Land of the Red


In the beginning
It is becoming somewhat of a tradition to go on photography tour during Holi vacation. Last year it was Khajuraho and we desperately wanted to go somewhere this year also. We had shortlisted Betla – Netarhat circuit or Murshidabad – Baharampur. Our first preference was always Betla – Netarhat but in the back of our mind we were aware that the biggest challenge we might face during Holi vacation will be that of hotel booking. Specially in Betla and Netarhat the best lodging facility was only with Jharkhand Tourism hotels and booking them was a bit difficult than that any other generic hotel.

 The only hitch in my plan was the cost factor, it would be bit expensive for two person to travel to Betla – Netarhat since almost all part of the journey would have to be done by a private car since no organized local transports were available.

In the meantime a colleague of mine Sudipto also showed interest in joining along with us for Betla – Netarhat trip. This was good considering the overall cost per person would be much less as all generic expense would be divided amongst three. I met Sudipto and Amitabha at a book shop to get well acquainted and finalize the plan. Together we decided to go to Betla – Netarhat and squeeze in Maromar on the way. We would hire a car from Ranchi to take us to all our destinations. We would depart on 4th of March Wednesday and return on 9th of March, it would be a three nights and four days trip.

The next part of the plan was to book the hotel, we went to Camac Street office of Jharkhand Tourism for that. The office boy was very helpful and handed us the rate chart for all the hotels. We booked a double bedded room with triple occupancy both at Betla and Netarhat. The charges were Rs. 900 per day and Rs. 200 additional for the extra occupancy. 12.5 % tax will also be levied but the tax amount and the extra occupancy money needs to be directly paid at the hotel.
Once the hotel booking were done now came the time to book our train tickets. Now came the real problem, being Holi all train tickets were booked. Howrah – Hatia Express had 90 + Waiting List. Being quite late I decided to try my age old trick of split journey. We booked Howrah to Asansol Agnibina Express which departs at 6.10 PM from Howrah and reaches Asansol by 10 PM. From Asansol we booked Vananchal Express to Ranchi. Return tickets were booked on Hatia – Howarah Express.

The journey starts

As per our plan our journey would start on 4thof March evening, the next day being Holi there was a small celebration in our office in the evening so me and my colleague Sudipto managed to sneak out early. Amitabha would be directly reaching the station from his house. We took a bus to Babu Ghat and took a Launch (boat) across Hoogly River. It was quite crowded as most people were returning home for Holi vacation.

All three met below the famous old clock at Howrah station, the station was extremely crowded but managed to board Agnibina Express. Luckily we had our seats booked so had no difficulty. We reached Asansol station at around 10.20 PM and decided to have our dinner at the Rail Canteen. 

Adventure starts early

After our dinner we headed to platform no 2 where the train was expected. The platform was full of people heading back home for Holi. Before our train arrival Gangasagar Express came to the same platform and all hell broke loose, almost everyone on the platform started rushing into any compartment that was available in front of them. Be it reserved or unreserved they were full to the brim. Almost every compartment had some sort of fist fight going on to grab a seat. We were shocked and my friend was speechless and I could see the fear in his eyes. He was presuming the same fate for our train also.
Luckily when our train came we were relieved to see the train absolutely normal with our reserved berth available. We were assuming the worse but thankfully we were saved from the mayhem.

We reach Ranchi

We reached Ranchi the next morning at 5 AM and the moment we got out we felt the chill in the air. It was colder than the winter we face in Kolkata. Luckily all of us had packed in warm clothes and we were well equipped to face the cold.

We took an auto from outside the station to first reach my In Law’s house to freshen up. The house is right behind MS Dhoni’s house at Harmu so navigating was quite easy for the Auto driver and within ten minutes we were at our destination. We took bath and freshened up as the car was scheduled to arrive at 8 AM so we diced to have our breakfast also.

Exactly at 8 AM our designated car Tata Indica arrived with our driver Aftab. We were comforted to the fact that he was a young guy in his thirties so it would be a good company. The first thing that we did was to fill up the tank so that it was ensured that we will not face an empty tank during our journey. The car was also recently worked on in details so the car was at the peak of it performance.

