Rural travel is a great way to reconnect with your roots. Here are 9 interesting rural destinations to discover in India!
By Lipika Halder
This article was originally published at The Alternative – an online publication on social change and sustainable living.
Our rich heritage and tradition lies preserved in the villages. Walk into any village across the country, and you can feel joy in the simplicity and the union with nature. The inherent beauty of villages can be felt from all villages high up in the mountains of the Himalayas to the temple towns and beaches of Tamil Nadu and the backwaters connecting the coconut towns of Kerala, and, from the dense forests and mountains in the seven sister states in the east to the dry desert lands of Gujarat and Rajasthan.
Some of these villages have gained more recognition in terms of culture, history, art, and festivals or simply because of scenic beauty. While this list is in no way comprehensive, it merely touches upon a few rural destinations that bring to light the beauty in diversity of India.
Rural destination 1: Pochampally, Andhra Pradesh
Weavers at Pochampally
The weaver’s town situated 50 kms from Hyderabad is famous for its weave known by the same name. The silk threads are painstakingly marked, dyed and dried before weaving on the ikat. Traditionally the yarn is spun on the charkhas as a household industry. Yet, the factory tour of the Pochampally weaves is also a good place to learn about the intricate art. Set amidst verdant paddy fields, the town is also the land that was home to the Bhudaan movement started by Vinobha Bhave. End the day with a sip of the freshly extracted toddy – the local farmer’s drink.
Accommodation: The APTDC has a museum and guest house in the village. Another place to see in Pochampally is the Sri Markandeshwara temple.
Access: Pochampally is connected by road from Hyderabad (50 Km)
Rural destination 2: Nepura, Nalanda district, Bihar
It is believed that Lord Buddha gave his first preaching here. Of the three Mango Groves of the Nalanda University, one of the groves was situated here; the place where Lord Mahavira and Gautam Buddha stayed. Magadhi manuscripts and the Prakriti Dialects inscriptions can still be found here. Located between the famous Nalanda and Rajgir town of Bihar, today this small village is famous for its weaves – the celebrated Tussar silk. There are about 250 families in this village, out of which 50 practice weaving.
The best time to visit is in the winter months of October to February.
Accommodation: facilities are available in village resorts.
Access: Nepura is connected by road to Rajgir (10 km) and Nalanda (4km). The nearest railway station is Nalanda, and Patna (72 km) is the closest airport.
Rural destination 3: Chitrakote, Bastar district, Chhattisgarh
Perhaps more famous for the Chitrakoot waterfalls, also known as the Niagara of India, Jagdalpur (Bastar) is also well known for its greenery, mountains, valleys, forests, streams and caves. Predominantly a tribal region, it has become a centre of folk art and handicrafts. A glimpse of the tribal life can be found in the exuberant festivities of Goncha, where mock- pistols are made of bamboo and the fruit of Goncha are hit at each other. On the other hand, the royal past is reflected in the Jagdalpur Palace, where locals converge every evening to worship at the Danteshwari temple.
It is also believed that it was in Jagdalpur that Lord Ram spent 14 years of exile. Scholars have also identified Valmiki’s ashram here.
The Bastar Dussehra spanning over 75 days and ending on the thirteenth day of the bright moon in the month of Ashwin is celebrated with a lot of pomp. It is celebrated in the honour of Devi Danteshwari, the family deity of the royal Kakatiya family.
The best time to visit is between October to March.
Accommodation: Budget hotels are available for stay in Chitrakoot.
Access: The closest airport to Bastar is Raipur, 300kms from Jagdalpur. Raipur airport is linked with Delhi and Nagpur by flights. Bus services are available from Raipur for all major places in Bastar. Limited railway facilities are available for Jagdalpur.
Rural destination 4: Hodka in Kachchh district, Gujarat
A Meghwal woman from Hodka village
Hodka, a Village near Bhuj (63 kms) is capital of the Kachchh region of Gujarat, on the edge of the white desert of clay and sand mixed Rann. Kuchchh is renowned for its shimmering mirror-worked embroidery, applique, leather-craft and mud mirror decoration. In winters, more than 100 species of migratory birds fly here in the Banni grasslands and Char Dhand wetlands.
Scan the border areas of Kala Dungar and India Bridge for breath-taking views over the Rann. Catch the celebrations at Sharad Utsav; the Dhrang fair of the Ahir community; or participate in the Hajipir fair. Share a hearty meal of bajro no roti with maakhan and gud, followed by khichdi-kadhi.
Accommodation: Shaam-e-Sarhad (Sunset at the Border) Rural Resort run by the Hodka community is a tremendous place to experience the bhunga (local designed huts made out of mud under a thatched roof), and exquisitely decorated with mirror work, textiles and other local crafts. The nights bring bonfires and performances of Kachchhi folk music.
Access: Bhuj is an Airport and has flights from Mumbai and Ahmedabad and accessible direct by Train from Mumbai, Ahmedabad and most other cities of Gujarat.
