Stunning waterfalls, better home-made
by Preeti Verma Lal
I just wanted to laze and enjoy the rains
in Ranchi. I lazed and lazed and when days ticked past I
knew I had to return to the urban jungle. But before that
I did a recap - I have mellowed, I am no longer giggly,
I have turned vegetarian, but trust me the kebabs still
smell as good and nothing can beat the frozen slush. Unless,
you want to quaff swigs of handiya, the local brew, get
sozzled, and sway like a breeze near the hills. Believe
me, only Ranchi offers this kind of tangy joy!
starched nuns in school and a rather wild leopard at home,
growing up in Hazaribagh meant hopping between a feral and
a very Catholic (read: prim and propah) world. There was
nothing hip about Hazaribagh and for all us giggly girls
the hippest place was just 90 kms away. It was Ranchi. When
the nuns were generous and packed us in the grey bus for
an excursion, we instantly knew the next stop - Ranchi.
Or its gorgeous waterfalls - Hundru, Johna, Dasham. When
dad and ma went ecstatic at all those stout A+ and Excellents
in the report card, we knew where the kebabs, the frozen
slush and the shopping spree would be - Ranchi.
That's the Ranchi I knew as a giggly girl.
With years, the giggles mellowed, the
pinafores were given away and my definition of a hip city
changed. But after a long stint in the US when I returned
to Ranchi I wanted to see all that I had seen years ago.
And I began with Tagore Hill that confidently takes its
name from a Tagore, but which one? The time-honored fable
is that Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore lived and even
wrote some portions of the Geetanjali here. But scholars
debate that vehemently. The famous Tagore never came to
Ranchi, it was his elder brother, Jyotindranath Tagore,
who lived in seclusion in eight-roomed house atop a 300
ft high hill after the suicide of his wife Kadambari Devi.
But much has changed about the Hill, the house has been
renovated, the 100-odd steps are more friendly and if you
are in dire need of fresh air, just walk up.
Lying on the feet of the Hill is Rama
Krishna Mission, which other than its clichéd saintliness
is also known for its lush wheat fields, a beautiful rose
garden. In its loam grow okra the size of a drumstick, perfect
jackfruits, large corn and absolutely luscious pumpkins.
For anybody with a green thumb, the Mission's garden is
a must dekko.
Another great-for-the-lungs haunt is the
Rock Garden that sits next to the Kanke Dam. The Garden
is a much newer addition to the must-see list, but you can
while away hours sipping piping hot coffee or munching on
roasted gram laced with lime and chillies, pakoras, crunchy
potato chips or slurp on chow. Ignore the spellings: Chinies
food, Coal Drank, Raju's nudles; enjoy the munchies and
let the breeze flirt with your hair. Wait for the sun to
vanish in the lake and see the town come alive at night
in what resembles Virginia Woolf's 'series of gig lamps
symmetrically arranged' description.
There are other things that make Ranchi
special - the Nakshatra Van and the Jahaj Ghar. In the Nakshatra
Van, you don't just go pick up crotons or plants that catch
your eye, you choose according to your zodiac sign. And
then there is the Jahaj Ghar. Carved out of the mountains
on Kanke Road are two houses - one resembling a ship, the
other an aeroplane. Once upon a time, these houses built
by Arjun Roy attracted queues of curious onlookers, but
now the glory and the sheen is gone.
Like any other ancient Town, Ranchi has its pantheon of
favourite deities and religious places with reams of legend
behind them. Like the 300-year old Jagannath Temple built
by Thakur Ani Nath Shahdeo, the King of Barkagarh, in 1691.
Not only are the idols exact replicas of the idols in Puri,
even the temple is being renovated to look exactly like
the one in Puri, Orissa.
And then there is the Gossner Evangelista
Lutheran Church, usually referred to as Murla (headless)
church. It is said that Father Johannes Gossner Evangelista
took a bullock cart from Bankura in West Bengal and reached
Ranchi on November 2, 1845. Chotangapur was becoming a hotbed
of Christian activities and it took five years and Rs 13,000
to build an 800-seat GEL church with russet exterior and
I had done my city rounds, but any visit
to Ranchi is half-hearted if you don't spare a day and drive
to the waterfalls that can be great day trips. Hundru is
43 kms away and streams gurgle down brown cliffs and into
the beryl waters of Subarnarekha. Johna falls are secluded
and solitary, but a great place to laze in the afternoon.
If you want to go breathless and see Buddha, walk down 280
steps, cross a stream and enter a tribal village that has
a temple dedicated to Lord Buddha. Dassam Falls (26 kms
away) borrows its name from the 10 streams that gush 144ft
downhill. Here's a travel advisory: Carry your food and
water, there are no convenience stores around the falls.
At the end of all this, my knees were
bumbling and I just wanted to laze and enjoy the rains in
Ranchi. I lazed and lazed and when days ticked past I knew
I had to return to the urban jungle. But before that I did
a recap - I have mellowed, I am no longer giggly, I have
turned vegetarian, but trust me the kebabs still smell as
good and nothing can beat the frozen slush. Unless, you
want to quaff swigs of handiya, the local brew, get sozzled,
and sway like a breeze near the hills. Believe me, only
Ranchi offers this kind of tangy joy!
in Sun magazine, June 2005