Although not much is known about the beginning of Ranchi, it has been a key town in the Chhota Nagpur region, an area known as the abode of many forest dwelling indigenous tribes of India, since the British period. As the capital of Jharkhand, the sleepy town has graduated to a bustling metropolis with modern housing, office buildings and shopping centres. But it is as the home of the poster boy of Indian cricket, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the city has become a household name in India.
But not many people know that Ranchi is also the gateway to some of the most scenic corners of the Chhota Nagpur Plateau, rich with verdant hills and several waterfalls. With the city offering comfortable accommodation and other facilities, you may explore the region while winter lasts.
The city stretches outwards from the Ranchi Lake, a 52 acre waterbody excavated by the British in 1842. Also known as the Bada Talab, it is a popular getaway for the local residents. The lake and its surrounding is being developed further (as of December 2018) with landscaped pedestrian pathways, decorative lamps, etc.
The two hills overlooking the city, Ranchi Hill and the Tagore Hill, offer a panoramic view of the city. There is an old Shiva Temple at the top of Ranchi Hill, reached by a flight of nearly 500 steps. During Shivratri festival, pilgrims from Jharkhand and its neighbouring states arrive to offer prayers. For a bird’s eye view of the city, especially during sunrise or sunset, you may also gather at the top of Tagore Hill. However, little remains of the house that playwright and painter Jyotirindranath Tagore (elder brother of Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore) built here, after which the hill top was named. Local transport goes up to nearly the top. It is better to go in a group if you are travelling in the early hours of the day. Located at the base of the hill is the Ramakrishna Mission Ashram.
Another popular temple near Ranchi is the 17th century Jagannath Temple, located about 12km away from the city centre.
There are several parks in and around Ranchi that are great places to relax, especially if you are travelling with kids. The Siddho Kano Park has landscaped garden, fountains, walking trails, and pools. The park is named after the legendary tribal revolutionaries Siddho and Kano. The Rock Garden overlooking the Kanke Dam, is also an interesting place to visit with family and friends. Gardens and waterfalls have been created by using the natural boulders. There is also a Horror House of sorts for a thrill. The Biodiversity Park (closed on Mondays), about 20km away from town, is known for its natural beauty and cultivation of some rare plants. The Cactus House, the Medicinal Garden, the Rose Garden, the Aquatic Garden, are some of the key attractions of the park.
The Nakshatra Van combines the concept of Indian astrology with botanical aspirations. Located in front of the Governor House, it is divided into several sections. Trees associated with each of the zodiacs have been planted in a circles. Even if you do not believe in astrology, you may visit the park for its rich flora. The best time to visit the park is in the evening when the musical fountains and the illuminations come on.
Located within easy driving distance from Ranchi are some scintillating waterfalls leaping down the forested hill slopes. Lying off the Ranchi-Purulia highway are the Hundru (about 40km away) and Johna (about 40km away) waterfalls. The Hundru Falls on the Subarnarekha River cascades down over a 300 feet rock wall to form a pool at the bottom. Although visitors are not dissuaded from bathing in the pool, do be careful, especially during monsoon. The Johna Falls is also known as Gautamdhara owing to a Buddha temple located nearby. You may also pay a visit to the lesser known Sita Falls while visiting Johna. Another popular waterfalls, Dassam, lies off the Ranchi-Jamshedpur highway, about 40km away from the city. Located on the Kanchi River, the water leaps down almost 150 feet in several cascades. The waterfalls are best seen immediately after the monsoon, when strengthened by the rain water, they roar down the hill sides in multiple cascades.
If you are looking for some adventure, check with Ranchi’s Jharkhand Flying Institute (firstname.lastname@example.org) to go on a gliding exploration.
Getting there: Ranchi is well connected with the rest of the country by air (Birsa Munda Airport, about 10km from city centre) and rail. By road, it is well connected with its neighbouring states, including bus service between Kolkata and other cities. Best time to visit – October to March. Winters can be very cold.