Friday, July 5, 2019

Bandhavgarh Hidden Jewel of Central India

The peaks rise startlingly from the horizon as you drive towards Tala Village, an astounding view...and more has to come. Bandhavgarh is a land of surprises and a charismatic destination. An eerie feel hangs around, and chilly air of expectation runs down your spine, and your mind is in a state of fantasy. This is tiger land, India's primal forest home to many of these magnificent animals. 

Encapsulating diverse habitats and amazing biodiversity the tiger reserve is also a National Park.  It is managed under the aegis of Project Tiger a GOI initiative. Situated in the remote confines of Central India or the State of Madhya Pradesh the tiger land keeps its promise. Expect a safari exciting and soul stirring as never before experienced in the hinterlands of the long stretching Vindhyan Mountain Ranges.  

Bandhavgarh Meadow

The reserve comprises of marshy grasslands, dense Sal and mixed forests, bamboo slopes and rivers that twist and turn agonizingly all over this ecosystem eventually draining out of the park into chaotic human civilizations.  

Jeep Safari
The salient feature of this paradise are the steep cliffs covered with dense canopy scarred with scarps and protruding spurs at many places. In between the cliffs the safari vehicles move steep uphill and then slide tortuously downhill in between the deep glens. The drive is strenuous with bumps and jerks, negotiating sharp bends on the incline and slippery slopes tests the drivers skill no end.  

All this makes the safari exciting especially whence you climb up the hill at literally an obtuse angle. A chance meeting with a tiger and other exciting animals like the leopard, gaur, sloth bear and wild dog is always on cards to keep adrenalin pumping and the heart missing a few beats.  

Bandhavgarh Mountain

From the top of the mountains the panoramic grandeur unfolds. The landscape changes correspondingly as the angle of view changes and you gaze mesmerized. The tree tops, marshy grasslands and surrounding cliffs with rivulets and pathways snaking in between are a sight to wonder at from the dizzy heights.       

A tiger safari at Bandhavgarh is truly stupefying and thrilling on an open jeep. The sightings of tigers and other mega fauna is very high in this little paradise and tourists flock round the open season to film and photograph these amazing creatures, some of which are endangered and nearly on the verge of extinction. 

Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

Whence you enter the park from the Tala Gate across the meadows the steep cliff encapsulating the fort wall on the ascent and the Ram Janki Temple accords an exotic view. The distance plays around with dimensions and the ancient temple appears as a tiny speck.  

In midst of pristine forests the telltale signs of human architecture is an esoteric experience. The stone wall stretches long for more than a miles and was used to prevent intrusion into the Gond Fort at the height of 800 MSL. This hill is named after the reserve and is the tallest.  

In the Tala Zone at Sesh Shaiyya or reclining Vishnu time stands absolutely still. After an unnerving climb up the hill the twenty feet idol lying adjacent to an ancient pool shaded by a grove is a mesmerizing sight. The grove shelters the pool and the idol, trickles like a misty curtain flow down the walls covered with ferns and shrubs. The curtain of tiny falls literally sliding down towards the idol through eroded walls covered with a slippery carpet of moss and lichens extols the creativity of ancient tribe it enhances the age of the edifice which could be around two thousand years ago. The situation is fairy tale setting, and cool brisk air from the grove invites slumber even in the torturous heat of the summer.   

Silence and serenity prevails transporting you back in the time, a moment whence a troupe of soldiers came to rest here before climbing up to the fort. The intruding roar of the tiger awakens you from a fantasy day dream and fetches you back into reality of the contemporary. 

The climb up to the fort passes through numerous horse shelters, courtrooms and caves entrenched in the mountain wall. The grand stone arch after a strenuous climb is welcoming, from here you enter the fort complex. The fort itself is in ruins but the zoomorphic idols of Lord Vishnu are spectacular and well preserved. So are the huge reservoirs meant to sustain the large entourage of soldiers and the royal households.    

