Located 114 KM from Daringbadi – its more famous cousin at an altitude of 2555 feet above sea level, Belghar is a quaint tribal hinterland nestled in the hills of Eastern Ghats. The beautiful winding roads through the hills, scenic view and pleasant weather makes it a hotspot for nature lovers. The natural beauty is accentuated by the presence of the tribes whose vibrant culture adds colour to the landscape. The numerous streams, rivers, nullas, waterfalls & ofcourse wild animals adds to its pristine beauty.
Belghar is home to the tribe “Kondha” & the special category tribes called “Kutia Kondha”, they have been residing in this beautiful landscape for centuries and are essentially forest dwellers. The tribes are very welcoming of tourists, however don’t try to tease them or make fun of them.
Belghar is located in Kandhamal district and 158 KM from the district headquarters Phulbani. The nature camp is located in the Belghar Forest Range which comes under Baliguda block.
About the Kondha’s
One of the earliest description of the tribe was given by Captain MacPherson in 1846 of the British East India Company. According to him the word “Kondha” means mountaineer derived from the Telegu word “Ko” which literally means a hill. Though the Kondha’s are of Dravidian descent, little is known about their origin.
Present day Odisha is inhabited by three groups of Kondha’s – the Desia Kondha who reside in Phulbani area, the Kutia Kondha found only in the Baliguda block and Dongaria Kondha who reside in Koraput. The Kondha’s refer themselves as “Kui” and their dialect is also called “Kui” which has some semblance of familiarity with Telegu. Fiercely independent they weren’t subjugated under any regime or rule and historical facts verify that. Hence they retain their age old customs and way of life.
The Kutia Kondha’s are so called as they smash the head of the animals they catch for food. However consumption of meat depends on availability and rice and vegetables forms their staple food.
The tribe doesn’t follow any caste system. A Kondh woman has a major say in the day to day matters of the family and society. They mainly follow three main festivals – the Semi jatra (the harvest of crop of beans), the Mohua Jatra (harvest of the Mohua flowers) and the Chawal dhua jatra (harvest of new rice crop).
They follow a simple structured society, each village has a head man, a priest and a village council mainly formed from the heads of each family in the village. This group is administered by the head of the clan or Gossi.
Things to Do
When you are amidst such pristine surroundings, sitting back and reflecting on days gone by or just savouring the beauty of nature is a good option. One can spot the beautiful Scarlet Minivet, Indian Nuthatch, Alexander Parakeet and the Giant Malabar Squirrel at the camp premises itself.
Trekking to the nearby hillock and forest areas is recommended but with a forest guide. The local guide can be arranged at the camp itself.
Take a tour of the village and understand how the Kondha people live their lives. Though extremely poor, their gleeful smile and friendly disposition is like a breath of fresh air for a city dweller.
Make a trip to the Kutia Kondho village with the Forest Officer. The ride through the undulating forest roads and the river is a fascinating experience. The Kutia Kondha’s village is a row of neatly done mud houses with a single entry point facing each other and a common open space. They welcome guests by serving the traditional drink called Tadi for people who don’t want to partake in the welcome drink- they serve you water. A guest is expected to atleast take a sip of either, declining both is deemed as an offence.
Where to Stay
The Belghar Nature Camp run by the local community under the aegis of the Forest department is your only option.
The Swiss tents are spacious with attached toilet and clean.
Belghar Nature Camp is approximately 291 KM from Bhubaneswar i.e around 7 hrs . The Drive is a pleasant one and includes 180 KM of ghats roads. While the roads are beautiful and scenery is awesome, we advise you to drive carefully.
The entire Kandhamal district is predominantly forest area and land of the tribal people. While they are friendly to outsiders, don’t tease or make fun of them.
The nearest petrol pump to Belghar is Tumidibandha, you will find ATM there too.
The Belghar Nature Camp is run by the local community, while the food is good and hygienic don’t come with fancy expectations. Remember you are in a forest area.
The nearest town is Ambadula which is 27 KM from Belghar.
Don’t venture out of the nature camp at night.
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