When you travel through India and see the Beautiful and Majestic Palaces and Forts you will also see countless “Stuffed Animals” which were heartlessly Hunted to decorate these Royal abodes.

Many species like the Asiatic Cheetah ( Acinonyx jubatus ventaticus)  have been driven to extinction in India, whereas some species like Tigers are now  restricted to Wildlife Parks and Sanctuaries. 

Stuffed Heads of Animals are mounted onto wooden boards ,as is the Head of the  Gaur ( English)  , Bos gaurus ( Scientific Name) in the picture below,  and are called “TROPHIES”.

These “Trophies” are then proudly displayed in the abodes of esrtwhile Maharajas and Kings symbolizing  the valour of their Forefathers.


The Featured Photograph has Mounted Heads of  the Graceful and Majestic Deer “Bara Singhas” ( that with 12 horns) , Swamp Deer ( English), Rucervus duvaucelli ( Scientific Name) which is now constricted to the Terrai region ( Dudhwa Wildlife sanctuary) , a spot in Central India( Kanha Wildlife Sanctuary) and Assam( Kazhiranga ) . This Unique Deer once roamed across the entire  Indian Subcontinent but is now extinct in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Indian or Asiatic Lion ( English).  Panthera leo persica ( Scientific name) can today  be found ONLY  in the Gir Sanctuary in Gujarat, India. The Indian Lion is still Endangered and was on the verge of Extinction.

This Specimen is now in a Glass Box marked Number 26 and must survive on Grass.

lion is box number 26
Asiatic Lion in a Box

The River Monster , the Giant Devil Catfish (English), Goonch Fish, Bagarius yarrelli ( Scientific Name) also inhabits the fast flowing and deep waters of the Chambal River .

A Stuffed Indian Leopard ( Panthera pardus fusca) can be seen in the background in the picture below.

Fortunately both are neither Endangered or Extinct.

fish and cheetah
GOONCH Fish on the Table as a  Leopard looks On

While Smoking did not Kill the Gharial ( English) , Gavialis gangeticus ( Scientific Name) in the picture below, hunting for “Trophies” surely has driven them to be Critically Endangered.

The Gharial is a unique fish eating crocodile which is Native to India and now found in the Wild in the  Chambal River. ( please checkout earlier posts titled CURSED YET ENCHANTED RIVER , OVER THE CLIFF, EGYPTIAN ROOST and THE GREAT CANYON OF INDIA)


If you are Enchanted by Trophies , skip going on Safaris as you may not find what you seek in Forests.



Pictures were taken from the ramparts of the 16th Century Shrey Royal Palace which is also home to a Glorious Temple Dedicated to Lord Buddha.

The Lake is a sanctuary for all Living Beings and considered Holy by all Buddhists as the Shrine which overlooks this beautiful Lake enshrines the DU-KHANG with a towering Copper Guilded statue of Lord Buddha. ( watch for the post at http://www.travelwithmukul.wordpress.com) .

Located on a Hillock ,15 km from Leh along the River Indus ( do read an earlier blog titled ORIGIN of INDIA) is this awesome Lake at the footsteps of the DU-KHANG.

another view
Poplars and Willows mark the boundaries of the Sky Blue Waters of the Lake

The Winters do not spare even the Holy Lake and large tracts are Frozen and covered with Snow.

Do spot the Solitary Heron and Crane in the midst of the Icy Waters in the picture below.

frozan stiff
Spellbinding View in the Lap of the Himalayas

The Holy Lake is a High Altitude Wetland and home to a vast species of Birds, many of which are native to the Tibetan Plateau and Central Asia as well.

The  beautiful Mallard ( English) or Wild Ducks , Anas platyrynchos ( Scientific Name) were photographed swimming in the Blue Waters of the Holy Lake from the  Royal Shrey Palace.

Green Headed
The Green Heads of the Male Mallards shimmer in the Sun.

The Wild Ducks spread their Wings without fear as they are protected from Hunters in the Holy Lake.

ducks 2
Sun Bathing 

The view from Monasteries and Temples is Spellbinding and you can remain rooted at one place as you soak in the Enchanting 360 degree Landscape in the Valley of Leh, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, India.


The Indus River has embedded itself in the History of the Sub Continent of India.

In fact the name of a country, India is derived from the River Indus.

frozen river
First Glimpse of the River Indus near Leh, Ladakh

I had goosebumps as I viewed the River Indus for the first time ,through a wall of Rocks and Willows.

