Why not Chhattisgarh

boating in Chitrakote Waterfall
Canoeing in Chitrakote Waterfall

As expected, when I told my friends and family that I am visiting Chhattisgarh (also referred to as the rice bowl of India), their first volley of questions were concerning the Maoist issue, that it is not a safe place to visit and it would be a complete waste of my time. I don't know about you, but when everyone around me says - don't do this, don't do that, I am compelled to do it even more. 

chhatisgarh tour
Nine days in Chhattisgarh

So in November 2018, I booked my tickets and visited Chhattisgarh for nine days, which was least to say - a big eye-opener for me. A part of India that I had never expected to be so rich in nature and culture and a part of of me hopes that it stays that way. 

Below I have penned down a few reasons why I believe the experiential traveler should visit Chhattisgarh. 

Maoists do not harm tourists

Agreed, there is Maoist unrest in the State but when was the last time you heard in the news that Maoists blew up a bus full of tourists or kidnapped them? The answer is - Never! 

Dholkal Ganesh Trek
View from Dholkal Ganesh in Dantewada

Maoists have a problem with the administration but leave tourists to do touristy things in the State. So do not get convinced otherwise that the Maoist unrest is a reason why you shouldn't visit Chhattisgarh. There is more than adequate security all over the State and at times the presence of so many cops made me feel more safe in Chhattisgarh than I do in Delhi.

Unexplored Forests & Natural beauty

I spoke to some people from Raipur and other parts of Chhattisgarh about which forests and national parks to visit and what I should expect to see there but unfortunately they had not visited and explored these places for various reasons.

Kanger Valley National Park
Kanger Valley National Park

However, during my visit I found the forests to be rich and teeming with flora and fauna and safe to venture in to once I checked in with the local authorities. What can be further improved in some places, is the training of naturalists and guides to know the flora and fauna of the forests and upgrading the facilities to make them more tourist friendly. 

Wildlife in Chhattisgarh
Barnawpara Wildlife Sanctuary

Also during the jungle safaris that I took in Barnawpara and Achanakmar Tiger Reserve, ours was the only vehicle in the forests. Less disturbance to wildlife and no dust in your face from speeding vehicles ahead of me, are two things I really enjoyed during the safaris. 

Brilliant for Bird-watchers

I documented over 120 species of birds during my nine day tour of Chhattisgarh. I hear that species who's presence was previously uncertain in the State are now being identified and documented especially in Kanger Valley National Park in Bastar district. Bird-count and identification is carried out more rigorously but by a handful of dedicated and daring bird watchers.

Birds of Chhattisgarh
Green Billed Malkoha

Some of these discoveries are updated in the eBird database. You can download the app and see what species have been spotted and where. 

Black Crested Bulbul
Black Crested Bulbul

Birds of significance (according to me) were Green billed Malkoha, Malabar Trogon and Bastar Myna (which we didn't see but Ravi, an ornithologist claims are in the area), Black Crested Bulbul, Crested Tree Swift, Collared Pratincole, Indian Scimitar Babbler and many more. 

Wildlife in Achanakmar Tiger Reserve
Indian Bison in Achanakmar Tiger Reserve

In mammals, although we didn't see a tiger (which was never my focus in the first place), we came across the Indian Bison, two species of civet cats, giant squirrels etc. I am sure if I spent more time in these forests, I'd definitely see more mammals.

Rich tribal culture

Dhurwa Tribe of Chhattisgarh
Members of the Dhurwa tribe in Bastar, Chhattisgarh

It won't be long before modernization penetrates the lifestyle of Chhattisgarh's 30+ tribes, notably the Gond, Maria (also known as the bison horn tribe), Baiga, Dhurvaa and Bhil. 

Tribes in Kanger Valley National Park
Dhurwa tribeswoman in Kanger Valley National Park

So if you want to witness friendly tribals who still hunt with a bow and arrow, follow the barter system when trading, rely on the forest for all their daily needs and women wear handmade beaded jewellery, then you must visit Chhattisgarh. 

The Waterfall State

India's widest waterfall Chitrakote Waterfall
Chitrakote Waterfall

Chhattisgarh has several waterfalls and natural caves but you can't see them all in one visit. 

Tirathgarh Waterfall
Tirathgarh Waterfall

From the widest waterfall in India - Chitrakote Waterfall (also referred to as the Niagara Falls of India) near Jagdalpur to the mystic Tirathgarh Waterfall, the State has many such natural wonders that are a must visit if you're in Chhattisgarh. Kutumsar Caves is also a must visit if you're in the vicinity of Tirathgarh. 

Food and Festivals

Kadaknath Murga
Kadaknath Murga
Source: Unknown (from the net)

Have you ever had a kadaknath murga? Probably not. So this is chicken curry but not from any ordinary chicken. This chicken is all black, I mean not only are it's feathers, face and feet black but so is it's blood! 

Kadaknath Murga Curry
Kadaknath Murga Curry

Kadaknath Murga curry is a delicacy and I thoroughly enjoyed it's unique texture and flavor. 

Chhattisgarh Street Food
Chhattisgarh Street Food

Besides the chicken curry, Chhattisgarh's local food is mostly rice based including the chapatis. I sampled some street food in Raipur and it was delicious and very filling. One thing I did leave for my next visit is Chapda or the red ant chutney which is literally made up of red ants!

Chhattisgarh Bell Metal work
Chhattisgarh is also known for it's bell metal work

Chhattisgarh is also known to celebrate it's festivals in a grandeur manner, especially Dusshera which is apparently the longest celebrated Dusshera in India. Although I didn't witness any festivals while I was there, I sure hope to do so in my next visit to Chhattisgarh.

Birds in Achanakmar Tiger Reserve
Brown Fish Owls in Achanakmar Tiger Reserve

This pretty much sums up my time in Chhattisgarh. I do plan to organize a tour or two in 2019 and if you are keen to explore the State then join me. In the meantime, feel free to ask me questions by either posting them below or write an email to info@travelwith.in.

View of Achanakmar Tiger Reserve
On a Watch Tower in Achanakmar Tiger Reserve

I was encouraged to visit Chhattisgarh by Dheeraj Katara. Dheeraj has lived and explored Chhattisgarh in the past and accompanied me on this trip. 

My gratitude and sincere appreciation to my high school friend, Mr. Himshikar Gupta, District Magistrate of Mahasamund and his entire team and colleagues in Dantewada and Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh Forest Department and the Chhattisgarh Tourism Board for their guidance and help in arranging the logistics and stay while in their State. Without them, this trip would not have been possible and enjoyable.