Founded by a Parsi, planned by an American, named by a British viceroy, and landscaped by a German botanist—few Indian cities match Jamshedpur’s plural lineage. This is not your average tourist destination. It is after all an industrial city, characterised by towering chimneys, plumes of blue flames, clouds of smoke emanating from chimneys, and slopes of slag—a metallic by-product of smelting iron ore—that glow like lava in the distance. Despite this, and thanks to the vision of Jamshedji Nusserwanji Tata who built India’s first steel plant here, the soot is cloaked in an undulating cover of green.
Endearingly nicknamed Jampot, Jamshedpur is one of the cleaner cities in the country, and has a number of verdant, open spaces that surprises first-time visitors to the city.
Jamshedpur’s star attraction is Jubilee Park, a 237-acre oasis in the heart of the city. Modelled on Mysore’s Brindavan Gardens and conceptualised by the German botanist Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel (who landscaped Bangalore city), the park was built in 1957 to commemorate Tata Steel’s Golden Jubilee. Today, visitors can go boating on Jayanti Sarovar, have a picnic around Smriti Udyan, Rose Garden, or Upvan. For children there is a zoological park and recreational rides at Nicco amusement park. There is also a laser show with musical fountains (after sunset on Tues, Thur and Sat). Adjacent to Jubilee park is the Russi Mody Centre for Excellence, an intriguing complex with romanesque pillars and buildings shaped like the pyramids of Giza. The centre has a museum (Tues and Sat, 10 a.m.-12.30 p.m.; 3-5.30 p.m.) with interesting nuggets on the history of the Steel City.
Jamshedpur’s celebrity alumni include world-renowned dancer Astad Deboo, south-Indian actor Madhavan, and director Imtiaz Ali. Few know however that naturalist Gerald Durrell was born in Jamshedpur and that his father Lawrence Samuel Durrell ran a successful engineering and construction firm here. Many of his projects from the early 20th century still survive. At the time, the city’s European population socialised at the Beldih, United, and Golmuri clubs. The charm of Jamshedpur’s bygone times is still palpable, especially on occasions when the beautiful buildings and sprawling club grounds are lit up. Sports enthusiasts can spend a day at the golf courses of the Beldih and Golmuri Clubs, which host the Tata Open around November-December. Jamshedpur takes its sport quite seriously. This is apparent from the number of sport centres dedicated to cricket, badminton, football, and archery. The American Jesuits who came to Jamshepur in the 1940s introduced the locals to handball, a sport that is still popular. Less than a kilometre east of Beldih Club is another garden, the immaculately maintained Sir Dorabji Tata Park (near Keenan Stadium). The city’s annual flower show takes place about a kilometre away from the park, at Gopal Maidan, each December.
About three kilometres north, in Sonari, the Tribal Culture Centre, preserves the rich heritage of the Santhal, Ho, Oraon, and Munda tribes of the region. Corridors are lined with Santhal and Gond paintings while the Tribal Heritage Hall showcases musical instruments made of bison horn, as well as Chhau dance masks and other tribal artefacts. A small store sells paintings made by tribal artists using natural colours. However, to watch the artisans at work, one will have to visit Amadubi Art Village, 65 km from Jamshedpur.
A few minutes’ drive northwest of Sonari, along river’s Meet Road, is Domuhani or “river’s meet”, the confluence of the Subarnarekha and Kharkai rivers. It is believed to be the spot that impelled Tata’s prospectors to choose this area for the company’s factory.
Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary, an hour’s drive north of the city, is an ideal weekend getaway. In addition to sharing enthralling tales of Dalma mai, the goddess of the hills, the caretakers at the park’s Pindrabera Forest Rest House organise wildlife trails to the many reservoirs dotting the park. Trips to the lakes at Dimna, Patamda, and Hudco also make for scenic excursions.
The streets of Sakchi and Bistupur are the main commercial hubs. Along the crowded Bistupur market road, Biponi Handicrafts sells ethnic Jharkhand souvenirs from masks to bamboo handicrafts. Of special note are the Pyatkar paintings made on scrolls of bark, and the Dokra metal sculptures, which are made using the lost-wax technique dating back to Harappa. Along the same street Khadi Bhandar sells handloom linen and Jharkhand Rajya Khadi Gram Udyog’s Johar carries tussar silk shirts, khadi kurtas, and salwar-kameez suits. Jute and silk saris with elaborate kantha work are available at Tantushree (3, Main Road, Golmuri). Chhaganlal Dayaljee Sons (Tata-Hata Main Road), established in 1918, are the oldest jewellers in town, known for their heavy, gold necklaces featuring peacocks, elephants, and birds. The seasonal Tibetan Market, which is known for its cheap woollen garments, congregates every winter at the Circus Ground in Golmuri between November and January.
Jamshedpur has good street food. Bhatia’s milkshakes and Bauwwa ji’s chai near the X.L.R.I. business school are popular with young people, as is the masala cold-drink—a mix of cola, Fanta, lime, and masala—near Regal Ground. In the evening, roadside stalls hawk egg rolls, pakodas, chaat, and pani puri (golgappa or puchka). Local food icons include Tambi’s dosa near Sai Mandir, Fakira’s Chanachur (spiced, roasted lentils and peanuts) near Kamani Centre, and Hari’s Golgappa (Road No. 26, Telco). In Sakchi, Surendra Kewat’s litti is legendary. The whole wheat, baked dumplings are stuffed with a mixture of spicy roasted gram. Smothered in ghee, they are served with a mound of potato mash and a piquant tomato chutney.
Heavyweights like Chhappan Bhog in Bistupur, Bhola Maharaj, and Gangour Sweets in Sakchi, and Shukla Sweets in Azad Market sell an assortment of Bengali sweets. In winter, locals queue up for the light brown patali gur’er rosogollaand nolen gur’er sandesh (seasonal variations that are made with date jaggery).
For a fancier meal, look to Jamshedpur’s hotels. Most have relatively posh eateries such as Zodiac restaurant (I.C. Road, Bistupur) that serves decent multi-cuisine fare.
Appeared in the May 2013 issue as “Garden of Steel”. This story has been updated in March 2016.