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Monday, Jul 28, 2003

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The other side of this industrial city

Priyanka Banerjee

Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, has more to it than large industries. Splendid waterfalls, magnificent temples and historical sites make it a mixed bag for the tourist.

When you visit Ranchi you don't expect much from it, so naturally you are not excited about planning a holiday there. Ranchi is one of those places that is not considered a must-see travel destination. Many of us might leave it for "some other time." But once you visit this place, you realise that it is, indeed, a beautiful destination and you can derive much joy from a visit. The pleasant undulating hills crisscrossed with little streams, tranquil lakes and brooks are an awesome sight. A sleepy yet enjoyable place, Ranchi boasts splendid greenery and splashy waterfalls.

Situated picturesquely in the heart of Chotanagpur Plateau at an altitude of 2,140 ft above sea level, Ranchi is the nucleus of this area. It is well known for its scenic splendour, waterfalls, barren rocks and hillocks. This rich and varied scenery is sure to captivate tourists for days together. On the other hand, one can see the contrast with the presence of huge industries. This draws visitors with commercial interests to the place.

Ranchi derived its name from a Nagpuri word `Archi,' meaning bamboo forest. The region — Ranchi and some of its neighbouring villages — is still rich in the warmth of tribal culture. To those interested, the Bihar Tribal Research Institute and Museum is an ideal place to gather knowledge about the tribes of Bihar.

Often called the city of waterfalls, Ranchi is one of the few Indian cities where society lives in harmony with nature. And with the passage of time, it has developed into a hill resort with a beautiful countryside. Ranchi is also distinguished as a health resort, and plays host to millions of tourists who want to improve their health.

But Ranchi is not all greenery and the scenic splendour of the town has much more to offer the visitor, such as theRanchi Hill and Ranchi Lake. The hill, also the landmark of Ranchi, supports a temple of Shiva on its summit, with a lake at its foot. One can relish a panoramic view of the town and its environs from the top of this hill.

There is also the Tagore Hill located on the edge of Ranchi. The hill is named after Rabindranath Tagore, who was believed to have written a part of the famous novel Gitanjali here, besides a few other poems. At the foot of the Tagore Hill also lies the Ramakrishna Ashram. On one end of Ranchi is the Kanke Dam, which is a popular picnic spot even with locals.

A few km from the dam and 10 km from Ranchi, is the 17th-century Jagannath Temple where the annual rath yatra is held.One of the must-sees in Ranchi as the locals will tell you is the Hathia dam, about 12 km away from the city.

Then there's the Hundru Falls, where the Subarnarekha river plunges down from an altitude of 320 ft. This is a sight to behold. The pools at the base of the falls are popular bathing spots. You can experience a similar wonder at the Johna Falls, also known as Gautam Dhara, 40 km from Ranchi, on the Ranchi-Purlia road. It is another enthralling retreat amidst rich flora and fauna, beside the Kanchi river. The scenery around it is very picturesque, and, quite naturally, it is an admired picnic spot.

Adjacent to Jonha falls, is Sita falls, which is best seen early in the morning. The latter half of the day can be reserved for the Dassam Falls near the Kanchi river. These magnificent, cascading falls plummet from a height of 114 ft.

As beautiful as its name, the Hirni Falls is another captivating waterfall nestled in scenic splendour, and is situated 75 km from Ranchi.

Among the most famous temples to visit are the Rani Sati temple, situated at the fortway to Ranchi Hill. The famous Sun Temple is about 39 km from Ranchi on Tata Road near Bundu. The well-carved temple is designed in the form of a huge chariot with 18 richly decorated wheels and seven life-like horses drawing it. Built by Sanskrit Vihar, the sun temple is titled "a poem in stone." We were amazed at the sheer magnificence of the architecture.

Speaking of temples, the Digambar Jain Temple, situated in the heart of Ranchi town, is also a renowned one. The temple once again speaks of sheer genius and artistry and draws hordes of pilgrims who come to pay homage to the various shrines housed in it.

Moving on, Mc Cluskieganje, located 60 km from Ranchi on Highway 41, is a quiet village situated amidst lush forests. The name induces reminiscence and one gradually explores the place that was once popular with the Anglo-Indian community. During the 1950s, there were no fewer than 100 Anglo-Indian families with their distinctive cottages and shops. On the Ranchi-Hazaribagh road is the War Cemetery, which stands testimony to the city's contribution to the Indian freedom struggle.

Picture by the author

Fact file

How to get there

By air: Indian Airlines flights connect Ranchi with Patna, Kolkata and New Delhi regularly.

By rail: The city falls on the South-Eastern Railways zone and is well connected with the major Indian cities.

By road: There are regular bus services to all the important centres of the State.

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