Surrounded by the magnificent Hirakud Dam on the North and East, the Debrigarh Sanctuary is one of the most beautiful forest reserves in the country.The deciduous forest range spread over 347 Sq KM comprises of Kamgaon and Lakhanpur forests. While the famous Barapahad hills adds a touch of "History" to this beautiful sanctuary,the numerous water falls during the monsoon and the nearby Ushakothi water falls gives it a touch of "Glamour", the easy sightings of wild animals like the White Socked Indian Bison, Sambhar, Wild Boar, Peacocks even Elephants and Leopards at night gives the necessary "Substance" to this beautiful sanctuary.The presence of migratory birds during the winters in the Hirakud is like an added incentive to mark this place as a must visit destination.
Where to Stay
Odisha Eco Tour has a property of 5 double bedded A/C cottage and one four bedded A/C cottage at Eco-complex, Barakhandia.
Alternatively one can stay at Sambalpur or Jharsuguda which has good hotels.Contact Information
Divisional Forest Officer, Hirakud Wildlife Division, Sambalpur
Phone No. 0663 – 2548743,
Fax - +91663- 2548743
E_mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Site Manager at Division Office : 9438113285
Forest Range Officer, Kamgaon Wildlife Range at Dhodrokusum. Site Manager at Barakhandia Eco-complex : 9438113270
The hills of Barapahad and the exploits of Legendary freedom fighter Veer Surendra Sai go hand in hand, as the hill and the adjoining forest was a rebel strong hold during the freedom struggle against the British. Though the historical records portray's it as a mere skirmish for the throne of Sambalpur , the fact is the British establishment faced huge resistance in Western Odisha right up till 1862
It all started when the Britishers gained full control of Sambalpur from the Maratha's in 1826. The selective policy of alienation and appeasement followed by British created a lot of heartburn amongst the locals particularly the tribal's who were tortured and severely marginalised . The last straw came when the appointed King of Sambalpur Maharaj Sai died in 1827 and the British ignoring precedence and norms, appointed the deceased King's wife, Queen Mohan Kumari to the throne. Burdened by the sudden surge of responsibilities, the Queen failed to discharge her duties effectively and the region fell to anarchy and nepotism. Insurgency broke out in various corners of the kingdom, though the Britisher's adopted tough measures to quell the rebellion, the situation didn't improve.Soon the Queen made way for Narayan Singh which fueled the discontentment amongst the locals further and if at all made them more determined in their pursuit of freedom.
Odisha's legendary freedom fighter Veer Surendra Sai, the right full heir to throne led the rebellion comprising of the oppressed tribal's and locals against the establishment. He was ably supported by his six brothers and his son and many of the local chieftains and landlord's of the region. Chief among them was Balabhadra Deo- the Gond landlord who supported Veer Surendra Sai to the hilt. The hills of Barapahar inside the present day sanctuary was his stronghold and it was the very place in which he was killed by the troops despatched by Narayan Singh in 1837.
Veer Surendra Sai was arrested shortly after and sent to Hazaribagh Jail under life imprisonment. However during the Sepoy mutiny of 1857, Hazaribag Jail was captured by the Indian Sepoy's. Veer Surendra Sai and his confidante's were released. His arrival in Sambalpur was met with jubilation and excitement amongst the locals. However Veer Surendra Sai wanted peace, he met, he met the British Officer stationed in Sambalpur Captain Leigh and assured him of his fill cooperation, if his and his brother's sentences are remitted and if not the throne of Sambalpur, let him be allowed to live in his birthplace Khinda along with his relatives. However he was denied his wishes and made a political prisoner in Sambalpur. Meanwhile the Britishers began fortifying the city, making Surendra Sai suspicious of their activities and he escaped on the night of 31st Oct 1857 to start the armed rebellion against the Britisher's.
Barapahad was the base of Surendra Sai, from where he managed his operations. He successfully cut of the ration and ammunition supply of the Britisher's and fell upon the hapless British troops like raging bull. So fierce was the resistance put up by Veer Surendra Sai and his rag tag army compared to the well mechanised troops of the Britisher's that at one point the Britisher's transported their entire artillery gun's and ammunition from Cuttack along with soldiers to Sambalpur, they were joined by the artillery division of Madras unit and the Nagpur division.
The guerrilla warfare went on for five long years. Finally in April 1861 Major Impey was appointed as Deputy Commissioner of Sambalpur. His arrival saw a sea change in the British policies. He renounced the path of war and instead made overtures to the rebels to lay down their arms, in return they would be granted official pardon and their land will be returned to them along with other rehabilitation measures.
