27 August 2011

ranchi

Tourism in Jharkhand is mostly unorganized and despite being blessed with unrivaled beauty and some places of national significance it is hardly talked about in the tourist circuit and considering the apathy of the government and the prevailing conditions why should tourists, after all, go to the state?

ranchi dsitrict
Jharkhand is the richest Indian state when it comes to mineral resources supplying the bulk of iron, coal, copper, mica, bauxite, asbestos, thorium, graphite, uranium and much more for our industries. Ironically, it is also one of the poorest states in India with an absolute lack of the basic needs for life. Access to quality health services, education and employment is bleak. Jharkhand is also one of the most forested states of India contributing much to the greed of an ever rising nation but the fauna has declined over the years to an unfathomable level. The state is quite picturesque with hills, plateaus, valleys and rolling plains being the norm through much of the state.

exotic jharkhand
It becomes obvious why Jharkhand is nationally known only for its corrupt ministers (Madhu Koda for example), criminals, mafia (not surprising considering the mineral wealth), poverty, backwardness and not for its forests, its wildlife, its hills, its culture, its tribesmen, its waterfalls and rivers and all the eminent people born in the state. To top it all the naxalite movement that capitalizes on the discontent of the huge tribal population of the state has ensured that tourists stay away as far as possible. Despite the various reservation and welfare schemes (we all know how these schemes function, don’t we?) there is widespread discrepancy in income levels and thus anti-establishment sentiments are often heard throughout the state.

going to hundru falls
Ranchi is the capital city (third largest city after Jamshedpur and Dhanbad) located at an average elevation of greater than 600 m and known by various sobriquets including Manchester of the East (though the term is more popularly used for Ahmedabad and Kanpur) and City of Waterfalls (though I guess the name should also belong to Shillong or Cherrapunji) though that should not be in any way the sole definition of the city.

going to hundru
Western Jharkhand is heavily forested and the state’s only tiger reserve, Palamau Tiger Reserve (PTR) is located here spanning four districts (Garhwa, Palamu, Latehar and Gumla) but mostly lying in Latehar. PTR (approx area 1015 sq km) is one of the nine tiger reserves that were notified in 1973, the inaugural year when Project Tiger (administered by National Tiger Conservation Authority) decided to establish forest areas for the safeguard of Royal Bengal Tiger, widely considered to be the flagship species of Indian forests.

hills as seen while trekking down hundru falls
Kechki, located at the confluence of rivers North Koel and Auranga is a scenic place where many feature films have been shot including Satyajit Ray’s Aranyer Din Ratri. It is located on the border of Palamu and Latehar, a few miles south of which lies the main entrance of Betla National Park (BNP) in Latehar.

Netarhat in Latehar district is a popular health resort located at an elevation of greater than 1000 m and fondly called the Queen of Chota Nagpur. There are a few waterfalls located in the vicinity but tourism has drastically dropped over the years because of the remote location and the naxal disturbance.

Mahuadanr in Latehar district is India’s only wildlife sanctuary (approx area 65 sq km) recognized to protect the maligned and vulnerable Indian Wolf (canis lupus pallipes) and though not a part of PTR it is managed under the same administration.

going to hundru
It was 26th May and a Thursday and we had our train later in the night from Howrah station. I was only a few weeks old in my new project and had already asked for a leave on Friday which was duly granted. I left office a bit early and reached Green Wood Park, where my friends stay. We checked our plan for one last time and with our luggage ready left for the station where we reached quite in time (we were not so lucky the last time we had left together when we had actually missed our train) but before boarding the train we had our lunch at Food Plaza (where else?) and a glass of almond milkshake which was really bad.

atop getalsud embankment
We woke up the next day to find our train chugging across the hilly landscape of Purulia. It was not long before our train halted at our destination, Ranchi. As usual, our schedule was quite tight and we didn’t have any scope for merry making. We were unsure of what to do next, whether to book a hotel and then go around the city and its outskirts looking for the falls or vice versa. After much discussion we came out of the station looking for a vehicle that will take us around for sight-seeing. We had thought we would have something to eat or drink on the way and not particularly settle down for it. Remembering the interaction we had with the Australians at Chandipur we thought of booking an auto and moreover, they were the most visible mode of transportation outside the station. We fixed one for Rs 800 (having bargained down from Rs 1000 he originally quoted) which would include a stopover at Getalsud embankment dam (completed in 1971 on river Subarnarkeha to provide water, power and irrigation facilities for Ranchi and nearby areas), Hundru falls (the highest in this part of Jharkhand falling from a height of 98 m on river Subarnarekha), Jonha falls (also called the Gautamdhara and falling from a height of 43 m on river Gunga) and Sita falls. It was not a bad bargain considering most of the falls were well beyond the boundary of the city proper.