The Ancient Indus Valley Civilization ( 3500-5000 Bc) developed on the banks of this Magnificent and Powerful River.

through the rocks
Picture taken from the window of our Car

Buddhist Prayer Flags flutter revealing the River Indus which originates from the Tibetan Plateau near the Holy Lake Mansarover or the mythological abode of Lord Shiva.

indus and buddhist flags
Originating from Glaciers in the Himalayas

The River Zanskar merges with  the River Indus in  Ladakh before it  flows into the state of Sindh in Pakistan.

Incidentally the River Indus is called “Sindhu” in Hindi and that is from where the name of the state of Sind in Pakistan is derived.

mountain river
The River Indus has been witness to the History of this Ancient Land

The River Indus or Sindhu River is the Cradle  for a region which is perhaps the one of the Oldest Civilizations of the World.

Rivers are Enchanting as they reveal the History of Man  going back to thousands of years.


The Butterfly Bush ( Scientific name :Buddleja davidii) is a beautiful flowering shrub with its origins in the mountains of China.

Bushels of flowers adorn the bush and it forms a splendid natural boundary to the gardens of the JW Marriott Hotel in Mussoorie, located in the lap of the Himalayas.

the hedge or the border of the garden
                                       the hedge or the border of the garden

The sweet fragrance of the abundant flowers attract bees and butterflies in droves and hence the name BUTTERFLY BUSH.

The lavender coloured flowers also give it an alias, THE LILAC BUSH.

A basque missionary of the 19th century Father Arthur David lends his name to this profusely flowering bush. ( scientific name Buddleja davidii)  

butterfly bush
                                                                  Butterfly bush

Found naturally in the mountainous zones of China the butterfly bush has  flowers in several colours , however I was witness to two colours, lilac and white.

On close observation you will see the flowers have an orange centre and  hence the shrub  is also called ORANGE EYE.

orange eye
                                                                  Orange eye

With drop dead looks and the sweetest of fragrances, the deceptive Butterfly Bush is now classified as a NOXIOUS WEED in many countries where it was introduced in the 19th century.

The rapidly growing bush spreads quickly and the profuse number of flowers ensures the plant a steady supply of seeds for self propagation.

The shrub grows back quickly even if cut from the stump and the seeds can lie dormant in the ground for several years. The shrub further ensures it’s survival as the male and female flowers occur on the same plant.

It has become an Invasive weed in countries like New Zealand and United Kingdom where they have been compelled to introduce a leaf-chewing beetle Cleopus japonicus as a biological control agent.

sweet fragrance
                                                       Sweet fragrance of the Lilac Bush

Recalling an old saying ” LOOKS ARE DECEPTIVE”, we should be careful what plants we introduce in our gardens as unknowngly we can upset a delicate ecosystem.

If we plant trees and plants ENDEMIC to the region it will ensure the survival of native species as well.


The ship of the desert or Camels are naturally adapted to the way of life in a desert.

North Western Rajasthan is  the natural home to these enchanting creatures of God.

Numerous folk tales recite the tales of how the camels came to inhabit Earth.

Goddess Parvati ( the consort of Lord Shiva) is fabled to have sculpted the Camels from clay and the Lord is supposed to have infused the breath of Life in them.

The story goes on to say they initially had 5 legs, but were then unable to walk, so Lord Shiva folds the fifth leg and pushes it into the chest, this then forms the hump  and leaves a mark as well.

A couple of camels
                                                                     A couple ( pun intended) of camels

The story continues as the Camels create mayhem by going about their merry ways and eat up all the foliage. The Lord Shiva then creates the RAIKA (also called Chaamad) from his body( chamdi or skin )  to tend to camels and thus  restore order.

The Raika are a unique community of camel herders and breeders who survive to this day in the colourful state of Rajasthan in India.

The following picture shows three Raika men in traditional attire with their musical instruments at the extravagant annual musical festival  RIFF held at Jodhpur.

The backdrop is that of a hand painted Phad which tells the epic story of a local deity  Pabuji.

( more on this in a separate post)

raika in thought
                                           Three Raika men in traditional attire 

The Raika firmly believe they were born for only one purpose, that is to take care of Camels.

Their lifestyles and future are thus delicately bound to Camels.

With modernization and mechanization, the demand for Camels as a means of transport has sharply declined.

Spinning yarn from Camels hair and making Carpets and other textile products is one of several ways for the Raika to survive.

Do notice the leaves at the back of the gorgeous  turban of the elderly Raika.

the spinners
                                                                  the spinners

The extremely intricate relation between nature,  animals and man is highlighted by the lifestyles of this amazing and  enchanting community called THE RAIKA.

