Tag Archives: Madhya Pradesh

Hanuwantia can be the change you need this new year!


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A bird’s eye view of the Hanuwantia island in days of Jal Mahotsav

On the lines of Rann Utsav of Kutch, Madhya Pradesh tourism has dared to do the unthinkable of bringing tourists to a location as remote as Hanuwantia with nothing to lure them. Now Hanuwantia is a hub for air, land and water adventure activities. Jal Mahotsav is in its third year now and gradually increasing its time span. For ten days two years back, it increased to one month last year and now 80 days. This year Jal Mahotsav specially targets the year-end tourists. So, if you are looking for any new destination this new year eve, why not try Hanuwantia. This year festival started on 15th October and will continue till 2nd January 2018.

One of the clusters of the tent colony

The vision of Hanuwantia Festival was actually inspired by Sentosa island of Singapore. Although these are very early days for Hanuwantia to climb to any comparable league half as good as Sentosa. The main attraction of Jal Mahotsav is water sports in its huge reservoir which will often look like a sea. But there are aero activities too, like paramotoring, parasailing and ballooning. Swiss tents have been put up for the tourists at the Jal Mahotsav. There are houseboats as well. An exhibition focused on Narmada river besides food zone, craft bazaar is being organised.

For all those who have been to Kutch, they will find quite a similarity between the tent colony at Hanuwantia and the tent colony at Rann Utsav of Kutch in Gujarat. Few clusters of tents and every cluster having a tents surrounding an artificially levelled ground.

Away from concrete cities, this is welcome change to be besides an artificial sea of water. Hanuwantia is besides the Indira Sagar Reservoir which is said to be the biggest such inland water body in Asia.

A paramotor at Hanuwantia in evening lights
Closer look of an airborne paramotor
Two paramotors in the sky at sunset, best time to enjoy
You can have fun riding a bicycle around the tent city

But being here is fun, only if you are planning to indulge in some air or water activities. Otherwise it could be boring after some time. Since Hanwantia has got no other activities, therefor the experience of coming to Hanwantia had to be a packaged one with everything under one roof. Hence came the idea of a tent colony and all sort of land, water and air activities.

Jet scooter on waters of Indira Sagar

Water sports is a genre getting immensely popular among Indian tourists and Hanuwantia has plenty of water to play upon. You can find a host of water activities here.

Jungle trek on Boria Mal island
Smaller cruise boats to take you to ride in the lake

Besides, you can also take boat trips to other islands in the reservoir. Some of these islands like Boria Mal has even got tents to stay overnight. Even forest department has pitched some tents on its own for the tourists. These islands can be explored even on non-festival days. Some of these islands have also developed wildlife due to reserved forest land. You can also enjoy trekking in these islands. Some other islands are haven for migratory birds in the winter.

What would have been a top dome of a big temple in its prime is now a testimony of the submergence alone in this huge waterbody!

Hanuwantia is popular as Hanuwantia Tapu among locals, named after a village of same name in Malhargarh tehsil of Mandsaur district in Madhya Pradesh. Foundation stone of Indira Sagar project on Narmada river was laid way back in 1984, but the work on project started in 1992. This was the earliest project on Narmada river and later the downstreams of the project paved way for more projects like Omkareshwar, Maheshwar and Sardar Sarovar projects. Indira Sagar project reached to its full capacity in May 2005.

Locals in their boats near Boria Mal island

For a reservoir that big, it can be easily estimated that how huge would have been the submerged area. All islands in the Indira Sagar reservoir would have been little hillocks in the past. These islands have been named on nearby submerged villages. A history got submerged in the lake.

Where to Stay:

Inside the Swiss tent
Tents besides the Indira Sagar reservoir!