Langur Monkey
The large vacant spaces also contain numerous ancient architects in form of run down structures. On one end as you climb up, the temple manned by an old priests sits isolated but accords a magnificent view of the whole reserve.  

The whole park is an ecosystem that supports more than fifty tigers and they can be seen during the safari in the tourism zones. Herds of Gaur or bison and chital can be seen in the company of langur monkeys, sambar and the peacock in the grasslands. 

Hindu Priest
The leopard is illusive but is seen often along with the sloth bear and the wild dog. Barking deer and saunders of wild boar are often encountered near the waterholes. In open areas herds of Nilgai antelope can be seen peacefully grazing  in the grasslands. 

Tiger safaris are organized in the day and one in the evening. Tourists can also book full day safari especially the wildlife photographers.  

Best way to reach Bandhavgarh tiger park is via Jabalpur Airport which is a four hours drive, and also from Kanha Nationa Park which is more than five hours drive. The overseas visitors should book the holiday through the tour operators and opt for the jungle plan which is all inclusive.  

Monday, January 28, 2019

Planning A Tiger Safari at Ranthambhore

Wildlife Tour Planning Ranthambore!

Before you do get some facts right. The safaris are organised in Ranthambore with the sole aim of giving you a wildlife experience. Wildlife experience or interpretation is part of your holiday at the tiger reserve in Rajasthan in India. During most of the excursions tourists search for the tiger. This is the main focus of the holiday for most of the visitors except the birders who seek a more holistic experience. The birdlife is simply fantastic!

Little attention is paid by others towards the common animals in an ecosystem which has so much to offer. Hence when you visit the destination enjoy the sights and sounds of all the creatures and not only the big cats. During the game rounds you can see the leopard, sloth bear, Nilgai antelope, sambar and spotted deer, hyena, jackal, wild boar and the langur monkeys.  

The destination has number of ancient historical monuments some of which can be visited. The picturesque lakes create a magical splendour and offer thrilling sights of animals and the tigers that hunt there.    

The park organises two safaris one in the early morning and another around three in the afternoon. These have to be booked in advance. The park is divided into various tourism zones which have to be selected during the booking. Remember book the zones in the core area which offer the best sightings of the wild animals.

The permits are charged and photo identity is required to be mentioned whence booking. During the entry the photo identity has to be presented by each and everyone. The options you get is a visit on an open jeep or a canter. The former is more private but the latter is cheaper and the ride has to be shared with other tourists.  Anyway book in advance is my advise! The option for current booking is also available at the Gate if  entry is not fully booked. Do you wish to take a chance? 

For longer duration of stay a large number of high end, heritage, luxury and budget resorts are available. These are situated near Sawai Madhopur township out in the buffer area. You can book them online if you wish. Choose the one that offers modern amenities and good service. Read trip reports or reviews or seek reference from a friend who has already been there.

The entry is fixed as per the time set by the forest department. The exit is also fixed by the department. Jeeps are available for excursions in the park and some hotels provide naturalist services to enhance your experience. All this cost money so be prepared to spend. The rewards are worth the expense.

There is a limit for the entry vehicles in the core zones for excursion. There is a  full day safari at Ranthambhore option available online. In this format you enter early and exit late while you spend the whole day in the park. This is best suited for wildlife photography and filming. Book any tiger safari but do it in advance is my suggestion. In case of rush you will not be able to avail an entry in the core zone.    

Carry quality binoculars and some books on wildlife. Warm clothing in winters is essentials. And yes make purchase of all essentials at Jaipur before you depart for Sawai Madhopur. The park is closed during the monsoon from July to September.  

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Pachmarhi A Pristine Holiday Retreat

Pachmarhi Resort 
As the taxi negotiates agonizing twists and turns of the rugged climb I look at the changing landscape - astounding verdant greenery. We are negotiating the Matkuli Hill Range and driving up towards the Pachmarhi Township. Nestled in the Satpura Range Pachmarhi is part of the Satpura Biosphere Reserve which encompasses Satpura National Park and Bori Wildlife Sanctuary.    
Hilly Landscape

The sharp turns and twists, and the deep glens we leave behind make me dizzy, and my innards shaky. You are conscious of a fatal slip but the driver is at ease and that is comforting. 

