It’s all about stories….stories woven into this land.
Bastar retains its innate charm steeped in a culture vibrant and living. My fellow travelers and I drove on roads through thick forests, veering into paths through fields carpeted in shades of green to a clearing that housed a small village, homes surrounded by patches of local produce.
We were there during the monsoon, so the forest was lush, green and in full bloom. Being surrounded by waterfalls was both soothing and exhilarating- the first because the sound of the water is steady and the second because these sights are inaccessible in our city lives and one enjoys them and stores them away in photos and videos to savour and remember over time….
This village and our brief interaction with its daily life was an enriching and enjoyable. We met the simple folk who live there-got a glimpse into their traditions which are reflected amply in their clothes, ornaments and way of living. Their weekly market is a kaleidoscope of colour, bustling and buzzing, where news and gossip is exchanged in the midst of of buying and bartering with goods -metal implements, trinkets, vegetables, to home made mahua liquor or fermented rice beer served in leaf cups. The local “haat” is the heart of the small community.
Their food is simple and unpretentious and occasionally-a tad horrifying! It includes rice, bamboo shoots, moringa leaves and sundry others sourced from the wild. A local beverage or rather gruel is “MandiyaPej” a nutritious gruel of ragi millet or corn. It is said to have cooling properties. It also includes exciting items such as “ant chutney” which was intriguing to say the least!
Their places of worship-are the ‘Devgudis’, sacred groves in the midst of nature, that houses medicinal plants and memorial stones, from ancient megaliths to engraved wooden posts, and more recently, slate, vividly painted with pictures that tell of life, achievements and desires.
No two villages share the same devagudi. They serve as markers of geographical boundaries and tribal territory. These groves fulfil their need for food, firewood, livelihood and medicine.
Music and dance is an inherent part of their lives be it joyous or ritualistic. As are their crafts. Bamboo weaving, wood carving and dhokra, the art of bell metal sculpting. Nothing is quite as satisfying as hearing about it and collecting a distinctive piece from the crafstman who fashioned it.
And there’s history. In temples that date from a thousand years to monuments that are architectural treasures. There’s an abundance of natural beauty too, the incredible waterfalls coupled with mysterious caves, flora and fauna.
The Anthropological Museum encapsulates the tales of this awesome place. Bastar is a discovery of sorts. An unexplored jewel of a place, which I added to my collection of memories.