AMAZING FORESTS OF BANDAVGARH IN THE HEART OF INDIA

At last into the home of the White Tiger: Bandavgarh
At last into the home of the White Tiger: Bandavgarh

The Amazing Forests of Bandavgarh tells fascinating stories of Kings, White Tigers and a fort gifted to a brother. This is the last ( for now) and chapter 5 in the series on Bandavagarh .

Legend has it that Lord Ram gifted the fort to his brother Laxman ( do see my  write up on Artifacts of the Samode Safari Lodge)

The Bandavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve was once home to the White Tiger ( not spotted for the last 50 years now) and was  the domain of the  Baghela Rulers of Rewa. It was  preserved by these wise rulers as a Wildlife sanctuary from the 17th century ( 400 years ago) when they shifted their capital from Bandavgarh to Rewa.

Jeeps canters and elephants are three modes of transport within the BTR
Jeeps canters and elephants are three modes of transport within the BTR

It is home to numerous monuments, temples ,caves and forts, most of which are beyond the reach of the ordinary tourist like me. A visit to the fort requires a special permit  I hope I will be able to visit the 10th Century Fort in the years to come.

the hills in tala range atop which the fort is located
the hills in tala range atop which the fort is located

The caves are about 2000 yrs going back to the 1st A.D. The entire region .

 Caves ( i call them Hobbit homes) In Tala range
Caves ( i call them Hobbit homes) In Tala range

I have observed that  hills  inhabited by ancient temples  in India are often  a treasure trove for environmentalists.

Official write up at the site of the lying VIshnu and Shivling
Official write up at the site of the lying VIshnu and Shivling inside The Tiger Reserve at Bandavgarh
Behold the Creator:Lying Vishnu
Behold the Creator:Lying Vishnu

They are often the catchment areas of water for the region, ancient forests  provides medicinal plants and in turn its inhabitants, the fauna ( wildlife)  , thrives.

The official board is silent on the Shivling the symbol of Lord Shiva
The official board is silent on the Shivling the symbol of Lord Shiva
The dense moist sal ( shorea robusta) forests of Bandabagrh
The dense moist Sal ( shorea robusta) forests of Bandavgagrh

The Amazing forests  of Bandavgarh are  a wonderful example of this ancient wisdom.

Grey Hornbills
Grey Hornbills
Romantic Owls
Romantic Owls
Langurs at the local pub
Langurs at the local pub

There are some pictures which I am adding in Chapter 6, which will show up the deficiencies of the  Forest administration at Bandavgarh.So keep your eyes pealed.

After much inner conflict I think its necessary to mention the same.

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Nalsarovar Water Forest: Home of the Flamingos

The “water world”  of “Nalsarovar”  is the home to the graceful Flamingos ( Phoenicopterus roseus & Phoenicopterus minor ) .It’s a sight of a lifetime.

Through the blogs titled ” enchanted forests” I attempt to unveil to the reader  the numerous forms of  magical and enchanting nature .

Welcome to the water forest, Nalsarovar, abode of the flamingoes.

flamingos
flamingos

Sarovar”  literally translated from Hindi means a Lake.

Nalsarovar a world of water
Nalsarovar a world of water

Nalsarovar is however an enormous “water forest”  located a short 45 minutes by road (65 kms) from Ahemdabad. ( Gujarat, India)  . It is also one of  the largest  “Ramsar”  sites in India.

Water combined with marshy land make it an ideal habitat for hundreds of water birds, many of which migrate to  Nalsarovar from  the colder northern worlds.

migratory birds
migratory birds

The birds are best viewed from the flat  bottomed boats which are manned by extremely knowledgeable boatmen. Follow their advice and you will be witness  to one of the marvels of nature.

reach by sunrise for the best sightings
reach by sunrise for the best sightings

Personally did not go on a horse, but its an option with this cheerful  young jockey. Do observe the saddle.

want to go on a horseride?
want to go on a horseride?