hundru village
There were a few more including Dassam (off NH 33), Hirni (off NH 75) and Panch Ghagh (off NH 75) but considering their location it was impossible to cover them all in one day. Not that the ones we left were difficult to reach but their locations were almost exact opposite to the ones we decided to zero on (now don’t get into a debate why we chose one over the other but for the record it had nothing to do with Dassam being notorious for being a killer fall). While one cluster of falls (Hundru, Jonha, Sita) lied off the road connecting Ranchi and Purulia the others (Dassam, Hirni, Panch Ghagh) lied off the road connecting Jamshedpur and Chaibasa.

pristine forest on way to hundru falls
All of us washed our faces, had a glassful of limetta juice (mausambi juice for the biologically challenged and yes you never know if in a fit of hurry and indifference you even end up gulping pomelo juice without even recognizing the difference in taste) and got a couple of apples and pears packed for each of us after which we set off for the falls bagging journey. Ranchi was a quiet little city and a bit different from what I have seen in Bihar or Eastern Uttar Pradesh. It had many small and medium sized industries and educational institutes of national repute (IIM and BIT to name a few) but I didn’t chance to see any. We were soon out of the city limits and bypassing green sylvan fields on both sides and our auto running along the road we waited patiently for the first fall to come (Hundru).

hundru falls, 98 m, subarnarekha river
We chatted amongst ourselves and with the driver on various may things including Mahendra Singh Dhoni (no cookies for guessing it right), Alisha Singh (first runners up in the inaugural edition of Dance India Dance), Muri (a town lying a few miles ahead on the road we were presently plying on) and how to reach Netarhat or PTR. Like I mentioned in the very first line, tourism is not structured here in Jharkhand and despite having researched and collected much information from various sources (people who were from Ranchi and had been to all these places, Wikipedia, maps, tourism websites, blogs, etc) we were still skeptical of the distance or the route and plans kept changing with the ticking clock. After much deliberation we decided we would board the morning bus to Daltonganj from where we knew (courtesy the maps) PTR, Mahuadanr, Netarhat and all the waterfalls therein (Lodh or Burha Ghagh, Lower Ghaghri, Sadni) would be in the near vicinity of each other. We hardly grasped the fact that distance is as much a matter of means of easy conveyance as mere miles. There was always a sense of ambiguity on what the next day would have in store for us. We were widely clueless on how to cover western Jharkhand which was going to be the highlight of the trip. As of now we decided to concentrate what lay in front of us.

look at the huge boulders at hundru falls
A few miles out of the city we took a detour (left) from the highway for another road that would take us to Hundru falls which was almost 50 km away and where the road would end. It was one of the most beautiful stretches of roads I had so far traveled in India. There was the Getalsud embankment dam and a huge reservoir on one side and a potpourri of villages, fields and forests on the other. While the auto kept moving ahead we in a fit of humor asked the driver about the very famous Ranchi Ka Pagalkhana. We were quite amazed when he actually gave us the location (Kanke) and said that it was founded by the British way back in 1918.

at the base of hundru falls
We had a brief photo session at the dam from the top of which we could see the reservoir and the distant hills and it was a pleasant sight. The area was sparsely populated with only a few tribal hamlets which soon gave way to dense plantations beyond which lay dense forests and wild hills. For miles and miles we saw or heard absolutely nothing except the colors of nature and the sound of insects. It was an eerie feeling to be in such an area where the driver said outsiders did not come after dusk. Thrill gave way to excitement when we finally came across the village of Hundru and we knew the fall wouldn’t be far away. It was a relatively large village where children looked at us with astonished eyes. The driver told us that not many people came to this fall because the ones that were closer to the highways were more popular and easy to reach and I had no reason not to believe him.

looking from hundru's base
Moments later our auto came to a halt but the waterfall was nowhere in sight. We got down and collected our tickets (Rs 5 each) and were told to go down a bevy of stairs at the base of which we would be able to see the fall. We had no idea whatsoever how far we would have to descend but looking around at the dense forests we continued steeping down the multitude of stairs. We could hear the roaring sound of the waterfall and got a glimpse of the same but to see the entire fall we had to reach the base and finally when we did reach we knew getting to the top again would be herculean. It was a wonderful feeling having bagged one more waterfall in my pot. It was the scorching month of May but there was decent enough water in the river and that was satisfying. The base was full of huge boulders which were baking hot but we had to transcend them all to reach the pool. I was in a sandal while others were wearing shoes so understandably I had to leave them at the only shop at the fall base. Boulders at fall base are smooth and slippery and unless one is wearing shoes with a nice grip it is best to avoid them or go around with naked feet, opting which rest assured your feet will have the burn of their life.

