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Cheetah Cubs Born in Boma , Do They Have Conservation Value ?

When Aasha gave birth to three cubs in one of the enclosures  of  Kuno national park - there was good news and bad news. The good news is that this is the second litter of cheetah on Indian soil after Siyaya, another Namibia cheetah, gave birth to four cubs in March 2023 and that the animal seems to have acclimatized further in India conditions. Birth in captivity will also enhance their chances of survival. The three newborns  from Aasha have also increased the number of cheetahs in India.  The bad news is that like Siyaya's cubs, they too are born within the confines of a boma and would not get the environmental conditions required to survive in the wild. They would also be reared up by Aasha in the enclosure -safe from predators like leopards. But what does this mean? Kuno Awaits Cheetah Birth in Open Forest Cheetahs were translocated to India with a purpose. The Cheetah action plan envisages saving, conserving and developing India's grasslands .The reason for choosing cheet

Exploring The Caves Of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

Caves Of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

I have been visiting Bandhavgarh tiger reserve for a long time and like others saw the ancient caves in the Tala tourist zone of the park, famous for its tigers and the stories revolving around them.  A huge fort in ruins atop the hill overlooking the jungle is testimony to the glorious past. The rich historical cultural past of the park makes it all the more fascinating forest. Though the caves existed for almost 1800 years, a little is known about them. For years, they have been  abodes of tigers and bears among other wildlife. But now the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is exploring these dark caves with a golden past.

First  detailed exploration by the ASI

Caves Of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

Knowing that the ASI was exploring the area for almost a fortnight in June, I too visited the forest to learn more about the caves built on the sand-stone hillocks of the Bandhavgarh Hills. There are around 42 caves in the region, which cover a length of over 5 kms. Wildlife tourists from all over the world are always delighted to visit this tourism zone .As you meander through the woods, you find the human imprints of man-made caves, sculptures, the famous Shesh Shaiya, reclining statue of lord Vishnu and rock-cut rooms (like Badi Gufa or the big cave) in the Tala range, housing the best of Bandhavgarh forest and wildlife. This place was hardly visited by the tourists in the month of June this year as the guides discouraged people because of the risk of wild elephants. A breakaway herd of the elephants comprising an aggressive tusker had strayed to this place. They have chased some gypsies during the safari drive creating fear among the safari operators. 

Also read: Monsoon Magic At Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

 “As the archaeological sites and statues are located on a hillock and the road leading to them  is narrow and  if you are confronted with an elephant  you don’t get time to reverse your vehicle”, a gypsy  driver said narrating his encounter with a tusker.  For the past three years over 50 elephants have made the tiger reserve their home. During the exploration, the ASI also found some new caves. In fact the explorers were the first to step in these caves in the last 1000 years. The ASI also learnt to have found an interesting aspect of Bandhavgarh archaeology. It was revealed that Alexander Cunningham (1814-1893), the founder of the ASI never visited Bandhavgarh. Even one of his prominent archaeological assistants, Joseph Beglar did not visit the forest.  “These two prominent archaeologists had visited almost every archaeological site of India. Had they visited Bandhavgarh, these monuments would have  been known long back”, said an ASI personnel.  It was first visited by  an Indian  archaeologist MP Chakravarty ,an epigraphist,  somewhere around 1934.  He was deployed by the then Baghela ruler of Bandhavgarh. The present exploration started after the initiative of former  Union minister of tourism Prahalad Patel in 2021.

  Buddhism to Baghelas, Wait For More 

Caves Of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

As people had hardly any authentic knowledge about these structures, one would mostly find false information about them .According to one website "The most likely purpose of these caves was for meditation purposes of the sages who visited this area, and some other purposes as well". Others talked about the caves as residents of the army of various rulers. “They are strategically located at the base of the fort, and visible from some key areas of the fort”, said another website.  But the ASI  believed that the caves belonged to the second century CE when  Buddhism flourished in the area and there was rule of the Magha  dynasty.  It means they are almost 1800 year old.  Bandhavgarh was then a major trade centre .Business flourished with Kausambi (in present day Uttar Pradesh). The caves and shelters were built for the stay of traders and merchants on the lower slopes of Bandhavgarh and other hills. “Inscriptions in caves also depict that the cave-shelter were meant for traders”, said an ASI source. Even the names of some businessmen were inscribed  in some of the caves. 

Also readTiger Takes Rest After  Months Of Tourism Stress

The traders would obviously hunt animals  to survive in the jungles. Several caves also have animal  images. The caves were found in “ good condition” only because  they became part of a protected  forest area in the late sixties.  Even names of the merchants from different parts of the country are mentioned in the caves. After the Magha dynasty came the Kalchuris – Kalchuri of Ratapuri and Kalchuri of Tripuri. Baghelas were the last rulers of Bandhavgarh.  Interestingly a Sharqi sultanate coin was also found in one of the caves. Bandhavgarh and Jaunpur had friendly relations in 14th century, when Lodhis attacked them, Bandhavgarh supported Sharqis. Hussain Shah Sharqi who created Rag Janunpuri, had good relations with Raja Ramchandra Singh Baghela and Raja man Singh of Gwalior. All the three were connoisseurs of music and arts.

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Pushparaj Singh, the scion of Rewa royals is obviously quite excited over the work being done by the ASI and has been keenly following the ASI work. He said, “The first of the caves were built during the Buddhist era by the Buddhist pilgrims and traders who while travelling from South to East used this place and the soft stone available here could help them to chisel and carve the rock easily. However most of these Caves are at the foothills of Bandhavgarh plateau.” “The second were the Kalachuri who were masters of carving and contributed the Dashavatara of Vishnu with the Majestic Shesh Shaiya and Shiv Linga statues on the midway of the plateau. The remaining sculptures are on the top of the plateau. They also made major water  tanks and about 4  water bodies on the top leading to a great attempt of water conservation in the 6th and 8th century.”

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 Pushpraj said that “Lastly the Baghelas who came and made the Karan Pole gate, mid way to the top of the Fort, 3 temples over a passage of time period divided into 3 segments depicting the orignal Solanki style prevalent in Patan Gujarat, the old Baghela style of step dome and lastly by later Baghela at Bandhavgarh, which has large heavy stone beams upon which roof is made of slab stones". "This same style was carried in Rewa, while making the Mahamrityunjay temple at Fort Rewa", the Rewa royal explained . "More details  about the exploration of caves would  come  once we finish the work and prepare  a report. The  conservation work will be done with the support of the forest department", said Shivkant Bajpeyi , Superintending archaeologist , Jabalpur.

By Deshdeep Saxena 

Cover Picture Courtsey: Mahendra Singh Articles

Comments


  1. A Wow article touching all the mystic topics regarding Bandhavgarh. Refreshing to get insight of latest work done by ASI in one of the underrated national parks. The archaeological investigation will help in getting the facts straight regarding the sites. Certainly, The NP deserves a face-lift n with all the new findings the area can attract more number of tourists n researchers in coming days.

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