Koraput is in true sense, love at first sight. It has many treasures crammed into its compact territory – big skies, majestic hills, spectacular wildlife, superb organic food and hospitable, down-to-earth people. It is for those who have adventure in their hearts.
According to Mr. R.C.S.Bell who was the first collector of Koraput district, the town gets its name from ‘Kora-Putti’ or “the hamlet of the nux-vomica” and it is derived presumably from a tree or trees that must at one time have been prominent near the site. However, currently one can’t spot any nux-vomica which means that Mr. Bell’s theory is up for debate.
Nestled between the Eastern Ghats and some breathtaking scenery, Koraput has some of the major rivers of Odisha pass through it namely Machhakunda, Vamsadhara and Kolab. The district is primarily dominated by the indigenous or Tribal communities.
On my first day, I visited the picturesque Kolab Dam which generates Hydro Electric Power sitting at an altitude of about 914.4 m (3,000 ft) above sea level on river Kolab, a tributary of Godavari river. The tranquil setting only adds magic to the fairy tale experience.
The botanical garden called Kolab Park built near the dam is well maintained and very Greek-looking. It boasts of around 200 varieties of flowering plants which further adds to the surrounding’s magical mystique. It is quite a popular spot for everyone to hangout with their families.
Located less than 20 minutes from the dam is Kolab Reservoir which is a slice of pristine wilderness and is wholly accessible. It’s an easy and refreshing destination for a mini-break. On a clear day, one can see the cloud’s reflection in the water with the greenery around and the lonely roads making for a perfect country side view. Sitting here, soaking in the clean air and the view of the clear water with not a single soul around, time seems to stand still. The route is very well signposted, with well-maintained paths and tracks throughout.
The agenda on Day 2 was to see the Rathibali waterfall and climb up Odisha’s highest peak – Deomali. My first stop was at the pristine Rathibali waterfall gleaming in sunshine. The watchtower constructed by Odisha Tourism makes for a good spot to sit and enjoy the epic rumble of this waterfall which is incredibly relaxing. The soothing ambiance of nature white noise is just what I needed to calm and rejuvenate myself.
ODISHA’S HIGHEST PEAK – DEOMALI
Next up for me were the Deomali hills. A two hour drive from the main Koraput city, I felt like we were going through the clouds. This hill range is rich in mineral resources such as bauxite, limestone and gemstones and the hills are dotted with brooks and deep valleys, and inhabited by tribes such Kandhas, Parajas, Bhumia, Malis and Bhotias. Also, don’t forget to always carry some sweets as you will encounter lovely kids working in the hills with their parents. I made a pit stop to spend sometime with them as well and it was heartening to know that they all are pursuing education in nearby government schools.
The view of the valley from the peak of Deomali is the quintessential Odisha’s surreal magnificent beauty experience one can get. I watched the sunset spread its orange and pink hue over the valley at dusk with the birds chirping as the background music.
JEYPORE KING’S PALACE
On Day 3, I stopped by the city of Jeypore to visit Jepore King’s Palace. The palace, built by King Rama Krushna Deb, is the pride of the town and its main gate, a centre of attraction. Unfortunately, the main entrance of the palace collapsed in 2013 as the royal family was unable to maintain the structure properly. But one can still visit the site to see the backside of the palace.
GUPTESHWAR LIMESTONE CAVES
We then made our way towards Gupteshwar Caves. The limestone caves are dedicated to Lord Shiva as there is a lingam inside the caves. According to mythology, the lingam was first discovered by Lord Rama when he was roaming in the then Dandakaranya forest with wife Sita and brother Laxman, and later worshipped it calling it “Gupteswar”. The poet Kalidas too, described the scenic beauty of Ramgiri forest where the cave temple is referred to in his famous Meghadutam.
The place is quite popular among the people of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Chhatisgarh. Around 15 years ago, tigers used to inhabit around the caves but not anymore, sadly. After seeking blessings from Lord Shiva, I explored other caves behind the Gupteshwar caves. Surrounded by Sal and Champak trees, the scenic beauty of the place is unparalleled. Also, you can buy some of the world’s most delicious mangoes here at dirt cheap price. And if you have a sweet tooth like me, then you can further indulge into locally made Aam Papad or mango candy and some refreshing curd. Trust me, post the climb to the caves, you will need both.
I was gifted these Lotus flowers by a local kid in exchange for Hide &Seek biscuits. Good barter I suppose.
RANI DUDUMA WATERFALLS
I believe I can’t get enough of waterfalls and fair enough, since I am in the hub of nature. So another go to place was Rani Duduma waterfalls which literally means Queen Fall. The way to the waterfalls offers a tantalizing taste of the unique green wilderness of the Eastern Ghats. The second layer is the safest to sit around and enjoy of this three tier waterfall. There is a not-so-defined way up to the first tier through the forest but I would advice one against it as its quite dangerous. A park by Odisha Tourism is coming up soon and it promises to be a delight for tourists as the view the spot offers is quite serene and peaceful.
I decided to venture a bit far from Koraput and checked into an Eco-resort called Desia (http://www.desiakoraput.com/). A perfect getaway into nature is what Desia is. My cultural sojourn of Koraput would have been incomplete without some warm Tribal hospitality and bike riding in the hills. The ecotourism facility is equipped with modern amenities and spacious rooms decorated with local handicrafts and traditional tribal motifs based on sustainable means.
