Chhattisgarh, carved out of Madhya Pradesh came into being on 1 November 2000 as the 26th State of the Union. It fulfills the long-cherished demand of the tribal people. In ancient times the region was known as Dakshin-Kausal. This finds mention in Ramayana and Mahabharata also. Between the sixth and twelfth centuries Sarabhpurias, Panduavanshi, Somvanshi, Kalchuri and Nagvanshi rulers dominated this region. Kalchuris ruled in Chhattisgarh from 980 to 1791 AD. With the advent of Britishers in 1854, Raipur gained prominence instead of capital Ratanpur.
Chhattisgarh is bounded by southern Jharkhand and Orissa in the east, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra in the west, Uttar Pradesh and western Jharkhand in the north and Andhra Pradesh in the south. Areawise Chhattisgarh is the ninth largest state and population-wise it is seventeenth state of the nation.
NH 6 runs west-east from Nagpur in Maharashtra to Orissa where it branches off to Kolkata and Bhubaneshwar.
NH43 (one of India’s best-laid National Highways) runs north-south from Kawardha through Raipur to Jagdalpur and out to Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.
Raipur, the state capital, is on the main Howrah-Mumbai line.
Jagdalpur is connected to Vishakapatnam, on a route that passes through virgin forests with breath-taking valley-views. Shimliguda, the highest broad-gauge railway station in Asia (at 3628 feet above m.s.l, it is probably the highest in the world!) falls on this route.
Raipur, the state capital, is connected to Nagpur, Delhi, Mumbai.
If you are coming from Kolkata or Chennai, the nearest airport is Visakhapatnam.
The hilly terrain and forests of the virgin Kanger Valley National Park, in the epicentre of the tribal Bastar district, house a number of ancient caves.
Buried deep in the forest close to the Tiratgarh waterfalls, this underground cave, about 40 km from Jagdalpur, has the most spectacular formations of stalactites (limestone pillars hanging down from the roof) and stalagmites (pillars rising from the ground). Millions of years old, it is deep in a hill, 200 metres long, 35 meters wide and 55 metres deep. If you remember that stalactites and stalagmites are formed drop by drop, and that an inch takes about 6,000 years to form, the huge pillars of the Kanger Caves will leave you speechless. Some of the stalagmites have markings, indicating that they have been worshipped as shivalingams.
Access to this subterranean cave near the Tiratgarh waterfalls , about 38 km from Jagdalpur, is by a narrow spiral staircase that descends about 40 feet. As you enter, you realise what the phrase “pitch-dark” means. As your guide holds up a lamp, the stalactites and stalagmites come alive as mystic creations of a master sculptor. Look for a special variety of genetically blind fish here.
This large, spacious, cool cavern is set in a hillock. You have to ascend about 500 steps (a 20 minute climb) to enter the Cave. At the entrance, is an extraordinary rock formation, that gives the effect of a carving, so detailed and symmetrical is it. Inside, stalactites hang down in giant halls, much like chandeliers in a royal palace. The floor is smooth.
Chhattisgarh has India’s finest waterfalls, comparable to the best in the world. A list of them are as follows:
A number of Chhatisgarh’s 16 districts were formerly princely states, leaving a legacy of picturesque palaces.
This stunning 20 th century palace, made of Italian marble and stone, was b uilt in the 1930’s by Maharaj Dharamraj Singh. An isolated, tranquil retreat set in landscaped gardens amidst the Maikal range of hills, it is still home to the Royal family.
This small palace was originally the Resident’s House in the British Raj, but is now the Royal Family’s main residence.
Believe it or not, you can walk right off the street and into this 70 year old palace, situated at one end of the main street. The erstwhile Royal Family still resides in one part, while another is being used as a medical college.
In ancient times, Chhattisgarh was the region known as Dakshin Koshal, which finds mention in both the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Over time it was ruled by a succession of Hindu dynasties, and they have left it a legacy of temples, ranging from modest to imposing. A list of these temples are mentioned below:
Each of these has its own rich (and distinctive) history and culture of music, dance, dress and food. What’s common to all is a simple, basic, in-tune-with-nature way of life that has changed little over centuries.