The Chitrakote Falls (alternative spellings Chitrakoot; Chitrakot; Hindi: चित्रकोट जलप्रपात) is a natural waterfall located to the west of Jagdalpur, in Bastar district in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh on the Indravati River. It is located at a distance of 38 kilometres (24 mi) to the west of Jagdalpur.
The height of the falls is about 29 metres (95 ft). It is the widest fall in India, Because of its width and wide spread during the monsoon season, it is often called the Niagara Falls of India.
The Chitrakote Falls is located on the Indravati River. The river originates in the kalahandi region of Orissa, in the Vindhya Range of hills, flows westward and then forms a fall at Chitrakote, enters Andhra Pradesh and finally flows into the Godavari River, after traversing 240 miles (390 km) in the state, at Bhadrakali. The free drop of the falls is a sheer height of about 30 metres (98 ft). Because of its horseshoe shape, it is compared with the Niagara Falls and is given in the sobriquet ‘the Small Niagara Falls’. During the rainy season, from July and October, rainbows are created with sun rays reflecting on mist from the waterfall.
On the left bank of the Chitakote Falls, a small Hindu shrine dedicated to the god Shiva and several naturally created grottos named "Parvati caves" (named after Shiva's wife Parvati) are located. The weather in the area is generally pleasant except in the summer season when it is hot due to absence of vegetation in the area. The river flows sluggishly on the upstream side of the falls due to its meandering nature as it drains through the plains of Jagdalpur. This reach of the river valley has very little forest cover. Below the falls the river traverses the Bodhghat forested area and the river regime undergoes drastic change in its flow conditions. Aeration process and the forest in the downstream area filters the silt in the river.
Chitakoot Falls is one of the two of the waterfalls located in the Kanger Valley National Park, the other is Tirathgarh falls.
The geological formation of the Indravati River valley as it rises and flows downstream consists of quartzitic sandstone and changes to the Archaean granite and gneisses near the Chitrakote Falls. It is one of the six waterfalls in India which are classified as "geomorphosites" (geoheritage sites with geomorphological interest); this classification is based on research studies of geological features of heritage value existing in different parts of the country. These have been studied and discussed in seminars by geologists, and studies have received the support of international institutions such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), and the International Association of Geomorphologists (IAG).
The Chitrakote Falls, which spreads over three braids during the low flow season, is a single sheet of flow over a free fall of about 30 metres (98 ft) forming a horseshoe shaped gorge. However, during the monsoon season, when the Indravati River is in floods, the falls cover the entire stretch of the horseshoe from the left to the right bank covering a width of about 300 metres (980 ft). Though it is about one third less in width compared to that of the Niagara Falls, its visual splendour is described as equally impressive. Water flow conditions over the falls vary with the seasons. During the flood season or the monsoon season, the flow is filled with silt. It is India's widest waterfall.
Local boat facilities operating below and under the falls in a misty atmosphere provide views of the falls under an early morning sun in reflected sun light and in a blue hue. On the banks of the pond below the falls, many small Shiva Lingas (aniconic symbols of the god Shiva) are found in several niches, as are iron trishuls (the trident weapon of Shiva), mostly in a rusted state. On the left bank, there is a rock ledge and climbing down this cliff leads to a naturally formed niche which houses stone slabs carved with deities. In addition, there is a small hut made of straw where Shiva images and rusted images of his son, the god Ganesha are seen. Local people are involved in fishing in the area.
The beauty of falls is seen throughout the year, particularly during sunset. As the fast flowing water of the river flows over the sharp near vertical rock exposure at the widest reach of the river, it generates misty clouds and then hits into a pond formed in a semicircular shape at the bottom of the falls. Adventure sports enthusiasts use boats in the stormy part of this pond. Pilgrims bathe in the calmer part of the lake. In the low flow season, paddle boats are used in pools formed in the upstream part of the falls. In the pool below the falls, swimming is permitted and paddle boats are permitted. Local boatmen can paddle their boats under the spray below the falls.
Apart from many large hydro electric power plants on the Indravati river, a small power plant of 7.5 MW capacity has been planned to utilize the head at the Chitrakote falls, though no irrigation is envisaged.
Some terrorist activity by Maoists (anti-revisionist) was reported in the area. In 2008, when the then President of India Pratibha Patil visited Chitrakote Falls, there was a violent attack on a police vehicle which was blown up.
The Ministry of Tourism and Development of the Government of India had assessed the potential of this site in 2003 as of a natural "ambience" suitable for development of eco-tourism. Based on this assessment, plans were drawn up to develop facilities such as local restaurants, nature camping sites, a playground for children and platforms to view the falls, and also to improve the road condition, fix signs along the road from Jagdalpur to the falls, and beautify the site. Environmental conditions in the vicinity of the falls are in a preserved state but need attention as eco-tourism develops. As of 2010, some infrastructure facilities had improved. There is a government run hotel at the top of the fall. A series of steps from the garden of the hotel leads to the falls. "Chitrakote Log huts" with basic and modern cabins have also been built at the location. Some of the cabins provide good views of the falls.