Most of you know that I was on a personal mission to visit all 28 states (29, then) of India by 2020. My own 2020 mission! I was making good progress and had done 15+ states by 2018. But then, life happened and all my travel plans were stalled & readjusted.
It happens. It’s Life.
My mission has now changed to – visit all 28 states sometime in this decade. I am hopeful that I will be able to hit this goal before 2025. 🙂 But then, let’s see. Part of this goal meant travelling to states that are not so known for their tourism to the masses e.g. Bihar, Jharkhand & Chattisgarh. I had planned to visit these three states at one go on a road trip. When I shared with my office colleagues about my not-so-popular travel itinerary, I heard some of the strangest comments:
“Really? People travel to Bihar also!”
“Oh, you would go in one piece but probably come back in many.”
“Oh god! You are one crazy woman. It’s not safe there.”
“You would get kidnapped, dude. People ain’t nice there.”
Having lived in Ghaziabad, I don’t get scared of dangerous places that easily. 20+ years of living in Delhi NCR taught me that it’s not the places, it’s the people who spread the hatred. Somehow I learnt to read people & their motives with a certain precision. Now I don’t get scared that easy.
When those who are both near & dear to me tried to scare/ mock me for choosing to visit the eastern side of India, it just made me want to go there even more. On that trip, I spent 10 days on the road visiting Benaras, Gaya, Ranchi, Chattisgarh, Kanha National Park & Jabalpur before coming back home. In these 10 days, I observed a more humble, intelligent & aware side of India. The people I met might not be that media-savvy but they had interests, hobbies & crafts. And more importantly, they had a life – a sweet & simple life.
If you do not belong to this belt of India, there’s a high probability that you have heard & believed all the rumours about these places & their people. Let me help clear some. Let me share what I discovered as I travelled to these states on a 10 day trip.
Nobody is waiting in the bushes to kidnap you
A part of it might be true in certain circumstances. For tourists though, there’s no need to worry. Just stick to the basics – travel during the day, don’t trouble the locals, keep to yourself and stay safe. Even if you do half of it, there’s no one waiting for you in the bushes or the next corner.
Like every other place in the world, all kinds of people & social/ antisocial elements live here too. Unfortunate things may happen. But largely, it’s a safe place. If you want to travel, just pack your bags and book a tour.
What’s the best about them? The answer is – Yoga Retreats!
This is true indeed. Maybe, you know about it already.
Gaya is full of Yoga retreats that offer the best of experiences. I have many friends who have attended yoga programs in Gaya and have come back all rejuvenated.
You might want to try this sometime!
What’s more? Oh plenty of tourist attractions beyond Nalanda and Gaya
What, you might ask.
Well, they have got architecture such as rock-cut caves of Barabar, Sultanpur. They have got places of mythological significance such as Sitamarhi.
You can find calm and peace of mind in the Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya or at other Buddhist & Jain pilgrimage sites. Or you could watch beautiful Sunsets & take a walk in nature in Patratu valley.
If you are a fan of water, then you have hit the jackpot with the many waterfalls in this area – Hundru, Dassam, Chitrakote & Tirathgarh.
From Litti-chokha to a 200 year old dish!
First of all, litti-chokha tastes delicious & Sattu Sharbat is healthy.
Secondly, they have got many other delicious dishes cooked from Gram Flour, both fried & steamed with simple preparations. Try Chana Ghugni (You would love it, really).
Have you tried Khaja, a snack that’s believed to be 200 years old & inspired by the Turkish Baklava? A must try!
Laung Latika, Daal Peetha, Thekua, Malpua, Tilkut, Dal Pithi, Faraa, Muthia – everything tastes superb.
There’s plenty to see/ buy if you got an eye for it
Whether it’s the Madhubani paintings, Bhagalpuri Silk Sarees, Manjusha art, Terracotta craft, Tribal Jewellery, Dhokra/ Bamboo/ Stonecraft, Wrought iron art, Tumba, Wall paintings or Wood carvings, every single piece is a work of art.
Go through the markets, stop at the shops in the street & experience this exquisite craft. I bet you can’t come home empty-handed.
Hill Stations, Waterbodies & Sunrises; surprised much?
They don’t just have forests or wild animals. They also have hills, lakes, scenic views, waterfalls, beautiful sunrises & colourful sunsets. In fact, Ranchi has got such gorgeous waterfalls that you can spend a whole week visiting all of them.
And who hasn’t heard of Chitrakote Falls, India’s answer to Niagra Falls?! You haven’t? Is it? Located in Chattisgarh, It falls from a height of 95 ft. & reaches a width of 980 ft in monsoons. Get the drift?
In fact, let me stand corrected. It’s not beautiful. It’s majestic. It’s splendid. It’s incredible!
And finally! People don’t bite!
To be honest, my experience wasn’t the best with people who come from this part of the country. It could be my own biases or flaws in my behaviours. Or it could be as simple as two people not getting along with each other (there’s no need to bring Geography in between, right?).
We all judge. Let’s admit it. Even the ones who think that they don’t like yours truly.
On this trip, however, I met really sweet people. They didn’t smile or extend a warm welcome. They didn’t even notice me (mostly) but I felt something. Whenever I spoke with locals in restaurants, shops, boat rides, temples or tourist attractions, I noticed a vibe. It’s not the kind of vibe that you experience in Goa, or the feeling that you get in the cafes/ parts of Calcutta or Bombay.
It was a different vibe. It was something simple, something that didn’t create pressure on you, but let you be. Just plain, simple authenticity! Living life human size!