For a really long time Nagpur was for me, that major railway junction that we passed on our long train journeys from Mumbai to Kolkata during summer vacations. Nagpur was an especially notable stop in an otherwise mundane journey not just coz most trains had a longer than usual stop there but also because it was the last stop before the train finally left the state of Maharashtra and crossed over to a new state– for me a sign that we were finally reaching somewhere. And the fact that this happened after 12 hours of starting from Mumbai (which was 1/3rd of the total journey from Mumbai to Kolkata) meant that it was indeed momentous.
I don’t remember anything remarkable about the station but I do remember that as soon as the train would pull into Nagpur, someone (either my father, mother or a co-passenger) would invariably tell me how Nagpur is famous for its oranges – of which there would be no sign of in the intensely hot summers of Nagpur. All these years, I never once thought of Nagpur as anything more than a major railway junction where a lot of train lines met and then quickly proceeded to more fascinating destinations in other corners of the country. That Nagpur could itself have noteworthy attractions, never occurred to me until a recent trip to the city. So, what to look forward to when in Nagpur?
- Wildlife, Safaris and Big Cats: With several noted national parks within 100 to 150 kms, Nagpur is truly a wildlife lover’s paradise:
- Pench Tiger Reserve (Sillari gate entrance from Maharashtra side is 75 kms, while Seoni entrance on Madhya Pradesh side is 115kms away)
- Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (150 kms away)
- Nagzira Navegaon Tiger Reserve (110 kms away)
- Bor Wildlife Sanctuary (65 kms away)
- Umred Kharandla Santuary (65 kms away)
The summer months from April to early June are the best time to visit as the denuded trees and scarcity of water in the jungle increase the probability of spotting animals. Expect to see a host of other animals including spotted deer, sambar deer, nilgai, bison, wild boar, langurs and a wide variety of birds. Tadoba and Pench are especially known for their tiger sightings but spotting the big cat is as much a matter of patience as luck.
Safaris are organized by the Forest Department twice a day. Slots are limited and are sometimes sold out months in advance. Check here for availability before booking rest of your trip: http://mahaecotourism.gov.in/Site/Common/OnlineBooking1.aspx
- Landmarks of the Heart of India: Being at the very centre of India, Nagpur has some pretty peculiar landmarks. We had just landed in Nagpur when my elder brother (Dada) told me over the phone about the existence of Diamond Crossing in Nagpur, the only place in India where the North South and East West railway lines intersect (Check it out here). But while the Diamond Crossing is probably not as easy to spot among the zigzagging railway tracks running past Nagpur junction, the Zero Mile Stone from which the distance of all cities of India is calculated, is a landmark on its own.
- History made in Nagpur: This winter capital of the state of Maharashtra has been the center of many important events/ incidents over ages. Some of these locations include Ramtek, a small town 42 kms north east of Nagpur where the prolific poet, Kalidasa is said to have written his epic Meghdootam; Deekshabhoomi – a stupa built to mark the spot where Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution converted to Buddhism in 1956 along with lakhs of followers.
- The Food: Although not known well outside of Vidharba, Nagpur has a distinct cuisine of its own, known as Saoji cuisine. The fiery Saoji cuisine available in the numerous Saoji bhojanalays around the city is not for the faint stomached. The city also loves it’s tarri poha (poha served with a spicy gravy), khichadi (a porridge of rice and lentil) and orange burfi. Vishnu ji ki Rasoi in Bajaj Nagar is a unique experience of rustic Maharashtrian food that must not be missed.
Getting there and Around:
Nagpur is a little over 800 kms away from Mumbai and 1000 kms away from Delhi. Being in the very center of India, it well connected with other cities by air and by land.
When to visit:
If you want to cover the national parks, best time to visit would be summer or the winter months. Avoid monsoon as most national parks are closed to tourists during monsoon.
Where to stay:
Being a big city, Nagpur has no dearth of hotels to suit every preference and pocket.
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