Tourism is growing in India by leaps and bounds and so is my urge to travel more and more. In Aug 2015, i had the privilege of visiting Sirpur, Chitrakote Waterfall, Bastar Tribal Areas and others tourist attractions south of Raipur. Ever since then, i had been longing to revisit this vibrant and culturally rich state full of surprises for any tourist. Mainpat– popularly known as “Mini Tibet of India” and “Shimla Of Chhattisgarh” has always been on my bucket list. My wish was full filled last month when my trip to the northern part of the state fructified. With another blogger friend, i went about the business in a clinical manner based on a systematic itinerary laid out by Chhattisgarh Tourism Board (CTB) officials.
In my quest to cover more distance and see maximum attractions in just three days, i did not stay for long at any tourist spot. Notwithstanding my fast track move, I assure my readers that the contents of this post will inspire them to plan a worthwhile trip to Northern Chhattisgarh.
- I have traveled in both Northern as well as Southern parts of state. I would suggest all readers to break down their tours/itinerary into shorter duration in order to spend more time at each site.
- The guides provide useful information and must be hired.
- Must night halt at Amarkantak to do justice to many attractions around town. Be prepared to walk down to waterfalls and then climb up- can be tiring.
- At waterfalls, do not attempt to scramble for a bath. The rocks are slippery.
- Best time to discover Chhattisgarh is in winters ie Nov- Feb. During monsoons Jul-Sep, greenery awaits eyes. Only passionate tourists/bloggers (like me) should travel in the summer months Apr-Jun. It is great fun to rough it out in a bid to full fill desires.
- The facts mentioned in this post are picked out of briefings by Pandits/Purohits/Priests present at the sites. They may not corroborate well with historical facts out of pages of books. Kindly use your judgement to analyse/justify what could be right.
- Beware of monkeys- can snatch away anything.
History of Chhattisgarh
The state of Chhattisgarh was carved out of many states on 01 Nov 2000 with Raipur as it’s capital. Madhya Pradesh, AndhraPradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha are the neighboring states.
In ancient times, it was known as Dakshin Kosala, history of which dates back to 4th century AD. It is also believed that Lord Rama had spent sometime here during his 14 years exile. Later, Devi Sita had given birth to Luv and Kush on this sacred land. The temples of Kaushalya, Lord Rama’s mother and Shabari are located here. Over the years, there had been an influx of Mughals and Marathas rulers in the region. In the medieval period, the region was known as Gondwana. Vir Narayan Singh, a land lord was martyred by Britishers during First War of Independence in 1857.
It is 10th largest, 16th most populous and one of the fastest developing states in India while retaining it’s glorious history, tribal culture and rich heritage.
Chhattisgarh On A Platter
This beautiful and vibrant state has no sea, Himalayas yet, it has hills, mountains and rivers. It offers a happy mix of attractions, challenges and surprises tourists of all age groups. They are as follows:-
- National Parks and Wild Life Sanctuaries.
- Ancient Hindu Temples and Buddhist Monuments.
- Impressive Forts And Palaces.
- Traditional Art, Sculpture and Fascinating Local Handicrafts.
- Mini Tibet, Shimla of Central India, Rice bowl of India, Niagara of East (Chitrakote Waterfalls)
- Tribals- Heritage, Customs, Traditions, Dances and Religious Practices.
- Majestic Water Falls and Beautiful Nature.
- Archaeological Treasures.
- Hill Stations (Mainpat) and Caves.
- Trekking Routes.
- Adventure Sports.
Arrival At Raipur
My Air India flight landed at Raipur around 0730 hrs on 23 May 2016. After collecting my luggage, I straight away headed for CTB Information Center where i was welcomed by a well informed, knowledgeable Ms Uttara Dewangan who briefed me about the itinerary over a cup of much wanted coffee. From here, i rushed to Hotel Grand Chhattisgarh to freshen up and meet my fellow blogger. After a quick breakfast, we headed for CTB office in the new building where we met cheerful and confident Shradha Chaturvedi and Shruti Sharma who briefed us about impending trip.
Meeting Managing Director
It was heartening to meet energetic, positive minded Mr MT Nandi, Managing Director CTB. The meeting lasted about 20 minutes during which he welcomed us and highlighted ongoing efforts of CTB to promote Tourism in State. The itinerary was thrashed out in detail. We were really excited and happy about our second innings in the state and expressed our eagerness to work for the state for future endeavors as well.
I always go by my favorite quote- “A Journey Begins With Questions And Ends With Stories”. I do not pick out lines from internet and write in my blogs. No way. I travel on ground, observe, clarify my doubts while mixing with people/guides and then pen down my feelings/observations/comments about a place from a tourist’s point of view.