All tents are Swiss tents, with minor difference in facilities as per the package one opts for. Tents are undoubtedly good, with attached toilet and shower. Beds are comfortable. Tents are spacious, there is a sitting area inside the tent and a covered sitting area, outside the tent giving you the full view of the cluster. Tents also have air conditioners. The ground outside the tents work as a activity ground or playground where you can enjoy cycling. Teas can be served at the tents but dining area is separate, where all guests have to go for breakfast and meals.

Outside the tents

Be watchful to keep you tent door nets zipped, specially in evenings as there can be mosquitos around as there is ample water everywhere. Food is good if not exceptional. Try to taste some local delicacies of the Malwa region. The existence of this tent city comes only during the duration of Jal Mahotsav. SO if you plan to be at the Jal Mahotsav, than this tent city is perhaps only mainly available accommodation in Hanuwantia.

MPTDC Cottages at Hanuwantia

Hanuwantia also has a Madhya Pradesh Tourism resort with beautifully designed lake facing cottages but during the time of the festival these cottages mostly remain occupied by officials and politicians. But if you go outside the festival dates, you can certainly stay in these cottages.

House boats at Hanuwantia

There is another stay option during the festival time and also afterwards and it is Kerala style houseboats, a couple of them at Hanuwantia. These houseboats have three rooms on the lower deck and an open upper deck sitting area. There is a kitchen as well. These houseboats can also take you on a trip inside the lake.

How to Reach:

Islands near Sailani on the Indore-Hanumantia route

Hanuwantia  Tapu (island) is in Khandawa district of Madhya Pradesh. Indore is the nearest airport which is almost 140 kilometres away. Road to Hanuwantia from Indore passes through Omkareshwar and Barwah. This road journey takes around three to four hours, depending on road as well as vehicle. If you prefer train to reach here Khandawa is the nearest railway station on the Main Delhi-Bhopal-Itarsi rail line. Hanuwantia is 48 kilometres from Khandawa. Barwah on the Indore-Hanuwantia road also has a railway station but this is a metre gauge section line coming from Mahu.

A fisherman in the Indira Sagar lake

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Panna Tiger Reserve : Few images sans tigers!

This is last post from my visit to Panna Tiger Reserve and National Park last month. And this one is not about tigers. I had always enjoyed wild, whether there is sighting of a big cat or not. Wild is always beautiful. Wanna Tiger Reserve and National Park has a beautiful topography and it owes much to the beautiful Ken river flowing through the reserve. It works as a lifeline for the forest and the wildlife here as you can see in the image below.

Ken river at Panna

A pair of Nilgai, no jungle in India is complete without them!

Nilgai at Panna

A male sambhar crossing the road. This is one of the favourite foods of big cats.

Sambhar at Panna

Something I captured for the first time- a spotted deer making a mating call to his partner. Novices will often misjudge a deer’s mating call as an alarm call for the tiger sighting.  But it’s different from that.

Spotted Deer at Panna

Deer and monkeys resting together in summer heat. Jungles are well known for stories of friendship between deers and monkeys. And this is for real. Both of them will alert each other for an approaching hunting predator- mostly a big cat- a tiger or a leopard. All forest guides use their alarm calls to track the tigers and show them to tourists. A monkey has a very sharp sight, so it will climb up the tree and keep an eye on the tigers and once it notices any, it will raise an alarm call, apparently to alarm its deer friends. Similarly, a deer has a very sharp sense of smell. It can smell a big cat and not just that, it can also sense whether the tiger is in hunting mood. It will then raise an alarm call for monkeys to alert them. Beauty of nature! Isn’t it!!

Deer-Monkey friendship at Panna

This is another of my first time captures, an Indian nightjar. It was hard to locate despite being very close and guide pointing towards it, because it was so beautifully camouflaged between dry grass and stones, that one can’t notice it on a cursory glance. Then, it was also surprising for us to see that this bird was sitting so calmly in such a scorching morning sunlight. A wonderful sight though.

Nightjar at Panna

Kingfishers are always my favourite birds, hence I was delighted to see this stork-billed kingfisher enjoying its day in Panna.

