Date: 16th January, 2014
Time: 10 PM
Place: Hazrat Nizamuddin Station
Slowly the train started leaving the station. A steadily increasing chugging sound was coming from the wheels of Dehradun Express. I lied down lazily in my seat. Kept my eyes open, so was my heart. Was eagerly waiting for next morning, because we (me and my husband) were heading for Ranthambore National Park. An excitement to see the unseen was foaming in my half-closed eyes, thus found it a bit difficult to sleep despite the fact that it was all darkness inside and outside our private cabin !!
Date: 17th January, 2014
Time: 8 AM
Place: Sawai Madhopur Station
Reached our destination 'Sawai Madhopur' 1.5 hours back. Please read '1.5 hours' once again, because that indicates that we were merely spending our time in the railway station, instead of going to our hotel. Why ? Reason: when arrived the station, it was 6:25 AM. The darkness was still prevailing there. We approached an auto-rickshaw, told the driver our destination (Hotel Jhoomar Baori). He immediately said, "Madam, I'll definitely take you there, but not now.."
Auto Driver: The road toward Jhoomar Baori is a bit unsafe, for its situated in the forest area. Let the sun rise and spread the light. You never know, which animal you can encounter there during the journey.
Me: Which animal ? Please specify.
Auto Driver: Maan lijiye sher hi dikh gaya (Lets say, its tiger)
Of course, no conversation is required after that. We spent the early morning outside the rail station, sipping tea, eating Raj Kachori and observing the rural ambience !!
Date: 17th January, 2014
Time: 1 PM
Place: Ranthambore Fort
History: Suddenly a cool breeze started flowing in the valley when I was almost lost looking at a distant lake from a view point inside Ranthambore Fort. Such a serene beauty, it was. Built in 944 AD by Nagil Jats, this majestic fort basically towers over the Ranthambore Jungle, for it is 700 feet above the surrounding plain. History has it that the earlier name of the fort was Ranastambhapura. During 12th century, Prithviraja I of Chauhan dynasty captured the fort, thereby it became a center of Jainism (as per Siddhasenasuri). Later, in 1192 AD, when Muhammad of Ghori defeated Prithviraja Chauhan, the fort came under the control of Govinda Raja (grandson of Prithviraja), who was succeeded by his son Balhana. The fort did not see much disturbance till 1226 AD, when Delhi Sultan Iltutmish attacked it, though fortunately it was again recaptured by Chauhans in 1236 AD. After 12 years, Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud besieged the fortress in 1248, followed by capturing the same from Jaitrasingh Chauhan in 1259. After 24 years, Shakti Dev recaptured the fort and established his rule over Ranthambore. Next problem appeared in the shape of Sultan Jalaluddin Firuz Khilji when he besieged the fort in 1290-91 AD. In 1299, Hamir Dev gave shelter Muhammad Shah in the fort to save him from the anger of Sultan Alauddin Khilji, thus involuntarily prompting the infamous Delhi Sultan to invade and capture the fort in 1301 AD.
Now Hinduism started blossoming in the kingdom, when the fortress was captured by Rana Hamir Singh (1326–1364 AD) and Rana Kumbha (1433–1468 AD). In 1473 AD, Hada Rajputs of Bundi possessed it, followed by Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat who won the fortress in 1532 AD and later by mighty Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1559 AD. In the 17th century, the Kachwaha Maharajas of Jaipur possessed it and kept it under their control till 1949 when Jaipur state finally became part of the state of Rajasthan, in independent India.
The fort which was frequently used by Maharajas as a hunting base, now looks deserted, though basking in the glory of large Water Gateways (Kachida Valley and Surwal Lake) and Historical Places (Hati Pol, Jogi Mahal, Raj Bagh Ruins, Ganesha temple, a Digamber Jain temple of Lord Sumatinath and Lord Sambhavanath).
Present Day: Spent nearly three hours in this fort. Spotted many hanuman langurs there, especially near Ganesha Temple for devotees come there with food offerings. Was sipping masala tea inside a small shop near the temple while observing the activity of langurs with much fear, for till that day I heard so many stories of langurs highlighting how irritatingly they disturb human beings for food or other reason. The shop owner said us, "There is nothing to worry or fear about langurs, for they are harmless unless you disturb them. Feed them poha (he was selling poha too) and see how affectionately they eat the food from your hand, without biting or scratching your palm."
His words worked. We took poha in our palms, sat on the ground, within a split of second minimum four monkeys ran towards us, spread their arms, took poha with their blackish fingers from our palms and ate. Such a wonderful moment it was !
