Jagdalpur – India
After almost ten hours going through the most enticing and breathtaking landscape ever – in a train full of teenagers shouting like fishwives every time we went inside a tunnel – we were in Jagdalpur. This was the most remarkable train ride I had in India; going through mountains, forests and beautiful rice plantations in a sunny day – after days of continuous downpour – inside a private cabin with open windows in. The train station is in the middle of a forest and thanks to one guy we would have gotten lost because we expected to find a big noxious and filthy city.
Jagdalpur is among the least populated places in India with at least 150,000 inhabitants; that is why it was not polluted. Jagdalpur is famous because of the wooden handicrafts and the annual traditional Dassara Festival, which is a hindu festival of dance and festivities. However, it is also home to some of the aboriginal people (Adivasis) of india. The Adivasi people come from different tribes such as Gondi, Bhil and Saharia . They are believed to have inhabited India tens of millions of years ago before the current inhabitants. To date, they still exist but their number has decreased and they only constitute 6% of India 1,300,000 population. They are found in different states of India like; Kerala, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Mizoram and other northeastern states, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
For once, we took to the streets of ue no tourists except the local tourists – everything was written in Hindi language – and there was only one cyber café in the whole town.
The Adivasis reside deep in the jungle in remote, secluded and inhospitable areas with no exposure to outside life. Some survive through hunting and gathering – including ants – and also through agriculture. They consider forests sacred because they believe their ancestors’ spirits dwell in the forests and they do anything to preserve them. However, this is changing as the govermment is chasing them out in order to extract the rich minerals found in these forests. They are also affected by the war between the Maoists and the Indian govt.
We decided to go to the Haat (market) that takes place every day in a different village in Jagdalpur District, where the tribes meet to sell their agricultural products. This day it was in a village – Alnar – more than 40km from the town centre and finding public transport was complicated so we hired taxi.
The market was in the afternoon as they had to walk for many kilometres carrying lots of good before getting to the market. We left early in the morning because we were first going to Chitrakoot waterfall. Chitrakoot waterfall is the broadest waterfall in India. It is formed from the river Indravati and it is approximately 29m in eight. The waterfall is amazing and we got the chance to view it from above and below. Before it falls to create a waterfall the river is broad though it seems it was bigger and the local people as usual were enjoying baths in the river together with white ducks. Below, the local fishermen were busy fishing the one or two fish in the water. They were very much ready to take us closer to the waterfall for a very cheap price. The views from below are magnificent and the breeze just takes you to another world away from the scorching sun under the tree shade. There were a few hotels in the area but seemed empty. The Jagdalpur tourist office is close to the waterfall but it was also closed; which was not shocking because we were less than ten people and we were the only two foreigners.
In the afternoon we were in the market. Talk of picturesque, gorgeous and lovely people. Slim, young and beautiful women adorned in glittering golden jewellery from the nose to the ears like goddesses. Bangles in rainbow lined up their hands like heavy evening traffic jam. They all walked majestically, pots in their heads headed to the market. The aged women had dotted leopard-like tattoos all over their bodies and they were dressed in very simple yet appealing clothing with colours ranging from green, to yellow, to orange, to red and which were illuminated by the blue and yellow plastic papers they use to protect from the burning sun. I felt that I had gone back in time in when our ancestors used to worship Mwenenyaga (God) under the fig tree offering sacrifices facing Mt. Kirinyaga, when the only clothes they wore were only made from hide. When women used to bedeck themselves with beads of all colours and they were covered in kangas (sarongs). Here the old people did not cover their bodies too much like the young people.
These people live in their own peaceful world where they treat each person like family. All they know is their gardens, their livestock, the market, tattoos and piercing. This people live back in time when there were no cars and people trekked for kilometers to get to their destinations, no shoes, when people took traditional beer, when people covered the only their chest and groin and when women got tattoos as a sign of passage and when people used herbal medicine to cure their illnesses.
They placed whatever they are selling on the ground or on top of simple plastic bags or leaves. From cooked food to vegetables, to meat, to clothes it was a multipurpose market. I bought one saree for 60rupees ($1.5 ) – unbelievably cheap.. After conducting their business they all sat down to enjoy traditional liquor made from cereals and served in leaves. We were welcomed to the ‘celebration’ and I have to say it is in their systems because it was strong and no one was staggering they were all sober as judges even the old ones. We did not feel like leaving it was a superb experience for us. We left at around 4pm after the driver nagging us continuously saying it is not safe to drive late.
The following day we went to another ‘haat’ – it was not as good as the other one – close to the city centre where found one woman selling ants in a pot mixed with white eggs in a covered pot. They looked like crunchy mouth-watering brown rice mixed with grated coconut. According to her,they eat them raw but they also use them for preparing one type of sauce. We decided to give it a shot but I could not withstand the thought of eating live ants and feeling them move in my tongue as though begging my teeth for mercy but Germa tried them out. He said they tasted acidic and fresh at the same time ;-).
With our mission complete we left for ‘The Holy city’; which is the capital city of the Indian state of Orissa in the south of Chhattisgarh.
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