Stork Billed Kingfisher at Panna

After Dandeli reserve in Karnataka, this was my second chance to encounter a woolly-necked stork. Looks so majestic.

Woolly-necked stork at Panna

Ken river also has a large number of crocodiles. After crossing Panna Tiger Reserve, Ken also has a crocodile and Gharial sanctuary. Here we can see a crocodile calmly swimming in Ken through the core area of Tiger Reserve. Though it is tough to locate crocs during summers as they like to remain inside the water to keep themselves cool. In winters we can easily see them lying on rocks alongside the river enjoying sunlight.

Crocodile at Panna

It is also possible to do a boat safari in Panna Tiger Reserve. This is a hard an hour safari at a very nominal price. On your luckier days, you can also get a chance to see some wildlife on both sides of river, and who knows… may be tiger too. There have been instances of tiger swimming across the river for either hunting or changing territories.

Boat safari at Panna

Two cubs on play at Panna – a photo essay

Tiger is a solitary animal, it likes to be alone in its territory along with his female partners. Often tigers get injured, many times fatally in territorial fights. Even two brothers will search for different territories once they are adult enough to hunt and feed for themselves and hence eventually their mother will leave them. As I mentioned in my last post (Read: Returning to the tiger in Panna) I was fortunate to watch two cubs on play. Mother was around but we couldn’t see her as she was down in a nullah at a cooler place. Cubs don’t look like cubs as they were almost more than a year old, but were still with their mother. We and the few other tourist vehicles located this family on a grassland right on the banks of the Ken river. Ken river flows through Panna Tiger reserve.

So here are the two galleries of the cubs on play- one for each of them. Here is the first one-

This was the first cub. He then disappeared suddenly, presumably joined his mother in the gorge between two river islands. It was an anxious wait for the tourist to seem him or the other ones again-

Panna Tiger14

Actually the tigers were quite far away from the place, where we were parked. We couldn’t have gone closer. I have not zoomed and cropped the images (although I could have) so as to give readers the perspective of the distance of the tigers despite capturing them from a 400mm telephoto lens. So after a long wait, another cub emerged from behind the bushes on the other side, almost invisible behind them. It was a delight to capture him in camera. See for yourself (you can miss him in first few shots because of the long dry grass. Remember my post: Spot the tiger in this wild image!)-

Its always thrill to watch big cats in the wild, but without disturbing them. Panna has a turnaround story of tiger conservation. But there are always dangers looming. Recently read a report that Madhya Pradesh has lost nearly 16 tigers, including seven in Pench reserve, due to poaching and others reasons in the last one year. As tourists, we also need to alert, alarmed, caring and careful. Lets enjoy more and more years of this lovely creation of nature.

Returning to the tiger in Panna

Panna Tiger1Panna tiger reserve has a special place personally for me. I have three personal firsts associated with this national park. It was here that I had my very first tiger sighting in the wild. This was also the place where I had my first and only tiger sighting while sitting on an elephant. Lastly, this is the only tiger reserve where I visited twice and had tiger sightings on both the occasions. And this time around, it was fortunate sighting of two cubs (photo above and below). Unluckily though, their mother remained elusive, although she was around.

Panna Tiger2

The gap of almost eleven years between these two visits to Panna had been a period of turmoil for this Tiger reserve. The story of Panna Tiger Reserve has not an ordinary one. A story of all hopes lost to an extraordinary resurrection. By 2009, Panna has lost all of its tigers. An area known for its precious diamonds and tigers was left with no more than an abandoned piece of land. Panna had gone the same way as Sariska in Rajasthan four years earlier. I felt the pain of photographing one of the last tigers of Panna.

