Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Marble Rocks - A Visit

The road is pockmarked with potholes and driving is very difficult all the way through. An extensive network of roads have been created in Jabalpur increasing the burden of tax payers. But nevertheless it has made traveling from one place to another easier and less time consuming.  (Minus the holes).  

The road intersects a wide section of the city through greener areas, and except for the holes, driving is pleasant.  Soon we are past the scenic MPEB HQ and reach the lake which is man made and ill kept. One of the best retreat the lake is full of waste matter and plastic on the shores. The residents of the nearby colony throw their litter here. It is a good place to watch for migratory ducks like gargeny teals which arrive from Siberia.

After a cursory glance we proceed further towards the Bargi Colony and from here we take a turn towards Duandhar Falls one more cross road and in few minutes we are at the Fall. After visiting the place from childhood I have found the transformation to be horrific. The nature has been completely destroyed by mining and roads.The surroundings have been completely ravaged here as in the gorge by miners, and wood loggers.

Before this place was a pristine spectacle with forested hills and a zig zag gully between the rocks that lead to the falls. The Narmada River dips here into a depression about 40 feet creating a dazzling spectacle that is still mesmerizing. The tons of water fall on rocks and rebound as fine spray creating curtains of mist hence the name.(Dhuan = Smoke - Dhar = Fall)

A rope way crosses the river offering a spectacular overview of the fall and the gorge. From here river flows through the constricted gorge giving rise to a panoramic splendor that is Marble Rocks. The flow at the beginning of the gorge is turbulent making a boat ride impossible.

I walk up the steps on to a hill facing the falls in order to sight some birds. There are few of them so I enjoy the sight of the spectacle gushing down with great force. An Egyptian vulture soars overhead besides a bunch of house swifts that nest in the cliffs.

Ignorant of the pleasant  weather and the beautiful sky overhead, I see from my vantage point a throng of tourists gaping at the natural wonder, few are busy clicking their cameras while the rest are at the food shacks that sell mineral water, cold drinks and aloo bundas. Besides the sightseers, the place is always frequented by beggars, alm seeking sadhus and cameramen. A road leads straight to confines of the falls for those too lazy to walk from the car park.

We walk through myriads of straw thatched shacks which sell artifacts made of marble and stones. These are exquisitely carved by local craftsmen. These fragile statues and artifacts find many buyers especially tourists from other states. The sellers pursue you, coaxing you to buy something, the invitation is loud and jarring. So do the food wallahs, the best I could consume was sugar cane juice while my guests hogged on steaming hot samosas and cold drink. 

We drive past the MPT Complex and the temple complex (Chousath Jogini) to reach the parking. Chuastah Jogini is a stone walled circular courtyard enclosing ancient idols of 64 consort of Godess Durga. A lone Shiva temple is constructed in the midst. the idols have been disfigured by Mogul invaders. 

From the car parking a short walk takes you to the beginning of the steps that lead to the river for boating.  All around the story is repeated - shack selling artifacts made of soft and hard marble and the accompanying cacophony. The jetty is full of stalls selling snacks and refreshments. From the rows of parked row boats we select one after some bargaining.

The guide make the ride interesting as he describes unfolding panorama and vivid shapes on the marble cliffs with wide melange of colors. The boat moves ahead painfully slow against the white waters. I realize the spectacle of rocks is enchanting but thanks to excess water from the Bargi Dam the ledge all around is immersed in water eliminating the habitat of some water birds, snakes and an odd crocodile that we used too sight before the Dam was built. The boat ride than was serene amongst the magic of the green surroundings. Time used to stand still as we moved from one rock formation to another equally beautiful one.   

Taking a boat ride has moved on to become nerve rattling adventure from serene and even dangerous. The boat turns back from mid way, as the flow ahead is very dangerous. Nevertheless the ride is still enchanting in spite of  quick about turn.  

Both the Dhuandhar Falls and Marble Rocks are a must visit for those staying or passing through Jabalpur. There are few hotels at Beraghat for accommodation, the most popular being MPTDC hotel. The accommodation is one of the most scenic among Jabalpur hotels since it overlooks the gorge and its verdant greenery. 

The destination is about 20 km from Jabalpur Town in Madhya Pradesh. The best way to reach is to hire a taxi provided by a travel agent. There are many car rental services in Jabalpur for transportation of your own. The luxury cars can be used to reach Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench or Pachmarhi as most tourists do.         
Best season is winters and one can visit the destination right upto the start of the rain or till the Bargi Dam Over flows usually by July.