With that as the back drop, this is how my journey began. It comes true from the heart with pleasure.
Day 1 (23 May)
We set course after lunch for Madkudweep. Even rain gods showered their blessings on us through light rain. The weather was cloudy for most part of the journey.
- Madkudweep– Located 80 Kms from Raipur and surrounded by River Shivnath, this picturesque island is approachable only via a bridge. The island revealed 19 temples, statues of Lord Shiva, Ganesh and Krishna in addition to many epigraphs, pottery and coins. One can take a walk on the island and visit all sites. This is a famous site of Annual Christian Mela. Annual festivals of Paush Purnima and Shivratri draw huge crowds/devotees. Lord Shiva’s temple was lined up with many shivlings and sculptures in a row. Radhey Krishan Mandir of 1925 and Santoshi Maa Temple are well maintained by the Mahant (Priest) residing there.
Next we headed for Tala, located 150 Kms from Madkudweep and 30 Kms from Bilaspur. The view of the temples complex from bridge on River Maniyari was mesmerizing even in scorching heat. The priest briefed us nicely on the layout.
- Devrani- Jaithani Mandir. These two temples of 5th Century boast of famous carvings of those times. Devrani Temple is still intact however, Jaithani Temple is almost in ruins. In these temples one can see displaced idols of Rishis and Shivganas on the outskirts.
- Rudra Shiv Mandir. It is a unique masterpiece of art crafted out of imagination of a sculpture in ancient times. The grand idol is locked behind bars but, around it there are numerous shivlings of different sizes.
Ratanpur located 150 kms from Tala was our next stop. A large number of epigraphs were found here hinting at various versions of history of this ancient kingdom. Mahamaya Mandir is the only temple of significance. It is a culturally rich temple with superb architecture and houses one of the three Shakti Peeths in Chhattisgarh. The other two are at Danteshwari Mandir and Maileshwari Mandir at Danteshwar and Dungargarh respectively. Almost 200 meters walk from car parking brought us to the entrance to the temple complex marked with gigantic gate. Mahamaya Mandir is a recent construction on an ancient temple of 12 century AD. It is supported by 16 stone pillars and covers a large area.
We were lucky enough to witness Aarti in the evening. I enjoyed the entire proceedings for about one hour after which prasad was distributed. It was almost 7 pm and we rushed for Sonbhadra Tourist Resort (STR) at Abadob. After a strenuous drive for over 4 hours, we reached STR around 11 PM. Retiring to our cottages post a quick bite was like icing on a cake. A tiring day was to end up with a nice nap.
Sonbhadra Tourist Resort (STR). It is located a little off the main road surrounded by trees. It has 12 double bed cottages, a restaurant with good staff, a lawn and gardens. The cottages are well furnished with all modern amenities and solar heater. Mr Mukesh, Incharge of resort has great knowledge of all attractions around and manages the resort very well.
Day 2 (24 May)
We were up and fresh by 8.30 AM for yet another hectic day of sight seeing at Amarkantak which is a famous pilgrims center for Hindus and has a large number of tourist attractions. This place is a perfect getaway for families in the lap of hills and temples. The drive was good with Sal and Eucalyptus trees line up on both sides of the road.
- Kabir Chabutra. Kabirdasji halted here on his way to Jagannath Puri and wrote all his literature while sitting on a plat form- Chabutra and attained enlightenment here. A small Kabir Temple houses his idol. Around 8.45 AM on a sunny day, milky water oozes from the bottom of Kabir Pond turning the entire pond milky. I could get a glimpse of this strange phenomenon in spite of reaching a bit late. Area is ideal for a perfect trek by nature lovers. This place is also the boundary between Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
- Kabir Sarovar. This is on way to Narmada Udgam. It presents a picturesque view from the bridge with hills in background.
- Narmada Udgam. It is believed that River Narmada descended here from heaven with permission of Lord Shiva. River Sone also originated from here. One has to walk almost 400 meters from car park to temple area. It is peaceful to watch devotees taking Parikrama of Sarovar.
- Kalachuri Temples. Located 200 meters from Udgam is a cluster of 10 temples made of XStones of 8th Century AD, maintained and under renovation by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Temples are of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Karan reminding us of ancient history.
- Kapil Dhara. Majestic Waterfall. Though water was scant, the view is impressive. One has to walk down almost 100 steps to reach the point where one can take a bath under the waterfall.
