Times Passion Tribal Trail - Immersive Rural Tourism


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Times Passion Tribal-Trail Rural Tourism- Madhya Pradesh

by nirvandiaries

The Times Passion Tribal Trail, true to its name, brought together individuals driven by passion and united by a shared thirst for knowledge and experiences that are off the beaten track. The state of Madhya Pradesh in many ways is a microcosm of India, in itself, because of the sheer range of attractions it offers to the discerning traveller.

Be it nature and wildlife, Heritage and Culture, Spirituality and Religion, Madhya Pradesh is truly blessed.

Times Passion Tribal Trail - A Revelation

Times Passion Tribal Trail

The Times Passion Trails along with Madhya Pradesh Tourism, this time around curated a unique Tribal Trail that took participants on a fantastic journey that gave them an immersive experience of the lifestyles of three major tribes of the state, namely, Gond, Bhariya, and Baiga. Here is how the trail unfolded, one eventful day after the other.

Times Passion Tribal Trail - Visiting The Tribal Museum

Tribal Museum, Bhopal

The Tribal Museum in Bhopal is in more ways than one, a colourful and aesthetic ode to the rich tribal culture and heritage of Madhya Pradesh. So, it was highly befitting that we had a tour of this museum accompanied by the experience architect of the Times Passion Tribal Trail, Shri Vasanth Nirguneji.

Tribal Museum, Bhopal
At the Tribal Museum, Bhopal with Shri Vasanth Nirgune ji

Shri Vasanth Nirguneji has given his entire life to the study of the tribal way of life in Madhya Pradesh and has authored many books. He is a much-acclaimed and decorated authority on the tribals of Madhya Pradesh. The honours that he carries include the Sahitya Akademi Award. We explored the Tribal Museum through his expert eyes and listened with attention as he took us into the hearts and souls of the tribes of Madhya Pradesh.

The six galleries of the Tribal Museum acquainted us with the tribal treasures of Madhya Pradesh. Though there are about 46 different tribes that inhabit Madhya Pradesh, the museum focuses on showcasing seven of the major tribes. Our Times Passion Tribal Trail would be taking us close to three of these tribes, the Gonds, the Bhariyas, and the Baigas.

The Tribal Museum brought alive the tribal way of life through colourful and innovatively created exhibits. The galleries have been designed to simulate reality and give an immersive experience to visitors. Everything from the homes of the tribals, their places of worship, their musical instruments, and a lot more, appealed to our finer senses at the Bhopal Tribal Museum.

A Taste Of Things To Come At Taj Lake Resort - Times Passion Tribal Trail

Teejan Bai performance
Teejan Bai performance

The Taj Lakefront, so named because of the Upper Lake in front of it provided the ideal foil for the launch and kickoff of the Times Passion Tribal Trail. The eve of the start of trail saw a grand launch function attended by His Excellency, Governor of Madhya Pradesh, Shri Mangubhai.C.Patel, and other dignitaries from the Madhya Pradesh Government, and Times of India.

Taj Lakefront had curated a delectable Tribal Food Festival in keeping with the tribal theme. We were treated to some authentic tribal fare which was a forerunner to the experiences that awaited us on the trail.

But the highlight of the evening had to be a resounding Pandvani performance by the maestro herself! It was the iconic voice of Teejan Bai that smote the dark skies of Bhopal, that evening. Her performance seemed to resonate throughout the trail and was fittingly a thunderous start to the Times Passion Tribal Trail.

Intriguing Patalkot Valley - Home Of The Bhariya Tribe

With Prof Nirgune ji
With Prof Nirgune ji & Dr.Shaunak Ji

The Times Passion Tribal Trail was flagged off by Shri Vasant Nirguneji, and the bus that carried participants eager to learn more about the tribals' way of life, wound its way across Madhya Pradesh. It would traverse about a thousand kilometres over 7 days and take the participants straight into the heart of Tribal Madhya Pradesh.

First up was a visit to the remote Patalkot valley, a place that till recently was cut off from the rest of the world. The natural fortress formed by the Satpura ranges protects a horseshoe-shaped valley that is home to about 12 villages of the Bhariya tribe. The rocks that form a natural fortress are estimated to be more than 2,500 million years old. 

Interacting with the Bhariya tribe
Interacting with the Bhariya tribe

The Bhariya tribe who have Dravidian roots are believed to have descended into the valley from the upper regions, more than 600 years ago and settled there. They are virtually self-sustained in their environment. and depend on agriculture. They have inherited a strong system of natural medicine and they gather exotic herbs from the forests around them. They seem to have a natural remedy for every ailment under the sun.

At Kareyaam village
At Kareyaam village

It was a very humbling experience to walk into the homes of the Bhariya tribe and listen to them as they told us about their simple and yet happy lives. Their minimalistic way of living was indeed inspiring, as was their knowledge and conviction about the efficacy of medicinal herbs that was their ancestral legacy. 