Pachmarhi Hillside

We stop at Denwa Darshna the mountain river which intersects the biosphere reserve.  From the dizzy precipice the river looks like a snake wriggling through steep walls of ancient mountains. The boulder strewn pathway gives way to fine sand filled beaches, and the waters sparkle bright in the sunlight. This is our first introduction of this pristine paradise. 

Unspoilt and in perfect state of preservation, Pachmarhi was saved from the axe by its notification as a wildlife sanctuary, and being a Cantt it was saved from rabid urbanization. Unlike other holiday resorts in India the destination is untouched, unspoilt and charming albeit tourist pressure and township reconstruction is have a telling effect in a small area, but nevertheless it still is one of the finest retreat in India. 

Daru Haldi Exotic Shrub a painkiller of note
The most stunning and captivating waterfall I find here is the Silver Falls. Not yet motorable, one has to trek through dense forests to reach the fall. The misty cascade created by the seven hundred feet drop to the enigmatic valley below gives rise to a silver curtain and hence the name. On the way we come across a paleolithic cave with paintings dating back to 20000 years. The next stop is at the Fairy Pool, crystal clear and absolutely still, the pool is fed by an enchanting spring that emerges from the forest clads mountains.  Other interesting places to follow are the Handi Cove, Bee Falls, Irene Pool and Reechgarh Caves. There are more....     


On one visit you realize that terrain was in a constant state of upheaval since ages with forest clad mountains dotting all over the surroundings. Incidentally the highest point in Madhya Pradesh is Dhoopgarh about nine kms from the township. The hill rises steeply to a height of 1350 MSL. At the top of this mountain sits a quaint resthouse deserted but in a state of preservation. This was the favorite haunt of the British Sahibs during the Raj, and they used to indulge in hunting and revelries best imagined in the summer capital. The destination in the contemporary era is still the summer capital of MP Government.  
Highest Point Dhoopgarh

Rest House At Dhoopgarh

As you climb up to Dhoopgarh, the vegetation changes giving rise to a distinct ecosystem which supports myriads of life forms especially migratory birds. Another towering mountain is Chuaragarh with four thousand steps to negotiate if you dare to climb. Atop this mountains sits temple of Lord Shiva and is a point of pilgrimage for devout Hindus.
View From Dhoopgarh
Milestone at Dhoopgarh
Some of the valleys are deep beyond expectation and are often visited by botanists to explore the goldmines containing rare plants and shrubs. The place contains floral species of immense medicinal value besides being ornamental.     

Pandav Caves
In a small area surrounding the township i.e. the wildlife sanctuary and Satpura tiger Reserve there are a number of natural occurrences like waterfalls, pools, glens, mountains and natural caves. Overriding these iconic spots are cave formations containing Shiva idols, Bade and Chote Mahadev, Jata Shankar and the Pandava Gufa.

Though overcrowded the township has some of the finest old bungalows stamped with exquisite British Architecture, these are in a perfect state of preservation and inhabited. Some have been turned into hotels like the Golf View Hotel in the periphery. Signs of tourism fatigue are obvious but thankfully limited only to the township.   

Golf View Hotel
The periphery being part of the biosphere is rich in wildlife and leopard sloth bears, sambar and bison are often encountered by trekkers. An occasional tiger from the reserve finds its way here as well. Due to the varying altitude and immense floral wealth Pachmarhi is soon to become a birding hotspot. One small trek we came across contained more than twenty five species and a fresh pawprint of a tiger.  
Tiger Paw Print Pachmarhi

There are many resorts at Pachmarhi Township, and some luxurious properties owned by MPTDC in the outskirts for accommodation. Street food joints are in plenty along with small shopping centres.