But story of Panna’s revival was unparalleled in wildlife conservation, something that Sariska is still struggling for. A new team of officials was handed the charge and tigresses were brought in from Kanha and Bandhavgarh tiger reserves. A male tiger was brought in from Pench. Tigers were reintroduced into Panna and the endless efforts of the staff to ensure that they were raised safely within this deteriorating habitat. Combined with other efforts, in just five years tiger count in Panna went from zero to 25. Today Panna has more than 30 tigers. Just three years after the process of revival started, in 2012 Panna Tiger Reserve was awarded National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) award for active management and monitoring.

So, being in Panna once again and feeling the thrill of photographing the wild cats in their own habitat was so fulfilling.

 

Spot the tiger in this wild image!

However close you watch a tiger in a zoo, you won’t get that excitement. But you won’t be able to contain your anxiety on the thrill of watching a tiger in wild, in its own territory- however distant it might be. Am I wrong? You won’t say so, when you see satisfied faces coming out of tiger reserves after end of every safari, especially in India- home to most of the tigers in world in wild. Its different every time- the thrill, as I have felt in my all sightings of tiger in wild. This one was no different.

So, can you spot the tiger in this photo below, taken on my very recent visit to Panna tiger reserve? Have a closer look-

Spot the Tiger1

Tough, isn’t it? Spotting wild cats in the wild, especially the elusive ones, need a sharp pair of eyes and a powerful camera to shoot. But even a 400mm telephoto lens is not enough to capture the big cat so clearly, when it is so far. So for all purposes of photography, we need to crop and zoom. Let’s see, if the first crop helps (below)!

Spot the Tiger2

Well, few sharp ones would have spotted him, but will still be tough for most of us. So here is the second crop (below). This will be great help, I guess!

Spot the Tiger3

Now I believe, most of us would have have spotted the tiger very clearly, Isn’t it? If someone is still finding it difficult, then here is the third crop of the image (below)-

Spot the Tiger4

This would have perhaps confirmed all the wild guesses! So here is the fourth crop to give the cat a closer look-

Spot the Tiger5

Now you can go allover agin to the first image and try to spot the tiger. That would be interesting. You can still wonder how the tiger was spotted in the first place (from a distance of more that half a kilometre away, deep in dry grassland). At times, few incidents, few catches, few shots- just happen to be interesting. I hope you agree!!

Pandav Falls : Bit myth, bit history and a lot of nature!

Pandav Falls1Pandavas can be credited, besides Mahabharata, also for being the earliest tourists.  Their 13 years in exile were actually years of travel around the country. Almost in every part of the country we will find a place dedicated to Pandavas- either they visited there, or stayed there or meditated there or did many other type of things. And, all these places were visited by them during their years in exile. Pandav Falls inside the periphery of the Panna Tiger Reserve and National Park is also one of the place associated with this mythological story.

Pandav Falls2Pandav Falls is not a destination into itself, as we can consider Raneh Falls to be. Pandav Falls is part of the bigger itinerary of Panna Tiger Reserve and Khajuraho temples. But it is descent place not to be missed. Pandav Falls is a multiple step waterfall around 30 metres in height. This is located on a tributary of the Ken river. Actually Ken river passes through Panna Tiger Reserve. A small stream breaks out from it, towards Pandav Falls and later again goes and joins the main river just before Raneh Falls. It looks very beautiful when it is in full flow, post monsoon. But that’s not the only reason to be here.

So, the place has a myth associated with it that Pandavas visited this pace during exile and stayed here. There are some limestone cave formations adjacent to the falls inside the rocks. These stalagmite and stalactite caves are called as Pandav caves as well. Interestingly, these caves are also five in number (which goes well for five Pandavas). But there is also a bit of recent history associated with this place. It is said that freedom fighter and revolutionary  leader Chandrashekhar Azad held a meeting of fellow revolutionaries at this place on 4 September 1929. In the memory of that event a bust of Azad was also placed here (at the top, near the parking slot) around six years ago.