A closer look at the Bobbins shows how the Raika  use the twigs of the desert  trees and camel’s hair.

bobbins and textile
                                                               bobbins and  lovely textiles 

The gorgeous but large turban is made from 10 yards ( 9 metres) of cloth.
This large cloth acts as a protection against the scorching heat of the desert , as a tether for camels and also as protection against angry camels.

The elderly Raika has Camel’s milk in his hand in a practical and environment friendly container, the leaf of the Aak Shrub.

raika with camels milk
                                   Elderly Raika with camel’s milk in hand

The desert is an unusual forest and the preservation of water is a compulsory adaption for all forms of life.

The Aak   ( Hindi and Sanskrit ) bush  , Apple of Sodom  ( English) ,  Calotropis procera ( scientific name) ) is used extensively by the Raika .

The leaves of the Aak have been  used extensively by the Ayurvedic school of medicine  for centuries and are supposed to be a great antidote to snake bites and a cure for jaundice as well.

The Raika thus always keep the leaves  tucked away in their extensive headgear.

the leaves
                                                       The leaves of Aak

The leaves of the Aak  make ideal containers to drink Camel’s milk.  They are large , leathery and do not permit liquids to seep through them.

The flowers of the Aak are revered  and garlands are made from them and offered to Lord Shiva.

Lord Shiva is also supposed to have absorbed the poison from the churning of the Ocean and saved all living beings from its effects.

The milky sap of the  Aak bush also contains some of the most vicious poisons  like Calotropin.

Much like Lord Shiva, the Raika have learnt how to transform the naturally occurring poison into a cure for numerous ailments.

the leaf container
                                         The beautiful container made from the Aak leaf 

The Raika are a living enigma and a wonderful  example of Mythology coming to life.

Their beliefs and way of life are a wonderful example of maintaining harmony with nature even under adverse and harsh circumstances.

raika with camel milk container
                                         Raika with an earthern camel milk container

The Raika are a truly amazing community but struggling to survive and preserve their ancient customs and way of life.

Have experienced only a small glimpse of the Raika at the RIFF at Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur.

I believe there is a CAMEL FESTIVAL which celebrates this community in  early November in Pali district of Rajasthan.

Keep reading as more posts will follow.


The Enchanting Forests reveal the inevitable for all living beings , whether big or small.

Death is part of a never ending cycle of transformation from one form to another.

The air of life has been sucked out and it collapses on itself.The fish slowly  transforms into sand.

The fish turns into sand
                                                       The fish turns into sand

Mighty trees are felled by one stroke of lightning and the stump is all that remains.Soon even the stump will turn to dust.

All that remains of a Mighty  tree which once  kissed the skies. You cannot even recognize what it was once called? An Oak, the mighty Banyan or the fruit bearing Mango ?

one stroke of lighting
                                       Even the mighty are felled

As the past turns into skeletons and then finally dust,  new shoots sprout and Life begins afresh.

life begins afresh
                                                                          life begins afresh

The endless cycle of Life and Death turns yet again.


Panchtantra   are ancient Indian fables which have animals and birds  as the main characters and goes back to the 3rd Century BC.

You can see these fables inscribed in stone on ancient monuments or painted by artists over the centuries.

From these fables are derived morals or principles to be followed in life.

One such fable is based on The Heron and the Crab. The cornerstone of the story was Greed.

While reflecting on these ancient fables and the lessons they narrate

I  have carefully put together three pictures in this post  of the main character THE HERON.

Little Green / Little Heron/ Mangrove Heron  or Butorides striatus.

Extremely intelligent it is a skilled angler and lays a bait  of small twigs etc to lure in fish.

Have seen this beautiful Heron  only once, though marked   Least Concern by IUCN .

Green heron
Green heron

Purple Heron or Ardea purpurea. Anjun in Hindi .

The largest of the Herons selected it is seen across the country. It’s slender neck and distinctive colouration make it easy to identify.

Am sure you can identify it now in the featured picture though the light was against me.

They are solitary or territorial feeders and prefer water hyacinth beds .

Purple Heron
Purple Heron

Birds in Indian languages have interesting names and reveal intriguing characteristics and myths.

In Hindi the Indian Pond Heron is called Andha  Bagula. Andha means blind.

Indian Pond Heron/ Paddy birds  or Ardeola grayii.

You will see this Heron even in Urban areas around water bodies.

In flight it transforms itself into a beauty as it spreads its  white wings.

Pond Heron
                                                             Indian Pond Heron

Do observe the similarity in the eyes of the three Herons as they reflect on themselves.

Please revert with names and fables on these gorgeous birds photographed across the country.

Most of my articles are teasers with clues and links, please check on Wikipedia/ Google or even better try to spot them in your neighbourhood.