Places of change
There are several towns in Jharkhand which have been frequented by people mostly from West Bengal for change of climate, to recoup their health. Such places have commonly come to be known as places of change and these continue to attract such tourists.
Jharkhand can fairly claim to be one of the most attractive parts of the Indian peninsula. The scenery of the main plateau is most attractive with its undulations, detached abrupt hills and forest tracts. Belts of sal forests which once covered the plateau still survive on the hills and in broken ground. The palas tree called the flame of the forest with its reddish flowers at the advent of summer is also there, in abundance. To complete the attraction of the Jharkhand, the Adivasis who predominate on the plateau are a lovable and cheerful race.
The plateau on which most of Jharkhand is spread out is called Chotanagpur. The name Nagpur is probably taken from the Nagbanshis who ruled in the area. Chota is a corruption of Chutia, a small village near Ranchi where the Nagbanshis had a fort. The plateau consists of three steps. The highest is in the west of the province rising to around 3,000-3,500 feet above sea level. The next level spread around Ranchi and Hazaribagh in the central sector is around 2,000 feet. The eastern part is the lowest at around 1,000 feet. A part of the plateau slopes into neighbouring West Bengal.
The Adivasis are divided into two main anthropological divisions, the larger consisting of the Mundas, Santhals, Hos and some smaller tribes, and the smaller mainly of Oraons. There is no linguistic connection between the two groups. Oraon is a Dravidian language, while Munda group of languages belong to a larger group of languages known as Austro-Asiatic. The tribes who now inhabit Jharkhand probably moved in from the Gangetic valley displacing earlier races of which little trace is left. The Santhals are the most numerous of the tribes of Austro-Asiatic race.
There is little evidence of movement of Aryans into area till the days of Magadh’s rise and the early Aryan settlers were possibly Jains. Interestingly, the Hindi dialect spoken in the area is called Magadhi. During the Mohammedan rule a fairly large number of Muslims moved into the area and the Hindu rajas encouraged migration of Hindus. The British had a good deal of trouble in asserting their authority over the area.
Coal is found in several fields across Jharkhand - Jharia, Bokaro, North Karanpura, South Karanpura, Ramgarh, Giridih, and Santhal Parganas. Large quantities of iron ore are found in Singhbhum.Fire-clay, mica and other mineals are also mined.
(The above is based on Sir John Houlton in Bihar, the Heart of India, first published in 1949.)
Hindi is widely understood throughout the state. Different Adivasi langauages are spoken in different areas. Bengali is spoken in the eastern parts of the state. English is understood in the main cities.
Most of the road links into the state are from the north and the east. The western part is more mountainous and hence road links are less. Now links with the south and the west are also being developed. The Grand Trunk Road (NH 2 Kolkata Delhi) cuts across the northern part of the state. NH 6 connecting Kolkata with western India enters the south-east corner of the state for a short span.
The Howrah-Delhi main and grand chord lines cut across the northern part of the state. The Howrah-Mumbai lines goes via Jamshedpur in the southern part of state. The Barkakhana-Sonenagar and other links on the western side are gaining in importance.
Roads connect all the important cities and towns in the state. There is paucity of rail links within the state.
The state has great natural beauty, most parts being hilly and forested. It also has rich cultural traditions. Mining operations and industries are increasingly becoming important.
There are eateries in all cities and towns. Some of the "dhabas" along the highways offer fairly good food although the places may look doubtful. If you are keen about local tastes try out balushais in the small sweetmeat shops. Those travelling in Jharkhand, particulalrly in winter, may look out for Tilkut a dry sweet savoury.
Most of the popular Indian brands are available in the cities and towns in bars and specified shop. In local parlance these are called foreign liquor, although manufactured in India. There some very popular local drinks, mainly handia and mahua. Those who are from outside the state and are not used to these are advised not to take these, because they are quite often spurious and lead to unwanted reactions, even fatalities.
Visitors should be aware that the Maoists are very active in Jharkhand. They have frequently blown up railway lines, attacked stations and set land mines. Foreigners have not been targeted in the campaign, though, of course, it is possible to be caught in the violence due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, so vigilance is required while visiting the state.