Last week, I traveled to Chhindwara, a city in India and a Municipal Corporation in Chhindwara district, in the state of Madhya Pradesh (M.P), to attend Corn Festival 2019 (15th and 16th December). Despite having been to M.P a couple of times, this was my first introduction to this city and its legacy of corn. To be honest, I did not even know that India has its own version of corn festival. When I got an invite to attend the two days event, only then I learned that Madhya Pradesh is one of the largest corn producing states, with Chhindwara making the highest contribution to it. The presence of suitable soil and climate makes maize as the most sought-after crop of the district. Around a decade ago, Mr. Kamal Nath (Chief Minister now) had introduced this idea of sowing corn in the soil here and the farmers of the district had happily accepted the option of maize farming. The efforts are speaking for themselves. So here is a little something from there.
Did you know that “Chhindwara” gets its name from “Chhind”, wild local palm? Well, I also dint know until I visited the city and interacted with the locals. The whole idea of attending ‘an event centered around a major crop’, eating dishes made of corn and exploring a new city, made me fly down to Nagpur (nearest Airport from Chhindwara, approx 125 km) and then do a road trip at 2 a.m. in the night to be there.
What is CORN FESTIVAL of Chhindwara?
Corn festival? What is it? Let us find out. This event, the brain child of Mr. Kamal Nath is a great idea to celebrate the efforts of the farmers, make them aware of more options, educate them as well as draw the attention of corn using industries towards Chhindwara. It is also a way to celebrate the local enthusiasm and let the people know that they are top corn producers.
Last year in September 2018, a two days event was held in the district. It was a small scale event with a very progressive intent. The festival saw companies excelling in corn based products from Food Industry, Textile, Pharmaceuticals, Starch, Glucose, Agriculture, etc. come at one place and talk about its alternative usage and better productions. The theme around corn was accepted very well by the locals and farmers as well. This year, it was celebrated on a much larger scale.
Having seen it myself, I can vouch that the enthusiasm was infectious. It seemed as if the whole city was enjoying a corn-ful mood. The city was all decked up with images, selfie points and booths of “Corn Kaka” aka Corn Uncle. Several art and cooking competitions had been organized to set the tone of the event. The theme of the painting competition was “Corn City Chhindwara” and “My Clean and Green Chhindwara”, where school students participated in huge numbers and a world record was made for more than 2 lakh drawings, made by the children of the city. All the paintings were pinned in the main pandal of the event.
The food stalls were the most tantalizing section of the two days fest. Cooking competition gave a chance to the budding chefs of the city to create interesting dishes with corn and corn flours. I tasted a variety, from ‘makke ki roti’ to ‘corn cakes’ to ‘corn tikki’ to ‘corn halwa’ to much more. There were more than 50 food stalls, a real treat for foodies.
I quite liked the interaction with the farmers and agriculturists, the cultural programs and the paintings around corn. If you thought that the corn festival was just about food, dance and art, I must reveal that it had a higher purpose too. Since most of the farmers grow corn with the aim of using it for eating, the aim was to educate them to diversify and learn more about its various usage. Agriculturalists, industrialists and scientists met at the event to take it to the next level. Hopefully, Chhindwara will soon be on the world map for being exemplary for its corn industries.
If you are into offbeat travel or have anything to do with corn, keep an eye on the dates of corn festival, next year.
In addition to its corn festival, I also had a chance to see Chhindwara in a different light. I visited its various skill centers and was amazed to see the progressive model of the city. The roads and the cleanliness was note-worthy but more than that I was happy to know about the various institutes and vocational courses that are available in that small city. I would love to see more such cities in India. I visited a couple of such institutes like CII Skills Training Centre, IL&FS Institute of Skills, Ashok Leyland Institute of Driving Training & Research, Apparel Training and Design Center (ATDC) and Raymond workshop. The kind of work that is happening in these places is impressive. The youth of my country is learning and that really made me happy.
As a traveler, I just don’t stick to the touristy attractions but I also like to notice the infrastructure and find out about other important aspects of any place. Therefore, I actually liked this insight into Chhindwara and it various efforts of imparting job knowledge. This is how the problem of employment can be solved at a very root level and smaller cities can be made powerful and skillful. In my view, Chhindwara can easily be called the skills city too.
2 days were not enough to touch upon everything but I did learn that Chhindwara has a lot of touristy potential. Located in the vicinity of rich wildlife belt, it has it all – forests, rivers, forts, museum, temples and hills. I only had a chance to see the huge statue at the Simariya Hanuman Temple, visit an orange orchard, meet the weavers community of Sausar and spend a night at Tamia jungle lodge but if you get a chance to be there, don’t miss the Patalkot valley, Tribal museum and the National Parks nearby.
If you are in Nagpur, a small getaway to Chhindwara can be a great idea. There are some decent hotels in the city to spend a night or two, as well.