Surrounded by hills, forests and lakes with a bracing climate owing to its 650m altitude, Ranchi possesses an air of calm and quietude. On some days it may seem like a hill station. Little wonder that the British appointed it as the summer capital of Bihar and today it is the capital of Jharkhand. Propelled to fame by being Indian cricketer MS Dhoni’s hometown, the city bears its natural and tribal heritage with pride.
On the northern edge of Ranchi, 5km from the city centre is Tagore Hill. Rabindranath Tagore’s elder brother Jyotindranath bought a large patch of land on the Morabadi hill and made it his self-imposed exile for fourteen years. The small hillock was dubbed Tagore Hill in his memory and Rabindranath often visited him from Calcutta, until his brother’s death in 1925. Enter the whitewashed, mural-lined gate and climb up the steps to Shanti Dham, a white building halfway up the hill that houses a museum dedicated to the life and works of the Tagore brothers, and for those that are more adventurous a pathway leads to an old chhatri at the summit built by the Tagores. Don’t forget to carry a map of Ranchi for your perusal.
Close to Tagore Hill is Kanke Dam, with a landscaped Rock Garden. Also on the edge of the water body is an amusement park and water park in Ranchi, complete with twisting slides. Hatia, another water body, at the other end of town is less crowded. There are many places to go sightseeing in Ranchi. The Birsa Munda Jaivik Udyan (Biological Garden) at Ormanjhi, 20km away on Hazaribagh Road, is a repository of rare herbs, plants and animals. Just 15km ahead on the Ormanjhi–Sikidiri road is the Muta Crocodile Breeding Centre. The project started in 1987 with two crocodiles from the nearby Bhera river and three from the Madras Crocodile Bank; today the population has increased to over 50! The Dr Ram Dayal Munda Tribal Research Institute with its anthropological museum and library along with the State Museum, are great places to learn about Jharkhand’s tribal and ecological wealth. Vestiges of a colonial past dot the city—Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church started by German missionaries in 1845, the century old St Mary’s Cathedral on Mission Chowk and institutions like St Xavier’s College, Bishop’s School and Xavier Institute of Social Sciences.
Ranchi is a great base to explore the numerous waterfalls that dot the landscape around the city. Jonha Falls, also known as Gautam Dhara is believed to be the place where Lord Buddha bathed and is marked by a temple and ashram atop Gautam Pahar. Among the famous tourist places to visit in Ranchi, is the Sita Falls is regarded as the spot where Sita bathed while passing through the area during her exile. Jonha and Sita, along with Hundru Falls, form a circuit on the highway to Purulia. Panchghagh (55km from Ranchi, off Chaibasa road) is the collective name for a group of five waterfalls formed due to the breaking up of the Banai river. About 40km from Ranchi, off the Tata highway is Dassam Falls (dassam literally means 'falls' in the Mundari dialect) where the Kanchi river plummets over 140ft.
Despite being a state capital, Ranchi has a laid-back vibe and late-night hangouts are scarce. There are no nightclubs but plenty of bars in upmarket hotels and a few lounges. The rooftop Prana Lounge at RS Square and Kasbaah Lounge at Star Heights have hookahs and decent music. Hooch, Float Bar, Mehfil and Fluid at Capitol Residency are also popular watering holes. Radisson Blu organizses pool parties from time to time while Shanti van on NH-33, Rukka Dam Road also hosts music events.
Ranchi is a great place to buy tribal paintings, chhau masks, bamboo crafts, bell metal artefacts and dhokra figurines. Drop by at the state-owned Jharcraft Megastore to browse handicrafts made of metal, bamboo, leather, jute, terracotta, cane and bamboo. Kusum Emporium and Nalanda Handicrafts are also good for local souvenirs with various types of pottery and paintings on bamboo, date leaf and jadopatia art. Pick up trendy fashion accessories and clothes at the bustling Firayalal Chowk and hop by Pustak Path for books. Daily Market in Lower Bazaar is great for electronics while in Upper Bazaar, buy jewellery from Anand Jewellers or cotton textiles and bed sheets from Kanodia Textile Corporation. For khadi clothing, visit Khadi Gramudyog Bhandar on Kutchery Road. There are plenty of malls as well – JD Hi Street Mall, Big Shop, The Galaxia Mall and Spring City Mall are great places to do some high street shopping.
Climb to the top of Tagore Hill for a birds’ eye view of the city and see testimonies of love scrawled on the chhatri at the summit. Grab a softy at Firayalal Chowk—it’s a bit of a local tradition. Another must-do in Ranchi is to try the Bihari staple of litti-chokha. The best place in town is Bhola Kewat’s roadside stall at Sudarshan Chowk where he has been dishing out delicious littis for the last 70 years. Every day between 6 and 10pm, locals line up to devour the roasted patties stuffed with a flour-preparation called sattu, either plain or dunked in ghee! Grab some street food at Albert Ekka Chowk or head out to a dhaba on Mahatma Gandhi Road, Circular Road or Kanke Road. If you are up for a down-to-the-ground local experience, drop by at one of the local haats (weekly rural markets) and down some hadiya (local rice liquor) served in sal leaf cups!
|Airport Road, Khokambatoli, Hinoo, Ranchi, Jharkhand 834002||IXR|