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Cricket gets even bigger in the Raipur stadium.

Summary: In a country where cricket is a religion, the state of Chhattisgarh has

one of the most important temples of the sport--the Raipur International

Cricket Stadium. Touted as on of the largest and also the most

impressive by cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar, Raipur's time as an

emerging Mecca for the popular game is fast approaching. Book your

seats.

In the limelight

The pride of Chhattisgarh has a place in the international charts. It is the fourth largest cricket stadium in the world, by seating capacity, and the second largest in India, after the historic Eden Gardens in Kolkata. The Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International Cricket Stadium (also known as International Cricket Stadium, Raipur), opened in 2008 in the city of Naya Raipur, is named for the brave freedom fighter from the Mahanadi region--Veer Narayan Singh Binjhwar, a brave martyr of the 1857 First War of Independence. It was at this stadium that the First International Standard cricket match (a One-Day International) was played between Canada's national cricket team and the State of Chhattisgarh on November 21, 2010. The stadium also at hosted a half-marathon in December 2012.

The stadium seats a whopping 65,000 spectators. Though the Indian Premier League 6 (IPL6) has itself shamed by betting and spot-fixing taints, it doesn't take away from the achievements of the stadium itself. It was the 'home' ground for two matches for the IPL team Delhi Daredevils' in the 2013 IPL event, and became the 19th venue in India to host any IPL match.

The stadium is a world-class arena, built as a modern sporting venue fitted with floodlights, with modern media facilities and lavish corporate boxes, as well as roofs to cover the other parts of the ground for spectators. Cricket doyen Sunil Gavaskar had rated this stadium to as one of the best in the country and had suggested that it be utilised for all kinds of sport. One of the pavilions at the stadium is planned to be named after the most famous Indian cricketer of all: Sachin Tendulkar.

When in Chhattisgarh, do not miss capturing the Chitrkote Falls in the afternoon light, on your camera. One of the largest waterfalls in India, it is an hour's drive west of Jagdalpur. Watch the river Indravati fall into a 100 ft deep cavern.

Plus says

Stay: Hotel Babylon International, Raipur; tel: (0771) 425 5555. If going to Chitrakot, try Dandami Luxury Resort tel: (0771) 406 6415

Season: October to February

Good to know

Weather: The best time to visit is between October to February. Avoid travelling during summers.

Getting there: There is an airport at Raipur that connects to New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Nagpur. The main railheads are at Raipur and Bilaspur that connect the state to other parts of India. The Rajdhani Express connects Bilaspur and Raipur to New Delhi. By road NH-43 links the state to neighbouring states.

Food: At the Makri Dhaba, Kawardha. On your way from Kawardha to the Chitrakote Falls, near Jagdalpur, the paranthas and omelettes have enough in them to see you through the day.

Shopping: For wrought iron start from the Sthi Centre or Naryanpur in Bastar District. Black and ingeniously crafted into unlikely shapes, the famous wrought iron artefacts of Bastar possess a strange, primitive beauty that you won't see elsewhere.

Plus picks

1. Join the local festivities: In January this year, a unique music and dance festival began in Chhattisgarh. The Sirpur National Dance and Music Festival 2013 at Sirpur (Mahasamund District) brings together folk and tribal dances, among others, together in a unique celebration of heritage.

2. Buy some local silk: Chhattisgarh is the production house of Kosa silk, a hand-made silk whose threads are used to weave gorgeous silk saris. Korba, Champa and Chandrapur are some of the main centres where this handloom silk is produced, often by families who have been preserving this fine craft for generations.

3. Attend a quirky festival: The Pola festival is a bull worshipping festival, and bulls are decorated appropriately for this. But it's the bull race that is the crowd-pulling event of this festival celebrated in the month of Shravana (usually August).

4. Enjoy a different sport: In the Kanger Valley National Park, the Kutumsar Caves, among the largest natural caves in the world, are 35m deep and more than 1300m long. These caves, which have stalactite and stalagmite formations also house a fascinating creature- a fish that you can see, but which can't see you! The cave lakes have a genetically blind and albinic cavefish.

5. Get to know tribal culture: The Zonal Anthropological Museum in Jagdalpur gives you an amazing capsule of insight into the Bastar tribes and their way of living. The museum showcases a great collection of rare objects central to the customs of Bastar tribes.

9 Bastar Crafts

Chhattisgarh

Traditional communities are the fountainhead of arts and craft, and the people of Bastar are no different, with their exceptional heritage of dhokra or bell metal casting, wrought iron, and terracotta. Melding art and science in a painstaking and creative process, their products are in high demand because of their antique simplicity, charming folk motifs and strong form.

Plus says

Stay: Naman Bastar; tel: (07782) 204 901; www.namanbastra.com

Season: October to Feb Must Do: The Kanger Valley National Park, home to the state bird, the hill mynah

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Publication:India Today Travel Plus
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Aug 1, 2013
Words:921
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