Keoladeo: An Adventure Amid the Fluttering Wings
By: KOYELA BARMAN
Having visited the beautiful Taj Mahal in Agra, we planned to go to Fatehpur Sikri the next day. However, we were informed by our hotel owner about the Keoladeo National Park, that it falls on the way, and we should give it a shot. A lover of birds, I thought of going along with the idea and headed to the much-acclaimed National park particularly famous for birding.
The Keoladeo National Park is located in Bharatpur in Rajasthan and is well connected by roads from Agra, New Delhi and Jaipur. Earlier known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, this park was declared the UNESCO world Heritage site in the year 1985.
The sanctuary was made 250 years ago and is named after a temple located inside the park. Legend has it that the place was a duck hunting ground for the Maharajas of Bharatpur and duck shoots were organised in honour of the British Viceroys as well. However, the last shoot was held in 1964. After receiving the tag of World Heritage Site, grazing was totally banned in the park leading to clashes between the locals and the Rajasthan government.
It is a man-made park consisting of grasslands, woodlands, swamps and wetlands. The habitat is home to a variety of bird species — not only birds, a variety of other animals such as the spotted deer, blue bull antelope, macaque, langur, wild boar, mongoose, fishing cat, monitor lizard, fish, turtle etc can also be found here.
On reaching the park one has to purchase a ticket and take a rickshaw or hire a cycle. The best part is the rickshaw pullers’ vivid knowledge about the park and they would serve as a guide during the entire journey. However, one can even opt to take the journey on foot.
We mounted on a rickshaw; being a winter morning the weather was cool and pleasant. The fog slowly melted away as we ventured deeper into the greenery. Volitant birds quickly flew overhead; as I was trying to put my cap astride to get a better glimpse, my eyes caught hold of a group of painted storks resting in the water body. These migratory birds were so many in number and they were everywhere. The place was filled with their canorous tunes; some were snatching at the insects while others were busy fishing in the water.
Further inside we came across birds such as the cormorants, green pigeon, whistling ducks, parakeets and the like. Being a holiday season, many tourists and locals were inside the park. The happy buzz of people, the rustling leaves and the sough of the wind added to the charm of the place.
Having covered quite a few kilometres, I decided to rest under the umbrageous trees. On one of the branches was seated a crested serpent eagle, busy preening its feathers — as I was watching it intently, the raptorial bird swooped down on its prey to catch it off guard.
Again, with a spurt of energy we continued our journey. I could see ducks waddling into the water as they saw us approaching. A herd of spotted deer was found munching on some green leaves but cautious enough to steal a glance at us.
Soon it was midday, I was peckish, so decided to head back. However , there is an eco lodge inside the sanctuary where they serve good food. The rooms in the lodge are basic but if planning to stay for a day or two, this lodge can be the best option as it is located inside the national park. Having found a monitor lizard, people were flocking around. I felt worried about the plight of the poor creature. We decided not to join the throng, instead zoomed in and clicked some pictures. While coming back spotted some monkeys haring off, some were hanging from the branches, their glance fixed on us.
The park also has a watch tower from where one can get a 360-degree view of the entire area. After all the adventures we came back to the entrance. As chance ordained, we even spotted many turtles basking in the sun. The chirping of the birds, the blowing wind tousling my hair and the deep verdant surroundings made my day. After the guide-cum-rickshaw puller had been paid we thanked him for the company and started off for our next destination.