Distant view of Chitrakoot Waterfalls
Late morning, Sun rose over the endless green of Sal forest which is occasionally punctuated with abyss of Paddy fields. Colorful memories of processions which dominated the streets of Jagdalpur were still present as if Dussehra will never stop. City dwellers were gearing again for the next evening, shops were opening the doors, diffident tribals continued ramble across the streets, Panipuri (Roadside Snack) vendors rolled their wooden vehicle to find a favorable place for evening fate. I hit the bus stand, gulped a cup of tea before boarding a wrong bus to Chitrakoot waterfalls. Despite being the prime attraction of Bastar region, Chitrakoot falls are scantly connected with public transport. 30 minutes in a bus which fortunately did not leave to another direction, it triggered the usual suspicion and I inquired again about Chitrakoot falls which happen to be only reachable by ever decelerating buses (practically it is just a tin body over two pairs of wheels).
Handicrafts at Chitrakoot falls
Indravati plunging into deep chasm
Headed to Anupama Cinema which is the terminal for the buses to Chitrakoot falls, boarded a worn-out bus, 30 minutes passed and then more and finally it started crawling over the nicely paved roads. As it was exiting the town of Jagdalpur towards enchanting verdant green countryside of Bastar, I saw an office of “Anthropological survey of India”, organization primarily researching human and cultural aspects of indigenous populations. For research scholars, Bastar is certainly a laboratory to study culture, custom of the tribes in central India. For those interested into ethnographic objects, there is also an anthropological museum in the outskirt of the town, displays rare items related with the style of living, custom of tribes of Bastar region.
Wooden boat in Indravati River
Later in the day as blazing sun lifted to higher angles, sluggish bus taken the road through the green ranches as if it was sailing across the green ocean. Its laid-back movements were certainly closer to sailing than to driving. Traveling in public transport also offered me another chance to get closer to tribes of Bastar district. Most of the co-passengers in the bus were tribal returning from Bastar Dussehra. Wearing the metal ornaments in exceptional pattern, wrapping thin fabric around the body, with hair tangled gracelessly, these reticent souls were gazing me when I was gazing outside. In a short while, as expected, bus went kaput. From the conversation around, I realized its common incident and bus resumed its journey again.
Silt flooded Indravati River
It stopped at many villages en-route and I also got a chance to see one of the biggest village haats. It was more vibrant than the one I had seen near Barsoor. Besides usual stuff like Red ant chutney, liquor from spirits fermented cereals, vegetables, spices, medicinal plants, locally weaved cloths; there were also wooden handicrafts, stone artwork and other stuff on trade. Everyone was deeply engrossed trading the item of their. Villages haats are indeed the life-line of Bastar where everyone congregate, appreciate each-other works, gets rewarded, learn, love,…it’s unlike modern day business place where we trade stuff…even trade love and even wisdom (to the pedants)… entranced by the beauty of self-effacing land of Bastar, I could not keep track of time and only gotten come out of reverie when I approached to gushing sound of roaring falls. Here I was, at Chitrakoot falls.
Very often touted as "The Niagara falls of India", perhaps due to its horse shoe shape, Chitrakoot waterfalls are the most popular tourist attractions of Chhattisgarh and indeed a paragon of waterfalls in India. Situated around 38 km in the west of Jagdalpur, Chitrakoot are the broadest waterfall in India and turn vivacious (up to 150 meters in width) during monsoon when Indravati River flows in full swing flooding till both of its bank. Flowing through lush green range of Vindhya hills, Indravati River plunges into deep chasm of about 95 feet high and forms one of the spectacular natural wonders of country. Indravati River was at its full swing soon after the monsoon. These falls are quite similar to the falls on Narmada river in Karnataka/Tamilnandu however much broader.
