A sleek streak of white separated the sky from the water, only visible when you focussed your eyes completely on the horizon. Not too long ago, the unexplored virgin island of Hanuwantiya was all trees and unbroken land surrounded by the backwaters of Narmada on three sides. Now it is a city in itself and hosting one of the country&rsquos most exciting water festivals. The 7th edition of Jal Mahotsav curated and developed by the Madhya Pradesh&rsquos tourism board commenced from the 29th of November and will go on for exactly two months, culminating on the 29th of January.
Around 150-odd kilometres from Indore, Hanuwantiya falls under the Khandwa district and is well-connected by air as well as by road. The line of cream-coloured tents greeting us was complemented by sprawling green carpeting throughout the festival ground. The perimeter was festooned with rainbow banners, each adorning a unique form of art native to Madhya Pradesh or a celebrated artist from the state. Walking towards my tent, I was welcomed by the smiling faces of Kishore Kumar and Makhanlal Chaturvedi, with pieces of Bhil artwork in between. The carnival will have a series of cultural and musical programmes along with a string of adventure sports. There will be performances by a mix of small indie artists and big names like Euphoria and Indian Ocean. But the most exciting part of the festival is the water and air activities.
We were asked to participate in most of the activities before the inauguration of the carnival, which took place after our departure for Indore. As they strapped me to my tiny seat on the paramotor I braced myself for something I had no expectations of. If you are a Harry Potter fan you might understand when I say I had my riding Buckbeak moment. The pilot sat pillion behind me and as we zoomed above, the Indira Sagar dam glistened beneath us with the balmy wind in our hair. Because the island is surrounded by water, it has a very pleasant temperature even during this time of the year. Sheo Shekhar Shukla who is the Managing Director of MP Tourism Board, aptly referred to Hanuwantiya as the &lsquoGoa of Madhya Pradesh&rsquo during a press meet. After a two-minute aerial round of the island, I descended with braced knees and a pumping heart.
The tent city of Hanuwantiya is surrounded by a wealth of water bodies, as is a lot of regions in Madhya Pradesh. The day started being very windy and what was supposed to be a full day of water sports, was sadly reduced to just a jetty ride and two more adventure rides in the backwater. Nevertheless, for those who love lazing about in the water, the Bumpy ride is akin to floating in the lazy river, albeit a few zig-zag rounds that drenched all my clothes. Pack a set of waterproof sportswear if you plan on indulging in the water activities. The Banana ride, that require you to straddle an inflated banana-shaped floater which was tied to a speed boat manned by one of the drivers and then taken for a ride of the backwater. We bumped along and sprayed water everywhere in our excitement. A good one for kids and adults alike. There were also provisions for jet skis, but they were still under maintenance while we were there.
&ldquoWe are also planning to make at least two to three more such spots ready for water carnivals similar to Jal Mahotsav in the state,&rdquo said Shukla. He also added that there will be a lot of cultural and tribal arts performances during the course of the two-month-long carnival. &ldquoMadhya Pradesh is home to 45 tribal communities and each of them have their own culture and art forms. There will be regular events going on throughout the festival, which will be mixed with modern band performances as well.&rdquo
Hanuwantiya is well-connected by both air and road. It is 150km from Indore. Take a flight to Indore&rsquos Ahilyabai Holkar airport then hire a cab to Hanuwantiya. It should take you about 3-4 hours, less if there is no traffic. Try leaving early morning to avoid the evening rush
The festival will run from November 29, 2022 until January 29, 2023