Now about the nature. As I told, this is a natural waterfall.  We would have seen in the images that it is actually a deep gorge, which seems to have come out of nowhere in the midst of this valley. This surprises. It seems that such gorges are typical of topography of this area, as we have seen in Raneh Falls as well. So, the water falls in this gorge, which becomes a very beautiful pool of clean, serene water and then when the pool overflows, the water moves further ahead to the Ken river. Mythologically, it is said that second of the five Pandavas, Bheem made this hole by his mace to get water and quench the thirst. Some other tales give the credit to Arjun and his arrows.

Have a look at the caves and few sculptures found here which resemble sculptures of Khajuraho, which is not far from here.

This natural pool also works as natural nursery for the big rohu fishes. Fishes lay eggs here, once they are hatched, young ones on getting full grown move down to the main Ken river with the flow of water during the monsoon. As the place is considered as sacred, fishes are not caught here. See in the image below that how clear the water is and how big the fishes are here.

Pandav Falls9

Still, besides these all, there is one another thing that is associated with this place and what locals find miraculous. This is continuous presence of water in the pool. And actually this water doesn’t comes from the main water fall only. The water continuously drips here from either the rocks or the roots or shoots of the big trees on the top of the gorge. As locals say visibly there is no water up there on the land. Hence, this might be the underground water, which is finding its way to the gorge. This phenomenon takes place on the side of the gorge which is right opposite to the stairs going down to gorge.

Have a look through these images-

Abundance of good clean water,  has also turned this place into a very fertile ecosystem. Many birds- migratory as wells domestic, wild life minus the big cats are regular visitors here. As you can see the beautiful parakeets and the Arjun trees. See on the stem of the Arjun trees, these are the marks made by the sloth bear, who are very frequent visitors to this place.

Quick Facts: While going towards Panna from Khajuraho, the way to Pandav Falls is on the left side of the National Highway few kms ahead of the Mandla gate of the Panna Tiger Reserve. Mandla gate is on the right side. Although Pandav Falls area too comes under the Panna Tiger Reserve, but actually there are no big cats on the left side of the highway, almost all of them are towards right, where the core area is. There might be some occasional or accidental crossings but they return. Besides, all other wildlife can be seen in the forest area around the Pandav Falls. Distance from Khajuraho to Pandav Falls is 34 kms. Actual falls are less than one kilometre from the main gate right on the national highway.

Pandav Falls24Entry: Entry to Pandav Falls is not free. There is a fee per vehicle, exactly the same as Raneh Falls. This fee of Rs 495 per vehicle carrying 1 to 8 persons is collected at the forest entry gate. Similarly, there is also a guide fees of Rs 75. But, if yo have purchased a safari ticket for the vehicle to enter the Panna tiger reserve, than you can enter the Pandav Fall area too on the same ticket. There is absolutely no provision to stay in this area. But if you are less people and don’t want to pay vehicle fees, than you can walk down to Pandav Fall by paying individual entry fees of 55 Rs.

There is a parking area on the top and then there are 294 stairs and ramp to take you down to the pool. But these stairs are comfortable not too steep.

Raneh Falls : Rare and Breathtaking!

Raneh Falls1This might be one of the most underrated tourist destinations in India. But it is as much rare and fascinating. Raneh falls is just around 20-25 minutes drive from temple town of Khajuraho, which has been among the top destinations for foreign tourists in India. But still, not even ten percent of the tourists coming to Khajuraho go to Raneh falls. Often you might be the only tourist around. As was with us this time around, when we couldn’t find any other tourist in the Raneh falls area. Well, obviously, it doesn’t have that glamour. But that can’t undermine its beauty.

Raneh Falls2Raneh falls are natural. They are actually a canyon formation which you will not find anywhere else in India. It is said that these canyons would have formed because of volcanic eruptions thousands and thousands of years ago. As a result, in the path of Ken river (also called Karnavati river) there is a five kilometre long canyon formation. This river actually comes from Vindhyachal Hills, which are 125 kms from here and go further 200 kms from here till Banda in UP where it merges with river Yamuna. In whole journey of 325 kms, this canyon formation exists only in five kilometre length.