 

Route Map – Ranchi to Betla

En Route to Betla – This Stretch Is At Kuru

Local Women with Their Daily Chores

Latehar

Latehar – The Trees Look Gold from the Afternoon Sun

Approaching Daltonganj

Chai Break

We took a left turn towards Betla once we reached Daltonganj. A big gate welcomed us to Betla and after driving few kilometres we crossed Kechki (confluence of North Koel and Auranga rivers). This meant that our adventure has finally started as we are now within our travel plan. We stopped by Kechki and took numerous photos of the bridge and its surroundings.

 

Road Diversion – Betla to the Left and Daltonganj Town to the Right

This Gate Welcomes You to Betla

Kechki – Looking Towards North Koel from the Bridge

Kechki – Looking Towards North Koel 

After a twenty minute drive we finally reach Van Vihar Hotel at Betla. The hotel was in the process of a makeover so we could still see open electric wired etc. Flooring was done recently but the walls lacked a fresh coat of paint. Even though all rooms were AC but we were warned that since most of the time the facility will be run by generators thus AC will not be operational. However we were surprised to see new bed, blankets, LED television etc. in every room and all of them were branded. I am sure in a year or so the entire hotel will get completely modified.

Hotel Van Vihar

By now we were hungry like tigers and quickly dumped our bags in our room and went to the dining room. Lunch was simple with rice, daal, potato fries and an option of egg curry or mixed vegetables. Post lunch we decided to go to Betla fort. We had informed Aftab earlier so he was ready to take us to our destination. To go to the fort you need to buy a ticket from the Betla Forest office. They charge Rs. 150 per vehicle, guide charges are additional and optional.

Palamu Fort…s

Van Vihar Hotel to Palamu Forts

History

 This portion has been taken from The Imperial Gazetteer of India – Volume 19
– New edition, published under the authority of His Majesty’s secretary of state for India in council. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1908-1931 [v. 1, 1909]

Page 337 & 338

Reliable history does not date back beyond 1603, when the Raksel Rajputs were driven out by the Cheros under Bhagwant Rai, who took advantage of the local Raja’s absence at a ceremony at Surguja to raise the standard of revolt. The Chero dynasty lasted for nearly 200 years, the most famous of the line being Medni Rai surnamed ‘the just,’ who ruled from 1659 to 1672 and extended his Raj into Gaya, Hazaribag, and Surguja. 

The erection at Palamau of teh older of the two forts which form the only places of historical interest in the District is ascribed to him; the other, which was never completed, was begun by his son. These Rajas apparently ruled as indipendent princess till between 1640 and 1660, when the Muhammadans made several attacks on them and forced them to pay tribute. In the latter year occurred the attack on Palamau fort and its capture by Daud Khan, which forms the subject of a large picture (30 feet by 12) preserved by Daud’s descendants and described in detail by Colonel Dalton in the Journal, Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1874. 

In 1722 the ruling Raja, Ranjit Rai, was murdered, and Jay Kishan Rai, descended from the younger son of a former Raja, was placed upon the throne. A few years afterwards Jay Kishan was shot in skirmish, and his family fled to Megra in Bihar. Here they took refuge with one Udwant Ram, a Kanungo, who in 1770 took Gopal Rai, grandson of the murdered Raja, to Patna and presented him to Captain Camac, the Government Agent, as the rightful heir to the Palamau Raj. Captain Camac promised the assistance of the British Government and, after defeating the troops of the ruling Rajas gave a sanad for five years to Gopal Rai and two of his cousins. From this time Palamau was included in the British District of Ramgarh. 

A year or two later, Gopal Rai was sentenced to imprisonment for being concerned in the murder of the Kanungowho helped him to power. He died in Patna in 1784, and in the same year died Basant Rai, who had succeeded to the gaddi on his imprisonment. Churaman  Rai succeeded; but by 1813 he had become insolvent, and Palamau was sold for arrears of revenue and bought in by the Government for the amount due. Three years later old disturbances between the Kharwars and Cheros were renewed, and Palamau was given to the Deo family in Gaya as a reward for their services in helping to quell them. 

