Desia – an experiential stay at Bantalabiri, Koraput
Looking for places to stay in Orissa? Confused on which tour operators to contact for a trip to Odisha? Ever heard of socially responsible tourism? Desia, at Koraput (Orissa), is one such undertaking aimed at promoting and sustaining local cultures of tribal Odisha.
Orissa has a lot to offer towards heritage-tourism. Bhuvaneshwar and Puri, offering the pride of yesteryears, are world-famous. Majestic architecture and engineering. No disputes whatsoever.
But the real beauty of Orissa lies in its villages, fundamentally the people, and the tribal heritage. They have a life different from what the urban Indians see or know. Various initiatives to “modernize” indigenous lifestyle, has impacted their life, tradition, and culture. Another 20 odd years and I guess it will all be gone!
All about Desia – a socially responsible stay, at Koraput valley
We decided to explore the wonderful habitat, habits, lifestyle, and rituals of Orissa before it’s too late. On research, we came to know about “Desia”, at Koraput Valley, also known as the Eco-Tourism and Responsible tourism group. An interesting connotation, for this group, provides authentic and ethnic experience for the culture and nature-loving guests.
Mr Yugabrata Kar, the soul behind this venture, gave tourism a unique dimension. His team encourages different communities in the environmentally rich Koraput valley to draft their ancestral and traditional ways of living as their source of livelihood.
Our stay at Desia
During its construction, more than 100 families were employed based on their skill set. The site has two cottages. Both are constructed in an absolute traditional way. The walls are done with mud and the interior floorings done with typically treated dung. “Gobar” as it is locally called, has anti-bacterial properties. This, thereby, helps to protect people from various diseases and health problems. Palm woven mats are laid on top of these to protect it from peeling off.
The interiors of these mud dwells are decked up with traditional paintings to give that Indian look. However, to cater to all visitors, the washrooms are done with modern amenities. There are 5 tents pitched as well. These were quite similar to the ones we stayed in at Hampi. But, with attached restrooms.
Around 70% of the food served in Desia is drawn from its internal farm. Almost self-sustaining. The other element, power, is solar driven. Again, almost the entire power to the camp is obtained from the renewable source.
Another interesting element is the link brought into the camp by the local artisans from the villages. We were lucky to be a part of a session where artisans showed us how they use handmade moulds to casts wonderful shapes from gunmetal.
Desia has great trained staff from these villages, ever-smiling and ready to be with you. We were with them for 5 days, enjoying their hospitality, and they taking us around their villages, inducting us to their lifestyle.
Things to do and see at Koraput
Visit weekly tribal markets
Dongaria lady at Chatikona weekly Haat
Weekly markets are a part of tribal life. It is not just a place where they go to buy/sell products but is also a place of social gatherings. We were fortunate to have have been guided by Khuso (local guide at Desia) to 5 different tribal markets. One of the major tribal markets that lure tourists includes the Chatikona market or the market of Dongaria Kondh. This weekly ‘Haat’ is usually held on the Wednesdays.
Another popular weekly tribal market is the Onkadelli market. This Thursday Haat is where you need to head to if you want to meet the ladies of Bonda community. Apart from the Bondas, you’ll also get to meet people from communities like Mali, Gadoba, Paraja etc.
We skipped our plans for visiting the Kunduli market on Friday and went to another lesser-known, smaller markets as suggested by Yugabrata. This was the best decision as we got to experience and observe the barter system. Want to know where this is? Book your tribal tour with Heritage tours immediately.
This endeavour to promote socially responsible tourism along the valleys of Koraput in Orissa has a wide range of opportunities for volunteers as well. During our second day with Heritage tours, we got to experience one of their volunteering initiatives – to clean Duduma waterfalls.
They also have a small classroom dedicated to teaching the kids from a nearby village.
Interested in socially responsible tourism? Have any volunteering ideas in mind? Then don’t hesitate to call them up and share your ideas…
Learn about various art and crafts of indigenous Orissa
Orissa is a land of immense culture and art. When it comes to tribal artworks of Orissa Dhokracrafts are quite popular. You can attend the sessions on Dhokra art at Desia and learn what the lost wax technique is. You may even purchase a showpiece or two from the artisans here. We certainly did!!
Taste local Koraputian cuisine
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the food served at Desia mostly makes use of ‘backyard produce‘.
A local fruit called Kendu being sold at Baligaon weekly market
We, having travelled to different weekly tribal haats got to see a variety of local vegetables and even got to taste a few for lunch and dinner. One of the special mentions would be the dish they prepared using bamboo shoots. If you are interested in exploring local cuisines you can go ahead and spend some time with the staff here. They are well trained and welcoming people.
At Duduma waterfalls
Don’t just make this trip about local markets and cuisines, you should also try to club in some hiking activities. Through Heritage tours, Orissa, you can hike up to Duduma waterfalls, Gupteswar, Bora caves, Araku valley etc. We had the chance to visit Duduma waterfalls as well as Gupteswar temple. Visit Duduma the day you visit Onkadelli market and club Gupteswar with Baligaon market.
You can also trek up to the nearby Bantalabiri village to experience local life.
Experience local festivals first hand
We were quite lucky to see this local festival at one of the Mali villages near Desia. Three cheers to Yugabrata and his team for arranging this for us!!
A visit to Koraput is incomplete without being a part of some local celebrations. Make sure to ask the team if there are any cultural feasts happening at the time of your visit.
A small treat from the Bondas at Malkangiri, Odisha
The taste of the pudding is in eating it. You will surely love the warmth and kindness of Desia. Get to Desia, while you get to know them in their habitat, they get to know you as you are. Be a part of a movement, called Responsible Tourism. What are you waiting for? Book your tickets to Odisha now!!