The hills station lies near Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh. It is five hours drive from Jabalpur Airport and is also accessible from Bhopal Airport. It lies at a drive of two hours from Satpura Tiger Reserve entrance at Madai.

By Rail: Stoppage at Piparia Station ( 3 hrs from Jabalpur) and one hour drive uphill to the township.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Destination Pench Tiger Reserve

Wildlife viewing in India is exciting with many tiger reserves and National Parks hosting the tiger and other enchanting animals. Most of the tourists arrive here to see the tiger in the wild. But let me tell there are many other enchanting animals and birds that should be the focus of the tourists as well.  
wild boar - John Matthai

Well this article refers to Pench Tiger Reserve

Long time back a vagrant child called Mowgli was lost in the Jungle probably deserted by his parents. Some say they were killed by the tiger....well anybody's guess.  The child was adopted by Akela the leader of the wolf pack in the Seoni Hills in Central India. He was introduced to the pack and soon became part of it. The story by Rudyard Kipling called "Jungle Book" narrates the antics of the wolf child and about the jungle life of Seoni Hills now called Pench Tiger Reserve. 

Bengal Tiger - Clive
Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh or Central India is now a popular tiger safari destination. The characters of Jungle Book come to life whence you visit the park. Mowgli the wolf child is no more but many Mowglis can be encountered in the villages near the forests. Kaa, Akela, Baloo, Sher Khan, bandar log all can be seen on a jungle safari in the tiger reserve.   

Eagle - Clive
The pristine forests of Pench are most enchanting with awe inspiring unspoiled landscape. The River Pench snakes through dense jungles according life as a support system to all the life forms. The vivid and diverse profile supports amazing habitat for innumerable flora and fauna. The impressive biodiversity has been preserved for eternity as it is a protected area with an inviolate core.   

The reserve is biodiversity hub and a conservation unit with the focus on the big cat. Nevertheless all life form are conserved because of strict protection and protected area status.      

The tourism is organised by the forest department of MP and a permit can be availed for excursion or tiger safari in the core area of the reserve. Safaris are conducted in the day and evening on jeeps as on foot excursions are not allowed. The reserve is closed during the monsoon period from July to September but safaris in the buffer area are allowed.      
Pench Jungle Home
There are many resorts which provide luxury stay in the buffer area of Pench National Park. The closest access is from Nagpur Airport at a distance of eighty kilometres while Jabalpur Airport is at a distance of four hours. The tiger reserve is connected by five hours drive with Kanha National Park in Central India.  

Friday, September 7, 2018

Ardhnareshwar - A Passionaate Goddess of True Love

Ardhnareshwar or half female and half male is a human representation in Indian mythology prominent figurative speech in Hinduism.  The representation is of Lord Shiva and Goddess Shakti combined into one to form Ardhnareshwar. This also refers to split half in language of romance as mentioned in the book - A Passionaate Goddess of True Love.  

Moh Lal Rai is of firm belief that her find or her true love Gaurang whom she comes across in Chennai is her split half as Shiva and Shakti were. The personification of male and female unison of two is in realty one human being with aspect of both male and female. Biological we are created as male and female but in truth it is the same biology that governs us all. The differentiation arises for the task of procreation where in minor changes facilitate two figures to give birth to a new human being for propagation of the species.   This androgynous form finds mention in Greek myths as well as in Puranic literature of India. 

Perhaps this places men and women in equal footing in the minds of misogynists those who delve in supremacy of the male form.  

In the romantic novel Poonam Uppal the Indian Author based in India justifies Moh's affiliation with Gaurang on principles base on the Ardhnareshwar concept. This composite form of male and female split down the middle speaks if genetic compatibility and hence further justifies inseparability of split halves as we find in the narration of A Passionaate Gospel of True Love. 

