The capital of Chhattisgarh is making quite a name for itself as a prominent industrial town in Central India. But its rise as an education hub is what gives it the edge. It is perhaps the only Indian city with an IIT, IIM, NIT and AIIMS, and is considered the spiritual birthplace of Swami Vivekananda—hence the airport’s name. Sounds all very academic? Read on to find out how to have an enjoyable stay in Raipur.
Chattisgarh tourism has plenty to offer its tourists. With so many students slogging across so many educational campuses, prayers are in great supply as are the temples. Start your day with a temple run: the Hatkeshwar Mahadev Mandir, an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, stands on the ghats of the Kharun river on the outskirts of Raipur. The architecture and the intricate carvings on the temple walls will give you enough reasons to linger. Also on the fringe of the city is the Kevalya Dham Jain temple. There are many places to visit in Chhattisgarh, back in the city, the Dudhadhari Temple complex, dedicated to Lord Rama and Hanuman, is another centuries-old site that somehow retains a sense of calm, despite being popular with locals and tourists. The truly devout can also brave the crowds to seek blessings at the Mahamaya Temple. With so many places to visit, it is advised that you refer to the Raipur map while wandering about.
Raipur weather remains moderate throughout the year. Therefore, remember to carry clothes as per the temperature for you will be doing a lot of sightseeing. For a less religious, more spiritual experience, turn to the Ramakrishna Mission, Raipur, to learn about the life and teachings of Swami Vivekananda. Nearby, the Buddha Talab or Vivekanand Sarovar is a popular hangout, what with a lovely clean lake, a plaza and boating facilities. The 37-ft-tall statue of Swami Vivekananda looks particularly spectacular under lights in the evening. (It is said that he used to swim in this lake during his days in Raipur.) Elsewhere, the Naya Raipur Central Park is another weekend recreation spot. With a large restaurant, play areas, amphitheatre and other facilities, it is a good place to take the kids.
Time only for a quick day-trip? There are many tourist places near Raipur. Try Sirpur, approximately 80km from the city. Here, you can visit the Laxman Temple, one of the oldest surviving brick shrines in the country, built in the 7th century.
If an overnight adventure is what you’d like, the Chitrakoot Falls (or Chitrakote Falls, as they are sometimes called) are a thundering spectacle. It is worth making the 280-km drive from Raipur just to see this wonder. The Chitrakoot Falls are arguably the widest waterfalls in the country. That and the horseshoe shape has earned them the tag of the “Niagara Falls of India’. The falls are perennial, but are particularly awe-inspiring when the Indravati river is in full spate during the monsoon months of June-September. Best admired from a safe distance. Raipur is surrounded by a bunch of national parks and reserves. Closest among them is the Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary, which has an impressive list of animals. Tigers, leopards, black buck, chinkara, antelopes, porcupines… this one’s worth checking out. If you want a more conventional safari experience, try the twin nature parks in Madhya Pradesh. Kanha National Park is about 180km away, while Pench is further out at 320km, but well worth the ride.
A park with science exhibits, horticultural exhibits and musical fountains, the Urja Park is where you can spend an evening or two. One of the exhibition rooms also has a wonderful display of Bastar culture, giving you a peek into Chhattisgarh’s tribal life. The Risali Talab next door is where you can head out for a round of boating. For another aqua adventure, drive two hours from Raipur to Madku Dweep, an island on the Shivnath River. Here, you will find well-preserved ruins of temples. Archaeologists have excavated coins, idols and artefacts from another time, pointing to a community and culture that was likely destroyed by a raging river. The river has now abated enough to allow you a peek at this fascinating site.
|Ramchandi, Naya Raipur, Chhattisgarh 492015||RPR|