They look like wildfire, against the sky so blue, Flame of the forest, they are, painting it with a red hue.
Don’t worry there’s no forest fire. We are talking about the wonderful Palash flowers (Buteamonosperma). March is the season of flowers and we, in India, especially in the dry deciduous regions, celebrate the blooming of Palash, which are orange red flowers with long narrow petals that look like flickering flames. Mythology states that Agnidev, the fire god, when born on earth once, took the shape of Palash and so the tree is considered sacred. It has immense medicinal values too. Between mid-February and mid-April, the trees are in full bloom and the forests appear as if set on fire. Hence, the name- Flame of the forest.
Now that we are all under house arrest to fight COVID19, let’s travel to the land of Palash, the flame of the forest through this blog. Palash is the state flower of Jharkhand. I will take you to Koderma in Jharkhand and places around, based on my road trip from Kolkata via NH19. However, one can reach Ranchi, the capital city of Jharkhand and travel to Koderma by car or bus.
Things to see in Koderma – A Haven for Flame of the Forest
Koderma is the mica district of Jharkhand and Jhumari Tilaiya, a small town of the district is called ‘Abhark Nagari’, meaning the land of mica. Jhumari Tilaiya’s vast mica reserves were discovered when the British were laying railroad through Koderma in the 1890s and soon after, mining activities were started. There is also another story behind why Jhumari Tilaiya is popular. In the 1950s, when television and FM had not yet come to India, the largest number of requests for film songs addressed to the All India Radio came from Jhumri Telaiya.
Tilaiya Dam: The most famous tourist spot in Koderma is the Tilaiya Dam. Across the Barakar River stands the 1200ft long and 99ft high dam, on Ranchi-Patna Highway. Built in 1953, it is one of the first four dams of Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC). Watching the sunset from a boat on the huge lake with small islands is a panoramic experience. Some of the islands are Churchur Island, Whispering Island and Chacha Nehru Island popular as picnic spots and bird watchers’ paradise. The pathway to the lake and the entire area around the dam is well surrounded by lush green forests. There are plenty of Palash trees too.
Urwan: This is the place where most tourists visiting Koderma or Ranchi by road take a break and freshen up. The Urwan Tourist Complex run by the Jharkhand State Tourism Board is the center of refreshment and has proper dining and lodging facilities. Urwan has a serene lake surrounded by Palash. The flame of the forest makes the entire forest area ablaze.
Dhawajadhari Pahar: This beautiful hill is dedicated to Lord Shiva. All along the path one climbs to reach the temple on top, one can see the flame of the forest, Palash from the hill top.
Maa Chanchal Devi Mandir: Perched on a small hillock stands the temple of Chanchala Devi, a form of Goddess Durga. There is a narrow cave that houses portraits of the deity. Rice and mishri (sugar cubes) are used as offerings and usage of sindur (vermilion) is prohibited.
Hazaribagh: Drive to Hazaribagh Wildlife Sanctuary which is opened from 10 am to 5 pm. There may not be numerous animal sightings at the sanctuary but the sanctuary filled with Palash, saal and mohua trees, is a place for solace. The drive to and inside the sanctuary is the best way to satiate the thirst for seeing the flame of the forest. These trees with their vibrant blooms, spread across a vast area, will instantaneously change one’s mood. Don’t miss sun set from Canary Hill at Hazaribagh.
The entire Chotanagpur plateau looks ablaze due to Palash, the flame of the forest. An abundance of Palash is seen in West Bengal’s Purulia district too. We touched upon a few spots while returning back to Kolkata, though Purulia deserves an exclusive visit for there are many places to see in Purulia.
We returned via Topchachi in Jharkhand on NH19. The serenity of the lake and the hills around is unparalleled.
Since we travelled on NH19, we couldn’t restrict ourselves from visiting Garpanchakot in Purulia, West Bengal, before returning back to Kolkata. Purulia is famous for hills, trees, lakes, dams and terracotta temples. Terracotta architecture is pre-Mughal and Bengal terracotta has no match. We saw the gorgeous terracotta temple and the ruins of the fort (gar). The canopy road leading to the hillock looked like wildfire. They looked lit up with the flame of the forest. The terracotta temple and the view from the hillock were captivating. This has left me planning for my next spring trip already.
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