- Dudh Dhara.This water fall creates a Milky Appearance and hence the name- Dudh Dhara. the landscape is very enticing. The decent from Kapil Dhara to this place is for almost 30 minutes. To get under the fall, one has to walk over slippery stones. Saint Durvasa’s ashram is located here. I crawled into the waist high cave to pay my respect to the Goddess Narmada
Though we were very tired due to soaring summer temperature and having walked up and down many stairs, we were determined to reach Achanakmar Tiger Sanctuary before 3 PM- entry time and we made it.
- Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary. Covers an area of 914 square Kms and has been declared a Tiger Reserve. Forming a corridor through Satpura- Maikal Hills, it joins up with Kanha Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. Bengal Tigers, Leopards, Bisons, and Wild Boars can be spotted here. Gypsy safari can be undertaken in morning as well as in the evening at a cost of Rs 2000/-. Due to high summer temperatures rising up to 46 degrees, most of the animals generally came out in the early morning hours. We decided to drive through the sanctuary in our own car and thus, could not spot any Leopards or Tigers but, were lucky to take few pictures of deer, peacocks, jackals. On both sides of the roads, Flame of Forest (Palash) trees presented an eye catching bright view. Sal, Sag and Tendu trees could be seen all along the road.
While running against time (normally happens when one gets engrossed in watching interesting things), we set course for Mainpat, our venue for night halt. The road was very good and towns en route provided us with enough opportunities for tea and snacks. We finally reached Mainpat by 11 PM after traversing meandering road well marked by night signs all the way. A warm reception by Mr Saurabh Verma and a satisfying hot meal at this great well organised Saila Tourist Resort was the ultimate wish of a tired yet, motivated traveler.
Day 3- (25 May)
Mainpat. It is a hill station (1100 meters above MSL), 45 Kms from Ambikapur located atop a beautiful plateau in Sarguja district of Chhattisgarh. This place is a home for Tibetan migrants since last five decades (post Chinese annexation of Tibet in 1959). Their population has now reduced to around 2000. Most of them weave woolen carpets and mats to earn their living. The population consists of Yadavs, Manjhi, Manjhwar, Kanwars. Ponda and Korwa (so called descendants of Kauravs and Pandavs of Mahabharat Era) also live here. Annual carnival is held here with great pomp and show.
The area is full of Bauxite deposits found in tertiary rocks. It is believed that Lord Rama had visited Sarguja during his 14 year exile.
Saila Tourist Resort. It is a beautiful resort providing full view of lovely landscapes of entire area. There are 22 well furnished cottages with all modern amenities (including Air conditioners). The pathways are full of flowering trees. With a neat Lobby, Dining Hall and Office Complex, the majestic resort building stands like a beacon in sea. Mr Saurabh Verma, Tourist officer is managing the resort well and was very enthusiastic while briefing us about Mainpat and later conducting our tour.
I woke up at sunrise, pulled the curtains apart and was dumb stuck for a while. The view was simply amazing. Green pastures in the near distance merging into green hills in the far distance. I couldn’t resist moving out with my buddy. We could feel cool breeze on our face and smell the freshness of air. Now, i realized why this small town was nicknamed Mini Tibet of India and Shimla of Central India.
Early morning walk to the neighboring village was an eye opener. Few of the Activities showing enthusiasm among people and real helpful attitude of people really moved me. They were- like an old man cutting logs with an axe and his son sitting near him waiting for the bus to school, three middle aged women sitting on roadside waiting for the bus to Ambikapur for shopping, village folk collecting at an old man’s house to help him witth his daily chores and meals. Having noticed the lifestyle of villagers i returned to my cottage and after a quick shower and breakfast was ready to set course to explore this beautiful place also here is the sequential covering of important places.
- Machli Point. The waterfall (48 metres) on Machali Nadi is a real beauty and worth watching. It is surrounded by jungles and cliffs. The trek to the place where one can bathe in the milky waters is very treacherous. Many fishes can be noticed in the small lagoon formed between rocks.
- Tiger Point. This is another impressive waterfall on Mahadev Muda river amidst dense jungle. Unfortunately, the water had dried up in the summers and we could see only a narrow stream of water trickling down from the cliff. From the vantage point, one can enjoy breath taking views. The Fire watch tower slightly away from Tiger point is very high and provides better view of surrounding areas.It is a nicely set up tourist spot with sufficient parking space and one does not have to walk too much.
- Mehta Point. Easily approachable from main road, it gives a distant view of mountain ranges covered with thick vegetation. Few shelters have been constructed to provide good view of surrounding areas. Although we reached this point in the afternoon, yet, the view was eye catching. Some Flame of the Forest Trees at the point added beauty to the view.
