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.