Exploring Keonjhar: Odisha’s Waterfall District (Part 1)

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One lazy Sunday morning, an old friend rang me up and announced that he is coming to meet me all the way from Ranchi. He asked ordered me to plan an adventurous trip in Odisha for three days. In a haze and unable to process what was happening, I said yes and hung up.

His only request was no beaches as he was a marine engineer and he wanted to stay as far away from the sea as possible. I guess sailing continuously for months does that to you. Anyway, so beaches were out of the equation and it being monsoon, national parks were out of bounds too. What else could we do in a coastal state with lots of forest cover? I was in a fix.

I browsed few Instagram pages about Odisha and noticed some really amazing waterfalls. Monsoon too seemed like a boon as the falls would be in all their glory. So I zeroed in on five waterfalls(all in Keonjhar district)and made an itinerary for a bike trip around these. 

Below you can read a day by day description of our trip along with all the information on how you can reach these waterfalls.

Day 1: Bhimkund Waterfall

We started riding early in the morning at 5 am from Bhubaneshwar. We had already rented a bike the previous night. Now there are many routes to Keonjhar from Bhubaneshwar but we chose the one that goes to Simlipal National Park and through Satkosia Nature Reserve. A rider friend had recommended me the route as it was very scenic. The diversion comes at Thakurmunda from where you could either go to Simlipal or Keonjhar. We didn’t go to Simlipal and continued on the route to Keonjhar. There’s yet another diversion of 15 kms around Dumuria which you need to take to reach Bhimkund.  The road is known as Patana-Bhim Kund Road.

Road to Simlipal National Park via Satkosia.

Our only source of information was Google Maps and thankfully the day was clear and cool.

It is believed that the famous son of Kunti, Bhima of Mahabharata fame took bath in the river and hence the name Bhimkund. As you enter the place, you are greeted by a tall statue of Bhima and there is a flight of stairs which leads to the fall. The height of the fall is very low but is very large in volume. The gushing, muddy water of the fall was roaring at us, cautioning us of its fierce nature. We took a bath in it anyway.

Bhima Statue on the entrance of the fall.

Bhimkund Waterfall.

After spending a good amount of time there, we left for Keonjhar and it was already dark when we reached there. We settled in a shady lodge at Rs. 300 for a double bedded room for the night. It also did rain heavily that night as if to remind us that it was still monsoon.

Day 2: Sanaghagara, Badaghagara and Khandadhar Falls

After checking out next day and gorging on Dahibara-AlooDum, we left for Sanaghagara Waterfall. It is 4.5 kms from Keonjhar town on NH49( Mumbai-Kolkata Highway). The place has been developed as a park by the authorities. You need to walk for a few metres after entering the premises,take a flight of stairs up and then a flight of stairs down to reach the fall. Since it was still early in the morning, there was no one there albeit a few Kanwariyas who were busy in their worship. The place had been fenced and you can safely admire the waterfall from a distance.

Dahi Bara-Aloo Dum, a popular street food of Odisha.

Sanaghagara Waterfall.

Badaghagara was trickier. For reference, ‘Sana= Small’,‘Bada= Big’ and ‘Ghagara= Waterfall’. So Sanaghagara and Badaghagara mean 'Small Waterfall' and 'Big Waterfall' respectively.

To reach Badaghagara Waterfall, you need to continue on NH49 for 500 metres from Sanaghagara and then take a small diversion on your left. There is a board to indicate the road to Badaghagara  and after riding for 2.6 kms you reach the place. It is in the middle of nowhere and that’s what makes it more interesting. Yet again we found a group of Kanwariyas who were preparing their lunch and offered us tea and biscuits. We thanked them for their generosity and after spending some time around the waterfall we left the place. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Badaghagara Waterfall

Then we left for Khandadhar Falls. There are two Khandadhar Falls of the same name in Odisha. One is in Keonjhar district and the other one is in Sundergarh District. They are two parts of the same water system and are on opposite sides of the same Khandadhar Hill. Originally we had plans to go to the one in Sundergarh but abandoned it due to time constraints. 

To reach the one in Keonjhar you need to take a detour from NH49 in Suakati and then ride for 50 kilometres. The ride takes you through hills of eastern ghats drenched in rain and the fields of paddy and wild balsam carpeting the whole valley. After reaching the site, you need to take a flight of stairs to the top where a mesmerising view of the sword shaped waterfall awaits you. Every time there is a sudden squall, the waterfall oscillates and takes the shape of anavalanche of snowflakes. The sparkling water drops leave everybody doused.The most captivating sight is the rainbow that forms at the base of the waterfall.

Whole Keonjhar Valley comes alive with wild balsam flowers.

Khandadhar Waterfall.

Since we were done by 3 pm we decided to visit one more waterfall, Putughargaghi Falls which was not on our list. We returned back to Suakati and took the other diversion for Telkoi. Putughargaghi was deep into the forests of Harichandhanpur-Telkoi Forest Reserve near Ranki. It was 46 kilometres from Suakati and we passed through meandering roads of the Keonjhar Valley. The road bends could even give the roads of Darjeeling a run for their money.  

As we were approaching our destination, the roads kept getting narrower, to such an extent that there was no path to go further. But our map still showed we were 3 kms from the fall. We asked the villagers and they informed that there is no road to the waterfall and we will need to leave our bike there and hike for 2 kms to reach it. That was of course not possible because we couldn’t just abandon our bike there and it was also getting dark. With a heavy heart we had to abandon our plan.

We asked around for accommodation facilities but to no avail. Someone suggested that we could approach the village panchayat office and request them to stay in their panchayat building. We went to the panchayat office and it was closed. Seeing us, few people came to us and one of them was the warden’s son. He said his father was not available in the village and only he had the authority to allow people to stay there. Also there was no electricity for the past three days and we needed our phones charged to at least use maps the next day. We seemed to be in a fix. 

Next Part: Exploring Keonjhar: Odisha's Waterfall District (Part 2)

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Somnath Verma



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