Their regime, however, was unpopular, and in a year the country was in open rebellion. So Government was again forced to take up the management of the estate, giving the Deo family as compensation a reduction of Rs. 3000 in the Bihar revenue payable on their estates in Bihar. In 1832 the Kharwars and Cheros again broke out in rebellion, but this rising was soon put down. There were not further troubles until the Mutiny of 1857, when the Kharwars rose against their Rajput landlords; and the mutineer of the Ramgarh Batatalion, taking refuge in Palamau made common cause with Nilambar and Pitambar Sigh, the malcontent landholders. The 26th Madras Native Infantry and a portion of the Ramgarh Battalion which had remained loyal defeated the insurgents at the Palamau forts. Nilambar and Pitambar Singh were taken prisoners and hanged. In 1834 Palamau was included in the District of Lohardaga (now Ranchi), and was only formed into a separate District in 1892.
 

Some Details of the Forts

 This portion has been taken from Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India 1925 – 26
Page 30 & 31


Further work was also taken on hand on the two old Chero Forts at Palamu the Purana and the Naya Quila which date from the 17th century. A description of these Forts and a brief note on their history has been given in the report for the year 1922 – 23.

The forts are situated deep in the jungle of the forest reserve and repair work that has to be done for their preservation in the removal of the dense jungle growth that all but obstructs them. Substantial progress to this end was made in the previous two years against an estimate of Rs. 3557 but the work was far from complete and a sum of Rs. 1579 against a further estimate of Rs 4281 was spent during the year under review in constructing it. Great trees and thick jungle have been cleared from the encircling walls of the two forts and from a margin of some 10 feet along them both inside and out. Tall trees have been cut down and the work in hand aims at the removal of the great intertwining Pipal roots that spreads over and penetrate into them for unless they are removed the jungle will only spread again.

The conservation of the fort walls generally will be limited to the removal of this jungle for funds will not permit of their constructional repair. The main gates with their outworks and enclosed courts will however be kept up in sound structural condition. They are an interesting example of the fortifications of this period and the Nagpuri Gate of the New Fort has the further merit of being a particularly fine example of Early Mughal architecture. It is sadly ruined and almost everything but the actual archway itself has collapsed but such as remains is well worthy of preservation. The elaborate arabesques raised in relief of the outer facade of fine grained white sand stone are exquisitely wrought and are comparable with some of the best work at Agra.

The fall of the adjacent fabric has left exposed the outer abutment of this archway and it is proposed to erect a buttress against it fir its support.

Paths through the dense jungle in the interior of the forts have been cut and it is now possible to approach the remains of the several small palace buildings within the walls of the Old Fort. These buildings are generally too badly ruined to repair and it is proposed merely to keep them free of jungle and clear the debris from about them.

The Raja’s Kuchari on the New Fort is generally in better condition and a few minor repairs will be put in had for its preservation. A path cut through the thick jungle up the hill side to the entrance of the New Fort has greatly facilitated access to it and it is learned that the jungle clearance effected here has induced many more people to visit the remains than formerly. It is of course impossible to clear the whole area within the walls and no more will be attempted than to maintain free of jungle the paths and margins that have already been cleared. 

The small brick mosque situated close to the breach made in the wall of the Old Fort by the British in 1772 and through which one now enters the fort is also being preserved and the broken parapets and roof with its low triple dome are being made watertight and the undermined walls repaired.

Old Palamu Fort (Purana Quila)

Panoramic View of Old Palamu Fort

Fort Walls and Tower As Seen From the Road

As you enter and go towards the forts you will first find the fort atop a hill. This fort resembles quite like the Jailsalmer fort in terms of its outer design structures. Initially the fort remains well hidden behind tress but as you come closer you can feel the grandeur. It must be noted that the fort area also comes under the extended Betla forest so it’s not uncommon to see some wild animals around.