Date: 18th January, 2014
Time: 5 PM
Place: Ranthambore Tiger Reserve
Today we went for two safaris. First in the morning, at 7:30 AM and next around 3:15 PM. Normally Gypsy (Open, 6 seater) or Canter (Open, 12 to 20 seater) are used for jungle safari tours. Booking can be done beforehand using the Tiger Reserve website, or by a simple phone call to the expert locals on the safari day itself. We booked the morning safari tour through website before leaving our Delhi home and booked the evening tour through an expert manager (from a hotel) after reaching there. Surprisingly, booking through proper channel (Tiger reserve website) proved to be costlier, don't really know why. In both times, we were provided with canters. Filled up the form before entering the core area of forest. Vendors selling T-shirts/caps/Jackets (obviously woven/designed with 'Ranthambore Tiger Reserve' word/a face of Tiger), tourists trying to wrap themselves with warm clothes and birds chirping almost constantly made the spirit quite high. With 'Broom...Broom' noise, the canter finally entered the forest area (Zone 4). Total eight tiger inhabited zones are there though tigers are also found in relatively uncommon places like Dhoop Chowk, Kala Peela Pani, Tuti Ka Naal, Sultanpur Chowki, Khabli and Khariya. There is a Singh Dwar (entry point) for each zone. Both times, we were allotted Zone 4, though failed to spot tigers. Spotting a tiger amidst any forest is a factor of luck and its again proved when the canter running ahead of us, was able to see a tiger. They in fact directed our guide, we rushed to the spot hurriedly but by that time the big cat already left the place, leaving a pungent smell behind (a characteristic of tiger). Each safari tour lasts for approximately 3.5 hours. We missed the tiger, but the scenic beauty of a huge lake, crocodiles lying on its shore and sun shining like a warm love made the trip successful.
Wild Fauna: In our trip, we could see Nilgai, Chital, Sambar deer, Common langurs, Indian Wild Boar, Chinkara, Fivestriped Palm Squirels and Small Indian Mongoose though a great variety of other wild animals such as Leopards, Striped Hyenas, Macaques, Jackals, Jungle cats, Caracals, Sloth bears, Black bucks, Rufoustailed Hare, Toddy cat, Coomon Yellow Bats, Desert Cats, Indian False Vampires, Indian Flying Foxes, Indian Foxes, Indian Gerbilles, Indian Mole Rats, Indian Porcupines, Longeared Hedgehogs, Ratels, Small Indian Civets, Common mongoose, Snub Nosed Marsh Crocodiles, Desert Monitor Lizards, Tortoise, Banded Kraits, Cobras, Common Kraits, Ganga Soft Shelled Turtles, Indian Pythons, North Indian Flap Shelled Turtles, Rat Snakes, Russel's Vipers, Saw-scaled Vipers, the Indian Chamaeleon, Common India Toad and the Common Frog are also found in the forest floor.
A special reference to Birds, for 272 species of resident and migrant have been documented in Ranthambore till date. Example: Graylag Goose, Woodpeckers, Indian Gray Hornbills, Common Kingfishers, Bee Eaters, Cuckoos, Parakeets, Asian Palm Swift, Owl, Nightjars, Pigeon, Dove, Crakes, Snipes, Sandpipers, Gulls, Terns, Great Crested Grebe, Eagles, Darters, Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, Bitterns, Flamingos, Ibis, Pelicans, Storks, Pittas, Shrikes, Treepies, Crows, Orioles, Cuckoo-Shrikes, Minivets, Drongos, Flycatchers, Ioras, Wood Shrikes, Pipits, Bayas, Sparrows, Finches, Wagtails, Munias, Bulbul, Mynas and Falcon.
Wild Flora: The vegetation (nearly 300 species) here is mainly 'dry deciduous type' (trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally) featuring trees like Am (Magnifera indica), Imli (Tamarindicus indica), Babul (Accasia nilotica), Banyan (Ficus benghalensis), Ber (Zizyphus mauritania), Chila (Butea monosperma), Dhok (Anogeossis pendula), Jamun (Syzygium cumini), Kadam (Authocephalus cadamba), Khajur (Phoenix sylvestris), Khair (Accacia catechu), Karel (Capparis decidua), Khejda (Prosopis specigera), Kakera (Flacourtia indica), Mohua (Madhuca indica) and Neem (Azadirachta indica).
Date: 19th January, 2014
Time: 6:10 AM
Place: Ranthambore village roads
'It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday' -as if the song whispered in my ears, the moment I stepped out of Jhoomar Baori. Hired a Jeep to reach the station where Janshatabdi Express was expected to arrive by 7 AM. Bablu, our Jeep driver narrated some horror stories during the journey. A glimpse:
A few months back, a young man (27 years old) went to the forest area to cut a particular tree, for its wood is quite effective in making beds. There T-24 (the only man-eater tiger of Ranthambore, as per recent record) attacked and subsequently ate him off. Only the head of that man was found intact, since his other body parts were consumed by the man-eater.
People from Ranthambore advised that spotting a tiger is much easier in March/April. Don't know whether we will be able to visit the place in future or not, but one thing I surely know, the intensity of wilderness is something which will always vibrate in my memory as the most precious gift of Ranthambore. Something that echoes those lines by Robert Louis Stevenson: "It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit..."