Major Impey's overtures bore fruit as many rebels tired of fighting a sustained war laid down their arms for a life of peace and tranquility. They were welcomed with open arms by the British Administration. The conciliatory measures had its desired effect, on 16th May 1862 Veer Surendra Sai wrote to Major Impey that we wanted to surrender for a guarantee of "life, liberty and free pardon". Shortly afterwards the two men met at Barapahad hills where Veer Surendra Sai surrendered. He was granted free pardon and a yearly pension of Rs5600/- for himself and his extended family
However some of Veer Surendra Sai's followers carried out sporadic acts of violence across the region, heightening the administration's suspicion. Despite Major Impey's strong observation that Surendra Sai isn't linked with these acts, the suspicion grew as the rebel attacks suddenly grew. Major Impey died in December 1863 due to illness and with his death the administration plotted to arrest Veer Surendra Sai. a midnight raid was carried out in complete secrecy and Surendra Sai, his son and brother's were arrested on 23rd Jan 1864.
In spite of the strong verdict absolving Veer Surendra Sai and family of any wrong doing,by the Principal Court of Appeal in the Central Province under Judicial Commissioner John Scarlett Campbell, Veer Surendra Sai was detained and by the Chief Commissioner and sent to Asigarh jail.
Surendra Sai's son Mitrabhanu Sai was released on 1st January 1877 and his family was allotted their share of land and their share of pension. However Veer Surendra Sai continued to be in jail at Asigarh Fort till he breathed his last at 1 am, 28th February 1884. Veer Surendra Sai was born on 23rd January 1809.
Best time to Visit- October to March.
Dhodrokusum is the only entry point of the Sanctuary which is 40 kms from Sambalpur.
From Sambalpur take the road to Burla, from Burla cross the Ashok Niwas and take the right dyke road of Hirakud Dam to reach the sanctuary gate. The last stretch on the right dyke road to the sanctuary over the hirakud dam is a sight to behold.
The cottage tariff, includes the cost of food. Consumption of meat, chicken and alcohol is strictly prohibited within the sanctuary premises. For non vegetarians fish and egg's are on the menu. Food served is hygienic and homely.
Eco tour cottages are run by the Forest Department under the PPP mode, the villagers of the nearby areas are entrusted for the upkeep of the property. They are compassionate individuals who attend to your needs with a great degree of care and genuineness. Just be kind and patient with them.
The staff can understand Hindi, Odia and a little bit of English and Bengali. The Odia language spoken in this part of Odisha is markedly different than that of Bhubaneswar and Puri region.
During winters the temperatures ranges between 8 degree's to 12 degree's Celsius. Summers i.e April to June - The temperature ranges from 40 degrees to 45 degree Celsius.
The eco tour cottages are equipped with AC and offers a great view of the Hirakud Dam. The toilets and the bed sheets are neat and clean. However the four bedded cottage is a bit clumsy.
It's an area full of big animals like Elephants , Bison and Leopards- so don't venture into the forest at night, heed the Forest Department officials advice.
The watch tower which acts as the staff quarter's offers a panoramic view of the jungle and the children's park within the cottage premises keeps the kids engaged.
Essential items to carry :-camera, trekking gear, torch, mosquito repellent, medicine and first aid kit.
Nearest ATM , petrol pump and hospital is at Burla which is around 20 KM away. The Veer Surendra Sai Medical College and Hospital at Burla is one of the major Government hospitals in the state.
Nearest Railhead is Hirakud station. However one is advised to alight at Sambalpur junction and book a cab to the sanctuary. State transport and Private buses ply to Sambalpur and Burla at regular intervals from Bhubaneswar. One will be advised to take the over night train or bus to reach the sanctuary if you are coming from Bhubaneswar.
Sambalpur is a major junction and is well connected by the rail network with the city being connected to Delhi via Amritsar- Hirakud Express, Mumbai via Lokamanya Tilak Super Fast Express, Bangalore via Bangalore Express, Kolkata via Howrah Sambalpur Express, Bhubaneswar via Hatia Tapaswini Express, Ahmedabad via Ahmedabad Puri Express, Rajasthan via Jodhpur Puri Express, Vishakapatnam via Vishakapatnam Amritsar Hirakud Express, Jamshedpur via Tata Nagar Allepy Express. to name just a few. For details click on the Indian railways link given.