CENTRAL INDIA

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Chhattisgarh Experience

Chattisgarh, Although Chattisgarh is a young state, it is an ancient land, referred to in ancient texts, inscriptions, literary works and accounts of foreign travellers as Dakshin Kosala. Lord Rama is said to have spent part of his exile here.

Chhattisgarh is known to be a tribal-dominated state, and it has a significantly large tribal population - 32.5% as compared to 7.8% for the rest of India. In spite of this, the region has been historically dominated by traditional Hindu culture based on a hierarchical social and religious order.

Chhattisgarh also witnessed several tribal rebellions from the late 18th century to the first few decades of the 20th century. Some of these were localised, others were more widespread. However, all sought to protest against exploitative laws and practices and interference with local way of life, and assert the rights of the tribals with regard to use of land and resources, and follow their traditional way of life.

Places to visit Bastar 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 by the Nagavanshi dynasty who had their capital at Barsu.

There are plenty of theories about the origin of the name "Bastar". The most rational is that it is derived from the Sanskrit word vistrat, wide territory, which is how the Deccan chieftains perceived the area North of the Godavari river to be. Another explanation is that the name evolved from "Basta-karna", sal trees, which Bastar is full of. The 3 rd conjecture is that Bastar is from "Bastah", goat, the area being a popular territory, even today, for shepherds migrating from North India. A 4 th hypothesis says Bastar is from "Basta", bag, associated with the gypsies who were the earliest traders to come to the region to barter salt for local forest products and iron ore. And the 5 th thinks Bastar owes its origins to "Bastakam", a variety of salt, the commodity most imported into Bastar in the early days of its contact with the outside world.

Bilaspur is known for its kosa silk and the quality of its rice. It is the second largest city in Chhattisgarh, and home to its High Court.

The city is approximately 400 years old. The name is derived from bilasa , the name for fisherwomen.

Ratanpur Once the capital of Chhattisgarh, Ratanpur is situated about 25 km from Bilaspur on the Katghora Road. According to the locals, it was important in all the 4 yugs (ages) of Hinduism - Sat yug, Treta yug, Dwaapar yug and Kal yug.

There are the ruins of an old fort here. This has an attractive stone sculpture over the frame of the Ganesh gate. The entrance has Shiva's Tandav Dance and statues of Lord Bramha and Lord Vishnu. Inside, there are the Sitchourai and Jagannath temples.

An 11 th century temple, dedicated to the Goddess Mahamaya, was built during the reign of Calturi the king of Raja Ratnadev. There are ponds near the temple. It is a temple of Kantideval of Maratha Period. This has been renovated by the architecture department.

Before the palace of Ratanpur is a temple of Baba Bhairavnath, with a nine foot tall idol. At the palace of Ramtekri there is a temple of Ram Panchayat. At the foot of a hill is the Bhuddeshwar Shiv Temple made by Bhimbhaji Bhosle. At the top of the hill is the Laxmi Temple, also called Ekbira Temple. There is also the Ratneswar Mahadev Temple.

The Dargah of Musekhan is in the town of Juna, nearby.

Mallhar (Saravpur) A former capital, this is about 14 km from Bilaspur. It has remains from 1,000 BC onwards. 10th and 11th century temples can be seen here. The Pataleswar Kedar Temple is one of them - the Gomukhi shivling is the main attraction here. The Didneswari Temple, belonging to the Kalchuri regime, is also worth visiting. The Deor Temple has artistic idols. There is a museum, managed by the Central Government, which had a good collection of old sculpture. Talagram, about 25 km from Bilaspur, is known for its "Deorani-Jethani" temple. This has a huge 7 foot high statue, that's 4 feet wide and weighs 8 tons.

Durg - the Rain Capital of the World

Durg Durg : This populous region is in the south west part of Chhattisgarh, in the plains, about 35 km from Raipur, the state capital. As with the rest of the state, it is rich in forests and mineral resources. The original name of this area was Shiva Durg. Attractions

Bhilai Steel Plant A major exporter of steel, this was set up with Soviet assistance in 1959, as one of the first steps of independent India's drive towards industrialisation and self reliance. Its main products are rails, structurals (beams, channels, angles, crossing sleepers), wire rods and plates.

Maitry Bagh A zoo cum children's park, maintained by the Bhilai Steel Plant Management. White tigers are the main attraction here. Every year a flower show is organized here. The Bagh has a musical fountain. 2 shows are organized here in the evenings, on alternate days.

