Times Passion Tribal Trail in Madhya Pradesh

Times Passion Tribal Trail In Madhya Pradesh

Times Passion Tribal Trail gave an immersive experience of tribal life with interaction with the Baiga, Bharia, and Gond Tribes of Madhya Pradesh.

Times Passion Tribal Trail In Madhya Pradesh

Our heart skipped a beat as the plane touched down at the Raja Bhoj Airport, Bhopal. We were back for the Times Passion Tribal Trail. The heart of India had once again spread its welcoming arms and was eager to unveil more of its unfathomable treasures.

After having had tantalizing glimpses of Madhya Pradesh’s incredible heritage and wildlife, it was now time to explore another facet of the colourful mosaic that was Madhya Pradesh. It was time to explore and learn about the tribes of Madhya Pradesh, their lifestyles, their food, and much more. Madhya Pradesh has been home to human civilization from time immemorial and is home to what is considered to be one of the oldest Petroglyphs in Bhimbetka.

So we looked forward to interacting with the indigenous tribes and learning about their way of life on the Times Passion Tribal Trail.

Times Passion Tribal Trail in Madhya Pradesh

Times Passion Tribal Trail In Madhya Pradesh

Based on past experience we were sure of another amazing experience on the Tribal Trail presented by the Government of Madhya Pradesh and powered by Times Passion Trails.

It was time to #LiveWhatYouLove!

Times Passion Tribal Trail – The Prelude

The Taj Lakefront, nestling in pristine surroundings beside the famous Upper Lake or Bhojtal, provided the perfect setting for the launch of the Times Passion Tribal Trail. It was a day packed with excitement and surprises at every twist and turn in Bhopal.

Tribal Museum Bhopal
Tribal Museum Bhopal

A visit to the Tribal Museum served as a perfect orientation for all the travellers before they hopped on to the Times Passion Tribal Trail. It was also where we met our esteemed experience architect, Shri Vasant Nirgune.

He is a walking encyclopedia on the tribals of Madhya Pradesh, and also one of the driving forces and curator of the Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum. He has been conferred with numerous awards and honours including the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award. We felt really privileged to be exploring the tribal villages of Madhya Pradesh in his august and enlightening presence.

The Tribal Museum is a colourful and fitting encomium to the rich tribal heritage of Madhya Pradesh. The design of the museum is visually enchanting and has pleasing aesthetics. It provides an immersive experience of the homes, lifestyles, and rituals of different tribes of Madhya Pradesh and also Chhattisgarh.

“We wanted this museum to be unique and also simulate the live culture of the tribals, and this is the end result, which has been appreciated by all,” said Shri Vasant Nirgune, as he introduced the museum to us.

The ethos of Madhya Pradesh’s tribal way of life is woven into a mesmerizing mosaic of colours in the six galleries of the museum. What is truly remarkable is the fact that all the exhibits have been brought to life by the tribal artists themselves. With around 46 different tribes inhabiting Madhya Pradesh, the state is a treasure trove of Tribal heritage and culture, and the Tribal Museum provides a tantalizing glimpse of this.

The museum showcases the culture and lifestyles of seven major tribes of the region, namely, Gond, Bhariya, Baiga, Bhil, Korku, Sahariya, and Kol. You can actually walk right into the “homes,” of the tribals and revel in the aesthetic beauty of tribal art and handicrafts. One of the galleries brings alive the spiritual world of the tribals, while another kindles childhood memories through the representation of various tribal games.

The visit to the Tribal Museum was a fascinating trailer to the experience that awaited us on the Times Passion Tribal Trail.

At the launch event at Taj Lakefront, Bhopal

And as the golden glow of the sun threw its sheen over Bhopal, it was time for the formal launch of the Times Passion Tribal Trail.

Launch of the Times Passion Tribal Trail
Launch of the Times Passion Tribal Trail

The fact that the Chief Guest at the event was none other than His Excellency, the Governor of Madhya Pradesh, Shri Mangubhai.C.Patel, underlines the importance of rural tourism in the scheme of things.