The fort is atop a small hill so you have to climb some steep hillside. It can be made out that originally there were stairs carved into the hill side but nature has taken its toll and most of them have completely vanished. I must also warn that some portion of the climb are pretty steep and very slippery.

From Main Road This Narrow Passage Takes You Top to the Fort

Most Portion of the Road Are Like This Full Of Stones

After about 15 minute climb we finally reached the main gate of the fort. This place is infested with Langurs thus one needs to be careful not to intimidate them. Avoid any direct confrontation with them as they usually do not disturb any human population. Do not feed them as that can cause more nuisance, if you feed one them whole group will come and you might get surrounded. Secure your bags, sunglasses, cameras etc. as these are easy snatching objects for the Langurs.

Langurs You Will Find Them Everywhere

Main Entrance to the Fort

Visually this fort is stunning as one can feel as if you are transported back to the 16th century and the trots of horses can be felt echoing in the distance. People hardly visit this fort as we were the only ones roaming around. Sometimes thought it felt bit eerie to find no other human soul around you.

Once inside the fort you can see that the entire fort was well fortified with very high and thick walls with watch towers in every directions. These watch towers were very effective in watching advancing army in the distance. This I also the very reason why the Cheros had managed to repel so many attacks by the Mughal Generals.

This Portion Is Actually In-Between the Walls That Fortify the Fort

The Main Courtyard

The Main Courtyard

Walls inside the Fort

One of the Main Room Still Existing In the Fort

Interiors of the Room

View from Top towards Betla Forest Range

 

Walkways On Top Of the Fortifying Walls

 

View of Auranga River from the Top of the Fort

The Centre of the Fort Completely In Shambles

Archway On Top Of the Fort Walls

Narrow Staircase Which Connects the Courtyard to the Top of the Fort

The whole fort complex is quite huge thus would suggest you give it enough time ideally a day specifically for each of the fort if you are seriously interested in history.
 
One needs to be extra careful when climbing down as there are high chances of slipping. All three of us slipped at least once while climbing down. Jokingly we called this incident “curse of the Cheros”.
 
 

Light and Shadow

Architecture of the Central Main Building

Entrance to the Main Building

Stairs Leading From the Main Building to the Roof

Tunnel to the Roof

The Red Flags Marking Some Holy Spot – Locals Still Pray Here
 
 

New Palamu Fort (Naya Quila)

Panoramic View of the New Fort

As you drive another 1000 feet you will reach second fort which is mostly talked about and most of the Palamu Fort images on Google refer to this.
 
On the left of the main entrance gate (Nagpuri Gate) you will find a ruined mosque. I am assuming this was built after the conquest of Daud Khan since its structure are much newer to that of the fort.

The main Nagopuri Gate is a true architect’s delight, the Minakari works can be still seen thus depicts the diversity of the Chero rulers in incorporation of architectural styles from across the country. 

Nagpuri Gate – Entrance to the Old Fort

Nagpuri Gate – Entrance to the Old Fort

Nagpuri Gate – Entrance to the Old Fort

Meenakari Design on the Nagpuri Gate

Mosque – North of the Nagpuri Gate

The main gate had huge wooden doors but are missing now, the hinge position can still be seen and one needs to assume the enormity of the entire structure.

Once inside you come to the first holding area, on the left wall there is a small doorway that leads to the watch towers. One needs to assume that these were used by the soldiers to defend the fort when it came under attack. 

On the right you will find the entrance to the main courtyard of the fort. Surprisingly you will find another small mosque here. Looking at the position of this structure you can safely assume that this was built later as this particular structure is not in sync with the overall design of the fort. In most probability this was built after the conquest by Daud Khan.
 
 

Holding Area after the Nagpuri Gate

Mosque in the Courtyard

Interior of the Mosque

Interior of the Mosque

One of the Water Well

Inside of the Water Well

It will take some energy to climb the steeper section of the southern part of the fort but the climb is worth it considering that you will get some of the most fantastic views from here. You can also get a panoramic view of the Fort on top of the hill.
 

