There are eight main tribes in Bastar spread among more than 3500 villages, ranging from the Ghadwa (specialists in bell metal) to the Doria in the far southern forests, the only tribe to make their homes from tree branches and leaves (instead of mud thatch). One of the most fascinating ways to get a taste of Bastar’s vibrant Adivasi culture is the colourful haats (markets). These are the lifeblood of tribal Chhattisgarh. Tribal people walk up to 20km to trade (often barter) everything from their distinctive, almost fluorescent, saris to live red ants.
You’ll find all kinds of fascination here, including bell-metal craftwork (a mix of bronze and brass), a skill passed down through generations for some 300 years in some cases. The large piles of what look like squashed dates are in fact dried mahuwa flowers, either eaten fresh, or dried then boiled to create steam, which is fermented to produce a potent liquor, the favourite tipple of many Bastar Adivasis.
You can get to many local Adivasi villages by bus from Jagdalpur (most start from Sanjay Market) and this is certainly an option on market days – but some are pretty inaccessible, and if you want to actually meet tribal people, rather than just look at them, a guide is essential as a translator if nothing else. They can also help you arrange homestays. A day with Awesh Ali is a truly enlightening experience. He's a highly experienced guide who speaks nine languages (four of which are tribal). Contact him directly, or through Jagdalpur's Tourism Information Centre. A car and driver (which the tourist office can organise) will cost from ₹1400 to ₹1800 per day including fuel.
Most haats run from around noon to 5pm. There are many of them – the following are just some of the more popular ones. Ask at Jagdalpur's Tourism Information Centre for details. Shared 4WDs normally hang around markets to take people back to Jagdalpur.
|When||Where||Distance from Jagdalpur||Bus from Jagdalpur (fare, duration)||Features|
|Mon||Tokapal||16km||₹25, 30min||bell-metal craftwork from Ghadwa Adivasis|
|Wed||Darbha||35km||₹45, 1hr||attended by Dhurwa Adivasis|
|Thu||Bastar||20km||₹30, 30min||easy to reach from Jagdalpur|
|Fri||Lohandiguda||36km||₹45, 1¼hr||Halba, Muria and Maria tribes; 1km off Chitrakote road|
|Fri||Nangur||22km||no direct bus||attended by distant forest Adivasis|
|Fri||Nagarnar||24km||no direct bus||colourful Bhatra Adivasis|
|Sat||Kuknar||70km||₹65, 2hr||Bison-Horn Maria stronghold|
|Sun||Jagdalpur||-||-||city location, open late into the evening|
|Sun||Pamela||12km||₹10, 20min||animated crowds|