A day at Sariska National Park
Authored by : Faiza Ghazi
On my way to our usual trip to the Jaipur literary festival, sitting in the train with my friends and chatting away about books and literature and art, I realised that it had been a while since I had travelled out in solitude. I could see people’s lips moving but I couldn’t hear a thing. Something kept nagging at the back of my mind and I knew I had to get away from company for a few days.
There was a cousin of mine who lived in Jaipur at whose house we were supposed to stay. After reaching the place I ditched the whole festival, it could go on just fine without another lit enthusiast for another year I thought. I picked up my cousin’s bike and headed toward the road to Alwar. He had suggested that I visit Sariska as it was not too far away, I could be back for the last few events of the festival and I had not had a chance to visit the lovely reserve. Pocketing my camera and wallet, I stealthily exited the noisy room filled with my friend’s voices.
Sariska National Park is located 35 km away from Alwar and the road to it was itself not less beautiful, being in a pretty good condition. The warm sun and a few birds now and then, soaring in the sky gave me company throughout. There were rhesus macaques all along the way to the park and I also viewed ‘Alwar’ written in Hollywood style in a large rock. Just before Sariska there were a few dhabas. I ate a delicious and buttery onion and aloo paratha with dahi and tea and got rejuvenated after the long drive, it had taken me four hours to reach Alwar and another one to the park. On reaching the reserve, I came to know that private vehicles were allowed inside Sariska National on Tuesdays and Saturdays, fortunately I was on a weekend trip. And doubly fortunate, it was a January morning, winter being the best time to visit such places. Well, approximately from October to June.
Safaris are a great hit here (and you have to pre book if you intend a perfectly calculated site seeing) but I always want the comfort and opportunity to be to travel in my own vehicle. With a distance of 215 km from Delhi, and 101 km from Jaipur, Sariska National Park is an 800 sq. km Tiger Reserve nestled in the Aravali Hills located in the Alwar district of Rajasthan. A perfect spot for flora and fauna lovers, or even just solitude, like me.
I went up to the reception area, which is nearby the entry of the park, brought my ticket for a pretty cheap amount of Rupees 80. I was told that you are just allowed to drive through the main road, but I decided to go in the core areas and thought about apologising to the authorities concerned later and after going through a list of places to visit there I embarked upon my journey.
I was welcomed by a dark, lovely and sprawling forest, as it is set in the majestic Aravalli Mountains. The dry deciduous forest has a rugged charm among jagged rock mountains. The early morning rays filter through the leaves and bathe the forest in a golden hue. . After 10 km roughly the road divided into two ways, one to Pandupole and another to Kalighat. I chose the Pandupole road and encountered with a group of wild pigs and an army of langoors.
I came across a group of sambhaars on a waterhole and as water areas are wildlife attractors, I made it a point to spend some time around each I came across. Throughout the roaming I saw peacocks strutting around nonchalantly, spotted deers in abundance, a nilgai, civets, herds of sambar, chitals, wild boars, mongooses, langurs and rhesus monkeys along with a few hyenas, civets, and jackals.
Leopards (The occasional call of whom put the jungle on high alert) and tigers are scarce but I was lucky and spotted a majestic one.
Being an avid animal and bird enthusiast I could spot and recognize the peafowl, grey partridge, tree pie, parakeets, kingfisher, spotted owl, pelicans, bush quail, sand grouse, crested serpent eagles and the great Indian horned owl. But I still recommended to myself to roam these jungles with a local guide on my next visit, to know more about the birds, fauna and flora.
At the end point of the road, in the very core of the reserve there was an ancient Hanuman Temple. This shrine is dedicated to Hanuman at Pandupol (inside the core zone of the park), which literally translates to ‘gateway of the Pandavas’ in Sanskrit, In fact, Sariska is believed to be the place from the Hindu epic Mahabharata where the Pandavas found sanctuary during their last year of exile. But it was thronged by pilgrims from nearby places, which I later came to know happened on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Well, not that lucky after all. Nevertheless, I made nature my worshipping place instead and stumbled upon various ruins of ancient temples and forts scattered everywhere. I came across the ruins of Bhangarh and experienced the aura of history and mythology bathing in the setting rays of the sun.
The sun had set and so had my day in solitude. I was at peace and was ready face human company again. I felt that Sariska is an unexplored paradise and on my way back made a mental note to visit soon again and explore the multitudinous things and places that I couldn’t in a day, like the ancient 17th century Kankwari Fort, the Astroport Sariska and the temple of Neelkanth to name a few.