Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary by Odisha tourism-In search of Small Pratincole Birds…My travel diary

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Debrigarh Wildlife sanctuary on the banks of Hirakud reservoir near Sambalpur is known for its wide range of flora and fauna.The sanctuary is home to a large species of wild animals, reptiles, butterfly and birds.Due to its proximity to the huge water body of Hirakud, the sanctuary also attract a large number of migratory birds to it’s banks.The pristine beauty and wilderness of nature at this sanctuary is frequentented by tourists from every corner of Odisha and neighboring states also.The cottages inside the sanctuary offers a peaceful and memorable sojorn in the lap of nature for the tourists. The best time to visit the sanctuary is from June to October.We the members of “Chadhei Club” decided to visit for documenting the Small Pratincole which normally nests during March every year.The place of our interest was the Chiurasimal area where on the banks of reservoir the Small Pratincole nests on ground.On 14th of Mar2021, being Sunday, we decided to go into the sanctuary as most members are free from office on Sunday.All agreed to start after lunch as weekly marketing of vegetables can not be escaped….Home-office-hubby-hobby- balance.

The Dbrigarh Santuary is 15 Kms far from Sambalpur and we were 8 members.At 1PM the temperature in Sambalpur was not that bad but I preferred some PAKHALA( water rice) with curd and small fish fry, to avoid dehydration.We five drove in my Nexon car and 3 others of the group in another car from Sambalpur at 1.30/PM.We had hired a 8 seater safari for Rs 3200/- provided by the Santuary from Dodokusum entry gate.On the way Ashis dada, the ace photographer and Javannath Bag had their lunch on the wayside dhaba.Finnaly we reached at the Dodokusum entrygate at 2.15PM and were welcomed by our friend and guide Sri Bhubaneswar Patra.Patra is an employee of the forest department , photographer and birder.The escort and guide normally are done by the trained volunteers of the nearby village.The entire tourism package is managed by these volunteers but Patra being a bird enthusiast escorted us.After a brief description about the sanctuary and it’s wilderness and habitats at the briefing hall we started for the journey into the Santuary on our hired safari vehicle.Our cameras ready to click for any birds on the way till we reach Chourasimal where we will see the nesting grounds of Small Pratincole.

Briefinghall

Our 8 seater safari vehicle started rolling on the surpentine narrow dusty forest road flanked by trees on both sides and crossed by water streams running down from the mountains.We were entering into the Barapahada mountain range.I was told that once the dense forest and barapahada(12 mountains range) was the place of guerrilla war by Veer Surendra Sai against the British authority here in Sambalpur.Also there are Rock art sites inside the forest, Ashish dada told which he had documented earlier.But we were now for another goal, to find the SmallnPratincole.The beauty of nature was mesmerising with the music of bird calls.Occasionaly Ashish data scolding Biswanath to keep quite…else the wild animals and birds will not be visible..and suddenly the vehicle brakes screamed and the driver warned…shhhhhh…there is something..all silent..what may be …a Samber…spotted dear….hyena…or leopard…heartbeat rose….camera ready and clicked the first encounter with the wilderness…a herd of bison led by the muscular, huge male, eyes locked on us, the unwanted intruders in his territory and our lenses locked on his eye…first click…second..third….camera was on continuous mode clicking as much we could gather the beautiful encounter with wilderness…

Mr Bison and family
The road to wild

Not disturbing further we moved ahead. Langoors playing on the trees and some sitting on the road blocking our way ahead.Feeding them is strictly prohibited and we were empty of any eatables except water bottle.

Another group of tourist were behind us and we were taking time clicking.We allowed them to overtake us.

On the way Sambar, Wildbore, Spotted deer, Black-headed Ibis , Pecock, and many others…some looked astonishingly at us…some panicked..

Curious Sambar.
Spotted deer
Black headed ibis

Most interesting finding which brought a big smile on the face of Ashis data and Patra babu was the Shama..a shy bird very rarely visible around this area.Sitting at a fair distance, the sight obstructed by twigs and branches , the backside was only visible.We kept on waiting till it turn around to pose for us…the beauty of it’s chestnut coloured frontside.

The Shama.

It took us around one hour to reach the place we were headed to find Small Pratincole.the Chaurasimal .After getting down from the vehicle and at small walking distance we found our golden destination…the place where the small pratincole have been sitting as if welcoming us for the photo shoot.Yet to start nesting but started gathering in flocks and we did not took much time to click before the sun slips down behind the barapahada…It will take a week or so before they nest and lay eggs.In groups they have started choosing the best possible site and mates.

The Smal pratincoles.

After taking some here and there snaps we decided to get back with the hope to see the leopard which Patra babu said are 15 in numbers and may be sighted during dawn on our way back.

