Enchanting KorbaJun 28th, 2009 | By editor | Category: Lifestyle, Travel
The winding roads are flanked by lush woods at their pristine best. My nature-tuned eyes soaked in the bounteous scene, but the city-born-and-bred heart in me rebelled — not against this beauty, this abundant nature, but against the fact of hav ing to make this place, Korba, my home. The resilient in me egged me on to “see beyond” and not feel bogged down by the apparent lack of urban aroma that I had become accustomed to. My instincts proved right and two years down the line I feel myself in a land that is, using a very clichéd expression, a treasure chest of natural and cultural beauty. I realise that Korba, like the rest of the State of Chhattisgarh, is a cradle of culture tucked away in the folds of tradition.
Situated on the banks of the rivers Hasdeo and Ahiran, enriched by several streams, rivulets, lakes and ponds, Korba, which derives its name from its original inhabitants, the Korwa hilly tribes, charms you with its alluring bio-diversity, heritage sites and picnic spots. The town is an interesting and enigmatic amalgam of the progressive and modern, the traditional and rustic. Its verdant surrounds present a striking contrast to the concrete jungle and high-rise glass structures that have come to typify urban sprawls. A fascinating tribal land with the majority of the tribals still inhabiting the hilly terrains untouched by the trappings of modernity, Korba is steadily but surely witnessing the mushrooming of computer centres, Net cafes, IT tutorials and English medium schools. Travel a couple of kilometres away from this modern bustle and you are bang in the midst of a weekly haat for cows, goats, buffalos, fruits and vegetables and other household items!
To step back a little in time, Korba was once known as Gourigarh and was under the sway of Nago Singh Gour, a zamindar and snake charmer who belonged to the Mourya caste. His policy of annexing the smaller territories around him led him to fight the Korwas. When the Korwas were on the verge of defeat, they deceived Nago Singh’s wife into believing that he had died in battle. The grief stricken wife, along with her child, drowned herself in a pond. On hearing of his beloved’s demise, Nago Singh followed suit. Thus the Korwas became the rulers of Korba. Today, however, the Korwas are only one of the several tribes dwelling in Korba. Pottery, agriculture, weaving, especially of the famed Kosa silk, continue to be the mainstay of the population.
One of my first explorative trips in Korba is to Pali which is about 60 km away. It is a small village famous for its ancient Shiva Temple, declared a national heritage monument by the ASI. Picturesquely overlooking a lake, the architecture of the sand stone Shiva Temple defies description. The eight-angled domed structure that bears semblance to the Khajuraho architectural style in parts, is an excellent example of intricate sculpting and the art of making small statues.
About 40 km away from Pali is Chaithurgarh, one of the country’s strongest natural forts at a height of 3,060 feet on a hilltop that has been developed as a tourist resort in recent times. Adding to the tranquil environs atop the hill is the centuries’ old temple of Durga in the form of Mahishasuramardhini. The sprawling surroundings of the temple are dotted with ancient sculptures. Three of the five ponds that dot the five sq km of terrain on the hill have a perennial flow of water, making it an ideal swimming pool for water-lovers. Venture a couple of kilometres more from the main temple and you chance upon the Shiva Cave, a 25-feet long, narrow and low-ceiling tunnel-like structure that is home to a Shivalinga. Talking of which, Korba, and Chhattisgarh itself, abound in temples devoted to Lord Shiva and Goddess Durga in the form of Mahamaya, a pointer to the religious beliefs of its people.
Some of the must-see architectural attractions are the Shiva Temple at Tuman, the 10th century Kankeshwar Mahadev Temple where the Shivalinga is Swayambu, the Sarvamangla temple, the caves of which have been shut off for public viewing, the rock-cut cave temple of Sitamani, believed to have been inhabited by Lord Rama, his consort Sita and brother Lakshman during their wanderings in the forest, the more modern Sarveshwar temple with its vast landscaped gardens and the glass temple of Bhavani Maa.
Of course, the purely scenic sights include the aesthetically crafted Silver Jubilee Park with facilities for boating, the Durri and Hasdeo dam regions and the 55-feet high Kendai Waterfalls and the most scintillating rocks and waterfalls of Devpahri, where mountain ranges roll down to meet cobbled village paths.
Add to all this, a splash of colours in the tribal dances and festivities specific to the region — Hareli, Pola, Cherchera, Karma and Ravat Nacha, to name a few — and you have the picture perfect equation of a tourist destination that leaves you befuddled and bewitched at the same time.
Getting there: Indian, Jet and Deccan fly to Raipur which is 250 km from Korba. Trains from most of the Indian metros pass via Bilaspur and/or Champa which are 110 and 70 km approximately from Korba. One may travel directly to Korba by Link Express from Vishakapatnam and The Trivandrum Korba Express.
Accommodation: No star hotels or resorts exist in Korba. However, one may find modest lodgings in Top ‘N Town, Evergreen and a couple of other restaurants which offer boarding. The best way to move in and around Korba would be to rent private cars or jeeps.