Rural destination 5: Aranmula, Pathanamthitta district, Kerala
Boat race in Aranmula
Situated on the banks of the river Pampa, Aranmula is home to Aranmula Boat Race, the oldest river boat celebration in Kerala, held during Onam (August-September). Near a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and Arjuna, Aranmula Parthasarathy temple, estimated to be 1700 years old, the snake boats row to the traditional song of the oarsmen wearing white mundu and turbans, and, shouting watched by an enthusiastic crowd. Thousands of people gather on the banks of the river Pampa to watch the snake boat races bedecked with the golden lace at the head of the boat, the flag and the ornamental umbrella at the centre. The celebration marks the safeguard of a devout Brahmin who was carrying a boat-load of offerings to the Parathasarathy temple from the enemies. In order to save the Thiruvona Thoni(offerings) people had sent their snake boats.
Accommodation: A number of home stays as well as hotels are available for stay in Arunmula.
Access: Chengannur, about 10 km away, is the nearest railway station; Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, about 117 km away, the closest airport.
Rural destination 6: Pipili in Puri district, Orissa
The famous applique work of Pipili
The tailoring town of Pipli is renowned for its applique craft, a process of cutting coloured cloth into shapes of animals, birds, flowers, leaves, gods, goddesses and other decorative motifs and stitching them over a piece of cloth. The art is seen in the form of lampshades, handbags, cushion covers and garden umbrellas, though the canopies above Lord Jagannath remains its most famous application. Pipli Sasan and Darji Sahi villages are better known as Pipli which sustain a population of about 224 families.
Accommodation: Being in proximity to Bhubaneshwar, getting an accommodation in the capital is a good option.
Access: Pipli is 20 km from Bhubaneshwar by road.
Rural destination 7: Lachen in North District, Sikkim
It is located at 8500 ft against the backdrop of snow-capped peaks, glaciers and rock cliffs, amidst mixed conifer and rhododendron forests. Made accessible to tourists only a few years back, it retains an unspoilt freshness. The village comprises of less than 200 houses, the villagers returning in winter after summers spent in alpine pastures bordering Tibet tending to their yaks. Lachen is the starting point of the trek route to the Green Lake and Kunchenjunga National Park as well as the gateway to the holy Guru Dongmar and Tso Lhamu lakes.
The Lachenpas are carefree people and like to celebrate in socializing, sporting events and feasting throughout the year. Sample the simple village life of the ‘Lachenpas’, a Sikkimese Bhutia community, in the monastery of Lachen Gompa.
Chaam, Lossong, Saga Dawa, Lhabab Dhuchen, Drukpa Tse-shi, Drukpa, Phang Lhabsol are some of the festivals of Lachen.
Other place to see is the biggest lakes in Sikkim, Tsho Lhamu, the source of river Tista which is a day tour from Lachen.
Accommodation: A few lodges are available here for stay as well as the Forest Department and PWD Bungalows.
Access: It is connected by road from Gangtok (120 km)
Rural destination 8: Karaikudi in Sivaganga district, Tamil Nadu
Karaikudi or Chettinadu is well known for its hot and spicy Chettinad cuisine. A typical meal will have meat, served on a banana leaf, with a large number of courses. Also famous are the old Chettiar mansions, rich in heritage, art and architecture, reflecting the affluence of the Chettiar community. Carved teak wood doors and frames, marble floors, granite pillars, Belgian mirrors and Italian tiles add to the beauty of the architecture.
The Karpaka Vinayakar Temple and Sri Sowmiyanarayana Perumal Kovil in Thirukoshtiyur are other places to see. The Vettangudi Bird Sanctuary located 32 kms from Karaikudi attracts a number of migratory birds including many of endangered species.
The best season to visit is November to February.
Rural destination 9: Ballabhpur Danga in Birbhum district, West Bengal
Ballavpur Danga, 3 km from Shantiniketan, is a Santhal Adivasi tribal community in the pastoral beauty of rural Bengal. The Sonajhuri forest lies to the east and the Ballavpur Avayaranya forest area and bird sanctuary is to its south. Santhali art, craft and culture is closely knit into the community’s life. They are skilled in terracotta works, batik, leather work, carpentry, mat weaving, broom binding and making ornaments with bena grass, date leaf, palm leaf and various kinds of seeds. Beautiful designs adorn the walls and floors of the homes of the adivasis, made from red earth and cowdung. The tribal dance in the open air around fire, to the rhythmic beats of the madal, their traditional musical instrument; Adivasi myths and history remain woven in their songs and recitations.
An important festival is Chabbish Prahar, which is celebrated for three days through Adivasi rituals and cultural programs. Badna is celebrated for 5 days, Charak Puja and Basanta Utsav. There is a ‘Haat’ on every Saturday at Sonajhuri and ‘Amader Haat’ every Saturday and Sunday.
Other places to see near Ballabhpur Danga are Jaydeb-Kenduli (30km), which has an old temple, Deer Park (4km), Tarapith, famous for its temple (88km), the seat of Bangla literature, music and learning- theVishwa Bharati University (3km), and Bakreshwar Hot Spring (58km).
The best time to visit is between October – April.
Access: It is 220 km from Kolkata (State Headquarters); 40 km from Suri, Birbhum (District Headquarters). Ballavpur Danga is 160 km from Howrah station by rail. The village is 5-15 minutes drive from the two nearest railway stations, Prantik and Bolpur. The closest airport is Kolkata.