About Central India Attracting
pilgrims and tourists from the world over, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh constitute
the geographic heart of India. The States retain a genteel, royal ambience with
ancient colonial relics and timeless monuments. Conservation-conscious wildlife
sanctuaries, the erotic Khajuraho temples, wide spanning green forests, Buddhist
sites, and the anomalous tribal lifestyle are the main attractions of Central India.
Dusshera at Bastar, Simhastha at Ujjain, Ramnaumi at Chitrakoot, and Bhagoriya at
Jhabua illustrate the vibrant and colourful Central Indian lifestyle. Welcome to
the heart of India…welcome to Central India!
Architecturally brilliant forts,
exquisitely carved temples, lavish palaces, a rich cultural tradition … virtually
all phases of Indian history have left their mark on Madhya Pradesh (MP), the central
Indian state historically known as Malwa. The Guptas, Chandelas, Bundelas, Parmars,
Holkars, Scindias … dynasties have come and gone. If stones could talk, what stories
those in MP would tell! Madhya Pradesh is part of what is known as the Hindi belt,
a region of northern India inhabited predominantly by Hindus. Bordered by seven
states, it is equally close to major tourist destinations in the north, south, east
and west. The state enjoys both religious and historical significance, with the
holy city of Ujjain, one of the oldest in the country, being one of the “seven sacred
cities” and the site of the Kumbh Mela. Sanchi, with the finest specimens of almost
all Buddhist architectural forms, is in this state, as are 22% of the world's tiger
population. The 500+ pre-historic rock-cut caves of Bhimbhetka are a UNESCO World
Heritage site, as are the temples at Khajuraho.
Chattisgarh : Overview Covered with nature's canopy
of sal, teak and bamboo trees, and carpeted with lush vegetation, Chhattisgarh has
the country's densest jungles, rivaling those of the Amazon (44% of the state is
under forest cover). These are home to a bio-diversity hot spot, 3 National Parks,
10 Wildlife Sanctuaries, spectacular waterfalls, and unique wildlife species, including
the Bastar Hill Mynah bird with the ability to mimic the human voice. Its people
revere the land – for them, each day is a celebration of life, in which you are
welcome to participate. Welcome to Chhattisgarh, one of India's youngest states.
The state is an eco-ethno fantasy. The vast Kanger Valley National Park houses massive
limestone caves and thundering waterfalls. The indigenous tribes of Gond Maria,
Muria, Dorla and Baiga, India's oldest, live in harmony with the land, one with
nature, as they have done since ancient times. Each has its distinct culture, manifested
through cuisine, music, dance, dress and crafts. Decades of isolation from urban
“civilization” have ensured that all have retained their essential simplicity. Crafts
lovers will revel in the multitude of crafts to choose from - wall paintings, fiber
hangings, bell metal work, wrought iron, wood carving, sisal and bamboo items, terracotta,
kosa silk, all adorned with simple tribal motifs, an ode to tribal art. Fairs and
festivals here showcase the native customs and local ways of celebrating and rejoicing.
All are welcome to join in!
The capital city of Madhya Pradesh is situated on the site of a 11th century city,
Bhojapal, founded by Raja Bhoja. The founder of the existing city was however an
Afghan soldier of fortune, Dost Mohammed. The two lakes of Bhopal dominate the city.
The old city with its teeming market places and fine old mosques and palaces still
bears the aristocratic imprint of its former rulers, among them the succession of
powerful Begums who ruled Bhopal from 1819 to 1926. Equally impressive is the new
city with its well laid out parks and gardens, broad avenues and streamlined modern
Bhopal is home to the Taj-ul-Masjid, the largest mosque in India, a prestigious
university and a famed academy of music. Gwalior Once the capital of the Scindia
dynasty, Gwalior is Madhya Pradesh's northernmost city and a convenient entry point
to the state. The city is famous for the magnificient hilltop Gwalior Fort, which
contains a fine museum and an ancient temple. The sandstone fortress, which goes
back more than 1000 years, dominates the city. The Jai Vilas Palace and Museum,
Man Mandir Palace , Gujari Mahal , Tansen's Tomb, Laxmi Narayan Temple, Birla Museum,
and Moti Masjid are some of the must-see's in Gwalior. Bhojpur Bhojpur was founded
by the legendary Raja Bhoj. It has the ruins of the magnificient Bhojeshwar Temple
(dedicated to Lord Shiva), which has earned the nomenclature of Somnath of the East.