As with most tribals, the Bhariyas too have rich and colourful music and dance tradition. They demonstrated their dancing and singing ingenuity by performing for us at the Youreka Adventure Camp, where we had camped for the night.

Captivating Mandla - Historical Stronghold Of The Gonds

Raj Rajeshwari Temple
Raj Rajeshwari Temple

Mandla is a historic city that one must visit to get an understanding of the history of the Gond tribals. Located on the banks of the Narmada river, Mandla was the centre of the Gondwana Kingdom that held sway over the region between the 13th to 19th centuries. The Gondwana kingdom is believed to have extended from Eastern Madhya Pradesh to Western Odisha, and from Northern Andhra Pradesh to South-East Uttar Pradesh.

Moti Mahal, Ramnagar
Moti Mahal, Ramnagar

A visit to the Ramnagar Fort also known as Moti Mahal gave us some incredible insights into the life and times of one of the last great Gond Kings who ruled over the region, Hridayshahi. The beautiful and strategically designed Moti Mahal as well as other structures are enduring monuments that are a tribute to his architectural and building capabilities. The Gond King was a connoisseur and patron of dance and music too and has a couple of books to his name. His legacy and that of his predecessors live on Gond tribal dance and music to this day.

A temple that stands as an emblem of faith and provides succour to believers among the Gonds and others of the region is the Rajarajeshwari Temple. The temple is located near the entrance to the city on the banks of the river Narmada. It is believed that the deity was installed at the place by the Gond King Narendra Shah who had a dream in which the Goddess directed him to do so.

The Rajrajeshwari Temple apart from its religious sanctity is also an important site for archaeological study. The temple is unique in that it has sculptures of Hindu mythology and Gods and Goddesses from different time periods. The time periods span the Kalchuri dynasty, the Gondwana rule, and the Maratha rule. The sculptures reflect the mores and way of life of people belonging to different time periods. The sculptures attributed to the Gonds are simple and exhibit characteristics of the Gond people.

Chogan - Tryst With The Paranormal

The Chogan Temple and the divine ladder
Chogan Temple & the ladder

The remote village of Chogan was wrapped in a cocoon of silence as we walked toward the local temple. Mondays are when the temple sees crowds with tribals from nearby villages trooping in. The temple is not only a sacred and revered place for the tribals, but it also serves as a cure for many of their problems and ailments.

The priest at Chogan Temple
The priest at Chogan Temple

The priest of the temple who has stepped into the shoes of his father, with his son likely to do the same, officiates as medicine man and psychiatrist, assaying the multiple roles with humility and dignity. He says that whatever he does is as per the wish of the Goddess Kali. 

There is no idol of the Goddess here, and she is represented as a long ladder that rises towards the heavens. The priest blesses those who come to him with ash (Vibhuti) and a wave of a feather broom and metallic tongs.

The temple is especially known for curing patients that are, "possessed.' A few days of the simple treatment and stay within the temple premises is believed to cure them. For those who exhibit violence, restraining chains are in place.

"It is all a matter of faith, "says the priest as he gestures expansively.

The Tattooed Women Of The Baiga Tribe

Tattooed Women of Baiga Tribe
Tattooed Baiga Women

The Baigas are one of the most intriguing tribes of Madhya Pradesh. We travelled to the remote village of Silpidi to get an immersive experience of their life and culture. The Baigas are known for their colourful dresses and equally enchanting dance and music.

With Arjun Singh Durve - Baiga tribal artist
With Arjun Singh Durve - Baiga tribal artist

It was hence an ideal setting to meet Shri Arjun Dhurve, who has been conferred with the prestigious Padma Shri award in 2022. He himself is a noted dancer and musician and has played a pivotal role in the development of Baiga dance and music.


Apart from dance and music, the Baiga tribe is known for the practice of tattooing the entire body amongst its womenfolk. The Baiga women explained the practice of tattooing and how the tattoos were placed on different parts of their bodies at different stages in their lives.

We were enthralled by performances of dance and music that the villagers of Silipidi had lined up for us.

Gond Art And Its Unsung Heroes

Gond paintings at Patangarh

The last stop on the Times Passion Tribal Trail was the village of Patangarh. It is the centre of the enchanting Gond Art. Here the participants were delighted to view the works of Gond artists and also to buy paintings. The village is also the birthplace of Jangarh Singh Shyam, a young Gond artist who is responsible for taking Gond art to the world. In a cruel travesty of fate, the young Gond genius died while doing a residency in a Japanese museum, a phenomenon nipped in the bud.

The Times Passion Tribal Trail came to an end at Jabalpur, with participants sharing their experiences and being felicitated by the Times of India. Long after the dust has settled on the trail, what will remain are the wonderful memories collected from the trail, to relive again and again.

We were on a tribal trail with Times Passion Trails in association with Madhya Pradesh Tourism.

Times Passion Tribal Trail

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