About the Blog: Bastar district in Chhattisgarh is one of the most beautiful and underrated travel destinations in India. However, incidence of violence and Naxalite movements in the region in the past have left tourists wary of the place. Is Bastar safe for tourists is a lingering thought in the minds of those who want to travel there. So here we are, making an endeavor to change the perception of the place and its people after traveling to Bastar more than once. Along with that, we give you several terrific reasons to visit Bastar.
Is Bastar safe for tourists? Is it safe to travel to Bastar? We have heard this question time and again. There is a general aura of skepticism on traveling to Bastar for tourism. The reason being the Naxalite movement that had spread across the region. While Jagdalpur (which also happens to be the headquarters of Bastar district) has been on the tourist map for a long time, there are many more places to visit, experiences to savor in Bastar region. And as I try to tell you why Bastar is safe for tourists, I will also give you 12 terrific reasons to visit Bastar.
As I mentioned, Jagdalpur is a well-known tourist destination known for its waterfalls, especially Chitrakote and Tirathgarh Waterfall and the famous limestone caves. But those are the only places that tourists venture. There is a popular tourist trail of Jagdalpur-Araku Valley-Visakhapatnam that has been well traveled by a large number of Indian tourists for a long time. I have also done this trip when I was in secondary school! While Jagdalpur is undoubtedly beautiful, the Bastar area is much more than that.
What is Bastar?
Historically, Bastar was a princely state in India, which was established around 1324 AD by Anaam Dev, brother of the last Kakatiya king, Pratap Rudra Dev II. Anaam Dev or Annamaraja had left Warangal to establish his empire in Bastar under the tutelage of Goddess Danteshwari.
In the early nineteenth century, Bastar state became a part of the Central provinces and Berar under the British Raj. Finally in 1948, Bastar acceded to the Indian Union and formed a part of the state of Madhya Pradesh.
As of today, the region that was once the princely state is known as the Bastar division, an administrative division of Chhattisgarh state carved out of Madhya Pradesh on November 1, 2000. Bastar division is divided into several districts, namely Bastar, Dantewada, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Sukma, Kondagaon and Kanker.
Bastar has always been a land having dense forest cover. About 40% of the forests in Chhattisgarh is in the Bastar region alone. Bastar is also inhabited by a mostly tribal and ethnic population. 70% of the population of Bastar region comprises tribes such as Gonds, Maria, Muriya, Halba, Durwa and others. The tribes have their own unique lifestyle, cultural beliefs and social customs. Most of the areas still remain remote. And all these make Bastar a wonderful and unique destination to visit.
Bastar and Mythology
Bastar finds mention in the Hindu epic Ramayana. In Ramayana, the area was known as Dandakaranya, the place where Lord Rama went for exile along with his consort Sita and brother Lakshmana.
Bastar also finds mention in the great political epic Mahabharata. The region is a part of the Kosala kingdom.
So, Is Bastar Safe for tourists?
If you want our one-word answer, then – Yes! It is quite safe to travel to Bastar. And just as we keep on reiterating – we believe that safety depends on an individual when you visit any so-called “unsafe” place. We have traveled to places that are usually deemed “unsafe” because of conflicts in those areas and have had some of our best experiences there.
Whenever we travel to a new place, we usually do a lot of research about the place. For the first couple of days, we stayed in major towns and cities. We talk to the locals, before taking any major travel decisions. We try to avoid conflicted areas. And most importantly, we keep an open mind and do not force our opinions and thoughts on the local people. The conflict is not ours. We have not lived the situation and as such have no right to comment on anything. It is a simple rule we follow. And it made our travels safer and easier!
Tourists are usually not the target of the Naxalites or the Police force. So if you stay out of troubled areas, there is no reason that you will be unsafe or find trouble.
We have traveled extensively to Kashmir, one of the most militarized regions in the world. We had explored 10 states in Kashmir without any issues of safety. Bastar was also no exception.