- Jaljala. Located at Parpatiya, this is a stretch of land atop a river which behaves like a Trampoline. In fact it is a bouncing swap. On jumping over it, the ground shakes. Both Children and aged people enjoy singing and dancing on this surface. A sudden shower added to the fun and enjoyment. At the tea stall, we had some tea and Bhutta.
- Buddha Temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Budha and is a symbol of humanity. The art of Buddha Vihars is clearly noticeable in temple carvings and paintings can be appreciated here. The Tibetans have maintained very nicely their vibrant culture and Buddhist flavor drawn out of a mix of Adivasi culture and Tibetan Buddhist culture. Three Tibetan festivals are yearly celebrated here. They are- The Day of Lord Buddha’s First Speech after Enlightenment, The Day Lord Buddha Returned from Heaven to meet his mother after attaining Nirvana and Dalai Lama’s Birthday.
Driving through the Tibetan colony with multicolored flags fluttering was simply an iconic sight. We were privileged to visit another Temple in pouring rain. We returned to our cottage, went out for a walk to the market and later, after a tasty meal, hit the sack.
Day-4- (26 May)
We bid goodbye to Mainpat and were rolling out by 8 AM. En route to Raipur, a few more attractions were added to our list.
- Tin Tin Pathar. Just 3 Kms from Garima is this astonishing rock which resonates like a Metallic Drum/ Normal Tabla on striking the surface with any object. A great entertaining attraction for children who love singing aloud standing victoriously on the rock.
- Mahadev Temple. Located at Pali on main road to Raipur.Constructed during rule of Bana Dynasty (870-900 AD). The east facing edifice is built of sandstone and is surviving with a Garbhagriha with Nagara Shikhar and octagonal mandap. Shiva Ling is housed inside. The door entrance has images of Ganga and Yamuna accompanied by Sewa Dwarpals. Now maintained by ASI.
Day5- (27 May)
Debrief. We had a good interactive session with MD during which we briefed him in detail about our visit. Various measures which could be adopted to further improve tourism promotion were also put up by us and discussed.
Home Bound. All good things come to an end. Curtains were drawn on our visit and we departed for our homes with fond memories of a wonderful trip to the Land Full of Surprises.
Connecting With Locals
I Love connecting with locals and interacting with them- so much to learn from them. They are the heart beat of any state.
- By Air. Swami Vivekanand Airport in Raipur is connected to all metropolitan cities– Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai. Regular flights operate from Bhubaneshwar, Nagpur, Ranchi, Vishakhapatnam. Air India, Jet Airways, JetKonnect and IndiGo are the airlines operating flights to Raipur.
- By Road. Bus services connect all cities. However, traveling in bus is time consuming and tiring. Buses ply from Raipur to Amarkanthak, Ratanpur, Ambikapur, Mainpat. I would advise all to hire cabs or use own car. Charges for cabs (Innova)- Rs 14/- per Km(vary with season). Compare rates of cab service providers before hiring.
- By Rail. Raipur is well connected to cities in North, East and Central India. It is on Howrah-Nagpur-Mumbai line. Bilaspur is well connected to Howrah, Mumbai, Delhi. Pendra Road is the nearest railway station (18 Kms) to Amarkantak and is connected to Delhi, Jaipur, Indore, Bhopal, Raipur. Ambikapur is connected with Annupur, Jabalpur, Satna, Katni, Gurg, Bhopal.
Food And Lodging
Besides resorts and accommodation being provided by CTB (which may be costly for some), there are some hotels and rest houses in Raipur, Amarkantak, Bilaspur, Ambikapur, Ratanpur, Mainpat which rent out rooms at a price ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 15oo per day. Keeping the comfort in view, it is advisable to stay in accommodation of CTB.
All towns have eating places. Hotels/ Restaurants/Dhabas en route offer snacks/food. One must carry packed meals while traveling with family/children.
Everyone wishes to carry home some souvenirs for relatives and friends. CTB has established an Arts and Crafts Emporium in Raipur where one can get a variety of souvenirs made of Bell art, Bamboo and other art work.
Stack Up In Car/Taxi
It is advisable to carry the following in your car. The list can be inflated based on individual preferences and experience during travel.
- Personal- Clothing as per weather.
- Route maps/charts and Tourist maps for guidance.
- Food/Snacks, biscuits, Packed meals, water.
- First Aid Box- including medicines for adults and children.
- Help line numbers- Of CTB information centers, guides, cab services.
- Contacts of hotel bookings/reservations/CTB officials.
