Travel buffs tell you where to veer off the highway in Chhattisgarh to find some lesser-known gems

Travel buffs tell you where to veer off the highway in Chhattisgarh to find some lesser-known gems
Rajim KumbhChhattisgarh Tourism Board
Chhattisgarh may not be high on most lists of must-go-to travel destinations, but that also means it’s a state waiting to be explored by intrepid travellers.

In just three days, you will be able to cover everything from tribal villages to waterfalls to some fascinating ancient architectural marvels. It is believed that at least ten of the fourteen years Lord Ram spent in exile was in Chhattisgarh and in a bid to attract tourists, the government plans to develop eight sites as a part of Lord Shri Ram Vangaman Path.

Business Insider reached out to author, travel writer, food critic, and columnist, Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu who co-authored several Lonely Planet guides on Chhattisgarh to share her experience. Here’s what she had to say: "My most abiding memory of Chhattisgarh is that of a verdurous land populated with friendly, easygoing folk. A revisit, when it happens, will be spurred on foremost for these reasons alone. Which is not to say it offers little else; au contraire! Its expansive countryside is dotted with natural, spiritual and architectural assets. Were the history buff in me to pick just one, Sirpur, on the banks of Mahanadi, would easily count as an attractive package of all three.”

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Sirpur

Once an inconspicuous little town, Sirpur is now an internationally recognised tourist spot. Buddha himself is thought to have meditated here, and that’s why the Dalai Lama visits Sirpur annually. “Excavation digs have revealed ancient settlements, and a large (now) restructured Buddhist footprint,” Puneetinder said.

Travel buffs tell you where to veer off the highway in Chhattisgarh to find some lesser-known gems
Dalai Lama in SirpurChhattisgarh Tourism Board

Must-do in Sirpur: “To my mind, the sculpted-brick Laxman Temple there, the backdrop to the National Dance & Music Festival (2019), is the most striking monument of its time," according to Puneetinder.
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Travel buffs tell you where to veer off the highway in Chhattisgarh to find some lesser-known gems
Laxman Temple, SirpurChhattisgarh Tourism Board


Chitrakote Falls: Around 260 kilometres from the capital Raipur is home to Chhattisgarh's crowning glory, the magnificent Chitrakote Falls. Spanning 300 metres in width, it is the broadest waterfall in India. This horseshoe-shaped fall is at its roaring best just after the rains, but beautiful all year round.

Travel buffs tell you where to veer off the highway in Chhattisgarh to find some lesser-known gems
Chitrakot Waterfall Chhattisgarh Tourism Board

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Stay: You can stay at the Chitrakote Log Hut. A peaceful place to stay, it features some fancy tents and modern cabins (some with fantastic views of the falls).

Tribal life in Bastar:

While the Bastar region is primarily known for its tumultuous Naxal (far-left communist) activities, the current state government claims that this has been confined to very few pockets and assures that the problems will soon be done away with altogether.

“I got the chance to visit Chhattisgarh around 5-6 times, to cover the annual Bastar Dussehra for around 40 of the 70 days, researching the role of Gurmayis (women priests) for a fellowship and studying the tattoo culture of different tribals in the state,” says Supriya Sehgal, a Mumbai-based travel and children's book author and the co-founder of a digital marketing and production house, The Content Lab.
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Travel buffs tell you where to veer off the highway in Chhattisgarh to find some lesser-known gems
Bastar DussehraChhattisgarh Tourism Board

Sehgal was fascinated to be privy to centuries-old traditions at such close quarters. “It was more sublime than superlative - meeting the only surviving women priests, interviewing the oldest fully tattooed lady from the Ramnami community.” Considered untouchables, this community found a rather ingenious way to combat the caste system. Since they were not allowed to enter temples, they tattooed their entire bodies with the name of ‘Nirgun Ram’.

Travel buffs tell you where to veer off the highway in Chhattisgarh to find some lesser-known gems
A Ramnami lady with her 'Ram-Ram' shawl and tattoosSupriya Sehgal

“Another unforgettable experience was seeing the Bastar Dusherra's animal sacrifices and other traditional practices. I also found a strange palate for ant chutney and mahua at the many haats during my visits.” - Supriya Sehgal.
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Places to visit within Bastar

Danteshwari Temple: Situated in Dantewada town in Bastar District is the ancient Danteshwari Temple. The temple is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas where, it is believed, Goddess Sati’s tooth fell. What is a Shakti Peetha? You can read it here.

Travel buffs tell you where to veer off the highway in Chhattisgarh to find some lesser-known gems
Danteshwari DeviChhattisgarh Tourism Board

The presiding deity of Danteshwari is the Kuldevi (family goddess) of Bastar state. This is also where the famous Bastar Dussehra takes place where, every year, thousands of tribals from surrounding villages and jungles gather to pay homage to the goddess. Her idol is taken out of the Danteshwari temple and then taken around the city in an elaborate procession.
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Travel buffs tell you where to veer off the highway in Chhattisgarh to find some lesser-known gems
Bastar DussehraChhattisgarh Tourism Board

Rajiv Lochan Mandir: Forty-five-kilometers from Raipur, is a town called Rajim that harbours some fantastic ancient temples, notably the 8th-century Rajiv Lochan Mandir, dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Situated on the right bank of Mahanadi, the expansive campus hosts temples to various deities, but the main attraction is the temple dedicated to ‘Rajiv Lochan’ (the one with beautiful eyes) that is Lord Vishnu. It is believed that Lord Ram prayed to Ishta Devata Mahadev and Suryadev here while he was in exile. It is also said that when the world was being created the lotus that came out Lord Vishnu’s navel landed here. The annual Rajim Kumbh also takes place here. Devotees from far and wide come to wash away their sins at the holy confluence of the Mahanadi, Pairi and Sondur Rivers (also called the Triveni Sangam of Chhattisgarh).

Travel buffs tell you where to veer off the highway in Chhattisgarh to find some lesser-known gems
Rajim Kumbh Chhattisgarh Tourism Board

Getting around: Connectivity within the State is more-or-less limited to roads, but you can easily take an air-conditioned Volvo bus from Raipur to your choice of destination, or better still, hire a cab. The roads are in excellent condition and incredibly scenic.
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