to see the falls in the early evening. Both journeys are stunning as you travel on small, country roads, through woodland and with small rivers running through it. The red earth is all around you and you travel through one village community to another. It has an extraordinarily peaceful, forgotten and undiscovered feel.
There are 3 temples here dating from the 10th and 11th centuries. The Chhattiskhambha (36 pillars) temple has been recently discovered and is in the process of being immaculately restored. It is set in open farmland and a very pretty site. Nearby is the Ganesha Temple which has an equally pretty site and has one of the largest moonlight Ganesha statues in India. The Shiva and Mama Bhanja temple nearby is truly stunning with its lakeside position and shady tree and is in near perfect condition. There is a village just next door which is lovely to wander about with the local people not hassling you in any way. This is also the perfect picnic spot.
When visiting Barsoor, it is worth driving on a few kilometres through beautiful hill country to a large bridge which leads to a dead end. This is called Saath Dhara and has lovely views of the river and is a very peaceful spot.
Kanger Valley National Park – This should not really be called a National Park as it is misleading and people will think they are going to see wildlife. They are not. The park is barely managed at all but it does include some great things to see. The park is open from 1 Nov – 15 June each year and is a 1 hour drive from Jagdalpur. Please see more details on Kanger Valley here.
Cockfights – These are held throughout Bastar on market days. They are generally held in shady areas under the trees which draw a large crowd and its all male. But we do not recommend people visit them because it is not only upsetting to watch but it is also against our Responsible Tourism policy of ethical animal treatment.
Best time to visit
July - March