Chhattisgarh

A Complete Travel Guide to Dholkal

Have you heard of Dholkal? Do you know where exactly it is?If you are not from Chhattisgarh, I seriously doubt that you have even heard of it.

In fact, until 2012, even people in Chhattisgarh didn’t know much about it. Dholkal has truly been a treasured secret of the locals in Chhattisgarh.

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Dholkal – History and Mystery

In Dantewada district of Southern Chhattisgarh, lies a small hill, shape of which resembles a dhol (Indian drum), and hence, it became popularly known as Dholkal. So, what’s so special about Dholkal?

Atop Dholkal hill, sits a 1000 years old Lord Ganesha idol at the height of around 3000 ft. overlooking the dense forests of iron-rich Bailadila mountain range.

Dholkal Ganesh at 3000 ft.
Dholkal Ganesh at 3000 ft.

Legend has it that once Lord Parshuram wanted to meet Lord Shiva. However, Lord Shiva had appointed Lord Ganesh as guard, who did not let Parshuram in. As Parshuram forcefully tried to enter, Ganesha threw him on earth here at the Bailadila mountain range.

When Parshuram gained consciousness, a war broke out between him and Ganesha. During the war, Parshuram took out his weapon, Farsa (a kind of weapon made of iron)and cut one tooth of Ganesha. That’s why, Ganesha is also known as Ekdant; the village nearest to the hill was named Faraspal (name derived from Parshuram’s weapon). It is also said that,because Parshuram’s Farsa fell here, the Bailadila mountain range became rich in iron ore.

However, nobody knows exactly when and how this extremely heavy and beautifully carved Ganesha idol was put here on top of the hill in such dense forest. Archaeologists believe that the idol was made in 9th-11th century during Nagwanshi rule in the region.

There was another temple, dedicated to Sun God, on the nearby hilltop, but nothing remains now; locals suggest that the idol of Sun God was stolen around 15 years ago.

View of Dholkal hill top from the nearby hill top from where the idol of Sun God was stolen. If you look closely, you will be able to see "dhol" shaped rock.
View of Dholkal hill top from the nearby hill top from where the idol of Sun God was stolen. If you look closely, you will be able to see “dhol” shaped rock.

Dholkal Ganesh – Lost and Found

Earlier known only to limited local people, Dholkal Ganesh gained nation-wide attention when a journalist re-discovered it in 2012.

However, In January 2017, the Ganesh idol suddenly disappeared.Upon investigation, the idol was found at the bottom of the hill, broken in 56 pieces; in fact, despite painful and dangerous search operation, all broken parts of the idol could not be recovered.

Later, a team of archaeologists brought all the available pieces together and re-established the idol on the same hill-top. Even today,those marks of broken pieces are visible on the idol.

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Look at the details of the beautiful Ganesh idol.
Look at the details of the beautiful Ganesh idol.

Journey as Good as the Destination

Dholkal has always been a place of religious significance among the local people; but, after its re-discovery in 2012, the place become popular attraction for adrenaline junkies.

Apart from the excellent valley views from the top, Dholkal offers a great trek through the dense forests in which even sunlight cannot penetrate fully!

Misty forest during monsoon.
Misty forest during monsoon.

From the start of the trek to the hill top, the trek route is roughly around 4-5 km one way. In all fairness, I must admit that the trek is little difficult as it involves steady incline throughout. In fact, it is definitely not for the faint hearted because the last leg of 100-200m climb is extremely technical and dangerous as one has to climb some really steep rocks.

However, the highlights of the trek – huge ant-houses, natural tree swings, stream crossing, a tiny waterfall, thick dense trees and creepers – make the entire trek enjoyable and exciting.

And in the end, the view from the top is all worth it!

View of Bailadila mountain range from Dholkal peak.
View of Bailadila mountain range from Dholkal peak.

Best Time to Visit

Trek to Dholkal Ganesh can be done all year round. However, experience varies drastically in different seasons.

