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DHOLKAL – A HIDDEN PARADISE OF BASTAR

Blog by B.Bindu

DHOLKAL – A HIDDEN PARADISE OF BASTAR

“I never knew that the last piece of the puzzle would be a puzzle in itself”.

Being in Bastar, the heart of Chhattisgarh, something that has always enchanted me is Dholkal. Be it the mysteries imbibed at the peak, the untold stories of Surya Temple, or the impenetrable forests – Dholkal is always a love. Bastar has numerous hidden gems but Dholkal has something very peculiar about it. Can you imagine a sheer peak peeping out of the clouds with the sun just aboard?? Well, this is Dholkal.

View from the Dholkal Peak

View from the Surya Temple peak

I have been to the Dholkal peak prior to this visit. But this time, it was special, for the bondings that I have with the members of Dholkal Tourism Group and also for the excitement to witness the magical morning at the peak. All thanks to the district administration of Dantewada who organised the event in association with Unexplored Bastar.

So with a group of adventure seekers, we started from Jagdalpur on Saturday afternoon on a bike. Bastanar ghati (valley) welcomed us with a chilling blow of wind and a fresh forest smell. Tribal haats (local markets) in hamlets always lure me but we moved on to reach Dholkal base before sunset.

Setting up of tents and camps were going on, my eyes were fixed on the lofty peaks shadowed in darkness but were still illuminating under the full moon night. While others were enjoying music by the bonfire, I chose to spend time with the members of Dholkal Tourism Group.

Reeta and Rinky captured by the lens of JB Roy by Rajkumar

This picture shows a glimpse of the beautiful girls of Dholkal Tourism Group. Image Credit – Rajkumar from the lens of JB Roy

Rinky-Reena-Reeta” – the girls with contagious smiles, engrossed me totally with their laughter and Gondi language. Cooking food on the hearth and their little jokes, what a night!! When they offered me a seat near the hearthstone, at that moment, I noticed some of the permanent formations of their kitchen. The kitchen area seemed totally different from the earlier times.

As the bonfire was setting off, some friends came over to search for more firewood. Suddenly, they had an eye on the log at the kitchen side. What they didn’t notice was that the log was a part of the permanent structure of the kitchen. ‘That log’ was there as a barrier for the rainwater during monsoon. Ahh!! let’s look at the roof of the kitchen. It was beautifully covered with a cluster of stars. We all were laughing vividly recalling my last visit – when they made me walk towards a dark patch in no moon night. That last visit, I was aghast to hear the anklets’ sound (this is another story).

Bastar Tribal Food

Tribal food at Dholkal. The delicious spicy chapra chutney was a delight.

The cuisine of Dholkal is really mouth watery. Every time they offer some very exclusive local leafy vegetables. Chapra chutney (red ant), kodre bhaaji (local tuber) and many more are from the Dholkal palate. What should I say about the smokey-flavoured chicken!!

Veg food prepared at Dholkal

Tribal veg cuisine of Dholkal

Tribal nonveg food

They were keen to try out their hands in cooking with the Dholkal Tourism Group.
Image Credit – Udesh Kumar

After dinner, we all had spent some time listening to the melodious music and guitar play by Tejasvi. His voice really captivated us all at the bonfire. With an episode of ghostly and wild animals’ stories, we all went to sleep in our tents. As soon as I got to sleep, it was time to wake up. We all were out of our tents by 4 am and eagerly waiting at the downhill to ascend the soaring Bailadila mountain ranges.

Heeralal (Heera) made all familiar to the legend of Dholkal – the story of the ferocious fight between Parshuram and Ganesha. So whenever you visit Dholkal, listen to the stories of our Heera. Heera is the leader of Dholkal Tourism Group. He manages very well the duties and divides the responsibilities among each member of the group. Presently, he is also helping his family in the crop harvesting process.

Heera or Heeralal is the sachiv of Dholkal Tourism Group

Heeralal from Dholkal Tourism Group.
Image Courtesy – JB Roy

So with all our curiosities, we ascended the soaring hill that was also the part of stories of the past. While Devchand (Dev) was leading the group, Reena accompanied me. As we started to move deeper into the dense forests, our curiosities rose higher. Rhythmic calls of the birds and chattering of the monkeys grabbed my attention to follow them till they were in my line of sight. Crossing several little streams, locally known as ‘uddhan nadhi’, we came across huge anthills.

While on the trek, creepers, climbers and trees always amuse me. Locals are familiar with a variety of herbs available in forests and we also noticed some of them. Reena told me about ‘Relarotta’ – used as an anti-venom for snake bites, ‘siyadi’ – the leaves are used to make plates and the seeds are eaten in summers, ‘aambud’ – a citrus fruit, and many more. Indeed forests have a lot to offer.

Dholkal Jungle

Creepers of the dense forests of Dholkal

Another noticeable feature of the Dholkal trek – offering leaves to Devi Dalkhaai — the goddess of forests. Locals residing there believe that Devi Dalkhaai protects their cattle from wild animals and also from getting lost in the wilderness.

Leaves are offered to Devi Dalkhaai

Devi Dalkhaai – the goddess of forests.

And then we reached the peak and were greeted by the wintery morning hues. I went to the top of Surya Temple peak and was completely captivated by the sunrays that were trying to make their way through the mountains. The bluish yellow ambience and the singing calls of the birds and the gibbering of ‘moonj’ (a big monkey) took me to trance.

Little did I know that we already sat at the peaks for two hours than Reena pointed towards the village of Kondaval (somewhere in the downhill of ranges). Heading back to the base camp, we enjoyed the poha breakfast in the middle of the jungle. Treading back, Reena and I eloped to see the wilder growth on a trunk near a stream. It seemed to be a perfect piece from the puzzle picture.

Reena - one of the guides of Dholkal Tourism Group. She too leads the trekking group.

Reena – one of the guides of Dholkal Tourism Group

We took some aambud with us to the base (Dholkal Jungle Camp) and enjoyed eating with some salt. Meanwhile, Dev already started preparing the delicious lunch for us and the trio girls taught me to make leaf plates. It was totally a memorable trip…which gave me a lot of reasons to visit again and again, as the stories change again and again.

Dholkal peak

Valleys of Dholkal in different hues

Come O Darling let me show you,

The cozy trance aura and the view…

Chirping of birds welcome you,

Nightingale sings out of blue…

Fresh breeze to hug you,

Nothing to hold back from getting into…

Secrets darken as you enter more,

Experience different from daily chores…

Moisture and the dampness of soil,

Sweat and toughness before you toil…

Aroma strengthens as you enter my heart,

Honey bees whirling which are quick at their art…

Trunks and climbers decorate my castle,

Monuments of caves unbreakable by chisel…

Carpets of mosses around,

Keep my lovebirds from going vagabond…

Sunlight and moonlight quenches the thirst of my soul,

Come O Darling, I’ll take you to the forests whole…

Thank you for stopping by.