This fort will also take some considerable time to see through thus it’s recommended to give it a day if you really like old torn down structures with architectural value.

Second Gate inside the Fort

Design on the Wall

Second Well Inside the Fort

Passage Leading To the Watch Towers

Most Portions of the Watchtower Have Fallen Off

Remaining Watch Towers

Stairs Leading to the Top of Nagpuri Gate

Structures above Nagpuri Gate

Interconnecting Passages On Top Of the Fort Walls

Interconnecting Passages On Top Of the Fort Walls

View of the First Fort from the Second Fort

Busy Shooting

Many of the Broken Structures

A Two Storied Structure Still Standing Within the Fort

Interiors of the Two Storied Structure

Interiors of the Two Storied Structure

Interiors of the Two Storied Structure

An Unidentified Piece of Stone within the Two Stored Structure

By now it  was evening and it was time to return to our hotel .We were the only group of tourist and driver Aftab was visible worried. When asked he confirmed that he did not fear wild animals but feared the “Bade Bhaiyas” more. By this he meant the local insurgents who still dominates this territory.
BY 6 PM the entire locality has shut down so it’s advisable to buy anything from local much before that. Anyways you get very basic items in the shop so it’s recommended to carry snacks etc. along with you from Ranchi.
 

Dinner at the hotel was served at 9.30 PM and we had the option of rice, daal, potato fry, mixed vegetable and chicken curry. Additionally you can also pre order evening snacks but for that you have to give them enough time to get it prepared.

We say Hello! To Koel…and Auranga

 

Betla to Kechki

The next morning we diced to visit Kechki which was just around 10 Km. from the hotel, though we had already visited it while entering Betla but we could not see the confluence of the North Koel – Auranga rivers.
 

One needs to take a detour from the main road and cross railway gate in order to reach the banks of the river. There is a Forest Rest House near the banks which has recently been renovated and can provide a very scenic view of the confluence.

A Diversion from the Main Road Takes You towards the River Banks

Rain Gate before You Approach Kechki

Goods Train Crossing

The Famous Kechki Forest Rest House

Bee Hives Are Everywhere

Kechki Looking Towards Auranga River

Kechki Looking Towards North Koel

Kechki

A Temple on the Banks of Kechki

The Missing Bridge Do Not Stop People from Crossing by Foot

The Hill Climb

Route map from Betla to Barwadih

After this we had light breakfast and decided to go to Barwadih which is around 15 Km. from here. There is a famous temple atop a hill overlooking the town and it’s famous for a Swayambhu deity of Ganesha.

One needs to climb quite a few stairs in order to reach the temple. The bonus is a full panoramic view of Barwadih town. Inside the temple you can see the Swayambhu deity of Ganesha. According to the locals there used to be an old temple surrounding the Ganesha but the temple now is being completely rebuilt.

Steps Leading Up To the Temple

View of Barwadih Town from the Hill

Riots of Colour Surrounding the Hill

Newly Built Temple around the Deity

 

Swayambhu Deity of Ganesha

Barwadih town is quite unique, this is perhaps few places in the country where I have seen a Church and Mosque side by side in a town which is famous for its temple.

Being Holi we saw some children’s enjoying the festivity. However we were bit scared and did not dare to venture out of our vehicle fearing that our cameras would get damaged.

Church on the Left and Mosque on the Right

Children’s Enjoying Holi

Children’s Enjoying Holi

We had our lunch at Van Vihar hotel since no other options were available, due to Holi the entire place was almost empty. Post lunch we watched India – West Indies Cricket World Cup match as we had decided to go to the BETLA safari in the evening and we had time to kill.

Its Game Time

Route Map from Hotel to Betla National Park Entry Gate

We had booked our safari jeep earlier and the driver was knocking at our door at exactly 3.30 PM. Since we did not have Jeep or Sumo so we could not take our Tata Indica inside and had to hire this Jeep, else you can go on your own with a guide and park entry fee. Additionally you need to purchase ticket for each camera that you carry but with a small tip to the guide you can ignore this, he will hide the cameras below the seat while entering and exiting.