Also present were other dignitaries who stressed the importance of the tribal community in India, and the need to preserve their heritage.

A hush fell on the crowd as she walked onto the stage. It was a surprise like no other that awaited the participants of the Times Passion Tribal Trail. She was none other than the iconic Teejan Bai, the famed Pandvani exponent.

Teejan Bai performing
Teejan Bai performing

Teejan Bai has won numerous accolades in her life including the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, and the Sangeet Natak Akademi award. It was a surreal moment as we watched Teejan Bai’s performance right in front of us. She transported the audience into the enigmatic world of the Mahabharata through her booming voice.

Tribal Food Festival
Tribal Food Festival

The evening culminated with a unique dinner, a specially curated Tribal Food Festival by Taj Lakefront, Bhopal. It was here that we were introduced to Kodo and Kutki which are the grains of the Millet species. These grains are rich in proteins and serve as healthier options for rice.

Other breads, chutneys, and curries from the tribal cuisine were served in true tribal fashion, as a tribal dance troupe serenaded us with an energetic and lively performance.

Rendezvous With The Bhariya Tribe At Patalkot | Bhariya Tribe

Bhariya Tribe
Bhariya Tribe

As the sun rose in splendour over Bhopal, the Times Passion Tribal Trail was formally flagged off by the experienced architect of the trail, Shri Vasanth Nirguneji. And off went our bus decorated with tribal motifs and carrying the picture of a tattooed Baiga woman, whom we would personally meet later on the trail.

After a short tea break at a place called Pipariya, at a distance of about 158 kilometres from Bhopal, we were on our way once again. Our next pitstop was the picturesque location of Tamia, a beautiful place in the lap of forests and mountains. At Tamia, we had our lunch at the Motel Tamia, and it was here that we changed vehicles.

Our bus did not have the capacity to negotiate the steep roads and the twists and turns that led into the Patalkot valley. We headed to the village of Kareaam, one of the twelve villages that nestle in the valley that is surrounded by the Satpura mountains on three sides. The mountains act as a natural fortress, hence the name Patalkot.

We descended into the Patalkot valley and trooped into the Kareyaam village of the Bhariya tribe. The people of the tribe welcomed us into their homes and regaled us with stories from their mythology and showed us glimpses of their lifestyles. The Bhariyas have inherited the esoteric knowledge of medicinal herbs that grow in the forests around them and make use of this knowledge to treat almost all ailments.

The Bhariyas have Dravidian roots and are believed to have settled in the valley some 600 years ago. Though development has reached them as was evident from the presence of cooking gas and the medals won by children that were displayed in one of their homes, they still walk a few kilometres to fetch water from a stream.

After an enriching interaction with the Bhariya tribe, we made our way to the Youreka Adventure Camp in Tamia. This was our campsite for the night. The night came alive as the Bhariya tribe demonstrated their dancing and musical skills, and soon it was time to call it a day.

Waking Up To A Magical Sunrise

Sunrise over Patalkot Valley
Sunrise over Patalkot Valley

It was still pitch dark when the shrill crowing of a rooster woke some of us from the depths of sleep. The early risers were off on a small trek that ended on a flat piece of land that overlooked the Patalkot valley and the surrounding mountains of the Satpura ranges.

The early morning trek was rewarded in good measure by the spectacle of the sun rising in all its glory over the Patalkot valley. A few moments stolen from a time filled our beings with magic and we walked back towards the camp, our beings overflowing with bliss.

A few members of the Bhariya tribe along with their magical Ayurvedic medicines had spread shop at the Youreka Adventure Resort, and some of us picked up a few of the medicines and herbs.

Mesmerizing Mandla And Gond Sculpture | Gond Tribe

With Prof Nirgune Sir at Moti Mahal
With Prof Nirgune Sir at Moti Mahal

After the lovely experience with the Bhariya tribe of Patalkot, it was time to turn yet another page of the fascinating tribal legacy of Madhya Pradesh.