If you are planning to travel to Bastar, you must have heard about the Naxalite movement in the state. So what is the Naxalite movement?
Naxalite Movement in India
The Naxalite insurgency, officially known as the Left Wing Extremism is an ongoing conflict between Maoist groups, known as Naxals or Naxalites and the Indian Government. It had initially started from the village Naxalbari in West Bengal with the Naxalbari Uprising in 1967. The movement, known as Naxalism, hit West Bengal hard and then gradually spread to several areas of Eastern, Central and parts of Southern India. By 2007, Naxalism was active in almost 40% of the geographical area of the country. The active area is known as the “Red Corridor”.
Chhattisgarh had been affected by Naxalism for a long time. The shadow of Naxal movement first appeared in Chhattisgarh in 1980 and gradually spread across the state. The districts of Bastar and Dantewada were specially affected by it. The dense forest cover at Bastar region provided easy hideouts for the Naxals.
Naxalism is a violent movement. Those who have an inkling about the movement know it. If you look for information on the Naxalite movement, you will find several instances of reports of violence. There have been killings and other violence from both sides – the Naxals as well as the government. While the Naxals have been blamed for attacks on the military and government, the Police force and government are also blamed for wanton killings and disappearances. As usual, the simple tribal people of Bastar get caught in the middle. Their voices are seldom heard.
The conflict of interest has definitely affected tourism in the region. Because of violence, there is a sense of fear and tourists generally tend to avoid the disturbed areas. However, with time, there has been a decrease in insurgency and violent activities. The locals of Bastar yearn for peace.
Our Experience in Bastar? Is it safe to travel to Bastar?
Bastar is beautiful. With virgin forests, waterfalls, limestone caves, rich heritage and unique culture, Bastar is undoubtedly a traveler’s dream. There is a sense of spiritual calm in Bastar. The people are simple, friendly and very receptive.
I have visited Bastar four times, though I do not remember much from my first visit in the 1990s.
And all the other three times, I was overwhelmed by the place and its people.
When I visited Bastar in 2009, I was advised not to visit certain areas.
My next visit was in 2021 and then again in 2023. Situation has much improved since then.
We had visited tribal villages in Bastar and also some of the Naxal affected areas. And never on our trip, we felt insecure.
As mentioned, we have always taken the advice of the local people. And you should do that as well.
Now that you know that Bastar is safe for tourists, I will give you 12 terrific reasons why you should visit Bastar.
12 Reasons to visit Bastar
Bastar region is a treasure trove of myriads of exceptional experiences. It is undoubtedly a land full of surprises. The region has dense forests, magnificent waterfalls, Kanger Valley National Park, hidden caves and several trekking routes to discover. The cultural enthusiast in me was fascinated by the tribal culture, cuisine, rituals and festivals and the exquisite handicrafts.
The place might have been in news for Left Wing Extremism for a long time and had been ignored by the tourist circuit, but things are changing now. It is time to remove the misconceptions about the place and let you know about this amazing destination that promises you unforgettable experiences. So, here are my reasons why you should visit Bastar.
1. Amazing Landscape
With a large forest cover rich in flora and fauna, Bastar boasts of beautiful vistas. There are gushing waterfalls, mystical forests and hidden caves. You will see several shades of green, vast paddy fields amidst the blue horizons in the rural areas. It is a place where you will get mesmerized by the beauty of nature. So let me tell you a bit about the waterfalls of Bastar.
2. Waterfalls of Bastar
We believe that Bastar has some of the best waterfalls in India.
Just have a look at the sheer magnificence of the Chitrakote Waterfalls or the grandiose of the Tirathgarh Waterfall. These two waterfalls located near Jagdalpur are the most popular waterfalls of the region, and also the most visited tourist destinations of Chhattisgarh. However, there are many other bigger and smaller waterfalls in the region, gradually gaining popularity. Tamda Ghumar and Mendri Ghumar Waterfalls are also beautiful, just like poetry. Many of the waterfalls are however seasonal in nature.
