Hectic urban life comes to a standstill as you set foot into the realm of the tribal and the tiger.
All alone, I stood on the tabletop mountain, transfixed by the looming spectacle of Lord Vishnu Idol on the precipice. For a small-time travel writer, losing oneself in the void is awe-inspiring, and a pathway to creativity. As we traverse through the passage of life, we realize that some moments are indelible, and even in a state of memory flux, they hang onto you like an old family portrait on the wall. I could visualize the historical moment more than two thousand years back when the zoomorphic idol was deftly carved out of the igneous rock and placed on the precipice. As you stand aside the lion-faced Vishnu idol, you can visualize the Universe below your feet, and above you, the massive ball of fire blood-soaked to the brim reminds you that life is real.
The statue hung in a timeless space all around me dwelling in eternity in an ambiance of absolute silence and serenity. Bandhavgarh is one place in India where art and history come together in the remote wilderness. Driven by passion and faith, the tribal of Bandhavgarh carved timeless masterpieces that still linger like a nature quiz with many questions unanswered.
With all the available land in the open plains, why did the tribal venture deep into the forest to create this fascinating architectural complex? It was certainly a matter of faith, and the zoomorphic idols and the ancient structures are a bold statement. Another reason was to avoid the ravage of frequent wars with the neighboring clans.
The aging rock structures are all black, buff, and steel blue colored by the vermillion paste and impregnating layers of microscopic vegetation. Well preserved, somewhat pock marked by erosion, the zoomorphic idols are the road to the rediscovery of our ancient culture.
The inert, aging, idols are a rejuvenating sight when you venture into the mystical land. Bandhavgarh Fort hangs in total ruins in the large complex, but scattered architectural marvels have survived the evolutionary forces that prevail on the Earth. In life nothing is permanent, but incredulously these idols seem to overpower the phenomenon called change. Lord Vishnu manifests here as tortoise, fish, boar, and lion. The aging brick walls, large reservoirs, and crumbling temple structures are found all around the complex. Only three temples stand in a perfect state of preservation perhaps built much later by a victorious Maharajah. Laxman Temple stands apart and is much visited by locals on holy occasions. A priest trudges 11km from the Tala village to tend to the Hindu temple. Tigers hide in the grassland and prowl all around the complex, they frequent the place to breed and hunt. The place is out of bounds for tourists now. Tigers rule Bandhvagarh!
Bandhavgarh More Than A Tiger Land
Gond tribal inhabited this land, and ruled over the vast stretch of forests that have now been fractured and culled beyond our imagination. Bandhavgarh is the land of the tiger, but it is much more. On one visit it becomes apparent that the paradise holds sights of wild animals, birds, and ancient marvels that are going to make your holiday in the wild incredulous.
Historical scars proliferate the ruins and depict tales of conquests and defeats. Many dynasties came to rule the region and were vanquished when overpowered. Situated at the height of 800 MSL the highest mountain is called Bandhavgarh which gave the tiger reserve and National Park its name. All around are steep cliffs and tabletop mountains embedded amidst the forest glades and deep glens fed by sparking mountain rivulets that create an absorbing panoramic landscape. The picturesque terrain is a spectacle beyond belief, and it excites the sensory apparatus at one go. The mountain fort at the top was a gift to brother Laxman by Lord Rama as the story goes and hence named Bandhavgarh (Bandhav = brother, Garh=Fort). A large crowd of tribal and locals walk through the forest and negotiate the steep ascent to the fort during Ram Navmi and other Hindu festivals as an annual pilgrimage. On that day, the out-of-bound tiger reserve is open to the pious.
Sesh Shaiyya or Reclining Vishnu lies midway, a thankful respite for the weary pilgrims. While the fort complex is out of bounds for the tourists Shesh Shaiyya is not. It is a fairy tale grove shaded by Jamun and Sal towering over an inert pool covered with moss and algae.
A twenty feet reclining idol of Lord Vishnu crowned by a multiheaded cobra lies beside the pool. Water trickles down like a minuscule fall from between thick ferns and grass creating a mesmerizing spectacle. This is the spot to be to realize the essence of this enchanting paradise. Traces of vermillion, scattered flowers, and exhausted incense sticks indicate that the fort priests and tourists on tiger safari pray to the Lord on frequent visits. Hinduism is a colorful religion with ample freedom to pray with few restrictions.
Situated in Central India, Bandhavgarh National Park is ideal for tiger safari holidays. One needs to book permits and accommodations in advance. The park is closed during the monsoon from July to September end.
For booking holidays contact MP Tiger Safari Company: +91 8889469120
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