The quest for offbeat places and cultural exploration took me one fine day to the Saranda forests of Jharkhand. A visit to Kiriburu. The fact that they are known to be the largest Sal forests of Asia, pumped me further. After all anything with an ‘est’ attached to it is enough motivation for today’s generation to test their limits. Ho tribe inhabits the area which further piqued my curiosity. Nestled in the midst of Saranda forests lies a beautiful hill town, Kiriburu, locally called the mini Switzerland of Chaibasa.
How to reach Kiriburu
Chaibasa, the prevalent name for West Singbhum district of Jharkhand is the nearest city. It has a variety of terrain for you to explore. It has a city center with small cafes serving pizzas, it has villages spread out on plains as well as mountains for all the mountain-lovers out there. What more you can find is a lot of well-planned townships to manage the products of mining from the coal-rich state. To reach Chaibasa, the nearest airport is the Ranchi airport (4 hours away) and the nearest railway station is Jamshedpur (2 hours away).
There are a number of local buses that ply from Chaibasa to Kiriburu, mostly at fixed times. Alternatively, you can hire a private taxi. Now the night owls should keep in mind that no bus or mode of travel would be found post 4 pm. The district comes under the red belt, the respect for tribal life or maybe the fear of MCC attack keeps all travels restricted to broad day light.
The journey from Chaibasa to Kiriburu
I got myself packed some ‘sattu luchis’ with ‘chane’ from a local shop at Chaibasa and set out for the 4-hour long bus ride for a visit to Kiriburu. Moving away from the city center of Chaibasa, the outskirts were mainly lush green areas and farm lands. Spotting a lotus pond with ducks in it is also a site to remember for a city dweller like me. As the bus ride continued, my eyes were glued to the beauty outside. As small villages passed on the way, the simplicity of life there started to catch my attention. With just 3-4 hens in a bag, or with just a handful of vegetables spread out on a small gunny bag, people began their daily market. This is probably what surviving on day to day subsistence is. It seemed, filling pockets was never their idea of living. They wanted to make just enough money that they needed for a day. The simplicity and peace were so different from the hustle of modern-day city life…
Now I share an insider travel trip for the explorers at heart, “to know a place best, reach its villages and talk to the locals”. Even our Prime Minister tells, ‘Go Local’, so why not? This is a rule of thumb advice that I try to follow for every new place I visit. The authenticity, the age-old folk stories, the ethnic habits, be it in food or lifestyle can be found nowhere else. Talking to my fellow bus mates, I found a lot of interesting ways the tribal ways of living during my visit to Kiriburu. A specific thing to be noticed after the sunset is the sound of music beats every single day. On these beats dance the inebriate men and women, high on a ‘Hadiya’ (a locally brewed rice beer) with their typical folk dance beats. They celebrate life each day.
The untouched beauty of Kiriburu
A fresh smell of rain, petrichor as it is called interrupted my story. I was again drawn outside the window. Very tiny droplets of water touched my face. A lush green forest dancing in rain could be seen. We had entered the Saranda forests. Out of the tourist limelight, this quaint land looked all the more beautiful washed in rains. The soil was deep red, due to high iron ore mines in and around the region. The green color totally contrasted the deep red soil. It is not advised to venture alone in the forests. Wild elephants are quite high in number here. They might trample anything in their line of sight if disturbed. Living in harmony with ‘Jal’, ‘Jungle’ and ‘Zameen’ is something that only the tribals have learnt over time.
In the middle of a dense canopy of trees, I could again start noticing a few buildings now. Probably Kiriburu had arrived. In Ho language, the word Kiriburu means ‘the elephant hill’.
It is a township governed by the Sail Authority of India. Just adjoining the SAIL guest house is a very beautiful viewpoint, offering a breath-taking view of the vast stretching mountains. Just so you know, Saranda is known to be the land of seven hundred hills. And the peace you feel here is something words cannot describe. I wish I had planned a stay here, but I had to head back before dark. With a lot of peace in my heart, and memories which calm me even till date, I came back for a visit to Kiriburu.