Paradise of Odisha

By Neeti Kripali Ray

We have much to t hank Dar ing Saheb, a Britisher, f o r h a v i n g discovered this little piece of heaven on earth (Paradise), ‘Daringbadi’. It is situated in Kandhamal district of Odisha, home of the Kondh ‘adivasis’. They speak the Kui and Odia languages with a distinct accent familiar to that region. Daringbadi can be reached from Berhampur via Baliguda(49kms), Muniguda(142kms), Soroda (47kms), Phulbani(105kms) and Mohana(82kms). I would like to make a point here to inform you, my family and I undertook this journey by a TATA Sumo (Jeep) from Bhubaneswar and making pitstops at Berhampur, G Udaygiri, Baliguda and finally Daringbadi. Yes, a long journey but you got to believe me, driving up the ghats, every kilometer was a feast to the eyes and an adrenaline pumping experience. Surrounded by dense forests driving uphill was a sublime experience. Now, why do you need to read a book on adventure, when you can experience it for real.

Now I am going to walk you down memory lane with me through Daringbadi. It was in the month of October that we visited these beautiful villages of Kandhamal. To be in Daringbadi is a joy, to behold and translate the experience into words is a difficult proposition. You barely step out of the car and you hold your breath because the air around is cold, chilly and clean. The vista all around will make you gasp for more clean air alien to city dwellers and the sight of lush green valleys all around will hold you spellbound. You can see in the distance, fields of yellow flowers of the mustard plant swaying in the gentle breeze making you feel light in the head unable to perceive the purity and virginity of the land. A true reminder to us that nature stands tall and proud and mightier than all our tall concrete endeavors..On arrival, a typical scene in any village, we had a huge group of men, women and children looking at us. Some were smiling, some sizing us up, some giggling and chattering away in their strange tongue, some may have also been cussing us !!! I now knew what a caged monkey feels like in a zoo because I felt like a city monkey that was being gaped at. Sure enough, our curiosity got the better of us as we wanted to know where their beautiful silver earrings, bangles, nose rings were from and obviously their blank lookjust confirmed to them and us that the Darwin theory was 100% true. There were about a dozen people who wanted to take our bags into the PWD guest house. Absolutely basic requirements were available in the room in the form of a double bed, two chairs and a cloth stand. Yes, my children dared to give me that look of “really, really Mom??”, as I chose to ignore and look away. The bathroom had a WC, a bucket that needed cleaning and of course the mug and there were no water taps. Water was got to the toilet from a well in the compound. I didn’t bother to look at my girls?? Hello! people this was in 1996 – sounds prehistoric isn’t it ? The hospitality given to us was over whelming and we were served with hot tea at regular intervals because it was so cold that a shawl and a cup of hot tea could not keep us warm for long. We definitely needed to put on our sweaters, mufflers and socks to feel comfortable. We were served hot meals of rice, dalma, desi chicken curry and brinjal fry – the tastiest organic meal, to die for! The evening suddenly sets in and we had lanterns as way of light as supply of electricity was erratic. We sat around a bonfire and were regaled with quaint folklore and fairly warned not to be upset by the loud rough noises made by the villagers who would be high on ‘salpa’, a local drink. All through the night we heard the distant sound of drums being played, drowning the sound of silence. Certain ethnic groups who lived in the interiors of the dense hilly forest caused this noise, as it was their way of making merry, keeping warm and being safe from wild animals. The next morning, we awoke to the chirping of birds. Ironically, the hot water in the buckets was freezing but it saved us and helped us to get ready, to check out the place. The pine trees are in abundance and look magnificent. We got to the Govt.nursery where we witnessed the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and black pepper plantations. We also visited the coffee plantation, yes you heard it right, coffee is grown in these parts of the state but the prettiest sight was that of the ‘adivasi’ people. So beautiful in their simplicity, many of the women had tattoos done on their foreheads, face, hands and feet. We got to see a variety of colourful flowers in full bloom, a sight found only in the hills. While driving, we spotted the elephants on the slopes of the hills pulling down the banana plantations. Truly, a picturesque view to be surrounded by.

A beautiful laid back hill station of Odisha, Daringbadi, pulls my heart strings, to visit it yet again. The vista described here was from a time when the ‘Kashmir of Odisha’ wasn’t that accessible. Thanks to the unrelenting development of roads by the State Government, today, Daringbadi is just a six hour drive at best from the state capital Bhubaneswar. And trust us when we say this Daringbadi has much to offer.

In the words of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A poet ought not to pick nature’s pocket. Let him borrow, and so borrow as to repay by the very act of borrowing. Examine nature accurately, but write from recollection, and trust more to the imagination than the memory.

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