Chitrakote Waterfalls is often termed as the Niagra of India because of its volume. Though I do not believe in such names comparing places, Chitrakore Falls is definitely one of the most beautiful waterfalls in India. The waterfalls are a vision just after the monsoon.
There are several hidden waterfalls in Bastar region that can be visited only by the help of local guides. We visited one such waterfall during our trip. The waterfall was away from the main road and though there were a few local signboards, we were happy that someone from the locality was with us.
3. Mysterious Caves
Another major, as well as, well known attraction of Bastar region are its limestone caves. These limestone caves are quite a treat to the eyes. Known for their stalactite and stalagmite formations, these caves are natural wonders. The most famous one is the Kotumsar Cave located inside the lush greenery of Kanger Valley National Park.
I have a faint memory of crawling to reach inside the cave and then my thirteen-year-old self was stunned to see the limestone formations inside the Kotusmsar Cave. Several years later, when I visited the cave again in 2023, I was equally mesmerised.
Other caves like the Kailash Cave and Dandak Cave, both located inside the Kanger Valley National Park were opened for tourists only recently. The Mandakranta Cave is another cave located in the Bastar region.
Like the waterfalls, there are several hidden caves in the region, known only to the locals.
4. Tribal Culture
One of the major reasons for visiting Bastar is definitely to meet the wonderful tribal communities of the region. Bastar is a treasure trove for cultural enthusiasts and ethnographers. Bastar has, in fact, one of the oldest and the densest tribal communities in India. Some of the major tribes in Bastar include the Gonds, Marias, Murias, Dorla, Dhurwa, Halbaa among many others.
The tribes have their own culture and traditional living styles. Some of the tribal communities live inside the densest forest living in complete harmony with nature.
Each tribe has their own dialect, way of dressing, jewelry, lifestyle, festivals and rituals. They have their own form of song and dances. They have their own Goddesses and Gods and celebrate their own rituals.
A lot of travelers visit Bastar to have an experience of the tribal culture of the region. Taking a peep into their lifestyle, their cultures, art and crafts, and festivals is a unique experience that a traveler can have.
Dance is an integral part of the life of the tribal community. Each tribe has their unique colorful costumes, headgears, ornaments and musical instruments while performing dances. These dances are a spectacle to watch.
Just a word of caution: Several rituals and practices of the tribal communities might seem impractical and superstitious to city dwellers like us. But please understand that it is their way of living. If you do not like anything, please keep your opinion to yourself. Keep an open mind while traveling.
5. Art and Craft of Bastar
Bastar region is known for their beautiful art and crafts, practiced in many of the villages. Bastar is known for its exquisite Dokra art. Dokra is an ancient art form involving non-ferrous casting using the lost-wax casting also known as ‘Cire Perdue’. The technique of metal casting of Dokra can be traced back to the Indus valley Civilization. Dokra craft has been practiced in Bastar area since time immemorial and now it is one of the prides of Bastar.
Other metal casting works are also done in Bastar using wrought iron. Terracotta clay work is also done in Bastar.
Kondagaon has a Craft City where you can see the artisan at work and also buy handicrafts at a reasonable rate.
6. The local Haats (Markets of Bastar)
The local Haats or markets of Bastar are perhaps the most colorful and interesting places to visit in Bastar. The entire social fabric of the region can be seen in these local Haats. It is a great place to meet and interact with the local people and the tribal community of the area.
These markets are lively with colors and cacophony of sounds. People from far away places come to these weekly markets to buy and sell and do business. Like in local markets, you will find stalls of fresh vegetables, fruits, fish and meat, food and friend snacks, grocery items and whatnots. You will also find the local drinks of Bastar sold in these weekly Haats. Local Mahua, Salfi, Landa are several local alcoholic drinks that you will get in the market. Stay for a longer time till the market is done for the day and you will see the locals having a good time with drinks, song and dances.
