Raipur is the capital of Chhattisgarh in the central-eastern part of India. Chhattisgarh is a state of great natural wealth. The soil is rich in mineral resources and the major part of the land is under the forest cover. It is also the state of many rivers and waterfalls supporting the healthy groundwater level which again is the major factor influencing the agricultural dependency of a majority of the population. In between them lies the district of Raipur and the capital city.
I visited Raipur to travel to the land of Waterfalls – Jagdalpur or I would say to see the Chitrakote waterfalls. (Read my post on Chitrakote Waterfalls.) Raipur the capital city of a rapidly developing state is the hub of business and economy and has the major airport in the state. This air connectivity brought us to Raipur and made it the base of our travel to Jagdalpur.
So when in Raipur why not explore some parts of the city in the available time? We hired a car from an online car rental service. They skillfully upgraded the vehicle from hatchback to sedan sighting the driver as more knowledgable of every nooks and corner of the roads in Jagdalpur and thus upselling their package.
We easily fell into the trap and happily set forward for the trip. We asked him to take us to a few selected destinations in Raipur. The first one was Purkhouti Muktangan which is situated approximately at a distance of 26 km from Raipur city and close to the planned parts of the new Raipur city. Purkhouti Muktangan is a vast expanse of land dedicated to showcasing the rich culture and heritage of the various tribes of Chattisgarh state.
The 200-acres of land is an open museum and garden comprising of vibrant murals, life-like statues of tribals performing dance and other art forms. There are different sections dedicated to the different categories of the folk art form. Some exhibits tribal village of different types, some depicts models of the various tourist sites across Chattisgarh, while some depict models of freedom fighters from the state.
It was a winter weekend and it seemed all the people of Raipur came picnicking in Muktangan. There was no single section of the garden without the crowd and it was really difficult to capture any picture without getting people in the frame. The scorching heat on a clear winter day with hundreds of people around and not much cover of shady trees made it difficult to explore the vast area.
Now the driver knew not much of places of attraction in Raipur, neither did he knew anything of Jagdalpur (which we came to know later during our trip, stay tuned for the next post with the story.) He wanted to take us to some park and a zoo which we denied and asked him to take us to Kevalya Dham. Again he did not know the road so the Google Maps were called for its service.
Kevalya Dham is a large premise of Jain temples peacefully located in the outskirts of the city. The temple complex has the main temple in the centre and many other smaller temples on either side built in a semi-circular line intercepted by patterns of hedge and flowering plants. The large complex has many other buildings like the health centre, Dharamshala, prasad canteen and others for the members in the backyard.
Our so-called master of Jagdalpur roads could not take us to any other places of attraction in Raipur and offered to take us to some temples. We were interested to go to Mahant Ghasi Das Memorial Museum but again he had never heard of this museum. Google Maps could have come to our rescue if we had enough time to reach there within the working hours.
Mahant Ghasi Das Memorial Museum is an old archaeological museum that was inaugurated by the Hon’ble President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad. The museum has a great collection of ancient artefacts including ancient coins, inscriptions, handcrafted idols and many archaeological finds. It is said that Queen Jyoti Devi had a great contribution to the construction of the museum.
Finally, we decided to go to the Vivekananda Sarovar also called the Budha Talab. Budha Talab is a famous and old lake in Raipur. It is said that the tribals of the local area revered the deity of Budha Dev and named the lake after it as Budha Talab. Later it was named after Swami Vivekananda. Swami Vivekananda had an association with Raipur since his childhood.
Narendra Nath Datta was the name of Swami Vivekananda by birth before he became the chief disciple of Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa to enter the monastic order (read more about the monastic order and Ramkrishna Mission Belur Math). His father Vishwanath Datta was an advocate and to represent one of his clients from Raipur in the court of law in Nagpur he came to stay here with his eight-year-old son.
It is said that due to the lack of noteworthy schools here the child Narendra Nath spent most of his time with his father learning various subjects including spiritualism. It is said that this initial ages of learning made way for his quest to finding the existence of God. Some refer Raipur to be the spiritual birthplace of Swami Vivekananda.
After a tranquil evening at Budha Talab, we headed to Gadh Kalewa for dinner. We wanted to have an authentic Chhattisgarhia meal and this was the place suggested by the person from the car rental coordinating with us. Gadh Kalewa is like a food court serving traditional Chhattisgarhia food, be it snack items, or refreshing drinks, or dessert or a complete meal.
The open-air enclosure had many shaded sitting areas with beautiful folk art on the walls. We were too early for dinner and it was mostly crowded with people snacking on light items like ‘Chats’ and ‘Samosas’. We had to wait for some time to get our mini-meal prepared. When it arrived it was a medium-sized heavy brass plate with Dal, Chawal, Irad (if I am not wrong this is what they named it and explained it to be some sort of local tuber) Kadhi, Channa Sabji, Saag, Roti, Papad and to end it with the delicious Puran laddoo as dessert.
After a sumptuous regional meal, we took a walk around the premises to surprisingly find the Mahant Ghasi Das Memorial Museum. We were disheartened as well as delighted with our unexpected finding. Disheartened because it was already closed and delighted because we explored the location of the museum not known by our driver.
With many such seen and unseen we left Raipur the next day to the experience the much-anticipated waterfalls show. Stay tuned for the next post to read my story of Jagdalpur and the see the ethereal beauty of the place through my camera.