Blissfully remote and uniquely beautiful, the tranquil environs of Chota
Nagpur offer an ideal escape from the restrictions of civilization. It is the land of serendipity, where the unexpected seem to lie around every corner. Here one is dazed by day and seduced by night.
One of the most common expectations cherished by travelers as they leave home is to find a 'lost paradise' or the last unknown corner of the planet, alternatively, a postcard landscape. Geography conspires in this direction to make the visitors believe that Chotanagpur was built for the purpose of eco-tourism. Surprisingly this region is a great recluse that stubbornly refuses to be on the tourism map of Bihar.
As you travel to this magnificent city, the first thing you notice is that the people here have the time to chat. More so the educated tribal people are trustworthy, straightforward and very friendly, lacking that neurotic stripe that makes urbanites identified anywhere. They are the best guides and caretakers in the deep jungles of Chotanagpur.
Secondly, there is no such mad crowd of tourists and their vehicles. Pollution is something unheard of and for the fraction of the amount of what we pay in metros, one can buy fruits and vegetables with unmatched natural taste and flavour.
Chotanagpur Claims To Be The Oldest Setup on Earth
Geologists make us believe that here in Chotanagpur we find a portion of the oldest part of the Earth's rocky crust, making it the oldest geological formation of India. Anthropologists stake the claim that Chotanagpur region of Bihar must have witnessed the transformation of Homo erectus to Homo Sapiens.
"In this wilderness are found savages who have never set their eyes on civilized people... Their dress consists of peacock feathers and their food the flesh of buffaloes; the trees are their dwelling and leaves and feather their bed... They are nude and barefooted men, devoid of all human sentiments. They shun the haunts of man... "
Few centuries later, Sher Shah had to fight the Raja of Jharkhand to obtain the white elephant, Syama Chandra, which had the peculiarity of never throwing dust upon his head. The Pathan king believed that its possession would ensure him the throne of Delhi!
Mughals Cannot Escape From Its Allure
There was an added attraction for the Mughal generals under Akbar and Jehangir, who invaded this territory referred to as Khukradesh for the sake of its diamond. Chotanagpur was annexed by the Mughals in 1615 A.D.
All the diamonds found here were forwarded to the Mughal court. An unusual large diamond was valued at 51,000 rupees. Jehangir in his Tuzuk writes about the river from where diamonds were procured.
Chotanagpur is still the country of bygone days tempered with moments of serenity, goodwill and charm that makes it impossible not to be seduced by its beauty and climate.
Ranchi, perched 2,140 feet above sea level is an ideal base of excursions in and around Chotanagpur. Once the summer capital of Bihar, Ranchi is rich in waterfalls. Hundru Falls (45 km on Ranchi Purlia road) where Subarnarekha river cascades down from the altitude 320 feet is a sight not to be missed especially in monsoon or when the wind sets the motion. Johna Falls or Gautamdhara (43 km on Ranchi-Purulia road) is another enchanting retreat, replete with flora and fauna beside the Kanchi river. To admire the fall one is required to descend 500 paved steps. Lord Buddha is believed to have bathed here and hence the name. Adjacent of Johna is Sita Falls which can be seen at its best early in the morning sun shine. Afternoon may best be saved for the Dassam Falls (45 km on Ranchi-Tata road) where river Kanchi falls from a height of 114 feet.
Main Attractions--Tagore Hill
On the periphery of Ranchi is the Tagore Hill, named after the Bengali poet who often turned to Ranchi to sharpen his wit and supposedly found inspiration for his work Gitanjali and other poems. Ranchi played a significant role in the life of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who started writing his famous commentary on the Quran here, which gained him recognition as an Islamic scholar. At the foot of theTagore Hill lies Ram Krishna Ashram. On the other end of Ranchi is Kanke Dam which is ever crowded with tourists.
This highest waterfall in Bihar is 61 km from Netherhat and it can be reached via Mahuatand. Another alternative is Sadni Falls, 35 km from Netherhat, where the water fall is taken over by numerous curves.
Mc Cluskieganje, a sleepy hamlet amidst picturesque forests that is around 60 km from Ranchi on Highway 47. Film makers have taken note not only of the spectacular natural beauty, clean air, and extravagant greenery, but of the village itself, a heady mix of the untamed and the sophisticated. The name evokes nostalgia and one gradually discovers that the place was once popular with the Anglo Indian community. Some of the houses here have retained their English names together with the epitaph of 'haunted houses'. During the 1950s there were no less than 100 Anglo Indian families with their typical cottages, clubs and shops. Now the number of families have come down to 25.