The symbol of Shiva the Lingam, is a huge monolith. Ujjain The ancient holy city
of Ujjain is situated on the banks of the river Shipra. The earliest references
to the city, as Ujjaini, are from the time of the Buddha, when it was the capital
of the kingdom of Aavanti. Famous for its Jyotirlinga shrine at Onkareshwar , it
is one of the seven sacred cities of India. Once in 12 years, the mammoth “Kumbh
Mela” festival is held here. The ancient shrine of Mahakala is one of its attractions.
Khajuraho This obscure village, a long way from anywhere, is on the world's culture
map for its' 22 world-famous stone temples which were built by the Chandela kings
between 950 AD and 1050 AD (originally there were 85 temples, but only these have
survived). The most important are the Chaunset Yogini Temple dedicated to Goddess Kali, The Mahadev
Temple, Chitragupta or Bharatji Temple with a lovely image of 11 headed Vishnu,
Vishvanath and Nandi Temples, Lakshmana Temple, Visha Temple of Shiva (the largest
and most typical of the temples). The Eastern group of temples consist of the Parasvanath
Temple (the only Jain Temple surviving at Khajuraho), the Javeri Temple (dedicated
to Vishnu), and other temples dedicated to Brahma, Yamuna and Adinath. Each temple,
built of stone, is distinguished by carved spires and walls, where the subjects
range from aesthetic depictions of major and minor deities and celestial beings
to a variety of erotic sculptures. Bhimbetka This UNESCO World Heritage site, 46
km south of Bhopal, has about 700 rock shelters belonging to the neolithic age.
Over 500 caves have paintings depicting the life of pre-historic man, making the
Bhimbetka caves an archaeological treasure. Mandu The city of joy is famed for stories
of the love of King Baz Bahadur, for his consort, Rani Rupmati. Originally the capital
of the Hindu Parmar Kings in the 13th century it was later captured by the Sultans
of Malwa. The ancient monuments include Hoshang Shah's Tomb, India's first marble
edifice and one of the supreme examples of Afghan architecture, which served as
a model for the masterbuilders of the Taj Mahal, centuries later. Also worth a visit
is the Jami Masjid, inspired by the mosque of Damascus. Sanchi 68 kms from Bhopal,
Sanchi has the distinction of having the finest specimens of almost all Buddhist
architectural forms-Stupas, Chaityas, Temples and Monasteries, dating from 3rd century
BC. The Great Stupa, the oldest stone structure in India, has magnificently carved
gateways or toranas. The Ashoka Pillar that lies near the southern gateway is one
of the finest examples of Ashokan pillars. The 5th century AD Gupta Temple is one
of the earliest known examples of temple architecture in India.
The capital of the Bundela Rajputs, between 1531 and 1783, Orchha seems to have
frozen in time. The palaces and temples retain much of their pristine perfection.
Some of the palaces are decorated with painted murals which represent the finest
flowering of the Bundela school of painting. Orchha's fort complex has three impressive
palaces placed in an open quadrangle: the Jehangir Mahal (built to mark Emperor
Jehangir's visit to the city); the Raj Mahal; and the Rai Praveen Mahal, built for
the famous musician-poetess paramour of King Indramani. The Ram Raja, Chaturbhuj,
and Laxminarayan temples are worth a visit. Orchha also prides itself on its lovely
garden, Phool Bagh. There are 14 cenotaphs or chhatries (memorials) to the rulers
of Orchha, by the banks of the Betwa river. The Shahid Smarak commemorates the great
freedom fighter, Chandrashekhar Azad who lived and worked in hiding in Orchha.
Dantewada Lord Rama, the hero of the epic Ramayana, is reputed to have taken shelter
here during his 14 years of exile. At various times, the region has been ruled by
the Nags, Satwahanas, Nalas and Chalukyas. Traces of Buddhism and Jainism dating
back to the 3 rd century AD can be seen here. Extremely rich in mineral it has one
of the largest deposits of Iron Ore in the world. Dantewada shares borders with
three states - Maharashtra to the west, Orissa to the East and Andhra Pradesh to
the south - each with a very different culture. As such, Dantewada's culture is
a rare and unique blend of all of these, with its own tribal traditions.