our auto driver
It was great fun hopping from one boulder to another but it is risky and there is always a chance of slipping and inviting serious accident which might be fatal but we were a serious and careful bunch of tourists. We ultimately reached the pool which directly overlooked the pristine drop from a fault scarp of formidable height. It was one of the wider falls which I had seen so far and I could well gauge what monstrous shape it would take during monsoon, when it gets transformed into a major picnic spot. We spent quite some time looking around admiring the beauty of the place in general and the falls in particular. Within minutes Prashant was nowhere to be found. Moments later he was seen atop a mighty huge boulder towards the left of the fall. I somehow knew he had sinister plans as the road where we had come to a halt was just above the fall. There was a narrow trail from across the forested scarp which led to the top and I knew he would take that path instead of the stairs and before I could realize this even Amit went missing. I was skeptical but unsure of their plans since they never told us about it. Vikram and I decided to take the stairs. There was no phone network in the area so reaching the only shop and after gulping a few shots of lemonade (Rs 6 each) we cupped our mouths and shouted at the peak of our voice inquiring their whereabouts. This was amazing since we could only see their tiny forms and were separated by quite a considerable distance. We nonetheless got a response that they had taken the route which I had thought of.

forest near jonha falls
The very thought of climbing those many stairs gave us shudders but we had to and when we ultimately reached the top after having rested at regular intervals we were in for a shock. Prashant was all wet while Amit was resting head-down on a wooden bench. I knew it would have been difficult climbing atop the fall (Indians often call such routes a shortcut but sometimes they are visas to hell) but what I discovered next was not what I had expected. In an attempt to clear the last leg of the climb they probably slipped and in the ensuing struggle Prashant got his cargo pants torn beyond repair and Amit an injured toe. Things could have been worse but for their lucky stars. We gulped down bottles of mineral water and continued on our journey tracing back the same route to the main road. Amit’s injury was quite major and we had to halt at a medical store to get the wound nursed.

friends trekking down jonha falls
Sometime later we were back on the main road and moving straight and surrounded by the serene and virgin beauty of green fields and forested hills we came across a huge board that welcomed us to Jonha and Sita falls. We took a right turn and after a while halted at a place from where we had to walk down yet another array of stairs to reach the base of Jonha falls but not before gulping a few glasses of lemonade (priced Rs 10 for a glass). It was a desolate place with only a handful of shops (one of where we ordered our lunch) which would come back to life post-monsoon when tourists throng the place for a day out from the hectic schedule. Jonha was one of the major picnic spots for the capital city of Jharkhand. The first glimpse of the fall was mixed. It was huge and wide but there was only one narrow trail of water dropping down the cliff and that too occupied by a big family who were busy playing antakshari. We had thought of bathing at the fall but that looked unlikely since the family were not show any sign of moving out for another hour or so. The base was not as challenging and dangerous compared to Hundru and the surroundings quite accessible but moving around across huge boulders is never an easy task. We loitered around looking for a place to bath. The pool at the base looked dirty but moving downstream we discovered a stream falling from a huge rock that resembled a natural shower. We (minus Amit because of the injury) bathed for quite a while and it was great fun after which the hideous and tiring task of taking the stairs (almost half a thousand) to reach the top.

detour for jonha and sita falls
I was of course the last to reach and by that time others had already settled for lunch. It is always exciting to eat in a natural surrounding and particularly on sal pata. The meal was ordinary (dal, chawal, alu sabji, lauki sabji, mango chutney, salad and papad) but good in taste and very satisfying. Not that we were tired but you definitely need some rest after a heavy lunch but time we didn’t have so we went on the move. We left the place for Sita falls. It was located a few miles away at the end of a road and surrounded by dense forests. Sita falls was almost dry but since the location was very beautiful you could imagine how it would look during the monsoon. It was perhaps the hottest part of the day and we decided to leave for Ranchi taking back the same road.

jonha falls, 43 m, gunga river
Most of us were quite tired and slept in the auto taking turns but since I was sitting beside the driver I had to have my eyes wide open. We still had some time so we asked the driver if there was anything else we could see in Ranchi. We had thought of visiting the Dewri Temple but that was quite far away (some 60 km from Ranchi on NH 33) so we zeroed on the Pahari Temple and a look at Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s house at Harmu. The driver asked for Rs 400 extra but we bargained and settled for Rs 300 more (which made the total stand at Rs 1100) including a drop at a hotel on Ratu Road from where we would have to take the morning bus to Daltonganj.