What awaited next was Mandla, a place that was the centre of the erstwhile Gondwana Dynasty which saw many great Gond queens and kings hold sway over the region. We made good speed from Tamia, stopping for lunch at Sanju Ka Dhaba in Chhindwara.

We reached Mandla, as the historic town was being enveloped in the halo of dusk. After a brief visit to the Burj Narendrashahi , the fort that stands adjacent to the flowing waters of the Narmada, we visited the historic Rajrajeshwari temple. The place is a rare repository of ancient sculptures from different time periods.

Rajarajeshwari Temple Mandla
Rajarajeshwari Temple Mandla

There are Gond sculptures that mirror the simplicity of the Gond tribals. These depict Hindu deities in typical Gond tribal attire and even having Gond features. Then there are sculptures that were made during the Maratha period and those that were made during the rule of the Kalachuri dynasty that dates back to the 6th and 7th centuries.

Legend has it that the Gond King Narendrashahi had a dream in which the Goddess Rajrajeshwari appeared before him and asked him to bring her idol from the hills now in present-day Chhatisgarh and install them in Mandla. Thus was born the famous Rajrajeshwari temple which is held in reverence by the Gonds as well as others in Mandla and elsewhere.

Visiting Moti Mahal – The Citadel of Gond King Hridayshah

Moti Mahal Ramnagar
Moti Mahal Ramnagar

Mandla is a place where history greets you around every bend in the road. One of the most historic and important structures of the region is the Moti Mahal or the fort of Ramnagar. Located right on the banks of the Narmada River, this was the place from where the last of the great kings of the Gondwana dynasty, King Hridaysaahi ruled.

The ruins of the fort tell the story of the King, his queens, and their lifestyles. The King was not only an able administrator and military strategist but was also a patron of art, music, and architecture. He authored two books, “Hridaya Koutuk,” and, “Hridaya Prakash.”

His contributions have been immortalized in stone by the Moti Mahal, the Badal Mahal, the Begum Mahal and other structures that lie scattered in solitary splendour on the banks of the Narmada River in Ramanagar of Madhya Pradesh.

Gond Musicians in Traditional Attire
Gond Musicians in Traditional Attire

The deserted corridors of the Moti Mahal echoed with the sounds of drumbeats and the notes of other musical instruments as Gond and other tribals surcharged the atmosphere with tribal dance and music.

The courtyard where the King and his queen must have strolled centuries ago was now transformed into a veritable exhibition of art and craft. The fort itself unveiled many of its secrets to those who cared to listen. The visit to the Moti Mahal, conjured up intriguing memories to cherish for a long, long time.

Charismatic Chogan


Whether you believe in spirits and paranormal activity or not, the temple of Chogan is sure to intrigue you, as much as it intrigued us. The temple is a sacred and revered place for the tribals. It is a centre of the faith of the people, who come there with their ailments which are generally mental in nature.

The temple priest acts as a doctor, psychiatrist, and counsellor, all rolled into one. What really surprised us is the fact that there are no mantras or mumbo-jumbo. The only instruments the priest uses are a pinch of ash, a pair of tongs tied with chains, and a feather broom, and not to forget the irrevocable faith and belief of the patients.

The priest informs that everything happens as per the wishes of the Devi, and he does not know any specific mantra. The Devi (Goddess Kali) is worshipped in the form of a ladder that rises to the skies. Those who are mentally ill and aggressive are chained and given this treatment and are believed to be cured within a few days as the spirits that have taken over their bodies get exorcised.

Chogan in many ways is a living example of a synthesis of religion and mental care, of a system that is a precursor of modern-day health systems.

Meeting The Baigas in Silpidi | Baiga Tribe

Baiga Women In Silpidi
Baiga Women In Silpidi

Next up on the Times Passion Tribal Trail was a rendezvous with the intriguing Baigas. We reached Amarkantak which is the source of the Narmada river, which has literally been the cradle of tribal civilization in Madhya Pradesh.