Chitrakoot fall and a rainbow
Post monsoon forest around the river bank was overgrown and river was carrying immense silt and turned little Browne in color. Chitrakoot is also a popular picnic destination thus tea stalls etc mushroomed around. While taking a troll along the river side capturing wide-angle view of water-falls, I got drifted to the intricate wooden handicrafts (Fishes and all), a tribal woman was selling on the ground… brilliant piece of woodwork and carving it was but sadly overlooked by most of the visitors. Nearby metalsmith lady was trying to lure visitors with beautifully carved objects. Another incredible site was a multihued rainbow hovering just above the turbulent waterfalls. Morning in the first half of the day offered the amazing vista adorned with flamboyant rainbow. I kept clicking my shutter from all the possible vantage points in a hope to get one picture right. Honestly rainbow could not hold me for long and I was more inquisitive about the other side of the river so I descended to the bottom of the falls.
Fishing in swollen Indravati river
Indravati River turns mellow as it plunges downhill into the chasm however it was impossible to cross the river on wooden boats. During non-monsoon time, one can hire these boats to reach till the bottom of the fall and these are different than the coracles at South-Indian waterfalls. Bottom of the falls are connected with concrete stairs and offers spectacular view of forested Vindhya Range on the other bank of the river. Rainbow was still arching across the falls but was fading out slowly slowly. Down at the sandy river bank it was much placid away from the holidayers above the falls. After vibrant festivity and village haats, it offered me a chance to sit back and contemplate. Group of fishermen were strenuously rowing the wooden boat over silt-flooded river and boat looked immovable to me. Finally they could negotiate the heavy current and anchored the boat with a drift wood. By the river side Sun was not harsh and I strolled for couple of hours through the bushes before ascending back to the road. Rainbow disappeared, water was gushing with enormous force, more travelers marked their presence, tribal lady was still trying to sell wooden fishes, I gulped a cup of tea before checking with the driver of the bus which was broke.
Indravati River flowing through Vindhya Range
Bus was broke and the ways to reach Jagdalpur were either walk to nearest village or trust on other’s generosity to adjust me in their vehicle. Unfortunately none offered me the ride and I started to walk. After couple of kilometers, a kind old man offered to drop me 2km ahead on his bicycle. I accepted but drove myself having him on the carrier. Later got another lift on bike that dropped me at a Tri-Junction from where I was supposed to get shared jeep to Jagdalpur. Befriended with couple of college kids, passed smile, greeted old man, sauntered through pristine countryside and boarded a shared jeep to Potanar to visit another veiled waterfall of Bastar.
Chitradhara waterfalls were the next in the plan those lies some 3 km off the main road from Potanar. Potanar is some 18 km from Jadgalpur and well connected with frequent shared autos thus I could walk to the waterfalls leisurely. Chitradhara falls might not look striking if you compare it with ferocious falls of Chitrakoot but countryside is splendid with endless green all around. It is a multitier falls on moderate water streams cascading from rocky patch. Rivulets meander through the dense jungle, all over the famous red soil of Chhattisgarh. One can easily walk till the bottom of the falls. Soft-flowing streams are safe to go under and take a dive. One can walk down the river and follow it amidst boulders. Quite off the tourist trail, surrounding of the falls is a perfect place for those seeking isolation or day picnic. College students, shy couples, day trippers, usual tourists and others swing around the falls but very few in numbers. I took the road winding downhill into the rice fields and then into a village.
Paddy fields near Chitradhara waterfalls
Another hour passed journeying in a shared auto and I touched down to Jagdalpur which was preparing for series of vibrant ceremonies on the eve of Dussehra. Soon after reaching Jagdalpur, I tried to locate Chhattisgarh tourism board which is supposedly at Sanjay Market but I could not find it. Later a merry auto-wala helped me getting old monk, mixed it with coke and I went tipsy enough to catch up with the “Joie de vivre” of festival. Followed the swaying juggernaut, captured portraits, binged upon local food, wine, gave attention, attracted attention, fell under the stars-laden sky. Days passed and I developed a profound love for the people of Bastar, their customs, art, rituals and unmatched humbleness. In almost dazed state under the influence of alcohol, I tumbled back to my hotel room and dozed off…Rituals continued as Dussehra never stops in Bastar, a mystic land of unworldly affairs, far away from the fancy itineraries of modern day-travelers…. and may be, just may be, amid absolute darkness of October sky, there would be a rainbow over the majestic waterfalls of chitrakoot… shut down bizarre assumptions before slumbering sleep…
Rainbow over the waterfalls