Chitrakote Falls, located 38 km west of Jagdalpur in the Bastar district of the state of Chhattisgarh in India, account for the largest waterfall in entire Asia in terms of the volume of water that flows through it, a massive 1845 cubic meter per second when at its peak. The water falls from a height of almost 30 m into a gorge forming a horse shoe shape, one of the reasons why it is also known as the “Niagara Falls of India”. It is a very important site in terms of geology too, and one of the only six waterfalls in India recognized as “Geomorphosites” under various studies by the various national and international agencies. The waterfalls are a part of the Indravathi river, that originates in Odisha and flows westwards falling through the mighty Chitrakote, enters Andhra Pradesh and then finally disappears into the Godavari.
The river flows sluggishly in the region due to its meandering nature and the upstream flow is slow amidst the plains of Jagdalpur. There is hardly any vegetation near the site of the waterfalls, but as the river reaches the Bodhghat forested area after falling through Chitrakote, it suddenly changes its colours, and quite literally so. The aeration and tree cover removes the silt through the water and the flow also picks up. Chitrakote is one of the two very popular waterfalls of the region that lies in the Kanger National Park region, the other being the Tirathgarh falls. The weather around the place is moderate but summers are harsh due to the lack of vegetation in the area.
WHAT TO SEE
The flow of the falls varies according to the seasons. During the low flow season in the summers, the waterfall is divided into three braids of clear white that appear blue during early mornings with the reflected sunlight in the misty waters. On the banks around, there are a few “Shiva Lingas” and “Trishul” (tridents) and carvings of local deities that might have been worshipped here and are still revered. There are paddle boats which are allowed under the falls till as low as right beneath the spray of the vertical stream that falls from almost a vertical stone merging into a small semi-circular pond that has formed below. Most pilgrims take a bath in the calmer waters here. During the early rainy season with the onset of monsoons, a beautiful rainbow can be seen here. With the flooding season in the monsoons, the water turns brown with silt but the falls are a continuous wall of water, also becoming the widest falls in India.
Things to do:
There are regular treks organized by the Chhattisgarh Tourism Board on request in the Indravathi valley. The birdsongs to the music of the river and the bass provided by the falls creates a melody worth experiencing. The local guide can tell you about the diverse flora and fauna, especially birds that arrive here during winters, of the place. There are various temples near the falls too, out of which the newly built Shiva temple is a growing attraction while one in the rock cavity right opposite the stream is also worth paying a visit to. The Narayanpal temple is around five km from the falls and is an ancient temple dating back to around 11th century, still in a very good health.
Other places around:
There is a very popular archaeological site around called Barsur, which is 45 km away and houses another 11th-century famous temple. The Barsur Ganesha, Mama Bhanja ka Mandir and the Battisha Temple are the notable religious sites of the region. On the way, there’s another major fall called Tamra Ghumar Falls that are also to catch you spellbound. There are a lot of other places of interest connected very well via the National Highway 43 passing through Jagdalpur connecting it with the state capital of Raipur. Some of them include the hill town of Kanker, the whispering valley of Keshkal, the Kondagaon forests and the Bastar plateau. Araku valley is right around the corner too.
How to reach:
By road: Chitrakote is a very beautiful ride from the nearby city and the district headquarters of Jagdalpur via road. Jagdalpur is connected very well via NH 43, NH 30, NH 221 and NH 60 passing through it to the nearby important cities of Raipur, Bilaspur, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Warangal, Vishakhapatnam, etc. There is a conveyance by public transport very regularly and jeeps and taxis are also available.
By rail: The nearest railway station is Jagdalpur, which is 38 km away with regular trains arriving from the nearby cities of Puri, Vishakhapatnam, Raipur, Bilaspur, etc. From Jagdalpur, there are public buses plying to Chitrakote or even public taxis/jeeps can be hired.
By air: There is an airport at Jagdalpur itself but there are no services till there. The nearest airport is at Raipur or Vishakhapatnam from where the road or rail conveyance may be taken till Jagdalpur and further to Chitrakote via road. There are frequent flights from most Indian airports to both Vishakhapatnam and Raipur.
Where to stay:
While the best option is at the resort that is just a stone’s throw away from Chitrakote, there are also multiple tourist huts and accommodations being opened up with facilities of food. The view of the waterfalls lit during the night to the music of the water and the song of the jungle provides an enthralling experience.