Once inside the park we could see herd’s deer running around, we instructed our driver to take us directly to the core jungle and he did oblige. We also went to the two watch towers. Being early summer the water holes were dry and we could only see the foot marks of various animals.

We were luck to spot a mother Bison along with her young ones, this was the first time that I had seen bison from such close distance. The only regret was that we could not spot Tiger and Leopard which the earlier safari team had spotted. Apart from this we spotted Peacock, wild birds etc.

BETLA also has the option for Elephant Safari but we did not avail that as the distance covered by Elephants are much smaller. This is however a must if you have children with you, they will enjoy the ride all along.

Entry Gate to Betla National Park

Official Rate Chart

Roads inside the Betla National Park

Betla National Park

Safari Jeep Inside Betla National Park

Madhuchua Watch Tower

Dried Up Water Hole

Elephant Footprints

Roads inside the Betla National Park

A Young Bison

Bison

Bison

Seedha Pech Watchtower

Peacock

Langur

Road Blocked By a Fallen Tree

Herds of Deer

Herds of Deer

Elephants Used For Safari

Bye Betla, Welcome Maromar

Betla to Maromar

Next morning we decided to proceed towards Maromar forest which falls on the way between Betla and Netarhat. Initially we planned to spend a night at Maromar Forest Rest House but we were told that at present it’s under renovation. It’s a must to stay here since the forest here is dramatically different from Betla. The forest is much denser and much greener in this part. However it is also to be noted that this part of the forest is also notorious for high insurgent activity thus limited stops are recommended.

Roads around Maromar

Roads around Maromar

Spotted This Sheep Herder in Maromar

Maromar

North Koel at Garu

North Koel at Garu

Water Falls from Waterfall

Our driver reported low air pressure on the right rear tyre thus we stopped over at Garu for repairs, we also had our breakfast in one of the village shops. We were welcomed and had the best breakfast of the trip, followed by hot freshly prepared Bundi ka Ladoo.

Hot Bundi Ka Ladoo Being Prepared

We went towards Mahuadanr and from there towards Chatakpur which took us towards Lodh falls. The roads become quite narrow at stretches and often you may think that you have come the wrong way. After driving nearly half an hour through these stretches you finally reach Lodh Falls. It is recommended that you come right after the monsoon season to see the might waterfall at its best.

Take Right to visit Sugga Bandh

Lodh Falls

Lodh Falls

Lodh Falls

Lodh Falls

Lodh Falls

Lodh Falls

Netarhat Here We Come

Lodh Falls to Netarhat

We proceed towards Netarhat hoping to reach there by lunchtime. The scenery starts to change slowly and we soon find ourselves climbing up hill. We miss a critical turn towards Netarhat and unknowingly proceed towards Ranchi. Luckily I spot the milestone where the Km for Ranchi was decreasing slowly and make an about turn back towards the turn. We reach Netarhat Prabhat Vihar Hotel at around 2.45 PM and quickly have our lunch. The food menu here is similar to that of Betla so we were not much surprised.

Farmland in the Flats

Aftab Checking Up His Car at Netarhat

Gate Marking the Entrance to Netarhat

At Netarhat you must see Sunset and Sunrise, it’s a real treat to your eyes. We drove towards the Sunset point which is around 5 Km from the hotel. The roads are very nice and properly marked.

Prabhat Vihar Hotel at Netarhat

View From Prabhat Vihar Balcony

The Rooms Inside

Water, Water Everywhere

As we were going our eyes got locked into a blue watery body, we were not aware of this as it was not in our list of destination. We asked Aftab to stop and ran towards the lake locally known as Badka Bandh. We saw some local boys pelting stone at an object, as we approached we were warned by them to be careful. Its then we realized that they were trying to chase away a large snake that had recently ingested some large prey and was busy basking in the evening sun. We were terrified and started walking slowly, its then we realized that the entire lake area is infested with various types of snakes and that’s the main reason why tourist usually avoid it. However if possible it’s recommended to stop by this lake even from a distance and appreciate its beauty.