Local artists, with help and guidance from artists from Shantiniketan, have designed the entire set-up. There might be times when there is no electricity here as the power is run on solar panels but infinite network of constellations sparkling in the sky light up the entire hamlet and its magical. Its one those things which I was unable to capture in my camera and would highly recommend all to go and experience it first hand. Also, don’t forget to order their finger licking local delicacy – ‘Bamboo mutton’ . If you are an experimental person like me, you can go a step ahead and sample the local drink called Shalabh which when fermented turns into alcohol. A bonfire with barbeque chicken and locals performing Dhemsa (traditional folk dance of tribal people of central India-Southern Odisha) made for a perfect evening.
Moreover, the facility is also empowering women by providing them with opportunities to sell their local products like handmade turmeric and chilly powder and some antique pieces made out of coconut shells.
The Cottage where I stayed
My simple, organic lunch ( Spinach, Chicken, Sambhar, Sesame Poppadums, Rice and Salad) with an extra dose of love and care by its makers
With the Lovely ladies of Desia
Just 15 minutes away from Desia, nestled among the hills is the spellbinding Duduma Waterfalls. The horsetail waterfall is 175 metres (574 ft) in height and is formed by the Machhkund river.A place I can spend hours just being enchanted by how beautiful mother nature is. These spectacular sights may be beautiful, but like all fairy tale settings, there is danger lurking around every corner. One must be careful when going towards the main waterfall as the roads aren’t well defined. Only my encyclopedic local guide Mr. Niranjan Tripathy (9937712040) and Odisha Tourism statistician Mr. Bhuddhadeb ( 9937773507) could lead me safe and sound to the mouth of the Duduma fall.
At the Duduma waterfalls
At the Macchkund Resrvoir
Now comes the most exciting part of my visit to Koraput – the weekly (Thursday) Onukadelli Market of the indigenous people. The most prominent tribes you get to see here are the Bonda and the Gadaba tribes. The Bondas continue to speak in their language, Remo, which comes under the Austroasiatic language belonging to the Mundari group. Bonda women are a sight to behold. They appear to be both bold and fragile at the same time.
They have their heads shaved and adorned with two types of headbands, called turuba and lobeda. The turuba is made of grass and the lobeda made of beads. Worn together the turuba secures the lobeda by preventing the beaded headband from slipping off the woman’s head.
Bonda women wear metal bands adorning their necks, which are called khagla and are made from aluminum. Including the bands around their neck, necklaces made of beads are also worn, these are called Mali. Due to the culture surrounding their ringa cloth which covers the waist down, the khagla and Mali act as a sort of clothing for the upper body of the women.
Both men and women of the tribe wear earrings called limbi made of brass, and rings on their fingers called orti made of aluminum. For bachelors or newly married men, it is customary to wear their own set of ornaments. Beginning at the ages of eight or nine, males will adorn their bodies with headbands called ornaghboh, bangles named sungrai, necklaces named thangimali, earrings named unsurul, and rings called sanbah. Once married, men typically do not continue to adorn their bodies with more ornaments.
The market sells local produce like vegetables, clothes, drinks among other things. I bought a bead necklace for Rs. 200 and a pair of earrings for Rs. 200 as well. There is some scope of bargaining but considering that this is their only source of income, its best we splurge some money buying from them rather than high-end shops.
Gadaba women wearing metal band around her neck which is sustained with a metal belt at the back.
To do and Not to do at the Onukadelli Market
- Its always best to go with a guide to the market. At Onukadelli Market, you will always find Mohd. Chotte who is an excellent guide. His contact number is 09438376098 and he charges around 500 Rs. and its worth it.
- Always politely request the Bonda/Gadba tribals if you want to click their pictures. Also, they charge for the same. So you need to carry enough change to give them every time you click them.
- Best is to carry a shopping bag (jute bag and NOT PLASTIC) from your end.
On my last day in Koraput, I decided to explore the coffee estate of Koraput. The very kind and knowledgeable Mr. AK Raut who is officer in charge of the Coffee board gave me a quick tour around the estate, enlightening me about the process of coffee plantation and black pepper as well. I believe the best part was Mr. Raut, inviting us to his house to drink the coffee procured from the estate. I am a coffee-holic and that aroma made me go like – don’t need no Starbucks here.
I believe every time one travels, something changes – actually a lot of changes occurs in ones personality, perspective and potential. I was never acquainted with the Indigenous way of life, which is all about sustainability and taking care one’s surroundings. It has taught me to be more responsible and aware of the nature. The trip for me was all about chasing rainbows, running into sunsets, watching butterflies flutter around, looking at the sky awestruck as infinite stars sparkled and the fresh air hitting my face and soothing my nerves as I drove past the Eucalyptus trees on a bicycle.
Oh and you will hardly find any network or WiFi connections in most places but I can guarantee, that you will be most connected with yourself here. The place is quite safe to travel around but like with any place, one must be careful.
Where to Stay in Koraput
- Hotel Alishan
- Desia Eco- Resort
- Chadoori Sai Resort
How to Reach Koraput
- From Bhubaneswar ( by Train) – Hirakund Express or By car – 12 hour drive
- From Vishakhapatnam by Train or Taxi
To travel around the Koraput district, you will need to hire a cab. You can contact –
Grace Tours & Travels ( Govt. of Odisha approved) – 9437102653
When to Visit Koraput
June/July and November- Feb is the best time to visit Koraput.
Hope you visit Koraput soon.