Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sahydhari range in Maharastra

The herd of black bucks somewhere near Bhusaval on Jabalpur Pune rail track was an elating sight. The group of twenty or more was peacefully grazing on the scrub alongside the track. The scene is reminiscent of olden days whence larger tracts where occupied by these antelopes and other animals. But a crucial component of our ecosystem is now missing all over India and survives in small pockets totally at the mercy of humans. 

The range is impressive by all means but lack the verdant greenery of Satpura. It is difficult to make out if the bare mountains evolved as such or were deprived of the green cover. Sahyadhari Mountains exhibit stepped up elevation with plateau on the top of most. 

They are at their scenic most during the rains whence small trickling falls all over make the mountains enchanting. In the dry season the mountains appear as ghost of the dead with bare stony ridges and flats deprived of any short of cover. Sahydhari begin from Gujarat and traverse down to Southern India - the Western Ghats. The mountains block the narrow coastal strip from the Deccan Plateau and deprive the region of rain.    

Ironically the ranges which spread over one lakh sixty thousand sq km are labeled as biodiversity hot spot. They may still be at places but most of the hill ranges are bare bereft of any green cover.  The hills form the largest catchment area of complex network of rivers in India.

The formation started right from the beginning of tectonic plate movement from the major chunk the Gondwanaland. The ranges are called by various local names throughout their long stretch. In Northern Maharashtra they are known as Sahyadhari.   

All along the track the bare mountains offer shelter to large and small towns and number of rural settlements. Humanity resides here since ages and major towns like Pune have emerged. The destruction of natural belts is very much evident on this scape. Overstretching civilization, expanding agriculture and growing cities have become the hall mark of this journey. Expansion and rabid industrialization is evident and the large housing complex and colonies are nothing but modern ghettos. The nature has taken  back seat and the plunder and loot of natural resources goes on. And this is the story all over urban India.  

The journey to Pune was a sad reminder of destruction of natural lands taking place all over. The pretext is there - so many people to feed so many people to employ and what not. It is a losing battle for nature and for the poor population of this country who have little to gain from the influx of poison fuming industries. All the wealth is in hands of the industrialists, traders, land owners and the corrupt politicians.    

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Shivpuri - Lesser Known Destination in MP

From the plains of Uttar Pradesh you drive on Jhansi Shivpuri  Highway  towards  the Summer Capital of rulers of Gwalior. The plains lead to a rugged countryside on which lies the Karera Bustard Sanctuary. The Great Indian Bustard is rarely seen in this dacoit infested area.       

You climb further uphill through Madhav National Park to reach  the township. The place is small but enchanting and unique mix of Rajasthani and MP culture. Shivpuri is named after Lord Shiva and important tourist centers are villages in vicinity that harbour anceint Hindu & Jain temples they are Terahi, Indari, Ranod, Sakarra and Mahua. Thes temples depict rock cut carvings on outer walls. Chamunda  Devi Temple is worth a visit. Some of the temples are over thousand years old and protected but many are in ruins beyond recognition. These places are not frequented by villagers and have overgrown vegetation encircling them. 

Madhav National Park is well known for its wildlife and once Mughals and Scindia's hunted in these pristine forest. The extant of the forest has decreased considerably and almost all remains in the protected area. The famous Chand Patha Lake harbors interesting migratory ducks and other bird species. George Castle stands erect amidst the forest, built for a king who never came. The palace has no historical significance. The elite past lives in numerous palaces and hunting lodges in the surroundings besides marble cenotaphs.       

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Indian Summer Travel

India retains its charm through thick and thin. Be it chilly winter, burning hot summer, monsoon or spring come along and you will relish each and every flavor. The summers in India are definitely hot perhaps not so in the extreme Northern confines - Himalayan Region.

The heat churns on from Mid April by this time most of the deciduous trees, grasses, herbs and shrubs have shed their leaves.The landscape changes dramatically as summer advances and you can see through once impenetrable canopy easily. The Palas and Amaltas and many other flowering tree bloom to color the landscape. The scapes take on an enchanting ambiance of tree skeleton interspersed with evergreen shrubs and vast empty land with exposed top soil. It is all lifeless black and khaki, green, red and yellow.

The summers are usually dry and hence more tolerable than humidity. The sun is up strong by nine am and tortures you till about four pm. The heat then starts to reduce in preparation for the night. The scorching desert night are the coolest.  