Do write to me  at chandmukul@gmail.com and i will be happy to share more pictures and details. Also watch out for my blogs on the region in http://www.travelwithmukul.wordpress.com.

Leave you with  the  birds of this amazing water world

In Ancient Egypt the IBIS was revered .
In Ancient Egypt the IBIS was revered .
A brush with a darter bird
A brush with a darter bird

The parent bird was so agitated as the boat was within touching distance of its offspring ( in the foreground of the picture) that it flew menacingly  to peck the boatman. Did  The  Jacana  (Hydrophasianus chirurgus) know who was in charge ?

agitated bronze winged jacana
agitated pheasant tailed jacana

I have had only  a “fleeting glimpse of  half a dozen flamingos”  at an abandoned dock in  Mumbai years ago.The sights at Nalsarover truly reveals the magic of the flamingoes. what an eyeopener: they flock here in thousands.

flamingos and flamingoes
flamingos and flamingoes

Do keep an eye for more on the region.

Mandu: Baobab trees and the Palace of Love

Massive Banyan tree enroute to Mandu
Massive Banyan tree en route to Mandu

In an attempt  to discover this magical  and mysterious country I take you  to the “HEART of INDIA”,  Mandu in Madhya ( “madhya” literally translated from Hindi means centre) Pradesh .

In this write-up I speak exclusively  of the stories our  flora reveals , specifically the Baobab trees here.

For travel write-up on Mandu  please  read http://www.travelwithmukul.wordpress.com

Mandu tells you tales of romantic love stories of an era long gone by.

The intense love of the past  however has left behind beautiful palaces which sing romantically as the rains caress them during  the monsoons.

Along with the palaces ( now in ruins )  you see flourishing giant  mysterious trees with their girth in excess of 10 m ( 35 feet) and a height of 25 m ( 75 feet)  .All is strange or extraordinary about them.

Enormous football sized fruits swing from   their branches.The flowers hang upside down. They  flowers bloom at night ( after sunset)  and fruit bats pollinate the flowers.

These are the magnificent and strange  Baobab trees , are some older than the palaces? They are supposed to have a life of  up to 3000 ( three thousand)  years.

Baobab fruits available only in Mandu
Baobab fruits available only in Mandu

What is mysterious is the presence of the gigantic  Baobab ( Adansonia digitata ) trees which crown the landscape of Mandu. Amazingly  Baobab fruits are sold on the streets of Mandu  even today.

Native to faraway AFRICA  they can be only  seen near the palaces ( now in ruin) only  at MANDU .Thats why they are also called “African calabash.”

How did they migrate from these faraway lands, who brought them ? Whats the link between these romantic palaces and these gigantic foreign trees ?

even the monuments turn green
even the monuments turn green

Baobab trees are native to sub Saharan regions of Africa with very little precipitation. Yet they flourish in Mandu where the rains are bountiful and humidity levels very high turning the landscape into one colour “GREEN”.

Mysterious baobab trees from the past
Mysterious baobab trees from the past

Very little information is available with the locals guides and people about these trees.

Most tourists  are not even interested and unfortunately a large number would not have even seen them. I wish to show you what you are missing.

Many books link them to Arabian traders, but Mandu is no trading port. Its 1000 kms from the nearest sea port. By this logic Kerala ( the first trading ports  with Arabia)  should be littered with Baobab trees, but find  me ONE Baobab tree in the state.Where are the Baobab trees in Delhi, once capital of “Mughal India “?

Why is it that not even  ONE TREE  exists outside the ramparts of ancient  Mandu? You will find not one tree on the hills that surround Mandu,

What stories do these enormous  ancient trees hide? Lets unravel these mysteries as we travel to the HEART OF INDIA.

the fruits are the size of watermelons.
the fruits are the size of watermelons.

