We travel for various reasons, the biggest reason for me is to seek answers to my curious questions. A born and brought up in Delhi girl, who has seen the Ridge forest in Delhi loosing its sheen and tree cover over the years of growing up, I was dying to understand that amidst all these buildings made of glass and concrete, where am I getting the water and the oxygen to drink and breathe?
I got the answer to this question of mine while browsing through Naturalist Pradip Krishen’s book, “Trees of Delhi”.
The answer lies in Mangar Bani Forest grove – the last existing virgin forest area in Delhi-NCR.
I visited this place with my brother in the year 2009, in a time when we had minimal access to GPS, Google Maps and Mobile data. ‘Bani’ means Forest that falls within Mangar and Bandhwari villages and the local Gujjar community has been protecting these forests ever since and thus the name-Mangar Bani.
That visit of ours to Mangar Bani on a Sunday morning was an escape from the polluted air of Delhi.
These forests are located at the edge of the Aravallis, India’s oldest mountain range. The local vegetation here comprises of Dhau trees that can survive in the harsh climatic conditions through millions of years of evolution and boasts of rich flora and fauna.
Mangar Bani is considered to be the last stretch of un-fragmented habitat for wildlife in this area.
If you are driving to Mangar Bani, like we were, then the forests are located as one turns in the lane next to the Mangar Police Post on the Faridabad-Gurgaon highway. We kept checking with locals along the way to reach our destination. This was also a fun-way of travelling and finding ones way in the years when we had no smartphones with data plans. A phone in those days was just a phone.
As the stories go, villagers believe in the miracles of a Gudariya Baba, who lived in Mangar Bani several years ago and who is believed to have vanished in a cave in Mangar Bani. That cave is now his Shrine.
As per a strong belief that the locals carry, cutting trees in the Bani would invoke the wrath of Gudariya baba and wrath of nature. Once inside Mangar Bani, we requested and befriended a local Gujjar to accompany us to the Shrine of Gudariya baba. While we saw many deep brown-red coloured cattle along our way and walk to the shrine, the shrine itself was guarded by black coloured Indian dogs. We also saw a statue of Chajju Das, a disciple of Gudariya baba.
Consider visiting Mangar Bani to catch a breath of fresh air.
The existence of a virgin forest hidden amongst skyrise buildings and reckless development of Gurgaon is a miracle which is to be seen to be believed!