The new state of Chhattisgarh, formerly a part of Madhya Pradesh, was created in 2000. It is a wild and beautiful land, rich in forests, rivers, streams and waterfalls. A whopping 44 percent of the state is forest. A large part of the population is tribal. Chhattisgarh is also known for its rich mineral wealth. The historical marginalization of the tribes and the demands on their forests, resources, homes and lives have led to complex, often violent moments. Chhattisgarhthus, is best known in India as a base for Maoist insurgency. This, and a lack of infrastructure, make it not a very easy place to visit. The main attractions of the state are no less than 3 national parks and 11 nature reserves. Witness tribal communities and their inspiring, often endangered ways of life. Go to a weekly Haat, see their art and visit their festivals. Raipur, the capital and largest city, Bilaspur and Jagdalpur are major centers for tourists. We bring you some possible routes from these cities.
Fit for the capital of the state, Raipur offers a wealth of attractions in every direction, fabulous temples, Buddhist monuments, royal palaces, natural wonders, choose a particular theme or combine them all. You can view the suggested route below to plan your journey into unexplored territory. It is recommended to rent a car from Raipur for your travels.
Sirpur: From Raipur, drive on NH6 for 84 km towards Sirpur. The main attractions here are the 8th-century Lakshman Temple, set in peaceful grounds, and the excavations of a Buddhist settlement. From this historic town, the Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary, home to dense forests, wildlife and more than 150 species of birds, is an easy northern journey. Overnight in Barnawapara.
Champaran : Next day, visit Champaran, the birthplace of Shri Vallabhacharya of Vaishnav sect. It is an hour’s drive south, about 10 km before the town of Rajim. This 520-year-old shrine houses one of India’s 108 Jyotirlingas. Free accommodation is available here for pilgrims. Consider packing in Rajim, with the historic Mahadeo Kuleshwar Temple at the confluence of the Mahanadi and Payari rivers. From Rajim, head back to Raipur for the night (30 km away), or continue south to take in the Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary.
Dongargarh:From Raipur, head west on the NH6 towards Dongargarh, which has the Bamlesvari Devi Temple. The truly pious ascent of the 500 steps to the temple; but you can take the cable car (Rs 40). It is possible to spend a whole day here as you can see other religious sites on the surrounding peaks. Go to Kawardha and take Dongargarh-Khairagarh Road. The Raj Mahal, or the Kawardha Palace Hotel (Tel: 07741-232085; Rate: 3,500-6,000 per person) is the main draw. This royal residence has been converted into a luxurious hotel. Trips to nearby wildlife parks and tribal villages are also arranged. While in Kawardha, be sure to visit the fabulous 11th century temple at Bhoramdeo, 16 km away. The temple is covered with erotic sculpture and is surrounded by forest.
Northern Chhattisgarh is an undiscovered area for most travellers. Bilaspur, north of the capital Raipur, is an important commercial city that can be used as a gateway to this region. For a brief introduction to the area, try this three-day itinerary (which can of course be extended to include areas further north).
Ratanpur: Drive 25 km from Bilaspur towards Ratanpur, once the capital of Kalachuri kings. The ruins of a fortress here have beautiful grounds. Visit Sridevi Mahamaya Temple here. About 10 km north of Ratanpur is the dam site of Kuthaghat. Surrounded by woods and hills, and equipped with a rest house, this is a pleasant stopover. To see an excellent example of a 12th-century temple in the state, head 20 km northeast towards Pali. The Shiva Temple, built by the Kalachuri kings, has ornately carved pillars and decorated ceilings. Continue on the road to Korba, known for its cave that houses ancient idols of Ram, Sita and Lakshman. Return to Bilaspur for the night. Another option from Bilaspur is to visit the Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary (55 km), in the Mekhal Mountains.
Malhar: From Bilaspur, head south to Malhar, an archaeological site reported to date to the 3rd century BCE. Some important temples are located here. Head southwest to Talagaon, or Talagram, known for the Deorani-Jethani Temple and an intriguingly large statue, believed to be of Shiva.
The Bastar district in the south of Chhattisgarh has drawn the world’s attention for its spectacular scenery and tribal peoples’ traditions. Make district headquarters Jagdalpur, a 6-hour drive from Raipur, your base for touring the region.
Kanger Valley NP: Drive southwest from Jagdalpur to NH16 and then south from Sosanpal on NH221 to Kanger Valley, a beautiful jungle in the middle of the tribal area. Return to Jagdalpur for the night.
Chitrakote Falls: The next day, set out northwest to the horseshoe falls created by the Indravati River. On the way back, stop at the Anthropological Museum for insight into Bastar’s tribal culture. Reserve the afternoon for Nagarnar, famous for terracotta handicrafts. Inquire about visiting a weekly hate, to sample a slice of local life and a pot of fresh mahua.
Narainpur: Head northwest to Raipur. On the way, take a side trip to Narainpur, known for its handicrafts (bell metal, wood, wrought iron, bamboo). Bastar bell metalwork has evolved to provide bells and trinkets for kings’ horses. Using the lost wax technique, tribal blacksmiths shape wrought iron into peculiar elongated, haunting figures that are now famous all over the world. Also of interest is the Sitanadi Wildlife Sanctuary, a birdwatcher’s paradise.
Jagdalpur itself has the Bastar Palace and the Danteshwari Temple in the center of the city.