Once upon a time the capital city of powerful kingdom, Raipur lost its raison dêtre when its reigning dynasty lost their domain to stronger forces. Like the phoenix, Raipur has risen from the ashes of obscurity and taken front place as the capital city of the new born state of Chattisgarh.
Few people travel to Raipur for leisure or pleasure - most visitors are business travellers in search of government contracts and lucrative deals. Those who do stray from their set itineraries discover ruins that tell tales of the city's once glorious past, fortifications that stood guard over the city, its residents and the temples and lakes that were integral to the life of the people.
CLIMATE: Winters in Raipur are cool rather than cold, the summer months make up with hot days and nights. Summer begins by the middle of March and by May, temperatures have soared to a scorching 45° C.
Shopping options abound in Chattisgarh with its myriad handicrafts and textiles. Local craftsmen produce a mind-boggling variety of handcrafted items using natural materials like wood, bamboo, bone, horn, stone, feathers as well as bell metal, gold, silver and paper. Hand woven fabric, Pithora paintings, Dokra metal animals and figurines, carved woodwork, coloured beads and chunky jewellery are some special things available for visitors to buy.
Sirpur -time has reduced the erstwhile capital of Chattisgarh to a city of ruins - tumbled down temples, royal residences and monasteries all tell the story of a grand and glorious past. The Lakshmana Temple is only monument of this period that still stands.
The bumpy road ride is made worthwhile by the museum at Sirpur - the museum houses a fine collection of statues and artefacts from the ruins.
Maharajabandh Lake - Raipur
Barnawapara (110km), Sita Nadi (170km) and Udanti (170km) Sanctuaries - are the three main wildlife sanctuaries in close proximity to Raipur. Open all year round, they are best visited in the dry season from November to June. Thick deciduous forests of sal, teak and other hardwoods provide shelter and sustenance to a host of birds and a variety of animals like the chinkara, Indian gazelle, nilgai, wild dogs, hyena, Indian bison, jackal, sloth bear and tigers.
Attractions and Places to Visit in Raipur
Raipur is a city of lakes - the many lakes that dot the area all have a historical connection and are credited to one local luminary or the other. The Kankali Talab near the Kankali Temple goes all the way back to the 1660s and was constructed under the supervision of Mahant Kripalgiri; Maharaja Roadani built the Maharajabandh Lake in 1770 and also gets credit for the Raja Talab. Dinanath built the Telibandha Lake in 1835.
The ruins of a medieval fort lie to the north of the Maharajabandh Lake - the fortifications were built during the reign of King Ramachandra, the founder of Raipur. Budheshwar Temple, Virenchi Temple, Bramha Temple, Mahamaya Temple and Samlai Temple are all situated in the fort area known as Bramhapuri.
How to Reach Raipur
By Air Raipur, the capital of Chattisgarh, is the only place in the state that is linked by air to New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Jabalpur, Bhubhaneshwar, Bhopal and Nagpur (Maharashtra) by regular Indian Airlines flights.
By Train Raipur is one of the two main junctions in the state that are on the routes of express and passenger trains that either directly or indirectly connect the state to other parts of India. The superfast Rajdhani Express connects Raipur to New Delhi, the Bilaspur-Nizamuddin Gondwana Express runs thrice a week and travels from New Delhi to Raipur via Bilaspur. Passenger and mail trains connect most big and small towns within the state to Raipur.
By Road Raipur has excellent connections to places in the neighbouring states of Andhra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. Inter-state and national highways connect Raipur to Bhopal, Nagpur, Jhansi, Jabalpur and to cities further afield like Kolkata and Bhubhaneshwar. The important towns of the region, Bhilai (25 km), Durg (41 km), Jagadalpur (297 Km), Rajnandgaon(70 km) and Bilaspur (115 km) are connected with Raipur by road. Interstate State Roadways buses ply between the different cities while chartered bus operators run services on major routes. Rented chauffeur driven cabs and MUVs can be hired from travel agents but car rental companies as such may be hard to find.