Do write to me at chandmukul@gmail.com if you have a viewpoint. Lets discover the magic of our flora as we traverse this ancient land.

Forest in the clouds: Bhimashankar

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Forest in the clouds: bhimashankar

As we go on a “treasure hunt”  across India,  daily  opening   “nature’s magical gifts”  , I hope we will collectively discover her subtle and some “between the eye” secrets .

Forests ( an alias for mother Nature)are located all over, we have to simply unpack the packaging.

Ancient pilgrim centres are one of the easiest clues that dot this magnificent country. Its truly a treasure chest and each forest a magical gift in this bountiful treasure chest.

Hindu mythology is entwined with the treasures of Nature. Each pilgrim centre has a treasure from nature waiting to be discovered.

You neither need to be religious nor a devotee to visit these Pilgrim centres. They are richly endowed with Natures bounty. Just be with me and you will discover the secrets yourself.

We have thus far been  enchanted by  Urban forests ( nauture’s gifts in bustling metropolises) & Sacred forests. We now explore & unveil  the FOREST IN THE CLOUDS.

Bhimashankar is  a gorgeous  150 minute minute  drive from Pune.

Strongly recommend the local cuisine. The misal pav and vada pav cannot be matched in any restaurant.

Misal pav
Dhaba enroute pune to bhimashankar
delicious meal
delicious meal

Bhimashankar,  is located in the midst of a forest nestled within the Western Ghats.

The best time to visit is during the monsoons when the Gods in form of  “clouds” descend to Earth.

Now the pictures hereafter  will unveil this FOREST IN THE CLOUDS and Its magic in its folds.

Foothills
Foothills
two eyes are not enough to capture the landscape
two eyes are not enough to capture the landscape
clouds mountains forests and villages
clouds mountains forests and villages
Can it be greener.walk in the clouds
Can it be greener.walk in the clouds
can you hear the river gurgling
can you hear the river gurgling
sowing rice. the raincoats are made of hessian
sowing rice. the raincoats are made of hessian
there are hundreds of such waterfalls.
there are hundreds of such waterfalls.

Am not even half way to  Bhimashankar, the origin of the  river Bhima and the abode  of Lord Shiva as “Bhimashankar”.

the forests in the clouds
the forests in the clouds

Watch out for chapter 2  on “Forests in the Clouds”.

Check out http://www.travelwithmukul.wordpress.com on Pune.

Sacred Forests

Garudaji and gateway to Heaven
Garudaji and gateway to Heaven
evergreen sacred forest
evergreen sacred forest

I was fortunate to be summoned by Lord Venkateswara ( Vishnuji)  to his abode on Earth  located on the Tirumala Hills  near Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh.

The Tirupathi Tirumala Temple dedicated to Lord Venkateswara on Venkatchala hill ( one of the seven hills comprising Tirumala Hills) is well known as the ultimate pilgrimage centre for Hindus.

For the trip to Tirupathi see my blog http://www.travelwithmukul.wordpress.com.

Hindu mythology bonds man and  nature with the Supreme Being  in an enchanting way.

The Tirumala Hills themselves become the abode of the Creator( Lord Vishnu in the form of Lord Venkateswara) after he rescues the Earth ( Bhumi) from the the underworld.

Many temples in this region  have depicted Bhumi with Sri ( Lakshmiji) alongwith Lord Venkateswara.

The Venkatchala Hills are home to a beautiful sacred forest.Protected for hundreds of years by the temple  The mountain itself is a demi god (devta)  and revered and prayed to ensuring that all ( flora and fauna) that  reside on it  are protected by the Lord himself.

This bond strikes you between the eyes at  this world famous temple site.The hills  are lush green and home to sandalwood trees and red sanders besides many endemic trees.

The Tirumala Hills protected by evergreen  trees
The Tirumala Hills protected by evergreen trees

It is a model for environmentalists across the world as to how a forest can be preserved.