- Car Accessories- Puncture repair kit, spare tyre and tube, jack.
Carry On Person
Moving out without adequate preparation will reduce the charm of visiting lovely places. Always carry:-
- An Umbrella/raincoat.
- Mobile phone with two sims on different networks. Vodafone gave good service for most of the time. BSNL did not work at all. Airtel may/may not work.
- Notebook and pen- To jot down salient points about each place.
- Additional back up storage for mobile phone.
- Torch- Electricity may not be available in all places.
- Plenty of Drinking water (summer months).
- Camera, Sunglasses.
- Sunscreen lotion, Mosquito repellent.
- Comfortable walking shoes with thick soles- snakes in jungles.
Prior to visiting any place, it is mandatory to read all the instructions given out clearly in all the manuals and handouts issued by CTB in the form of Do’s and Dont’s. Violation of the instructions or casual behavior and poor attitude may tarnish the image of tourists in general as well as of CTB.
- People of Chhattisgarh are very simple, shy and will interact freely only if one is polite and dressed in an orderly manner.
- Request locals before taking their photograph. They will nod or smile giving their acceptance.
- Show them the photograph to induce confidence.
- In Mainpat, avoid discussing topics related to China, Buddhism.
- Be Modest and speak softly in Hindi with gestures to establish communication with them.
- Take the help of your guide to interact with locals.
- Do not litter tourist spots.
Chhattisgarh Tourism Board Office
CTB travel booking office is located at Paryatan Bhawan, GE Road in Raipur where anyone can walk in and with the help of travel experts, plan out their itinerary. Experts will guide in all aspects related to cabs, guides, travel, stay, hotels, bookings, visas, insurances and so on.
- Contact Number- +91-771-4224600, 4224611. 4224612
- Toll Free Number-1-800-102-6415
- email- firstname.lastname@example.org
- web- www.chhattisgarhtourism.net
Tourism Information Centers are set up at the Airport as well as Railways Station to provide assistance to tourists.
I would like to thank Mr MT Nandi, Managing Director CTB and the entire staff for coordinating our visit to attractions in Northern Chhattisgarh.
At this juncture, I wish to thank Ms Shradha Chaturvedi and Ms Shruti Sharma for going out of their way to brief us, guide us and plan stay at every tourist resort with interest and zeal.
Our sincere thanks to Mr Mukesh and Mr Saurabh Verma for making our stay very comfortable at Sonbhadra Tourist Resort and Saila Tourist Resort respectively.
Mr Dinesh too needs a special mention for his splendid efforts in guiding us all through our journey and making our stay comfortable.
A big thanks to our driver Mr Puru who drove us caution and care around the state late into nights.
Starting Adventure Sports
CTB has gone all out to promote Tourism in state. Many plans are in pipeline. Adventure Sport has been introduced at Chitrakote Waterfalls and will soon be launched in Mainpat. They shall include:-
- Mountain Climbing
- River Crossing
- Para Sailing
- Para Gliding
The boom in Tourism Industry in the country and State will usher in many Social and Economic benefits to the people. For Chhattisgarh, a boom in this field is very much on the cards because of the massive efforts being made by CTB to promote tourism in the state.
Mainpat along with Bastar, Chitrakote Falls and Sirpur will serve as a launch pad to attract Domestic as well as International Tourists. All this will assist in development of local infrastructures and sustaining tourism.
Like my last trip, this trip too has left a lasting impression on my mind. Sometimes i wonder- Is there any other state in the country so rich in tourist attractions of all kinds? The answer is a big NO. I am convinced that in the near future, Chhattisgarh shall be the only state to impact tourism all over the World in a big way. Consequently, the state , Full of Surprises will come up very high on the Tourism Map of World. And i shall always be part of the drive to enhance the status of this state at all levels in the sphere of Tourism.
My time tested quote holds good even after the journey. Today, i have many stories to tell- all taken out of the pages of my journey to Mainpat- “Shimla Of India“. This trip certainly was more Rejuvenating than the previous one.
I am sure, my readers would take a plunge and head soonest for my favorite state- Chhattisgarh.
Ready Get Set Go
What are you waiting for? Just Go. Do not delay. Chhattisgarh is one of the most sought after tourist destination of India. I was totally mesmerized by what i saw in this beautiful state. Mainpat is very captivating and worth a visit. These days, it is really a Hill station. No time to waste. Just rush there with your friends to catch a glimpse of wonderful tourist attractions in the state.
Carry a hard copy of this post for reference. Good luck.
Good Luck and Best Wishes CTB- Your efforts will pay off.