Raneh Falls3Even in this five kilometre length this canyon has variable depth and that actually creates the beauty of this  Raneh falls. At some places it is upto 50 metres. Interesting is the fact that you can’t see the beauty of this place during monsoon, when Ken river is in full flow. At that time all the crater gorges are full with watering river overflows in the canyon with no hint whatsoever of the outstanding geological structure beneath. The actual beauty of this place is in winters, when water has subsidised a bit and the canyon below is visible. River still has water and the flowing water from one gorge to another creates a fascinating array of waterfalls. There are numerous such gorges around and as a result there are numerous such big and small waterfalls. Locals say that you may not be even able to count the total number of waterfalls. They also call it a mini Niagara.

The larger and smaller falls run all through the year except for the peak of summer, when river flow starts drying up. This canyon is formed of igneous rocks rich in Granite and Dolomite. But actually there are five types of igneous rocks here and it is said that no where else in whole Asia, will you find these five rocks together at one place. See for different colours in photos. Green ones are dolomite, there is red coloured Jasper, brown quartz, pink granite and black basalt.

Have a look at the marvellous structure and the rock formation at Raneh Falls in this gallery:

Just a few kilometres upstream, Ken river passes through Panna National Park and Tiger Reserve and flows down to Raneh falls area. Actually the Raneh waterfall area is itself in the extended area of the jungle which is a protected forest. Locals say that even in this area around Raneh waterfalls, there used to be tigers until a few decades ago. All of them were probably hunted down. But other than big cats, you can find many wild animals in the forest area around Raneh falls. You can luckily see a few of them on the way to falls from the entry point and then from falls to the Ken Ghariyal & Crocodile sanctuary.

A glimpse of the area:

The Ken Gharial Sanctuary is located at the confluence of the Ken and Khudar rivers further down from Raneh Falls, almost seven kilometres through jungle, just ahead of the point, where canyons end. River here is again in its full flow. As with Raneh falls, here is also an observation deck atop the hill overlooking vastness of river. One can go down and do boating here in the river and don’t be afraid- crocs or gharial will not attack you. Boating here is very soothing and relaxing experience. Mind it, Ken is said to be the cleanest of Indian rivers. Surprised! Yo won’t, once you see the water here.

A look at the Ken river area:

When: Anytime except monsoon and peak of summer. Winters are the best time to be here. Even for sighting of crocodiles and Gharials, winters is good as we can find them taking sun bathe on the rocks in and around river. In summers, they will usually cool themselves off inside the water.

How: Raneh Falls is just 20 kms from Khajuraho, almost a half an hour drive. You can hire a vehicle or even take two-wheelers on rent from Khajuraho. Raneh Falls is in reserve forest, hence entry is not unrestricted. Entry is per vehicle (Rs 495 per vehicle for 1 to 6 persons). A guide is a must and his fees is 75 Rs. Fees for a single person without a vehicle is 55 Rs. All fees include Raneh falls as well as Ken Gharial sanctuary area. But boating is not included in this. One has to pay separately for that, and it is very cheap. There is also a forest rest house near the falls, where you can stay for just 1500 Rs per night per room.

Here is small video of the place-

White Tiger: When Mutation becomes Exhibit!

Main entrance of the Mukundpur White Tiger Safari and Zoo in Madhya Pradesh
Main entrance of the Mukundpur White Tiger Safari and Zoo in Madhya Pradesh

This might be a very rare happening in the history of wildlife conservation. A gene mutation has become something exotic and an aberration is been celebrated. Perhaps, beauty of a white tiger has lot to do with that. So fascinating that we have gone very far in actually preserving and breeding that mutation. That has brought us to a point where we have world’s only white tiger safari at Mukundpur in Satna district of Madhya Pradesh. The safari was thrown open for public this Sunday. I was there at that occasion.