Tribal Culture Bastar
Bastar, Chhattisgarh, was once one of the largest districts in India, bigger even
than the state of Kerala and countries like Israel and Belgium. Its early history
is obscure - it is believed to have been established in the 11th century.
Historically, Bastar formed the buffer zone between Deccan in South India and the
Rajput splinter-states of Central India. It did not impact and was not impacted
by happenings outside. As such, it developed its own way of life and governance.
The population, mostly tribal, was native to India long before the Aryans arrived
(10,000 years ago!), and they still follow their traditional lifestyle.
The Indravati river is the largest and the most important river in Bastar. Pamer
Chinta is its main tributary. Almost half of Bastar is under forest cover, and the
region is full of dense jungles full of bamboo, sal, teak wood, sheesam and bija.
High mountains, valleys, streams, waterfalls, natural caves, and natural parks abound.
There is plenty to see and do in Bastar and it is recommended that you spend at
least 3 days here.
As with the rest of India, Bastar celebrates Dassera. In fact, it is the region's
most important festival, and all the tribes participate in the 10-day event. But
Dassera in Bastar is different from anywhere else. Here, instead of rejoicing over
the triumphant return of Lord Rama (the hero of the epic Ramayana) to Ayodhya after
14 years of exile, the tribals celebrate Dassera as a congregation of Devi Maoli
(Bastar's native deity, revered as the “elder sister” of Devi Danteshwari, the family
goddess of the ruling Kakatiya family), and all her sisters. Hundreds of priests
bring flower-bedecked local deities to the Danteshwari temple in Jagdalpur, arriving
with all pomp and show. Bastar Dassera is believed to have been started, in the
15th century, by Maharaj Purushottam Deo, the fourth Kakatiya ruler. This would
make it a 500 year old festival.
Though the ruling family was Hindu and the festival has its roots in Hinduism, it
has assimilated many tribal elements and is a perfect example of the unique amalgam
of traditional Hinduism and tribal traditions that make up the local culture.
This fortnight-long tourism event, organized to coincide with Bastar Dassera , showcases
the best of Bastar. It takes place every year after the monsoons, when the forests
and waterfalls are at their best. Tribal handicrafts can be bought directly from
artisans. A folk arts festival of tribal dances and music, Bastar Parab, is organized
The dates for Bastar Lokotsav are according to the Hindu (Lunar) calendar, which
means the date is not fixed as per the Gregorian calendar. In 2006, it will be held
from September 23 to October
This tribal festival is celebrated by the tribes of Kanker and Bastar regions, to
worship the local God(dess). The God(dess) is taken all through the Kanker, Bastar
and Dantewada regions from December to March each year. In December, celebrations
start in Bastar to honour the goddess Kesharpal Kesharpalin Devi. In January, the
people of Kanker, Charama and Kurna celebrate the festival. In February the festival
goes back to Bastar and Cheri-Chher-Kin is honoured this time. Towards the end of
February, the festival goes to Antagarh, Narayanpur and Bhanupratappur. In March
it goes to Kondagaon, Keshkal and Bhopalpattanam. It is held in a big ground, so
that thousands of people can attend the ceremony, which starts with a procession
of the local God(dess), followed by worship of the same, culminating in cultural
programs, dancing and lots of good food. And, you always thought Christmas was the
longest week of celebrations.
Celebrated in the month of 'Shravan', Hareli is a symbol of aricultural properity.
Farmers worship farm tools and cows on this occasion. They place branches and leaves
of 'Bhelwa' (a tree resembling cashew tree) in the fields and pray for good harvest.
People also hang small Neem branches at the main entrance of houses on this occasion
to prevent occurrence of seasonal diseases.
Pola follows Hareli. It is celebrated by worshipping bullocks. Children play with
idols of Nandi bull (the vehicle of Lord Shiva) made of clay and fitted with clay
wheels. A bull race is a major event of the festival.
