Year end is the best time to celebrate Christmas in an exciting location. This year we celebrated it in the middle of a jungle amidst bonfire. Santa Claus was extra nice to us as he threw in a Tiger for company.
Our journey started on a cold afternoon on 23 December, to catch a train to Jabalpur and then drive straight to Kanha National Park. The Indian Railways, however had other plans as the train got delayed by 5 1/2 hours and we end up spending the entire next day travelling.
We however, are not complaining as we had a blast driving down on another route to Kanha via Niwas, Mandala District but 40 kms longer. The road was good but the route had virtually nothing, so as soon as we hit Niwas, we stopped for “chai” and ended up enjoying “Samosa mix” a local snack made with boiled “Kala chana” and some sev. It was a real treat and we also picked up some “chakhna”, a mixture of some fried sev and peanuts for the celebrations that night.
Our stay was at Camp Dev Vilas, an eco-resort owned by Tigerwalah Anurag Sharma, who has over ten years of experience in Tiger conservation and wild life photography.
Next morning we got up at really early and reached the park gate at 5.30am for a Safari.
Kanha National Park is the largest parks in Madhya Pradesh in the Maikal range of Satpuras spread across 940 sq.km, across two revenue districts of Mandala and Kalaghat. It was declared a reserve forest in 1879 and as a wildlife sanctuary in 1933. It was upgraded to a national park in 1955.
The park is home to 1000 species of flowering plants with Sal (timber) and other mixed trees in the forest interspersed with beautiful meadows. It is also home to Indian ghost trees in the denser part of forest. There are open grasslands called the Kanha meadows, which are of great importance in Barasingha conservation. It has countless other species of plants, birds, insects and reptiles.
The park is home to tigers, leopards, wild dogs, wild cats, foxes, sambar, barking deer, jackals and the Royal Bengal Tigers, which we lucky to sight on Christmas. As winter ends you can spot the Indian Gaur too.
Swamp Deer, Barasinha, is only found here in India and the park is respected globally for saving it from near extinction. In 1970, a special enclosure was made inside the forest to encourage the breeding and protection of Barasingha ((rare hardground Swamp Deer), “the jewel of Kanha” from extinction. This programme has been a huge success.
The landscapes and the surrounding luxurious meadows in the park make it a very beautiful jungle. No wonder that this forest was the inspiration behind “The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling. It also boasts of a beautiful sunset point, called Bammi Dadar. Originally it was “land of the Gonds” and there were two indigenous tribes of Central India, the Gonds and the Baigas. They were later relocated outside the park.
The park has two historical landmarks inside. One marks the courage of a guide Lapsi, who was an expert and courageous hunter. He lost his life in 1930, fighting a ferocious tiger protecting his colleagues.
The other one is related to mythology and Hindu religion called Shravan Tal. According to a legend in Ramayan, Shravn, an ideal and the only son to blind parents, was carrying them for pilgrimage.
They stopped for water here. King Dashrath, a skilled hunter known for his ability to aim by sound alone, shot and killed Shravan mistaking him for a deer. On realising his mistake, the King regretted his mistake.
Since that day the lake is called Shravan Tal.
On Christmas day, Camp Dev Villas had organised a local dance troupe and we enjoyed the evening watching and dancing their tribal dance.