White Tiger Raghu aged two and half years at Mukundpur zoo.
White Tiger Raghu aged two and half years at Mukundpur zoo.

Why Mukundpur? White tigers have association with this region. Although Mukundpur is in Satna district, it borders adjoining Rewa district. Erstwhile royal family of Rewa has been the corner stone of conservation of white tigers. Actually, fact is that there has been no sighting of white tigers in the wild anywhere else in the world, besides this region. And, even in this region there had been only two documented instances of white tiger sighting in the wild- firstly, more than hundred years ago in December 1915, when prince Gulab Singh of Rewa state captured a white tiger from the jungles of Sohagpur in Shahdol district which now is part of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve and National Park. As per Journal of Bombay Natural History that tiger died in 1920 after spending five years behind cages in the royal palace.

A stuffed white tigress in Rewa palace.
A stuffed white tigress in Rewa palace.

The second instance of sighting a white tiger in wild is of May, 1951 when Rewa King Martand Singh (last Maharaja of the state who was a MP from Rewa on three occasions, twice as Independent and lastly representing Congress) captured alive a white tiger cub, while on a hunting spree in jungles of Seedhi district of Madhya Pradesh, which now falls under Sanjay Gandhi National Park. That was perhaps the most significant moment in the history of white tigers in world. The cub somehow managed to escape the firing line of the royal hunters and was later on caught alive while his mother and two of his siblings were hunted down. The white cub somehow caught the imagination of Maharaja Martand Singh, who brought the cub to the place and put it into a cage.

Mohan, who was cremated with full royal honours after his death in 1969, but his head was stuffed and preserved for generations to see
Mohan, who was cremated with full royal honours after his death in 1969, but his head was stuffed and preserved for generations to see

Named Mohan later on, this white tiger lived whole his life in the cage in the royal palace at Govindgarh near Rewa. He died in 1969 and his life span of 18 years was good enough to become father, grand father or great grand father of all the white tigers in the world at present. Numbering more than hundred, all these white tigers are kept in cages or enclosures in different zoos around the world. There was a large scale captive breeding of white tigers—initially in Govindgarh palace under Rewa state and later on at Delhi zoological garden. Cubs and Tigers with this gene mutation were gifted to zoos, parks and celebrities around the world. Slowly, breeding process at Govindgarh slowed down and with passing away of a white tiger ‘Viraat’ at Govindgarh in July 1976, white tigers vanished from their original habitat.

Now, after forty years, white tigers have been brought to the region, but as exhibits in a newly constructed zoo. About 20 kms from Rewa city, Mukundpur area falls under Maand Reserve area. A 75 hectare area has been earmarked for the zoo and 25 hectare for an exclusive world’s only white tiger safari. As of now, there is only one white tigress ‘Vindhya’ in the safari which can be visited only through a safari bus. The adjoining zoo has a white tiger Raghu and a white tigress Radha. There are two other normal Royal Bengal Tigers and a couple of bears. Zoo is awaiting few other animals. There are also plans to develop a breeding and wildlife rescue centre nearby.

White Tiger in Mukundpur zoo.
White Tiger in Mukundpur zoo.

White tigers are normal Indian tigers a few of whom in this region developed a gene mutation generations back. Mutation is an aberration—a permanent alteration in the DNA sequence resulting into a feature, which is different from the normal ones. They may or they may not pass this mutation to their offsprings, but there is always a probability. For example, Mohan fathered many normal tiger cubs as well. Due to this mutation, these tigers loose their traditional yellow colour and turn white. Their eyes also turn blue. All other features, habits and capabilities remain the same. The colour of the skin and eyes, make these white tigers more fascinating for the viewers.

Another of Mohan's offspring stuffed and showcased at Rewa palace.
Another of Mohan’s offspring stuffed and showcased at Rewa palace.

