Going native is the only way to fully explore and enjoy Bastar, the tribal heartland of Chhattisgarh. During my one-of-a-kind trip, I was determined to immerse myself in every aspect of the tribal way of life. So over the next week, I ate what the tribal communities ate, including their staple mandia pej (gruel made of millet), consumed mahua and salfi (toddy), participated in their festivities, including a goat sacrifice to propitiate a tribal goddess, witnessed cockfights, and even gate-crashed a tribal wedding. I also sampled a local delicacy called chapra. I’d heard of it as a chutney made of red ants, which people consumed for its medicinal properties. But what I ended up trying wasn’t the paste that I had come to expect, but a ginger and garlic preparation that teemed with live ants!

To travel to the Bastar region is to enter an ethereally beautiful land, whose allure remains under-appreciated, largely owing to an exaggerated association, in popular perception, with Maoist activity. Despite its violent reputation, Bastar won my heart.

Things to See & Do

Chitrakote Falls
The sight of the 100-ft-high Chitrakote Falls, especially after the monsoon, can be truly mesmerizing. You can hire a fisherman’s boat (approx ₹100 for 30mins) from the banks of the Indravati River to get close to the falls.

Selvaprakash L.
A fisherman on his boat near the Chitrakote Falls
A fisherman on his boat near the Chitrakote Falls

Kanger Valley National Park
This park is home to the endangered Bastar hill mynah. Go underground into the Kutumsar Cave, which lays claim to being one of the deepest in India, and see a treasure trove of natural art that dates back millions of years. You will be able to see stalactite and stalagmite formations of limestone, sculpted by nature at the glacial pace of an inch every 6,000 years.

Tip Not recommended for those who feel claustrophobic in dark, narrow passages

Entry ₹25 Timings 8.00am–4.00pm Closed 15 June–1 October

Danteshwari Temple
This 14th century temple, located in Dantewada, is one of the country’s 52 venerated shaktipeeths.

Anthropological Museum
Located in Jagdalpur, this museum show-cases interesting elements of tribal life and displays artefacts collected from tribal villages including dresses, weapons, paintings and sculptures.

Timings 10.00am–5.30pm Closed Saturdays and Sundays Tel 07782-229356

The Information

When to go September to March is the best time to visit Bastar

Tourist Office

Chattisgarh Tourism Board, 2nd Floor, Udyog Bhavan, Ring Road No. 1, Telibandha, Raipur, Tel: 0771-4224600, cgtourism.choice.gov.in

STD code 0771

Getting There

Air Nearest airport: Raipur Airport (285km/ 6hrs) offers connections to many cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bhopal and Nagpur amongst others. Follow NH43, via Keskal and Kondagaon to Jagdalpur district HQ of Bastar. Taxi rates from the airport to Bastar range from ₹8– 10 per km (Contact Rahul Car Rental, Cell: 09669411411).

Rail Nearest railheads: Raipur and Bilaspur. The railway stations are linked to many major metros and cities. Taxi as above.

Road Follow NH43, via Keskal and Kondagaon to Jagdalpur district HQ of Bastar Bus NH 43 offers good connections from Raipur by a fleet of excellent private express buses to Jagdalpur and Bilaspur.