As you drive up from Tirupathi the magic of the sacred forest envelops you , calming your senses as you approach the abode of the Creator.

The air becomes cooler and  various sacred forests ( Vanams) are demarcated and named after various rishis ( sages) like Durvasha vanam etc.

vanam means forest
vanam means forest

Two trees the “tamarind”  and “champak”  trees are supposed to be the abodes of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi  respectively.This is mentioned in the ancient texts the “Puranas” in particular the Skanda Purana where the story of King Tondaman is unveiled.

Cutting of trees is forbidden to construct the temple also.

The vehicle of Lord Vishnu is none other than Garuda ( the king of eagles) . Can anyone kill a bird on the hills with this belief?

Hills in the form of of Garudaji, vehicle of Lord Vishnu
Hills in the form of of Garudaji, vehicle of Lord Vishnu

Symbolically each and every bird, animal tree and plant finds a place in the Puranic stories ensuring their existence over time.

Narsimha avatar of Lord Vishnu
Narsimha avatar of Lord Vishnu

The temple todate has its own flower and medicinal herb gardens  from where fragrant flowers are picked and offered to the ruling diety.

The smell of sandalwood and tulsi( basil)  enlighten your senses as you bow before the Lord in the garba griha ( sanctum sanctorum of the temple) and experience Ananta( never ending)   bliss in his sacred forest.

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TIGERS AND HISTORY

A mere three hours by train ( August Kranti from Nizamuddin to Sawai Madhopur) from New Delhi and you reach one of the most Enchanting and mesmerizing forests of  India.: Ranthambore Tiger National Park, Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan.

Ranthambore Tiger National Park has a high density of Tigers and an extremely dry deciduous forest.This  Wonderful combination almost  ensures sighting a Tiger ( English), Sher ( Hindi), Panthera tigris ( Scientific name) .

dry forest
Dry Deciduous Forest in the Month of May ( Peak Summer Month)

It is home to the famous 19 year old  Diva “Macchli” and the  Majestic Hunk  “Ustaad”.

Ustaad was unfortunately shifted to  Sajjangarh, near Udaipur after being  labelled a man eater under mysterious and controversial circumstances in May 2015.

eyes of the Tiger
The Eyes of the Tiger

The forests of Ranthambore  are nestled in the Aravalli range of mountains . The trees are adapted to the dry environment and thus relatively stunted and with smaller leaves.

The “MAGIC” of Ranthambore is the mix of History with the Forest.The Ranthambore Fort built centuries ago is today in the heart of Tiger Country.

Where else can you see Tigers in a Fort or a Palace ,now in ruins, overrun with Banyan trees.

The forest has numerous Hunting Palaces from an era gone by and is also home to a massive Ranthambore Fort.

ranthambore fort and forest
The Ramparts of the Fort in the midst of deciduous  Forest

It is also home to an unusual temple dedicated to the Elephant headed Lord Ganesha.

To date Wedding cards in Rajasthan are first addressed to the ruling deity Lord Ganesha whose blessings are a must for an auspicious start.

the road to the temple
The Lake outside the Ganesh Temple within the Ranthambore Fort

There is also a unique Hanuman ( Balaji)  temple in the midst of the “river of sorrow” , the Chambal. One bank of the river is Rajasthan and the other Madhya Pradesh.

the hanuman temple
An Open Temple in Ranthambore Fort dedicated to  Hanumanji

The flora and fauna at Ranthambore is spectacular and indeed unique.

For residents of Delhi, a walk through the Aravalli Biodiversity Park is a must before you visit Ranthambore. You can then compare an Urban Forest to a Forest of the King.

flora and fauna

What say, would you like to learn about the Flora and Fauna  of the Aravallis? Let us discover the magic together.

It has been a year since i entered the World of blogging, am now giving the initial Blogs a makeover. Many of the blogs a year ago had only 10 likes or under. I am re blogging these posts while keeping the initial  thoughts intact.