Archive for August, 2009

Tantalizing Tadoba

Posted in Travel, Wild life with tags , , , , , , , on August 7, 2009 by salaamreaders

Imagine yourself living in a big city like Nagpur surrounded by acres of lush greenery. Don’t believe it-well, take a look at these pictures. They were taken at the ‘bungalow’ of a friend in Nagpur who is a ‘forest officer’.

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They even have a jack fruit tree. When we went it was full of fruits.

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We happened to be in Nagpur on the invitation of our friend to visit Tadoba National Park which is also a Tiger Reserve. It is situated about 155 kms from Nagpur in the state of Maharashtra.  Chandrapur, the nearest town is about 45 kms.  It was the end of March and the road side was lined with the ‘flame of the forest’ trees or palash as they are known locally.

Palash- the Flame of the Forest

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We entered the park from Moharli and the drive from Moharli to Tadoba through the forest was enchanting. Mahua trees were flowering and the air was heavy with their intoxicating scent.

The road less travelled

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 We stayed at a Forest Rest House which overlooked the Tadoba Lake and afforded an excellent view. We got up early in the morning, when the sun was just rising in the eastern horizon, for a walk around the Rest House. But the jungle folks, too, rise early. The birds were in a chatter-some mood,  some cheetals were out for an early morning drink at the lake and a snake bird was already drying its feathers after an early morning dip in the lake.

A view of the lake

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There is a legend about Tadoba. It is said that Tharu, a tribal chief  was killed by a tiger here. He is worshiped  in a small temple on the lake front.

Temple of Tadoba

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The forest is ‘southern tropical dry deciduous’. It has an interesting variation in elevation and vegetation. Teak, bamboo, tendu, palash are some of the common trees found. Tigers, bears, cheetals, sambhars, gaurs, wild boars etc are the common species of fauna found in the park.

Monkey business- a Langur

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But like every one else, we, too, wanted to see a tiger. And he did not disappoint us. There he is among the bamboo thickets. The picture you see in the header of the blog is also of the same ‘gentleman.’

Shy creature- a Tiger

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A herd of Indian gaurs or bisons were foraging on a grassy plain in the afternoon. Gaurs have an interesting feature- white marks on their forelegs which appear as if they are wearing white socks.. This particular fellow seems to be a loner. We saw it when we were returning in the evening and the picture is dark. One of its horns was broken -perhaps in a fight with another male.

The lone ranger- an Indian Gaur or Bison

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The  ‘big and dark and beautiful’ sambhar or ‘Rusa Aristotetlis’ is found commonly.  John Eyton called it the Philosopher Stag because ‘he is something of a philosopher; shy, but trustful; slow to stir, and apt to blunder when he gets up, like the philosopher at the tea-table; a trifle absent-minded; contended, with simple tastes.’

The philosopher stag- a Sambhar

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Kenneth Anderson, well known shikari and author of real-life jungle stories, called wild boars the most courageous animals in the Indian jungle because ‘when he turns to fight he will fight to the death.’ According to him he has ‘intelligence and muscle, and the heart of a fanatical warrior.’

The gutsy warrior-a Wild Boar

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The national park is not on the usual tourist circuit. As a result, it is not crowded like other popular reserves. It is a pleasure to take a safari in such a serene and untouched part of the jungle. But it is a matter of time before commercialization catches up with it. Till then, let’s enjoy the bounty of nature.

Raksha Bandhan

Posted in Festivals, India, poetry with tags , , , , , , on August 5, 2009 by salaamreaders

Foreign tourists who are now in north India may be wondering at how scarce (and expensive) taxis and autorickshaws have become today? They may also be surprised to see most men wearing colourful amulets around their wrists today. Well, it is easily explained. Today Hindus are celebrating the  festival of Raksha Bandhan. This festival is all about the love and devotion between brothers and sisters. The sudden scarcity of public transport is because almost every one is visiting their brothers or sisters. Women tie rakhis, which are bracelets or amulets of coloured silken thread, around the right hand wrists of their brothers and the brothers give them gifts. Actually, the word raksha means protection and bandhan means a bond. Thus together, they signify the emotional bond between brothers and sisters which  protects them from all evils. One could think of it as a brothers and sisters day.

Sarojini Naidu, who was called the  Nightingale of India for her exquisite poetry, described the spirit of this festival in the following words:-

“Beloved I offer to you

In tender allegiance anew

A bracelet of floss. Let me twist

Its tassels, vemillion and blue

And violet, to girdle your wrist.”

 

when it is not possible for brothers to meet their sisters on this day, the sacred thread is often sent by post and the brothers get them tied on their wrists with due ceremony by some one else, maybe a daughter or another female relative. The presents are also sent by post or are left to be collected whenever they happen to meet each other. Of course, every one can speak to each other as mobile phones have become so ubiquitous these days.

Naidu again says:

Accept this bright gage from my hand,

Let your heart its sweet speech understand,

The ancient high symbol and end

Inwrought on each gold- threaded strand,

The fealty of friend unto friend”.

Thus, it is not that the sacred thread is to be tied on the wrist of real brothers only. Any person may be adopted as a brother by tying a rakhi around his wrist and that person is then morally bound to protect her as a real brother. It is said that  Karnavati, the widowed queen of Chittor  had sent a rakhi to Humaun, the Moghul king, seeking his help against Bahadur Shah, the king of Gujarat, who had besieged Chittor and Humaun had rushed to her help immediately.

But this custom of getting adopted as brothers has its risks, particularly for those of the romantic bent of mind. It seems the fairer sex has adopted this as a stratagem to avoid unwanted suitors! They take this as a good opportunity to rid themselves of such amorous gentlemen by making them as their rakhi brothers by tying a rakhi on their wrists! As a result, I am told there are many such people who do not venture out this day to avoid such a risk!

But frankly, it is indeed a noble tradition to celebrate this festival. No body could have put it more sweetly than Sarojini Naidu when she says of the sacred thread of rakhi

“A garland how frail of design,

Our spirits to clasp and entwine

In devotion unstained and unbroken,

How slender a circle and sign

Of secret deep pledge unspoken.”

Happy Raksha Bandhan to all of you.

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