lunch at jonha
Ranchi was certainly not as good as Jamshedpur but a nice city with flyovers and clean roads. It was the capital city after all. Dhoni’s home was quite grand and was definitely a tourist centre considering even we had come to see it. Pahari temple, as the name suggests, was located atop a hillock from where one could see almost the entire city and as far as Kanke dam and the reservoir. The base of the temple hill was very crowded and no sooner had we started our climb (yet another array of stairs) a person handed us (Vikram and myself) a bag of vegetables to hand it over to the head priest of the Shiva temple.

sita falls
It was a long, boring and tiring ascend but worth every bit. I didn’t know the importance of the temple (if it had a rich historical background or otherwise) but most people came there to enjoy the view of the city besides the blessings of Lord Shiva. It was amazing no doubt to realize that you were at the same height where Black Kites kept soaring making huge circles. The driver showed us important pockets of the city including the cluster of stadiums where the 34th National Games of India were held only a couple of months back (12th to 26th February). There was a huge television tower jutting out and even taller than the hillock. We could also see the Ranchi lake, the under-construction cricket stadium and a plethora of apartments coming up on the periphery. Like most other B-grade cities Ranch was expanding fast.

view of ranchi from pahari temple
Our driver was from a decent family whose elder brother worked for the Indian Railways and before leaving for the day he showed us a couple of hotels and gave us directions for where to take the morning bus from. For Rs 600 it was a decent room for the four of us. We had nothing to do for the rest of the day so we rested for a while, had our dinner at a restaurant, inquired about the morning bus, moved around the area and left for the hotel to retire to our beds. We juggled between the television channels full of movies, songs, cricket, reality shows, news and one in particular which reported (over and over again) with heightened alarm that a leopard had entered the bungalow of actor Hema Malini. When the whole of it got on our nerves we switched off the TV and called it a day.

The visit to Netarhat and PTR would follow soon..

15 comments:

  1. good narration!! ranchi is quiet a nice place and waterfalls are so beautiful though :)


    -anumita

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  2. Before I read the post, I want to know why you have stopped posting in Ch-1?

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  3. I have been to Ranchi, stayed there for 15 days and loved it!!

    been to johna falls and dasam falls, simply loved both!!!!

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  4. @anumita: thanks.. yeah! any place with its share of waterfalls attracts me like a magnet n u know that

    @shooting star: i missed dassam but there is always a next time.. thanks for going through the blog!

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  5. @ravi: i am working in an ODC.. no access to CH1 n from home it feels herculean a task! n look who is asking.. u yourself dont post on CH1 :P

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  6. It was a good read indeed. Sounds like you had great fun. Hope that one day this article would be the reference for my travel plan around that place.

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  7. indeed it was great fun! thanks for going through it n hope it helps u in the future..

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  8. Jharkhand is very good; beautiful because i am working project abaut jharkhand s .xavier c ranchi geography student mithlesh kherwar

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  9. It's really a gorgeous destination in Jharkhand. As a capital of the state, Ranchi is the most famous destination in Jharkhand. To visit in the city you can hire cabs in Ranchi and enjoy the entire city and destinations. Thanks for Sharing.....

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  10. Very nice blog! Ranchi is the most beautiful and attractive city of Jharakhand. It is well known for waterfalls and historical & religious temples. Visiting all these destinations by car rentals in Ranchi is a good way to enjoy your trip according to your own time planing. You can also hire a cab for your local and outstation visit.

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  11. AWESOME PLACE FOR SUMMER VACATIONS.I WILL GO ON 13 JULY THIS YEAR.SOO MUCH EXCITED

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  12. Yes!! Being from Ranchi.. I must say ranchi is very beautiful place ti visit. There are many falls, Restaurant in ranchi etc.

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  13. Amazing pictures and very interesting article..... Very interesting post, we enjoyed each and everything as per written in your post. Thank you for this article because it’s really informative. Bharat taxi is one of the leading taxi and cab service provider in all over India..

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  14. Ranchi is the capital of state Jharkhand, India. This scenic metropolis is also recognized as Chota Nagpur. Ranchi is known to the world for Bamboo forest and its altitude is 2,140 feet from sea level. Reddish soil and countless waterfalls is specialty of the Ranchi city. Greenery hills, infertile rocks and scenic charming valleys of Ranchi attract the visitors in large amount. Bharat taxi is one of the leading taxi and cab service provider in all over India.

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