During Summer (April to June), the heat of the blazing sun can hardly penetrate the thick tree covers of the dense forest; this makes the entire stretch of trekking in the jungle extremely soothing for the body; you get crisp air to breathe. However, be prepared to face the blazing sun once you reach the peak; it can get really hot.

The hilltop visible in the picture is the place where the idol of Sun God was placed earlier.
The hilltop visible in the picture is the place where the idol of Sun God was placed earlier.

If you love misty mountains, clouds covered peaks, drizzling water, earthy smell of wet soil and freshly bathed green leaves, then Monsoon (July to September) is the best time for you to visit Dholkal. Be prepared to get mucky while trekking. Also, be extremely careful while climbing the slippery rocks at the peak. Even though during cloudy days you can’t see the entire valley from the top, the feeling of rain-filled clouds gushing past you is unmatched.

Winter (October to March) is possibly the prettiest time to visit Dholkal peak with perfect cool weather, bluest sky and greenest trees.

Dholkal peak covered with clouds during monsoon.
Dholkal peak covered with clouds during monsoon.

How to Reach

Raipur – Jagdalpur – Dantewada – Faraspal – Dholkal

In order to reach Dholkal, you will have to first reach Dantewada town. Dantewada is around 80 kms from Jagdalpur, the main city in the Southern Region of Chhattisgarh. Jagdalpur, in turn, is around 300 kms from Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh. Both private cabs and public buses are easily available from Raipur to Jagdalpur and Dantewada.

Faraspal, the village closest to Dholkal, is around 11 kms from Dantewada town. A little ahead of Faraspal, lies Dholkal base.

You need to buy an entry ticket (nominal charge) for yourself and for your vehicle from the tourist center at Dholkal base. It is recommended to take a registered guide from Dholkal base because the jungle is dense.

Interesting trees and creepers while trekking.
Interesting trees and creepers while trekking.

Where to Stay

If you want to stay in a hotel, you can either stay at Jagdalpur or at Dantewada; however, Jagdalpur has better stay options.

Recently, the District Administration of Dantewada has also started Tribal Homestays to provide tourists an opportunity to stay with thelocal tribal people and experience their culture.

If you are little more adventurous and thrill seeker, you can also do night camping, while enjoying bonfire and sleeping under the blanket of stars.

You can book Tribal Homestay or Camp through either Dantewada Tourism  or Unexplored Bastar

Southern Chhattisgarh is famous of huge ant hills and you will see few of them in Dholkal trek route as well.
Southern Chhattisgarh is famous of huge ant hills and you will see few of them in Dholkal trek route as well.

What to Carry

Since the trek involves a lot of walking on muddy (and slushy during monsoon) trail and a little bit of rock climbing, wear extremely comfortable clothes (no Jeans please) and sturdy shoes. Also, it is better to carry a cap/hat (except during monsoon).

Don’t forget to pack some snacks and water for the trek. Trust me, once you reach the peak, you need some salt and sugar.

Unless you are comfortable in climbing steep rocks with a heavy backpack, avoid carrying a DSLR; a small digital camera, mobile or GoPro is recommended for photography as they are easier to carry.

Last 200-300m of trek route involves a lot of rock climbing.
Last 200-300m of trek route involves a lot of rock climbing.

Let’s have some Food

Once your trek is over, do not miss the opportunity to relish freshly prepared local tribal food (including the world famous Chapda – Red Ant Chutney) at a very reasonable cost at Dholkal base; just inform your guide about it while buying the entry ticket.

However, if you are not keen to try tribal food, then you will get basic restaurants at Dantewada (my favourite is Indian Coffee House at Dantewada).

For snacks, newly opened Jaivik Café (Organic Café) at Dantewada is also a good option.

A natural swing midway of the trek route.
A natural swing midway of the trek route.

I have done Dholkal trek twice –  during winters and  monsoon; and both the times, I have been equally ecstatic. For anyone who loves trekking and wants to explore the hidden beauty of Chhattisgarh, Dholkal trek is a Must-Do.

So, when are you going to Dholkal?

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