Uwasaggaharam Parshwa Teerth This is a Jain shrine in Nagpura established in 1995. Located on the banks of the Sheonath river, the campus houses temples, guest houses, a garden and Naturopathy and Yoga Centre. The entrance to the resplendent marble temple of Shri Parshwanath is through a 30 feet gate that has the idol of Parshwanath, supported by four pillars (representing the four essentials of spiritual atonement, i.e., wisdom, introspection, good conduct, penance), being worshipped by two elephants. Sacred water, amiya , oozes from the idol here. Hundreds of pilgrims visit this shrine on full-moon.

Janjgir-Champa :

Situated right in the center of Chhattisgarh, it is a major producer of foodgrains. Janjgir is the city of Maharaja Jajawalya Dev of the Kulchury dynasty, and the Vishnu Mandir here reflects its golden past. The Hasdeobango irrigation project seeks to cover three fourths of the state.

AttractionsVishnu Mandir The kings of the Hayhay dynasty began construction of this temple, in 2 parts, in the 12 th century, but did not complete it, and the still incomplete temple can be seen near Bhima Talab.

Pithampur Shiv Mandir Also known as Kaleshwarnath Mandir, this is on the banks of the river Hasdeo. A 10 day fair is organized here during Mahashivratri. Every year, on Rang Panchami, Naga saints participate in the enactment of the marriage procession of Lord Shiva.

Madanpurgarh Devi Mandir This temple is also on the banks of the Hasdeo river. The festival of Navratri is celebrated here every year.

Situated at the confluence of the Hasdeo and Ahiran rivers, Korba is a center of production of Kosa , a lightweight fabric with a sheen that makes it a favourtie for making casual garments as well as club wear. Most of the region is a plateau of the Maikal ranges of the Satpura hills.

Getting There The nearest airport is at state capital Raipur, about 200 km away. The nearest railway junction is at Champa, on the Howrah-Nagpur-Mumbai line, South Eastern Railway Zone. The Katghora-Pali-Ratanpur line connects Korba to Bilaspur.

The state capital was originally established by the Kalchuri King, Ram Chandra, in the last quarter of the 14th century AD. For a long time it was the capital of the Haihaya kings.

Raipur :

It is the biggest city in the region, fast developing into an important industrial center for large and middle scale industries. The region is in the south east part of the Mahanadi River valley, with Bilaspur to its north, Bastar to its south, Durg on the west and Raigarh on the east. It is rich in mineral resources and has 2 major physical divisions: the Chhattisgarh plains and the hilly areas. The main crop is paddy. Raj Kumar College, one of Central India's prime schools, is in Raipur.

The region has its distinctive culture. Raut Nacha, Dewar Nacha, Panthi and Soowa, Padki and Pandwani are some of musical styles and dance dramas. There is a typical style of singing the epic Mahabharata, called Pandwani. Women wear the sari in a style called kachhora . Jewellry worn includes baandha (a necklace made of coins) and suta (a silver necklace) around the neck; phuli in the nose; bali and khunti in the ears; ainthi (made of silver), patta and choora (bangles) on the forearm; kardhani (a belt-like ornament made of silver) on the waist; bichhiya on the toes. Men wear a koundhi (necklace of beads) and kadhah (bangle) for ceremonial occasions, like dances.

AttractionsChamparan This village (formerly known as Champajhar) has religious significance, as the birthplace of Saint Vallabhacharya, the reformer and the founder of the Vallabh Sect. It has a temple constructed in his honour. Near this is a temple of Champakeshwara Mahadeva.

n annual fair is held here every year, in the month of Magh (January - February). It is also customary for followers of Saint Vallabhacharya to celebrate his birth anniversary here every year on the eleventh bright day of Baisakh (April-May).

Situated at the confluence of the Hasdeo and Ahiran rivers, Korba is a center of production of Kosa , a lightweight fabric with a sheen that makes it a favourtie for making casual garments as well as club wear. Most of the region is a plateau of the Maikal ranges of the Satpura hills.

Champaran can be approached from Raipur via Arang (60 km) or Nawapara Rajim (68 km).

Turturiya This village, on the banks of the Turturiya spring (also called Sursuri Ganga), is surrounded by forests. It has many Buddhist ruins from the 8th century AD, as well as Brahmanical ruins of a later period. You can see many exquisitely sculptured pillars, remains of a brick stupa, traces of bathing ghats, lingams, figures of four armed Vishnu, and Ganesha idols.

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