You need to drive for another fifteen minutes before you finally reach the Sunset Point but before that you will pass through some of the most visually stunning landscape of Netarhat. With Pine trees covering the sides this part of the land looks like a piece of heaven on earth.

Badka Bandh

Badka Bandh

Locals Chasing a Snake

Checkered Keelback (Xenochrophs Piscator)* 

* Thanks to Mayur Shinde for identifying the snake correctly

Sun Goes Down

By the time we reach Sunset Point it was already filled up with a huge contingent of tourists. This place has good facility in terms of seating arrangements with shade and some sculptures which beautify the viewing point. We decided to be a bit different and climbed up a scaffold structure which was being used to construct another seating area. We managed to use the bamboo pole as a support and climbed up. After a while Sudipto alerted us that he was constantly feeling a shake which implies that the structure was not stable and the weight of three of us was too much for it. We quickly climbed down and positioned ourselves in a secluded corner with a clear view of the hills ahead.

What we got next is a real magic of nature, I witnessed the most beautiful sunset I have even seen from a hill station, and I just cannot describe it by words alone.

We had a quick dinner and went to bed early as we had to wake up early the next morning to see the Sunrise. Luckily the sunrise point of Netarhat is just twenty meters from our hotel so we need not take our vehicle.

On Way to Sunset Point

On Way to Sunset Point

Sunset at Netarhat

Sunset at Netarhat

Sunset at Netarhat

What Goes Down Must Come Up

At around midnight Sudipto woke up with a sudden tooth ache, a quick round of Crocin, Disprin and a dosage of Antacid came to the rescue and with an hour the pain was much subsided. Could not sleep much after this so just had a quick nap. Woke up around 4.30 AM and went to the terrace of the hotel to see the sun come up.

Just as the sunset was spectacular, similarly the sunrise was equally brilliant. Various colours lit up the sky like a canvas with oil paint.

We wanted to depart early as there were nothing else to see so we were ready by 8 AM, Aftab was also ready to take us to the next leg of the journey.

Sunrise at Netarhat

Sunrise at Netarhat

Sunrise at Netarhat

Sunrise at Netarhat

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Sunrise at Netarhat

Just One Minute from Here

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Route Map to Pine Forest and Nashpati Garden

 

There were few places we wanted to see at Netarhat before heading towards Ranchi, among them we had shortlisted Naspati (Pear) Garden, Pine Forest, Ghagri Falls and Palamu Daak Bunglow. Naspati Garden was an easy find as we were instructed that it’s behind the lake so we took a road that leads to the back of the lake and with fine minutes we were in Naspati Garden. The garden smelt sweet and was in full bloom with white flowers and bees all over them.

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Going Towards Nashpati Garden

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Nashpati (Pear) Flower

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Nashpati (Pear) Garden

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Nashpati (Pear) Garden

Our next destination was Upper Ghagri Falls so we asked some locals about the directions, we were instructed to drive ahead and take the first left turn which would take us to Ghagri Falls. Till now we have not yet realized the great mistake that we have done. Aftab drove as instructed and we reached the road diversion and took the left as instructed. After driving a kilometre or so we found the roads getting denser and the road vanishing under the heaps of leaf. Aftab warned us that we might be going in the wrong direction and might head straight to the den of insurgents. We did not pay much attention to this as we just wanted to go to Ghagri Falls. After driving more than nine kilometres I had a gut feeling that we were now lost in a complete dense jungle with no road sign and that too is a complete danger zone. I immediately asked Aftab to stop and turn back, Aftab by now was shivering with fear and was constantly saying prayer.

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Wrong Turn into Dense Forest

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Wrong Turn into Dense Forest

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Wrong Turn into Dense Forest

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Wrong Turn into Dense Forest

Aftab made a quick turn around, I could see that he was right in his fear, the dry leaves were creating a slipper surface which was making navigation extremely difficult. As we turned back I saw a writing on the hill side written in red on a large stone “Jungle Hamari Hai, Iska Raksha Karengay” which translates to “Jungle is our land, we will protect it”. The next nine kilometres back to where we started were like a very long drive. My fear was that of Land Mines below the cover of dead leaves, this I had not shared with others. Once we reached back to the main village we were somewhat relived.

Then came the madness navigation, we kept asking every passer-by and remarkably each of them gave a different direction to Upper Ghagri Falls. Some said one kilometre while the other said five, finally we asked a group of Specaial Forces personnel and they warned us not to venture there as it’s unsafe at that moment due to an ongoing patrolling. Additionally they warned us not to go towards the left (where we just came back from) as it’s absolutely a no go zone. Aftab on hearing this was more shocked and prayed once more that he was back to safety.

We did not tell them anything and decided to abandon our plan for Ghagri Falls and instead go to Pine Forest. This place was just opposite to Nashpati Garden thus was easy to navigate.

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Pine Tree

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Pine Tree

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Pine Cone with Sapling

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Pine Forest

After this we decided to end our journey with a final stop to the famous Palamu Daak Bunglow. We desparately wanted to stay here but somehow we could not manage to get a booking.

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Pine Forest

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Palamu Daak Bunglow

The Final Chapter

Finally we bid goodbye to Netarhat and started our long journey back to Ranchi. We stopped at Chipri on the way to have brunch. We were all tired and wanted to reach Ranchi as soon as possible. It took around three and a half hour to reach Ranchi where we rested at my in law’s house for some time since our return train was at 9.45 PM (Hatia – Howrah).Had dinner at the station and took the train back to Kolkata.

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Netarhat to Ranchi

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Brunch at Chipri

Thus concluded my journey “In the land of the Red”, the colour red signifies the soil, the Palash and the daily struggles of the people of this land. This journey has come to an end but notmy story, wait for my next adventure.

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Sudipto, Subhadip & Amitabha

Jharkhand Tourism Helpline  :-

18003456571

Hotel Information  :-

Betla

Van Vihar (Jharkhand Tourism)

94303 76275 (Ranjit Singh)

Rs. 900 for AC Double Bed + Tax. Extra Person Rs. 200. Tax and Extra Person payable at hotel

Booking at: Jharkhand Tourism Development Corporation (JTDC), Usha Kiran Building, Flat 8B, 8th Floor, 12A Camac Street , Kolkata 700017 Phone – 033 2282 0601

Hotel Debjani

Forest Rest House Betla 72095 98435

Forest Rest House Koel 06562 222993

Netarhat

Prabhat Vihar
(Jharkhand Tourism)

93046 76275

Rs. 900 for AC Double Bed + Tax. Extra Person Rs. 200. Tax and Extra Person payable at hotel

Booking at: Jharkhand Tourism Development Corporation (JTDC), Usha Kiran Building, Flat 8B, 8th Floor, 12A Camac Street , Kolkata 700017 Phone – 033 2282 0601  

Sightseeing Information  :-

Betla

Betla National Park = 0 KM
Palamu Fort = 5 KM
Kechki = 10 KM
Barwadih Temple = 15 KM
Suga Bandh = 60 KM
Lodh Falls = 101 KM
Tatha Hot Water Spring = 35 KM
Mandal Dam = 45 KM

Netarhat

Sunset Point = 10 KM
Sunrise Point = 0 KM
Pine Forest = 2 KM
Nashpati Garden = 3 KM

Car Booking  :-

Sumo Shiraz – 99050 47974

Tata Indica Aftab – 82298 36263

(Rs. 700 per day + Rs. 200 Driver Allowance OR food for the driver + Fuel*)
* Fuel @ Non AC 12 Kilometres per Litre OR  AC 10 Kilometres per Litre

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16 thoughts on “Land of the Red

  1. Excellent . Hv enjoyed it . Bengali who love Ray’s film must be nostalgic reading any review on this shooting location of Arroner Din Ratree.

    Like

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