The English Houses and Cottages come cheap and one can get lost in solitude for a week or so.
Those who like being waited upon can avail of the chowkidar's (watchman's) culinary skills. Shantinekatan, Hill view, Tip Top, Hermitage and Highland Guest House are the only places with three to five rooms. The closest to the railway station is Highland Guest House and an ideal place to stay with Captain. D.R. Cameron - a senior citizen and a perfect guide who continues his pioneering efforts in developing Mc Cluskeigunje as a tourist center.The surroundings and the river banks of Chatti provide rare scenic beauties. If you are lucky enough you can see the tribal people using their rods for fishing and if you can spare some time with an element of risk, spotting an elephant in the wilderness is not so difficult. Each day the morning news in Mc Cluskeigunje is about the wild elephant ruining the crops or trampling the hut in the night.
Hazaribagh (thousand gardens) is a famous hill resort with a pleasant climate and picturesque places. Notable among them is the Kunhary hill, now corrupted (corrected!) to Canary hill, which offers a panoramic view from the observation tower. Salparni lake is an equally popular picnic spot with opportunities for water sports. Hazaribagh is home to 186 sq. km wildlife sanctuary which continued to be the royal reserve of the Raja of Ramgarh until 1950. Numerous observation towers in the sanctuary makes it all the more easier to have closer encounter with the wild.
90 km from Hazaribagh town is Rajrappa, famous for "Maa Chhina Mastika" temple where river Bhera joins the Damodar from a height of 20 feet. The little waterfall offers boating facilities which introduces some very spectacular rock formations.
Few of the reservoirs of the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) dams offer ideal recreational facilities amidst scenic surroundings.
Tilaya Dam, across Barakar river in Hazaribagh was built to check the floods. The main road through the reservoir and the adjoining hillocks offer very tempting photo views. One can follow the main road and drive to Hari Har Dham at Bagodar which is famous for the 52 feet high Shiv Ling amidst serene surroundings. It is believed to be the tallest Shiv Ling in the world which took thirty years to complete. Maithan Dam, 48 km from Dhanbad, is another flood control project across Barakar river. It has a unique under ground power station which is first of its kind in South East Asia. Panchet Dam across Damodar river offers stunning views from the surrounding hill.
The mining town of Dhanbad is internationally famous for its rich coal fields. Next door is Bokaro, India's biggest steel complex and further south is Jamshedpur, acknowledged as the Steel City of India. Adjoining the steel city is Dalma Sanctuary (193 sq. km) where the elephants love to spend their summer. Within the heart of Jamshedpur lies the famous Jubilee Park.
Besides the industries, collieries and institutions, there are numerous scenic attractions in the vicinity.
37 km from Dhanbad is a beautiful dam amidst lush green hills. Maithan Dam 48 km from Dhanbad is another flood control project across Barakar river. It has a unique underground power station which is first of its kind in S.E. Asia.
The southern tip of Bihar is made up of hilly regions of Porahat and Kolhan in Singhbhum. More than seven hundred hills in the Saranda offer a breath taking view. The best place suggested for is Kiriburu.
In fact, the entire Chotanagpur claims to be 'salubrious' round the year but winter is best avoided for the temperature zooms down.
The highest and most important of hills in Bihar is the picturesque Parsvanath Hill perched 4,500 feet above sea level, in the district of Giridih. The mere altitude is not the point. The loftiness here is of another order.
According to Jain tradition, no less than twenty out of twenty four tirthankaras are believed to have attained salvation in the Sammetasikhara or the Parsvanath Hills. However the images in the temple of Parasvanath are dated not earlier than 1765.
The hill seems to have been an abode of Jains. Parasvanatha, the 23rd tirthankara was very popular among the tribal population of Chotanagpur. He is identified by the snake king Dharanendra, whose many hoods protect the meditating tirthankara.
Parsvanatha is said to have stressed on speaking the truth, possession of no property, no injury to be inflicted to living beings, and no acceptance of anything that is not freely given. He attained nirvana 250 years before the last tirthankara, Mahavira.