It is best to avoid traveling in the afternoon when the heat peaks. Carry lot of water with you in order to avoid dehydration. Eat light, add local salads and pickles to your diet. These increase perspiration and offer valuable micro nutrients, the salts clear your systems of toxic substances. Drink a lot of fruit juice during travel and eat the fresh one's often. In summers avoid meat and food item hard to digest. Due to extreme heat digestive capacity decreases hence eating vegetables and fruits is wise. Eat lots of curd or its derivatives. Your immunity decrease in the heat hence avoid roadside food or water which may not be sterile. 

Plan out your travel schedule so that you reach there quickly and avoid unnecessary travel hassle.  Save yourself from dehydration hence drink lot of liquid. Keep medicine for loose motions and indigestion with you all the time. Eat light snacks sold in packets and consume mineral water from quality brands. Visit upscale restaurant which maintain a high degree of hygiene.

Where light clothes and sandals as shoes can be stuffy and uncomfortable in summers. Summer garments should be able to reflect light in order to stay cool. Wear sunglasses to avoid solar glare.

Book hotel rooms or lodges which have air coolers or air conditioning. Travel in air conditioned rail compartments and luxury A/C buses and taxi. 

Bandhavgarh Pristine Paradise and Amazing Fort

In remote district of Madhya Pradesh or Central India lie the amazing imprints of an ancient human civilization.  The Rewa forests were known more by Shikari’s and wood loggers than others. It was a chance discovery of white tiger that brought Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve to the World tourist map.   The white tiger was found near these forests by the erstwhile Maharajah if Rewa estate.

The tiger reserve is situated in Umaria District a forest belt with dense canopy and tribal hamlets.  Since more than two thousand years tigers and humans lived together in this wilderness. Unlike the modern times there was no conflict between the two then. But civilization came one after the other and vanished into antiquity. The tigers remained but badly decimated by shikaris and poachers, the forest where ravaged and their wealth plundered. Today forests survive as small pockets scattered here and there.

Though a small reserve, Bandhavgarh is an enchanting paradise on Earth. Amidst the dense Sal forests lie ruins of ancient kingdom.  Scattered around are man made caves, stables, temples in ruin and shelters carved out of igneous rocks. The climb to Shesh Shaiyya is steep and rugged but rewarding. This mesmerizing pool besides the reclining statue of Lord Vishnu enthralls one and all. The ferns, vines, shrubs adorn the whole scape on the slopes of Bandhavgarh Hill. The pool is fed by trickles of water and miniature falls from the vegetation on the slope. Tigers splash in the pool whence devoid of humans.

From Shesh Shaiyya it is a steep climb to the top of the hill where in lies the magnificent 2000 year fort in ruins.  The hillock is at height of 800 MSL and is part of the Vindhya Range. It towers over the conglomeration of marshy grasslands, deep valleys and dense forest belts, fed by snaking rivulets all around. The place offers a panoramic view of the reserve.  The first spectacle is the arch still preserved but tampered by later dynasties. The second good spectacle is of a tall statue of Lord Vishnu on the edge over looking the forests below.  Then between stretches of grasslands there lie scattered large reservoirs all man made.  The statues of Lord in fish and turtle forms intrigue as do all zoomorphic depictions in this reserve.  The Laxman Temple stands near the rampart and is regularly visited by the worshipers.     

The ruins are scattered all over, the fort was not plundered or destroyed but disentangled with passage of times. But the process could not envelope the stone and masonry work which still remain.  Some structures still remain. The site is a virtual museum of ancient architecture and delightful carvings of Gods and Goddesses. There are many small temples within the fortification and more structures that are little away from the main complex. There are historical reference to it in ancient Hindu scriptures.

The plateau now back to wilderness supports lot of life forms including tigers and leopards. It is eerie and scary to be up there alone in the lost kingdom. The Fort is enchanting and esoteric - worth a visit if you wish to experience ancient India.

There are many places of interest near the park. Most of the accommodation in Bandhavgarh is offered by jungle resorts both luxurious and budget. Book hotels in advance to  avoid heavy seasonal rush. You can book Indian tiger tour as well at MP online kiosks. There are many affordable tour operator packages In MP that conduct wildlife safaris in the tiger reserve. the best season is winters but hot summer offers a unique ambiance to the visitors. 

The National Park is approachable from Jabalpur and directly from New Delhi up to Umaria by Rail. It is at a distance of 170 plus km from Jbp which is connected by Air with New Delhi. All tiger reserves, Khajuraho and Pachmarhi can be reached from Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh.