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About Central India

central indiaAbout 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!

Madhya Pradesh

central indiaArchitecturally 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.

Chattichgargh

central indiaChattisgarh : 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!

Heritage Bhopal

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 edifices. Visit:

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 dedicatedcentral india 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.

Orchha

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.

Bastar Dassera

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.

Bastar Lokotsav

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 in Jagdalpur.
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

Madai Festival

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.

Hareli

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

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

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, central indiaunder 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

central indiaSet 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.