Lord Shiva and Parvati are inseparable and the author describes them as perfect couple. This made of each other couple also relates to a destined relationship and the body and mind is always in search of its other half. The unison in such cases exhibits high degree of compatibility and harmonious existence. That is why it is said the marriages are made in heaven.    

Author Poonam Uppal 
In the romantic novel the book writer Author Poonam Uppal mentions split halves and soul mate concept much prevalent amongst the true lovers. This also delivers an esoteric twist to the romantic interlude between Moh and Guarang. The popular book writer has born and bred in India is a devout Hindu. She is an ardent devotee of Goddess Maa Durga the consort of Shiva. She now lives in USA with her family. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Khajuraho Temples - Of Treatise on Stone

Twenty Five Temples now exist in the Temple Town Khajuraho in the State of Madhya Pradesh in India. A popular tourist destination visited from all over the Globe. 

Khajuraho Through The lens of Romantic Novel based in India

Salvation is the ultimate goal of humans especially those professing Oriental religions that originated in India.  The ultimate deliverance is through Karmic deeds that are supposed to be based on following the path of truth, sacrifice and piety.  

Khajuraho Temples

Religiosity is central to achieving salvation and eventually to escape the frequent torturous cycle of life, death and rebirth.  

Khajuraha Carvings  

The path to salvation does not have any mandatory manifestations and it is not necessary to relinquish Worldly pleasures or satiation of our sensory apparatus. This is why treatise like Vatsyayana’s   Kama Sutra came into being and became so popular. 

Temples of Khajuraho 

In the romantic novel A Passionaate Gospel of True Love this is what Moh Lal Rai discovers.  Right at the doorsteps of famous Khajuraho Temples Moh is surprised to see intense erotic sculptures on the outer walls.

Built by the Chandela Rajput Kings in between 9th to 11th century they were not lascivious representation of physical attributes of humans. Sexual gratification, true love and emotional attachments were pathway to achieve a fulfilled life and for the soul to come at rest. 

Physical gratification is never tarnished in the image of ancient people as being lascivious, lewd or lecherous.           

Perhaps this was the intent of Goddess Maa Durga through the premonition to guide Moh Lal Rai to Khajuraho Temples. She was in India to fulfill her destiny a coming together of true lovers as prophesied during the fashion show at Las Vegas in USA.

In meeting her destined lover Gaurang a number of questions had arisen especially with the relationship as both were already tied in a conjugal bond with others. The guidance was a journey of discovery as she found out the concept of all absorbing love between true lovers or split halves. 

The treatise of Kama Sutra is not limited to aspect of physical love it goes much deeper and is soulful manifestation of an aspect of life which is often shunned as being sinful by the unaware. This could be termed as the higher purpose of Khajuraho Temples in connect with the Kama Sutra Treatise.   

A Passionaate Gospel of True Love is a manifestation of liberal thoughts that justifies relationship beyond the norms as we have come to understand. The orthodox injunctions towards love and romance are age old. It is this romantic saga that dares to explore the unconventional through the truth hidden in our sacred texts and treatise.           


Friday, May 25, 2018

Ranthambhore Where Tigers Rule

Hunting Reserve of an erstwhile Maharajahs, the ruins strike awe as the jeep rolls down the rugged terrain. Ranthambore is well known for its tigers, and the ancient temples, forts, chattris and hunting lodge all now throttled down by forests. Decay and withering is the tell tale sign of once magnificent structures exhibition of pomp and glory of the Maharajahs of Jaipur - now a bustling capital of Rajasthan.   

The rot has not set in for the forests and wild denizens they thrive well. Tigers now occupy the biodiversity rich region, and tourist flock to admire them. The big cats can be seen here in all there glory in the natural habitat - and who would not like to see them. 

Popular for tiger safaris the ancient ruins and splendorous lakes of the National Park are the jewels of this niche habitat of wild denizens. Not to be left behind, the tourist lodges at Ranthambore are among the finest with a rich tradition of hospitality that equals the days of the Maharajahs living in their opulent palaces and forts.       

