Madhya Pradesh is a treasure trove of travel experiences. From the stunning spires of Khajuraho and foodie delights of Sarafa Bazaar to the jungles of Bandhavgarh, Kanha and Pench, the tourist trail of this beautiful state ranks among the best in the country.
And as if that weren’t enough, Madhya Pradesh has also started hosting India’s biggest water carnival — the Jal Mahotsav! In fact, the third edition of the festival concluded on January 2, 2018.
Nothing short of a coastal spectacle in the “heart of India”, Jal Mahotsav is organised every year in Hanuwantiya in the state’s Madhya Dweep islands – touted to become the country’s first aqua city in the near future.
Easily accessible via Indore, Khandwa and Nagpur, Hanuwantiya is located in the backwater of Indira Sagar Dam on Narmada River. Blessed with clear skies, verdant foliage and azure waters, the entire region is spread over 955 sq km and is home to 119 islands, christened Madhya Dweep.
In recent years, the government has been developing this hitherto unexplored territory to promote aqua tourism — the first of its kind in the state. Facilities for water sports and aqua safaris have been introduced at Hanuwantiya, with similar plans for the islands of Sailani and Boriyamal.
Cottages, Swiss-style camping tents and houseboats have also been made available for tourists. Furthermore, the authorities have handed over land to private parties to develop dedicated tourist resorts.
Every year in October, the island transforms into a tent-city that hosts the Jal Mahotsav for eighty days. An MPSTDC official said that though in 2016 the entry fee was Rs 10 for each visitor, in 2017 it has been increased by Rs 5 due to GST.
Visitors can take part in adventure activities on land, air, or water – everything from parasailing and water zorbing to hot air ballooning and All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) racing. Other water activities include jet skiing, surfing, motor boating, snorkelling, scuba diving, jet skiing etc. while and activities include zip lining, wall climbing, paintball, volleyball, archery and kite-flying.
(TBI Tip: The vantage point from a hot air balloon affords stunning views of the reservoir’s serene waters in the morning and a spectacularly lit up tent city in the evenings.)
Incorporating elements of eco-tourism into Jal Mahotsav, birdwatching expeditions, night camping in the wilderness and forest treks have also been introduced at Hanuwantiya and its neighbouring islands. Other than a multitude of bird and butterfly species, animals like leopard, deer and wild hog can also be seen in the area.
The fun doesn’t end here. There is also the option of taking part in early morning yoga sessions, indulging in a relaxing spa session, shopping at the craft bazaar and trying out all sorts of local delicacies at the food zone.
For a chance to enjoy simple pleasures, try the popular bullock cart ride around the nearby villages.
Moreover, regular cultural performances are held at the festival grounds, with colourful folk dances and foot-tapping music livening up the atmosphere. In short, there’s something for everyone at Jal Mahotsav.
Little wonder, thanks to its unique water carnival, Madhya Pradesh bagged the Most Innovative Tourist Product award for 2017!
With the target of creating India’s first aqua city in mind, the state government now plans to develop similar facilities at other islands of Madhya Dweep through a PPP model. To ensure that the destination remains sustainable over a long-term, efforts will be taken to make the region plastic-free.
Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI) and Madhya Pradesh Tourism have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) under which ATOAI would be conducting a one-year skill development and capacity building certification course among the local rural population. Under this, basic training would be provided to conduct adventure sports in concerned areas.