Chhattisgarh Tourism Destinations
Chattisgarh is coming out of decades of mismanagement and isolation to become a developing state of India. It is one of the most natural states of India as well as one of the more sparsely populated, and there are some of the largest forests and jungles in its hills. Tourists to the area should take the time to go on a hike to one of the many mountain temples, or see one of the area's iconic waterfalls.
The sleepy capital of Chhattisgarh, Raipur is far from the beaten path in India, but, along with Bilaspur, it has the best, safest, and cleanest hotels in the area, including the 5 star Hotel Babylon. It also has the only airport in the region. Raipur is one of the fastest growing cities of India and many national companies are moving here in anticipation of this trend.
Within the city limits is a famous pilgrimage destination, the Shadani Darbar, where many Hindus travel to pay their respects to the saint Shri Shadaramji Saheb. Many tourists choose to take a bus to one of the nearby sites, especially the village of Champaran.
Champaran, also known as Champajhar, is a small village a short bus ride from Raipur which was the birthplace of the guru Ballabhacharya. Each year, followers of Guru Ballabhacharya travel here to celebrate his birth.
The ancient capital of the princely state of South Kosal. Sirpur has many ancient ruins dating back to its time as a center of Buddhist thought and religion, such as Anand Prabhu Kuti Vihar, which is alleged to have been a former residence of the Buddha himself, thousands come here every year to worship.
Bilaspur is a quiet agricultural city without much to see, but it has clean hotels and serves as a good launching pad to nearby tourist and pilgrim attractions.
Malhar is a famous temple site under excavation, with many temples such as Pataleshwar temple, Dindeshwari temple, Devri temple, and the popular four armed idol of Lord Vishnu. There is a museum accompanying the sites. It's a short drive from Bilaspur.
Another short trip from Bilaspur is the archeological site of Tala, where to temples from the 5th century AD, including the beautiful Devrani temple, which is in remarkably good condition for its age. Tala has a famous idol of Lord Shiva which attracts pilgrims.
Ratanpur has a significant local presence because of its religious shrines and history as a capital for Kalchurian and Maratha kings. It is the site of the lovely Mahayama temple, built by the King of Kalchuria Ratansen. It has a pond in front of it and is often very busy on holy days. The temple Ramtek is on the top of a mountain nearby, built by the Maratha king Bimbaji Bhonsle.
The village of Shivrinarayan has the beautiful Narayan temple, which towers over the local village and has an imposing presence in the area. According to Ramayan, Lord Ram ate the Ber of Shabri at this temple's location.
Bhilai is the second biggest city in Chhattisgarh and is one of the famous steel cities of India. Bhilai is the most cosmopolitan city in the region due to its large immigrant population, and has a wealth of interesting foods and cultural activities. Visitors should take the short trip to the village of Siyadevi, famous for the Sita Maiya temple located deep in the jungle next to a beautiful waterfall. Also nearby are the spectacular Hajra Falls, 150 feet high, buried deep in the forest and with a nearby hotel for those wanting to spend the night in Indian jungle.
History and Culture of Chhattisgarh
One of the newer states of India, Chattisgarh was formed from Madhya Pradesh in 2001. The name Chattisgarh derives from "Chattis" which means thirty-six in Hindi, and 'Garh', which means fort, from the princely states that used to exist there. Nowadays, Chhattisgarh is one of the most remote parts of India, with little in the way of modern amenities in most places, but it is a rewarding place to go for those seeking to get a glimpse of a region relatively untainted by Western influences.
Historically, the region now called Chhattisgarh was on the fault lines of South and North India and saw many empires come and go. Scattered throughout its hills and dense forests are reminders of this past, as temples, forts, and ancient ruins abound.
Chhattisgarh is one of the most heavily forested states in India, with some 45% of it covered in trees. There is a large and vibrant indigenous culture of forest peoples and the area has many, many styles of dance, particularly Panthi, Raut Nacha, and Soowa styles. The music scene is largely folk-based, and recently some Chhattisgarhi artists have made their way online.
Care should be taken when visiting Chhattisgarh. Maoist rebels, called Naxalites, have a heavy presence in the woods of the state and while they have not been known to attack tourists, they are violent and have caused problems recently in the state. However, intrepid, experienced travelers stand to have the best experiences of their trip in India here, as the local people are notoriously hospitable and the many ancient sites are largely unmolested by foreign tourists.