Besides being home to the big cats, the reserve boasts of wide array of mammals and amazing flock of avian. Safaris are thrilling, be it on a jeep or a canter, the excitement never mitigates as you get one experience after another, a tiger on hunt, crocodile basking and shrill alarms of deer and the Nilgai. 

Tucked away in the chain of Aravali Hills the erstwhile hunting reserve is now the mainstay of tourism in Rajasthan. The big cats have created history after return from near extinction. Legends (tigers) now eternal have ruled the dazzling heights of the ramparts and the lush green meadows inundated by magnificent lakes large and small.      

Resort Ranthambhore

High End Hotel 

Luxury Hotel Ranthambore

The canopy, water bodies, grasslands and torturous terrain create their own niche in which species survive. One of the best places to see the tigers in the wild, Ranthambore is most visited in India. Entrenched in the itinerary of Golden Triangle many a holidays are made here. 
Male Tiger 

Ancient Temple
Situated near Sawai Madhopur three hours drive from Jaipur the reserve is easy to access. The tourism infrastructure is sound with many five star and luxury hotels for a memorable stay. Tigers abound and you can see and photograph them with ease. A few days of safaris will offer an experience that no other venue will offer in India.   

Monday, May 14, 2018

Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve

Tadoba Gate
Situated in the banks of Andhari River the sylvan retreat is a spectacular tiger landscape. Tiger in this wilderness roam free amidst the verdant forests hills and valleys. Tadoba is named after tribal Taru whom the residents still venerate. He was a chieftain who was killed in an encounter with a tiger. A shrine is dedicated to him in the verdant confines of the forest under a large tree near the Tadoba Lake.       

Map of Tadoba 

Jeep Safari

The rich biodiversity region is situated in the Indian State of Maharashtra near Chandrapur. Chandrapur is at a distance of approximately one hundred forty kilometre from Nagpur City. The reserve is an amalgamation of Tadoba National Park and Andhari River Wildlife Sanctuary. It is now under the aegis of Project Tiger Program and hence is known as tiger reserve.  

The predominately Southern Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests contain diverse flora and fauna. The diversity is incredible in this cradle of  Chimur Hills, Kolsa and Moharli Ranges. The wide expanse of forests is contained by the Lake which divides the dense canopy from the region containing farmlands and human habitation. The lake is a birder's dream come true with wide assemblage of shore and wetland birds. The colourful avian are a delight to one's eye, and the melange of colours that they are adorned with is simply striking. Marsh crocodiles make their last stand here after facing persecution all over Maharashtra.      

A safari in the forests of Tadoba is an exciting proposition especially for wildlife enthusiasts on a holiday. Wildlife in its best can be seen frolicking on the dusty jungle pathways that intersect the forests. Nilgai, sambar,  chital and barking deer. Exciting encounter with a tiger is what all holiday makers yearn for, but no less of a thrill is the sight of a slot bear ambling around or a wild dog packs on a hunt. 

Among the other carnivores that inhabit these forests are the leopards one of the World's most enigmatic creatures.  Together the leopard and the tiger constitute a thrilling find on the safari but the jungles of Tadoba has much more to offer. A holistic experience is what enlightened tourists yearn for and I believe the reserve is spectacular.      

For tourism purpose the park is divided into many zones with dedicated entry gates. Booking a permit in advance is much advisable. This can be done from the office of the DFO at Chandrapur or at the respective entry gates.    

Most of the hotels and resorts are situated around the entry gates. They offer wide variety of amenities in the remote jungle. You can avail accommodation in a budget resorts or a five star hotel depending upon the choice and your pocket. Accommodation is also available at State run MTDC and guest houses belonging to various departments.    

Tourism is controlled in Tadoba Tiger Reserve in India and limited entry is available. For making a holiday here advance planing is a must. In order to reach the preserve one has to arrive at Nagpur and then drive to Chandrapur or the respective gates.