Sun God has already on the other side of mountains..giving the nucturals to come out from there hides.Langoors had started to move up the trees.Sambars & Bisons have started gathering closely. Ready to protect themselves and the calves from the leopards.Birds had stopped singing.We could not see the leopard but the preparedness to fight it and survive among the animals was evident.

On our return we reached to the cottage area where Patra babu had arrange tea.Already we were late and the Pakhala(wter rice) during lunch was not sufficient to keep me energetic till now.Biswanath had brought some snacks like MUDHI AND MIXTURE which were left in the car.All of us sat to finish the snacks , sat on the dyke , the boundary of dam and road to sanctuary.

At the ecotour cottage
Mudhi and mixture

The pratincole will be nesting within a week.We need to stay in contact with Mr. Patra for the latest.We will be back again to record the Pratincoles….their nestings.

A place of weekend trips by #Odisha tourism.

United Nations and santhakabi Bhimabhoi.

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Today on this day of 25 the Feb, 2021, the 148th Mahima mela started for 3 days at Joranda, Odisha the holy place for many Mahima followers.On this day let’s remember the poet, composer, a follower of the Mahima sect, Santhakabi Bhimabhoi.

(Photo copied from Google)

Bhimabhoi was born in Jatasinga near Subalaya of Subarnapur in Odisha.Born in 1850 in a poor family of Kond cast he was blind since birth.Married to Annapurna and had two daughters.His name was Mukunda Das by birth.He was a follower of Mahima Gosain, the Guru of the Mahima sect. Bhimabhoi was dedicated to the upliftment of the socially deprived section.His writings are testimony to the social condition of his times.He being blind could not write so he used to sing then in a catchy manner and his followers would write them. The writings were appealing to the masses divided in strict casteism.His preaching were so popular in those days that the Mahima sect spread not only in Odisha but to parts of Assam, Westbengal, and adjoining states of Odisha.

He died in 1895 at Khaliapali of Sonepur district and the last remnant are kept in a temple at Khaliapali, the Samadhi pitha.

His writings are maintained on the walls of the temple.

His famous writing is inscribed on the walls of United Nations…..

…….witnessing the plethora of plights on earth how one could bear with, let the world gets redeemed at my cost….

The writings that are inscribed on the walls of United Nations in different languages.

(Khaliapali is near Sonepur Odisha and can be accessed by road.)

Buddhism and Pargalpur,Odisha-

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The Vajrayan form of Buddhism religion originated in Odisha before spreading to Mangolia through Tibet, China, and Japan. There are many remnants of Buddhism throughout Odisha and Baudh in particular. Baudh is the only town in India that has its name derived from Buddha. Such a huge number of remains points out the fact that in earlier days Buddhism was deep-rooted in Odisha. Although not much population now practice, still there are pockets of Athgarh area where the practice is prevailing.One such site of interest is Pargalpur.The name is derived from the Buddhist deity Pragalva.

Around 28 KMs from the Boudh town, the village Pragalpur has remains of Buddhism. A badly damaged statue of Budhha is kept inside the temple.Hardly 1 KM away from another Buddhist monastery at Syamsunderpur.

Buddhism was at its peak in this area during earlier days is visible from findings of this remains and monastery nearby.From unknown reason , there is hardly any practise of Buddhism left in this area at present.

Apart from Pargalpur, there are many other places nearby Baudh where such remains are available in plenty. One such sign of the deep prevalence of Buddhism is the availability of Buddha in Bhumisutramudra at a Shiva temple in the town of Baudh.It points out the parallel existence of Budhaism and Saivasm in those times.

In Bhumisutramudra

The Siva temple.

The practices of Buddhism has left it’s impact in dance forms as well.The Danda Dance of this area has steps similar to Buddhism dance in the monastery.

Once in it’s peak the practice of Buddhism slowly vanished from Odisha before migrating to China, Japan, Tibet, Nepal and Mangolia through the trade routes leaving behind the remains statues and monasteries badly damaged state, all over Odisha

Mining, Development and Sustainable Development

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Mining is indispensable to meet the growing needs of energy and raw materials.In our part of Western Odisha, there is huge deposits of Coal, Iron ores, Lime stones, etc, and thus the huge numbers of mining activities fulfilling the needs of thermal powerplants, steel, and cement industries of the state and the country. Mining activities as mentioned above are indispensable but the rising level of pollution, damage to the flora and fauna, and finally turning the area into a ghost city after the excavation of resources is over, is another concern that can not be overlooked. However, development should always be sustainable and one of my friend Sri Pratyush Panda always insists which finally I got convinced when I saw some of the initiatives in our area by one industrial house. Seeing my curiosity ,he arranged a site visit to Limestone mines of ACC cement at Dungri mines of Bargarh.