From the sacred city of Amarkantak, we drove to a remote village named Silpidi in the Dindori District. Silpidi is a village that has a sizeable population of the Baiga tribe. The entire village seemed to have gathered to welcome us with pulsating dance and music from the Baigas. We also got to interact with the Baiga women and learn about their famed tattoos. Tattoos are an integral part of Baiga women.

Baiga Tribals

They get their first tattoos when they are close to puberty and these are done on the forehead. Further tattoos on different parts of the body are done at different stages in their lives, like marriage, child-birth, etc.

Most of the tattoos are nature-themed and depict the moon, the eyes of the Cow, motifs of the Sun and mountains, as well as geometrical patterns. Traditionally the more a woman is tattooed, the more beautiful she is considered among the Baigas. The Baigas also believe that they carry their tattoos into the other world, after death.

It was in the village of Silpidi that we met Shri Arjun Singh Dhurve, an exponent of the Baiga dance form, who has been recognized by the Government of India and awarded the prestigious Padma Shri award for the year 2022, for his contribution to Baiga dance and music.

Fascinating Glimpses of Tribal Art At Patangarh

Gond Tribal Art At Patangarh
Gond Tribal Art At Patangarh

The Times Passion Tribal Trail culminated with an art exhibition and live tattoo display at the Jiyo Gond Kalakriti Sahakari Samiti. On display and sale were colourful Gond paintings that mainly depicted the motifs of nature from the perspective of the tribals. A tattoo artist was also available for those wanting to get an authentic tribal tattoo.

It is interesting to note that the Jiyo Gond Kalakriti Sahakari Samiti stands at the same place where the house of Verrier Alvin, once stood. Verrier Alvin was a Britisher and a renowned anthropologist and also an Advisor to Jawaharlal Nehru of North-East Tribal affairs. He had married a Pardha Gond girl named Lila from Patangarh and had moved there.

Gond paintings
Gond paintings

Another interesting fact about the Gond paintings is that all credit for the popularization of these paintings goes to Jangarh Singh Shyam, a young Gond painter of Patangarh, who was discovered by J.Swaminathan who was the driving force of the Bharat Bhawan in Bhopal.

Jangarh Singh’s paintings fetched him fame at a breakneck speed, and he literally took Gond art to the world. He blazed his own trail till his untimely death in Japan at the young age of 39.

Some foot-tapping and heart-stopping dances by the Gonds and other tribes at the Jiyo Gond Kalakriti Sahakari Samiti brought the Times Passion Tribal Trail to a pulsating climax.

Curtains On The Times Passion Tribal Trail

On the Times Passion Tribal Trail

Jabalpur was the next and final stop on the Times Passion Tribal Trail in Madhya Pradesh. All participants received mementoes and shared their thoughts about the trail, amidst the grand environs of the Shawn Elizey Hotel, Jabalpur.

It was then time for the participants to depart to their home destinations, taking with them a sackful of memories ably curated by Times Passion Tribal Trails and Madhya Pradesh Tourism.

#MPTourism #HeartOfIndia #MadhyaPradesh #timespassiontrails #tribaltrail #TimesofIndia

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Times Passion Tribal Trail In Madhya Pradesh

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7 thoughts on “Times Passion Tribal Trail in Madhya Pradesh”

  1. Shreemayee Chattoppadhyay

    This is such a fantastic initiative from MP government. You’re really lucky that you’ve got a chance to be there for enjoying our cultural heritage.

  2. Nice effort by all for encouraging rural tourism. It was interesting to read about the tribes and their culture,

  3. It has been my dream to be on Times Passion trails someday as they tend to plan and explore actual offbeat places of India. Loved reading about your passion trail In Madhya Pradesh and telling us about so many tribes, places and places.

  4. Both of you are so lucky. I have been meaning to go on this trail for so long. Looks like you have once again explored so many offbeat destinations via Times Passion Tribal Trail in Madhya Pradesh. It was fascinating to read about the tribal art and culture.

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