And then someone might offer you a glass of Mahua or Salfi. This happened both the time we visited a local Haat. A sweet old lady offered me a drink in a leaf container. It was the local drink, landa. I had it quick before realizing how strong it was! So, a statutory warning – if you are tasting any drink from the local Haat, have it slowly. Otherwise, it is going to hit you hard.
7. Rich Heritage and Ancient Archaeology
Bastar has a rich heritage and several interesting archaeological sites built by the local rulers of medieval times. Narayanpal Temple located near Jagdalpur is a fine example of temple architecture. Barsur also has several archaeological sites of interest. Some of these are accessible to the tourists while many others are in ruins.
8. Festivals of Bastar
One of the major attractions of Bastar, as well as the entire Chhattisgarh, is undoubtedly the Bastar Dussehra. It is one of the longest and grandest festivals in the world. Bastar Dussehra is a festival that lasts for 75 days! So quite naturally, it is unlike any other Dussehra celebrations in the country.
The Bastar Dussehra has its own set of rituals and celebrations related to their history and mythology. There is no burning of effigy of Ravana here. However, burning of effigy of Ravana is also not a part of Durga Puja in West Bengal.
Bastar Dussehra starts in July and continues till October. The climactic conclusion of the Bastar Dussehra occurs in the last few days when the various tribal communities of Bastar gather at Jagdalpur for a grand celebration of song, dance and other festivities. You have to see it to believe it!
We are yet to visit Bastar Dussehra, but we hope to experience this grand festival sometime soon.
9. Adventure, Camping and Trekking in Bastar
It is evident that the Bastar region has hilly terrains and forested regions. This makes the place perfect for several adventure activities and trekking. There are several short trekking trails in the region, both easy and difficult. A lot of these trekking trails are known only to the local people. One of the famous trekking trails in Bastar is the Dholkal Ganesh trek.
Similarly, Kanger Valley National Park is known for its gypsy safari and caving. Bird Watching is also an important activity there.
Keshkal region also has several attractions and camping sites for adventure lovers.
As per my experience, Bastar has some of the most beautiful camping sites. Camping at Chitrakote has been one of the best experiences of camping for us. There are camping and nature sites at Tirathgarh, Kotumsar and Keshkal as well.
Tourism is still in the growing stages in Bastar region. There are several interesting places and adventure activities that can be done here. It is great that the local communities are involved in tourism activities, so that it is a mutually beneficial relation for all the stakeholders.
10. Food and Drink
Food is a part of the culture and it speaks volume about the place and its people. So, whenever we visit any place, we try to taste the local cuisine.
The cuisine of Bastar has a distinct taste. Most of the local cuisine we had in Bastar were procured from the ingredients found naturally. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes are prepared with a lot of warmth in these tribal kitchens. The best part is that the food are served in paper containers, locally called “Donas”.
Bastar is also known for Chapura – the red ant Chutney. Yes, this is a dish made from the red ants. I had seen the locals climbing a tree and bringing down a nest of red ants. These red ants are then roasted in a leaf container, then mixed with ginger and some other local spices and then served as a Chutney.
How does it taste?
Well, a bit tangy.
If you can get over the mind block, Chapura chutney is quite tasty!
Also, if you have no problems with alcoholic drinks, then do try Mahua, Salfi and the other local drinks they have to offer. But have them slowly!
11. Spiritual and Mystic Essence of Bastar
Bastar has a unique mysticism. The tribal community in Bastar lives in communion to nature. The forests give them their life and livelihood. Each village has their local deity. They have practices and customs that might baffle the “educated” city people like us. But their belief is strong and it is a beautiful thing to watch them talking about their gods, as well as, see them performing a ritual. There is a sense of spiritual calmness in the air. While I might not believe in everything I saw and heard, I keep an open mind.