So, for locals in Rewa, loyalties of the royals and politicians in the state this is a happy moment as it has been an election issue to bring back the white tigers to the region they allegedly belong to. Hence the opening ceremony of the zoo seemed more like an election rally evident from the speeches of political leaders amidst gathering of more than 25 thousand people. But not everyone is happy. Breeding of white tigers has always been a hotly debated issue. Experts have been critical of it saying that there is no specific conservation value of this mutation. In long term it might be harmful for the species. World over, breeding of white tigers was stopped a decade ago.

Experts say that colour of skin compromises with camouflaging abilities of white tiger.
Experts say that colour of skin compromises with camouflaging abilities of white tiger.

In a paper World association of Zoos and Aquariums have voiced its concern on breeding practices to increase the physical expression of rare traits through intentional breeding. For example intentional breeding to achieve rare colour-morphs such as white tigers, deer and alligators has been linked with various abnormal, debilitating and occasionally lethal conditions. Better, we keep our efforts for actual and needed conservation efforts for the tigers in general.

White tigress Radha in a fearsome mood in her cage at Mukundpur zoo.
White tigress Radha in a fearsome mood in her cage at Mukundpur zoo.

Where: Mukundpur is in Satna district of Madhya Pradesh. It is 20 kms from Rewa city. Rewa is connected through train services via Bhopal and Varanasi. Varanasi and Khajuraho are the two nearest airports. Roads in the region are bit tricky, so keep margin for additional time taken to travel through roads. Rewa has a few descent hotels to stay. You may need to hire a vehicle to carry you to zoo and safari from the Rewa city. Infrastructure around the Mukundpur zoo and safari is yet to spring up.

Rewa palace, which now houses a museum and many of stuffed white tigers.
Rewa palace, which now houses a museum and many of stuffed white tigers.

Photo of the day – The light within!

The beauty of this photo is also the character itself. Sonali Mahapatra is performing Oddissi at Khajuraho festival of dances 2015. An accomplished dancer, Sonali lost her major hearing power due to a medical negligence when she was just five. But she never let that come as a hinderance in her commitment to learn dance. She can’t listen to swara and hence now uses a hearing aid and dances by listening to just the beats of the taal.

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Spring in Khajuraho – The Dances

One of the premier dance festivals of India, Khajuraho festival of Dances is organised every year during springtime for last 41 years by Ustad Alauddin Khan academy of music and art under the aegis of ministry of Culture, government of Madhya Pradesh. Khajuraho Festival of Dances is organised at UNESCO world heritage site of Khajuraho in the premises along the western group of temples.

Kathak duet by V. Anuradha Singh and Rajendra Chaturvedi on 24th February 2015.  V. Anuradha Singh is best known for the introduction of Sufiyana Kathak style of dance. See some snapshots and a video of the dance.

Devadasi dance by Dr Yashoda Rao Thakore at Khajuraho festival of dances (2015) was perhaps the biggest achievement of this year’s dance festival. This was perhaps the first time that Devadasi dance was performed as an independent classical form of dance at any national platform. Yashoda Rao Thakore is a famous Kuchipudi dancer and has written a thesis on ‘Temple of Songs of Andhra Temple dancers’. Her delightful performance here in few images and a video.

Beautiful Manipuri Dance by Progressive Artiste Laboratory of Tiken Singh at Khajuraho Festival of Dances, 2015. Here the team is performing Raas Sankirtana or Nupa Pala. Poorvrang of a Natyashastra is Sankirtana. “Sankirtana: Ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur” was also inscribed on the Representative List of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in December 2013. Sankirtana originated from south but was revived in east by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Now it is an integral part of a Manipuri Dance.

ps: Don’t miss the last two minutes of this video!

A beautiful performance of Vasant Raas in classical Manipuri Dance by Progressive Artiste Laboratory of Tiken Singh at Khajuraho Festival of Dances 2015. This performance is about Radha-Krishna raasleela. See the movements, truly enjoyable.