By mid-noon, I was in Raipur and headed to same restaurant to quench my burning appetite. Rain did not stop and I was still thinking about the devastation on the shore of Orissa which Phailin might have caused while munching tondori rotis with Dal. Chhattisgarh is Naxal inflicted state so one should not mind those occasional stops by CRPF staffs to check your backpacks. Rain still did not stop and I hopped in the bus to Jagdalpur. YES, you read it right.. It’s Jagdalpur… Bastar district… Dantewada… yaa It’s the heartland of Naxals.
Lake in the city of Raipur
In a short while Bus passed Raipur and taken a narrow tar road through small towns. It was Durga Puja festival and religious processions were blocking the bus route so quite often. I was witnessing the Durga Puja festival for the first time in the eastern part of India. It’s lively, colorful, musical and engrossing in so many ways. I peeped out from the window seat to take some photographs of marry crowd deeply engaged in dancing and throwing color on the streets…. One of them painted me Blue… Blue… Perfect color of perfect landscape in perfect weather…. Too much of awesomeness can do this you.
Low Rising hills of Bastar region
Bus continued to the dense tract of Sal-forest for which Chhattisgarh is known. This forest is the favorite hideouts of Naxals. I can relate it pretty much with the journey which I had taken from Port Blair to North Andaman. Similar sort of rusticity, untouched flora, winding roads and that highly coveted “Last King of Scotland” feeling. Sun set down leaving me with glaring curiosity about landscapes outside however things were not those boring inside the bus. Bastar is the land of Naxals so it was customary to witness engaging political conversation which almost turned into a wage. Some people were supporting Naxal ideology which made me concern but also made me realize that I am in Bastar… Bastar…this is the land… Enroute Bus stopped at Kanker and Kandagaon, both known for palaces from long-lost Bastar kingdom. For intrepid travelers, Kanker and Kandagaon are also the perfect places for breaking the journey. Kanker offers luxury tents for overnight stay whereas Kondagaon is known for craft market.
Near Kondagaon Bastar
Quarter past ten and Bus reached Jagdalpur. Streets of Jagdalpur were adorned, lively with gathering of tribal from nearby areas. Streets were waiting for Rath Yatra, the highlight of Bastar Dussehra. Another site was a guy shuttling between the streets to find a hotel with a mild apprehension due to whatever he read/heard about Bastar. Unlike any usual destination, I was roaming this slight fear of being kidnapped by Naxals thus wanted to check in as soon as I arrived. Late night strolling in Jagdalpur did not seem a wise idea so I lodged into one of the nasty hotels opposite to Bus stand. Next moment was ordering Dal-rice, making couple of drinks, rambling down half remembered memories of the day and then slumbering sleep.
Glittering streets of Jagdalpur during Dussehra
Decoration for Bastar Dussehra
I came to Bastar to attend Dussehra. Unlike rest of India where Dussehra is celebrated as an auspicious event of Lord Rama's victory over Ravana, Dussehra in Bastar district is a congregation of Devi moali (Deities) from all the nearby villages to Danteshwari Temple, Jagdalpur. Tribes from remote forests of Bastar come and participate in a lively and colorful fete. Exotic festival is nearly 500 years old and spans over 75 days. Garlanded chariot circuit is the most appealing ceremony of the festival. Bastar Dussehra is the best chance to experience distinctive culture, tradition and ethnicity of otherwise inaccessible tribes of Bastar region.