Tribal Culture / Tribal Crafts The tribals of Chhattisgarh, in particular, those
of Bastar, are skilled at making a wide range of exquisite handicrafts. Be sure
to pick up some of them for souvenirs. While you can buy crafts from government
emporia, the best place to shop for them is at a haat bazaar (weekly market) where
you can buy directly from the artisans. Look out for Bamboo Crafts, Bell Metal Work,
Fiber Hangings, Kosa Fabric, Terracotta items, Wood Crafts, Tribal Jewellry and
ingeniously handcrafted Wrought Iron work.
Haat Bazaar is the weekly market in rural areas. rural areas. It's colourful, friendly
and fun! Villagers gather her to socialize over a cup of landa (rice beer), salphi
(the sap of fish-leaf sago-palm) or mahua ( the local brew, very heady ); sell their
(agricultural or forest) produce, from salt to tribal jewellery to live red ants;
and buy supplies for the week ahead. Visiting a haat is highly recommended, for
a memorable peek into tribal life and a glimpse of commerce at its most primary
stage (you can see barter deals taking place). It might interest you to know that
the raw material for many fancy products come from here (for example, Bastar sal
butter is an ingredient in many international chocolate brands). There are more
than 200 haats in Chhattisgarh. Some are specific to certain goods.
Natural Attractions Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh
This forms the core of the Kanha Tiger Reserve created in 1974,
under Project Tiger.
Kanha boasts of about 22 species of mammals. Some of the inhabitants of this park
are the gaur, the largest of the world's cattle; the sambar, the largest Indian
deer; and the chausingha, the only four-horned antelope in the world. Some 200 species
of birds inhabit the park.
Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Set amongst the Vindhyas, Bandhavgarh
is a small national park, but it has the highest known density of tiger population
in India. This is also known as White Tiger territory - these have been found in
the old state of Rewafor many years. The other species found in abundance in Bandhavgarh
are the gaur or Indian bison, the sambar, the barking deer and the nilgai.
Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh
Shivpuri was once the summer capital of the Scindia rulers of Gwalior. Prior to
that, its thick forests were the hunting grounds of Emperor Akbar. Today Shivpuri
houses a wildlife sanctuary , the Madhav National Park, spread over an area of 156
square kms. The predominant species that inhabits the park is the deer, the commonest
of them being the dainty chinkara, the Indian gazelle and the chital. Other common
species are nilgai, sambar, blackbuck, sloth bear, leopard and the langur.
Kanger Valley National Park, Bastar, Chhattisgarh
“ National Park” is perhaps a misleading name since wildlife is not the most notable
thing about this park, about 1 hour away from Jagdalpur. In fact, this new national
park is one of the last pockets of almost virgin forest still left in the peninsular
region. To protect this unique eco-system, it has been proposed as a Biosphere Reserve
under the MAB Program.
The park extends over an area of about 200 sq km (the valley itself is about 34
km long with an average width of about 6 km) and has many isolated villages, set
in dense forests of sal, teak and bamboo. The jungle boasts some huge trees and
ferns. It is recommended you take along some mosquito repellent as you will be walking
through the jungle.
Don't miss Kanger's 3 exceptional caves - Kutumsar, Kailash and Dandak – with the
most amazing formations of stalagmites and stalactites.
The Park derives its name from the Kanger River, which flows throughout its length.
The stunning Tiratgarh Waterfalls are here (with the water splitting into multiple
falls as it falls), as are the popular picnic spots of Kanger Dhara and Bhaimsa
Dharha (a crocodile park). You can stay at the rest houses run by the Forest Department
or at a tribal village.
The park is open from 1 Nov – 15 June each year.
Chitrakot Waterfall, Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh
The Niagara Falls have competition. In the form of Chitrakot, India's largest waterfalls.
About 38 km to the west of Jagdalpur, this spectacular fall is formed when the river
Indravati abruptly collapses into a 100 feet deep cavern. The mouth of the fall,
when in full profusion, is over 1,000 feet wide. Chitrakot is a horseshoe shaped
waterfall, best seen during and after the monsoon, between July and October. Chitrakot
is a horse-shoe shaped waterfall, best seen during and after the monsoon, between
July and October. If you want to take photographs, the light is best in the afternoons.