12. The Friendly People of Bastar
People make a place – this is what we believe whenever we travel. We have been to several places and had both good and bad experiences with people. At Bastar, we met with some of the friendliest and down to earth people. They are helpful and smiling. And I mean people from the tribal villages as well as the cities.
The tribal villagers are simple and shy, but friendly and always smiling. They are as curious to meet us, as we were, to meet them. These people will extend the warmest welcome to you, once they realize that they are not treated as objects of exhibition. They have some amazing stories to share. They can make you their friend with their talk and smiles. Our stay at Dhurwa Dera, one of the homestays in Dhudmara village in Bastar was such a beautiful experience.
Bastar Travel Guide
How to Reach Bastar?
Jagdalpur is the main city of Bastar. Direct connectivity to Bastar from major cities in India is a bit challenging, if not very difficult. Jagdalpur has an airport, but it is not that well connected to other major cities. The nearest major airport is in Raipur, capital city of Chhattisgarh. Raipur is about 300 km from Jagdalpur by road.
Reaching Bastar by Air
As mentioned above, Jagdalpur has an airport, but it is not fully functional. It is directly connected by flights only to Raipur and Hyderabad. The nearest major airports are at Raipur in the west and Vishakapatnam in the East. You will get trains from both Raipur and Visakhapatnam to Jagdalpur. Buses are also available from Raipur to Jagdalpur and Dantewada.
Similarly, although the region is connected by railway network, the number of trains passing through Jagdalpur are less. Again, you have to reach Raipur or Vishakapatnam and then take a train to Raipur.
Buses are available to most of the towns in Bastar region from Raipur. Buses are also available to Jagdalpur from Hyderabad.
Transport within Bastar region
Buses are available between the major towns in Bastar region. However, it is always good to have your own vehicle for moving around.
Where to Stay in Bastar?
Jagdalpur is the major city and has a number of options for stay. There are several budget hotels as well as luxury hotels in the city. Other towns like Dantewada, Kondagaon and Kanker also have good hotels.
Bastar region is gradually developing several homestays and ecostays that offer rural experiences. We had stayed at a few homestays at Kanger Valley National Park and had amazing experiences there. These homestays are simple and basic, but you will undoubtedly cherish the warmth and hospitality you get there.
Camping at Bastar
There are several campsites in the Bastar region and many are being developed. We stayed at Chitrakote and Keshkal Campsite during our visit. Apart from the natural beauty that these campsites have to offer, these campsites are actually run by the local community with the help of other stakeholders. It was good to see the local community involved in tourism , which in turn helps them economically.
There are camping sites near the waterfalls and caves near Jagdalpur.
What is the Best Time to Visit Bastar?
I always prefer traveling in the winter months especially in and around Central India. Bastar is no exception. Winter months between November to March is one of the best times to visit Bastar. The weather remains cold and it is good for outdoor activities. Also, during these months you might come across local fairs in the villages. These fairs are quite interesting and colorful.
If you want to see the waterfalls in full glory, visit during the late monsoons or post monsoons. Bastar usually receives heavy rainfall during the monsoon months and sometimes traveling becomes tough during this time. So post monsoon is a good time to visit Bastar and see the waterfalls. September and October are good times to see the waterfalls.
And if you want to see the cultural aspect of Bastar, then visit there during Bastar Dussehra, usually in the month of October. Bastar Dussehra is undoubtedly a spectacle to behold.
The summer months between April to June should best be avoided. The weather becomes quite hot and it is difficult to roam around in the sun.
So here are some of my reasons as to why Bastar should be on every travelers’ list. Once you visit there, you might find your own reasons as well. Let us know what are your reasons to visit Bastar in the comments below.
Not all places are perfect and there might be several problems with Naxals, authorities and locals. It is our endeavor to present the place with a travelers’ point of view and dispel misconceptions regarding tourism. Hope we were able to establish that Bastar is quite a safe place to visit and you can definitely plan your next trip to Bastar!
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