Sunday, May 1, 2011

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. 
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