Monday, January 31, 2011

Kashmir of Orissa(Odisha)- Daringbadi

There are very few places on which I have written and have found absolutely no problem in finding a Title. Daringbadi is one of those few places which is synonymous with the word Kashmir. Way back in schooling days , my mom would read out an article from Sunday edition of Sambad that would feature a tourist place in the Travel Section. Daringbadi was covered once under this section. My mom started “ Kashmir of Orissa- Daringbadi” and by the end of the article I asked when are we going to enjoy snowfall at Daringbadi. Being a kid, I imagined a place full of tall, snow peaked mountains lined with Pine Trees and spotted with ultramarine blue lakes. I was a kid then and twenty years later I got an opportunity to visit the Kashmir of Orissa.

On the Ghat towards Daringbadi

I hate and hesitate to state myself as a Tourist and actually I was not there as a Tourist. Baliguda had been made our base for exploring the Kotagarh Sanctuary. Waiting to get a permit at DFO’s office in Baliguda for visiting Kotagarh Sanctuary in Phulbani, me and my good friend Dasa decided to venture into the Hills of Daringbadi. Couple of years back when I was working in Kansbahal, I had tried to book a room at Daringbadi, but with vain. Virtually I have read each and every page on net related to Daringbadi. As per various sources and infact as per Govt of Orissa’s official website there is Yatri Nivas of OTDC at Daringbadi. I would have almost tried thousand of times at the mentioned phone number but I guess all attendants must have been busy attending Guests. Later on sipping a cup of Tea at Sabat Tea Stall in Baliguda during the current trip, I was told by one of the localites that same response everyone who call on that number gets. Many times even complaint has been registered with the Collector. So if you are planning to go to Daringbadi then better do your bookings at Baliguda. It’s some 40 odd kms from Daringbadi and is convenient from every point of view.

On the Top...Picturesque

Pine forests of Daringbadi

We hurriedly left for Daringbadi from Baliguda but reassurances by our Driver Deba that road is good and we would take maximum one and half hour to reach the place brought some soothing effect to me and Dasa. The road to Daringbadi is picturesque and passes through some of the densest forests of Orissa. The forests are dotted with small hamlets of local tribes. These places were virtually burning couple of years back during the infamous Kandhamal Riots. But situation has changed a lot in the subsequent years. Though I would not say that everything is absolutely normal now but at least its far far better than those days when India’s Secularism status was being challenged by the world.

Life is so simple..

Common Livelihood

A typical tribal hut in this part of the world would be normally surrounded by patch of Mustard, Ginger or Pulses Fields making it a complete filmy wala setup. Pumpkins are grown on the roof. Scenes have been the same all across Phulbani wherever we have gone. Normally tribals over here are dependent on the forest produce . Collection of Mahua Flowers, Fire Wood & Bamboos is one of their sources of Income along with Agriculture. Talking of Mahua Flowers ,I can happily recall those wonderful days spent at Kansbahal. Sipping Mahuli (Mahua) , the intoxicating and divine liqueur in front of River Sankha near Mandira Dam has been one of the most unforgettable days of short but sweet stint at Kansbahal.

Nazar saaki par hain aur lab paimane par....
Dil hamara hai aaj fir kisi kay naishane par.....
Woh khaali pyla liye letein hein kabr mein apni...
Kehte hein sharab milegi jannat ke aane par...
By Unknown

Coming back to the present, we reached Simonbadi enroute Daringbadi. This road that branches out from Baliguda towards Simanbarhi again bifurcates to Daringbadi and Raikia. By the way Simonbadi ( Simanbarhi) is no way related to the swashbuckling opener of West Indies Phil Simons. There are churches all around and Christians are in majority in these areas. Also recently these areas are being frequented by Naxals. After Simanbarhi, the vegetation changed drastically as we soon climbed a ghat. My expectations soon would be crashed. We had reached the Final Ghat before Daringbadi. There were no snow peaked peaks or frozen lakes. I was expecting a drastic drop in temeperature but it was not to be. There was a pine forest but these are actually plantation done by the Horticulture Department. My childhood dreams of Daringbadi had crashed. Daringbadi is no doubt beautiful but kindly don’t expect too much. It’s a wonderful small hamlet surrounded by mustard fields and turmeric plantations. Situated on a height of 3200 ft above sea level, Daringbadi has been famous once upon a time for receiving snowfall. Hence “Kashmir” was tagged to it. These days minimum temperature dips to almost freezing point in Decembers but there is hardly any snowfall. So please come with some less expectations and you would see a better place than Mahabaleswar or Panchagani which are no doubt beautiful but too much crowd from Mumbai and Pune has ruined their beauty. Clouds had literally formed a thin cover over the fields and the whole town of Daringbadi looked like a beautiful small sleepy town in the script of Ruskin Bond. As we parked our vehicle and moved in the streets of the town there was nip and bite in the air because of a slight drizzle that had taken place some time back. It has a small bus stand from where one can also get direct bus to places like Bhubaneswar and Berhampur. I didn’t want to miss this wonderful opportunity of looking at the small town setup. People would come with their produce from small villages to the top of plateau where some local selling would happen and the rest would be bought by crooked agents who would brand it and sell in cities. Thats the reason you would very often hear things like “ Asali Kandhamal Haladi” meaning real Kandhamal Turmeric. Turmeric has been one of the primary flag bearers of products of Kandhamal over the years. You want to see the real essence of Orissa ( Odisha) leave Bhubaneswar & Cuttack and travel through the tribal hinterlands of Kandhamal in Belghar and Daringbadi. There is so much to see and experience. Experience of seeing colourful & tattooed faces of Kotia Kandhas. There is so much simplicity attached to them. Their life starts and ends here, in this land of Kandhas. Now also the Dasari or the black magician in the village predicts when rain god will endow his blessings on the village and sowing would begin. Very few patients have seen the door of the hospital. Here village baida(vet) cures every illness present in the world starting from Cancer to Erectile Dysfunction. They have not seen the outside world. For them life begins with collection of Mahuli Flowers and ends with thumping beats of Madal and rhythmic steps of Ghumura.

After a very short visit to the Coffee Garden in the town, my hunger pangs had become turbulent. We tried to find out an Eatery but there are very few over in Daringbadi. Luckily we found out the best one. Being the only decent place , it seemed whole of the town had turned up in the small place. But wait was fruitful. We got the Lunch packed and started towards Baliguda and didn’t want to miss any opportunity of having the food amidst the greenery of forests, chirping of birds and the beauty of Phulbani. We stopped after Simanbarhi . The road was devoid of any traffic and smoothness of the tar of the road served as our dining table. What an experience?? Flavour of Desi chicken had been well preserved in the packet made out of Water Lily leaves. Dasa bhaina and the Driver volunteered to unpack everything and distribute amongst the three hungry stake holders. Shrewd Dasa didn’t miss the opportunity and selected all the good pieces for himself. For next 15 minutes we turned strangers and everyone was competing with each other in gulping down the amazing gourmet.

A typical House of local tribe...self sustainance

Hungry Jackals..Dasa(in background) and Driver

By evening we were back in Baliguda. Another superb and satisfying day spend in the Tribal Heartlands of Kandhamal. If you are planning to visit Daringbadi then be there in and around January to see the real beauty and experience the freezing points. Make Baliguda your base and try to come back before evening. Roads may not be that safe these days.