Ranthambore National Park (Rajasthan) is, perhaps, the quickest getaway to wilderness from the crowds and traffic of Delhi.
Daily super-fast trains, departing from Hazrat Nizammudin Railway station, like Kota Janshatabdi and August Kranti Rajdhani take around 4 hours to reach the Sawai Madhopur Junction.
On one such weekend, I took the August Kranti Rajdhani Train, that leaves at 4.50pm and reached Sawai Madhopur – home to the Ranthambore National Park – by 8.40pm later that evening.
Raees bhai, my driver cum guide for the Jungle Safari that I had booked myself onto for the next day, took me first to a shop selling ‘Bel’/Wood Apple juice. It was a tough drink to drink, more so with the amount of sugar they had put into mine! I had never ever had it before either, but learnt from Raees bhai that this juice had blood purification properties…and that is how my full-body detox began as I reached Ranthambore, which was to be my home for the next couple of days..
Bel Tree leaves are also considered sacred and offered to Lord Shiva, the Hindu God of Destruction, for many reasons, one being that the trifoliate leaf of Bel signifies Lord Shiva’s three eyes as well as the three spokes of the lords Trishul and since they have a cooling effect, they are offered to the Shivalinga to soothe this hot-tempered deity!
India, the ‘land of the Royal Bengal Tiger’, which still inhabit our forests – attracts many tourists from far and wide every year.
But, taking a ‘Safari’ in the Ranthambore or any national park for me, is not just about catching a glimpse of the Tiger.
How I wished that instead of tourists, people thronging national park had the mind and sensitivity of a ‘Traveler’ instead.
The ruins of the Ranthambore fort, birds of prey hovering on rocky hillocks, the langoors at the gate of the National park, the herds of Nilgai, dancing Peacocks, spotting the crocodiles in the lakes or the elusive leopard on a branch – and much more, is all that made my lone ‘Safari’ memorable.
My limited skills with the camera and the limitations of the camera didn’t allow me to capture the moment-in-action the way I wanted to, but there was one moment in the jungle that left me gaping in awe!
That moment happened just before I took this photograph in the jungles of Ranthambore.
With its tail and head high up, T 28 – the ‘star male’ tiger (named so because of the visibly distinguishable ‘star’ mark over his left eye), was seen ‘marking his territory’, whilst he patrols the forest to ward off any rival’s attempts at trespassing the area that he has now ‘marked as his own’. He does so by spraying a mixture of urine and a fowl smelling fluid from his anal glands on trees, bushes and rocks and also by scratching trees with his claws.
After marking this tree and thereby stamping his authority on this tract of the Ranthambore forests, this star male tiger T-28 walked towards me with a domineering gait as if to say that ‘this is my forest, my home…you humans have already snatched and ruined so much of it, at least now drop your greed and stick to what you have acquired already and let me live in peace!’.
Sure enough, with a lump in my throat, out of fear for the mighty king of the Jungle and respect for the flora and fauna that our country is blessed with, I bid adieu to the Ranthambore National Park that evening, and made my way to Raees bhai’s home to savour in his hospitality and treating myself to home-cooked ‘Dal-baati-choorma‘, a local delicacy of the state of Rajasthan.
The night was spent star-gazing and identifying constellations in the clear night sky at the hotel, and the next morning, I made a trip to the local crafts bazar – Dastkar Craft Centre.
Warmth of the local people, colours and splendour of the Handicrafts, the beauty of its wilderness and the beasts that stay within – this is what India is all about, a land that is calling out for you!