Obscured Reflections on the way to Dantewada
Most of the activities in Bastar Dussehra were scheduled for the evening so I hopped in a bus going to Geedam, one of the hideouts of Naxals and road to Geedam is maintained by BRO although it’s not international border. Other sites were stunning tract of paddy fields, gurgling water streams through the Sal forest, and Small villages with lively hatt where tribals from nearby area were selling vegetables, crafts, local beer and much more. In between there were also fringe of coconut trees around undulating hills. Bastar is indeed one of the greenest terrains of India or apparently entire Chhattisgarh is so. Verdant green countryside, tribal customs, festivity on the road, colors, markets in the village and obscured reflection of the green made my morning escape as refreshing as it can. Another sight was frequent patrolling by CISF and frisking passerby. Armored units everywhere which triggered a notion as if I am in some war zone. Some troops were busy scanning roads with mines detectors. Suddenly I heard the sound of choppers roving over the seemingly innocuous forest to invigilate the hideouts of Naxals. I knew that I was in one of the highly sensitive zones of the country. With camera dangling over my T-shirt, I was for sure attracting unwanted attention and some uncomfortable gaze, devious smiles. But most of the locals were gleeful and excited to get photographed. Some curious souls however could not resist asking “Patrakar ho kya (are you a journalist)?”
Selling Custard Apples in Geedam
I got down at Geedam which has a vibrant market opposite to Bus stand. Geedam is the place where tribal comes to sell fruits, vegetables from nearby forests. I bought a clutter of custard apple and it was delicious. Scenes of armed patrolling units, excited locals for Dussehra evening, tribes selling fruits, jeep driver constantly asking every bystander “Barsoor” but there was no annoyance of any sort. Different layers of the vision were offering different perception but in totality, it all was absolutely sublime. Soon after the mild fear of my presence in Naxal inflicted region disappeared and I turned more open to explore the land of red soil.
Lush Green Vista of Bastar region
I occupied the front seat of the Jeep to experience the vista from all possible angles. I was sharing the seat with a tribal lady who had barely anything to cover upper part of her body. She was speaking in a language which none in the jeep understood and she was surprisingly indifferent to my camera or to my sheer presence. Jeep driver had a little argument with her when she paid 10 INR for her trip but language barrier resolved the problem instantly. Everyone in the jeep burst with laughter and driver continued further. After some more kilometers, we found that road was blocked by a tree which ostensibly been cut by Naxals. Jeep took the off road through the forest and dropped me to the sleepy little village of Barsoor which is famous for its temples.
Sculptures on Chandraditya Temple
Once home of nearly 147 temples and numerous ponds, Barsoor is a sleepy little town on the bank of Indravati River and some 95 km away from Jagdalpur (Via Geedam). Unlike Sirpur, Dating back to 10th and 11th centuries, Ruins of these temples are of no artistic wonders thus do not lure much tourists however the countryside filled with fields of rice and vegetables which makes it all green. Environs are lovely with natural ponds and undulating tract of low rising hills. 50 feet high, Mama-Bhanja-ka-Mandir (Temple of the maternal uncle and nephew) is the prime temple of archeological importance.
Chandradityesvara lake Barsoor
Barsoor is a small village amid Sal forest and lush green countryside so I had to settle with onion pakoda with pepsi as lunch. Barsoor is not a popular archeological site so there are hardly any visitors ever. I started my trail from Chandraditya temple which lies on the bank of a placid lake surrounded by low rising hills. The Temple located near Chandradityesvara tank in Bhumij style dedicated to Lord Siva is believed to have been built by Chandraditya, a feudatory chief (Mahamandalesvara) under a Chhindaka Nagavamshi King Jagdeb Bhusan, as evident from a Telugu inscription of Samvat 983 (1061 AD) found at Barsoor. Garbhagriha is pancharatha on plan and attached with a square pillared mandapa in front. The exterior walls of Jangha portion contain images of Brahma, incarnations of Vishnu, Prajapati Daksha, Uma-Maheshvara and also few worth mentioning erotic couples carved with excellence. The temple seems to be constructed during 11th century AD.
Here they are
Soon after paying my prayers in Sanctum sanctorum I was strolling around the temple complex on the shore of the lake and I met three girls. They were intrusively inquisitive about me.
“Uncle, from where you have come?”: one of them finally started to chitchat
“Delhi se”: replied with candid smile.
“Delhi se !!... you have come alone .. you don’t have friends ?”: sudden interest into my life
“Yes, I do have friends but they are busy so I came alone”: I wanted them to keep talking...keep talking...
“Uncle, please take photographs naa .. please”: the chatterbox finally came to the real point… So she initiated this conversation not just offending me by addressing as Uncle but to get photographed.. fair enough..
Mama Bhanja Temple Barsoor
I clicked some photographs, displayed it to them and then strolled further towards countryside to visit other ruins of the temples. Next was Battisa Temple which has a huge courtyard with 32 pillars and couple of Shiva lingams. Temple is still revered and frequently visited by locals and I guess it also has a priest for regular prayers. Shikhara of the temple was completely missing but still some part of the roof was intact. It seemed twin temples on a huge square platform with many miniature shrines. Regardless of its religious significance, the courtyard of the temple was quite a relief from scorching heat of October. Further troll through the sprawl of wooden houses and banana gardens led me to Mama-Bhanja temple which has many legends associated with it. Locals say that this temple was built by Bhanja who killed his Mama and hung his head to the Shikhara. Shikhara of the temple is beautifully carved like temples of Orissa. Sanctum sanctorum was closed so I could only enjoy the intricate carvings on the outer walls of the temple.
Battisa Temple Barsoor
Not very far from Mama-Bhanja temple lie Ganesh temple which has two statues of Lord Ganesha and one Lingam. Besides these statues nothing much has survived. Temple complex is filled with rubble of stones and couple of plinths. As stated earlier, temples of Barsoor are no archeological wonders but Barsoor is worth a visit to experience the village life of Bastar region and for its splendid green countryside. After meandering through temples, I was back to the cross road to catch bus/jeep for my return journey to Jagdalpur. Unfortunately waiting time turned more than expected.
Twin Statues of Ganesha