Limestone mines of ACC cement

On 20th of Feb 2021,along with Sri Ashish Pradhan and two other bird lovers of Chadhei Club who had documented nesting of Oriental Flycatber, a beautiful bird that migrates to the Dungri forests from Chattishgarh, we four reached to Dungri Guesthouse at 8 PM.Dungri guest house is around 10 KMs from Ambabana and 50 KMs from Bargarh. Located under the deep canopy of greenery the area is a perfect paradise for many species of birds and animals. The guesthouse and colony of ACC staffs too are surrounded by greenery matching not less to any cottages of a wildlife sanctuary.After having dinner ,we went for sighing of any nightjars , a bird species plentily available in this area. Fortunately saw a few in the night, just near the guesthouse. After brief planning and discussion with the Geologist and Mining Manager of the site for the next day’s visit to mine we were told about a Butterfly garden they have started which is a commendable step by them.Sri Ashis who had documented different species of butterflies, readily agreed to help them if needed for the butterfly project.

Staff colony
Guest House

At around 10 AM, next day we along with the geologist went to the mines.Taken over by ACC in 2004 from the eastwhile IDCOL ,the mine no 5 was already closed since 2003.Other mines were functional.The no5 mine, after excavation was supposed to be handed over to state and the pit was to be filled back with sand.The result would have a barren piece of land.Thus the idea of sustainable development stepped in.The pit was not handed over but was filled with water.The regular water cess and cess for the land was paid by company and the Water body thus created, now is a source of water for around 3 villages meeting the needs of agriculture, domestic and drinking water.The water body is a source for sprinkling and plantation drive in the mining area.Apart from this a source of drinking water for the animals and birds. Even some migratory birds are said to have been seen on this water body which we birders would love to visit again if allowed by the company in the next year.

Water pump supply water to the villages
Water body from the abandoned pit

Apart from this , the other developmental activities like medical and education and empowerment of women are in place at this site which are sustainable.One such women empowerment initiative covering 1000 women of the area by ACC trust is realy commendable which we will visit in another episode.

An initiative by ACC trust- women empowerment.
https://bubuntalk.co.in/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/20210221_130304.mp4
Ms. Nayar .The President of the group narrating a story as how they help the needy.

While returning we had been to the Butterfly garden. Although not full-fledged and yet to attract the butterfly ,the initiative can not be undermined.We offered our help if required and advised to plant some lenonnplants in the garden which attracts the butterflies.Also some salt mixed with soil inside the garden.

The idea of water body from the abandoned mines can be replicated with the other sites as well which would protect the flora and fauna of the area even after the mines were closed forever. Development with a vision for the years ahead would protect the environment and the breeding grounds of Paradise Flycatchers..the site is the original land and breeding grounds of the little beauties since ages..With a sigh of relief that the miners are yet to destroy the breeding grounds we left with a request to create more such water bodies and protect the flora-n-fauna so that the fly catchers will keep on flying beutifying your localities with their colourful plumage….KEEP CEMENTING THE RELATIONSHIP with the birds and they will TRANSFORM YOUR LIVES to a colourful one like their plumage.

A female Paradise Flycatcher

Rock Art paintings of Bhimamandali and signs of human civilisations -My travel diary

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29th of December 2020,another intresting travel diary.


It is felt like discovering a treasure, to all of us.After getting an information about rock arts at the dense forests of Rairakhol we trio, myself, Ashok Panda Sir and Kaushik Guru embarked upon a jouney of biking followed by tracking the jungles and climbing upto a height of 1200 ft from msl .But after reaching there and seeing the rock paints, it was like a dream came true.

Approx.20 km from Rairakhol towards Reamal we were being received by my childhood friend Ramesh Swain at around 10 AM.Ramesh Swain is wholeheartedly devoted to the cause of preservation of this treasure .An effort of around 15 years ,roming around the deep forests in serch of rockarts Ramesh has devoted his period of youth, when his friends were settled comfortably pursuing better carriers.
As advised by Ramesh we got down from car as the road ahead was not motorable and picked up 3 bikes ,again arranged by Ramesh.After reaching to a distance into the jungle we kept the bikes near one Ashram and started tracking and climbing the mountain.
As scolars and researchers told the rock paints are around 25000 to 50000 years old.It means we are a civilisation which is one of the oldest.
Most importantly the paintings are in three different colours…black…red ..
and green…

Tracking into the forest.
Rock Art paintings in three different colors indicating different periods of art.

After visiting some caves and paintings on rocks we returned to a place where one sadhu has been staying.We were offered prasad by the Sadhu.After tracking through the jungles and mountains since morning we were feeling exhausted and hungry.The prasadam consisting of Rice, Dal, and Vegetable curry worked as an energy booster for us to be able to return tracking to the place where our bikes were parked.

Prasadam

The archeology and rock art specialist can better through some light on this. But what is needed most at this juncture is conservation and thorough research by Universities and experts.
It is a surprise that we are being taught of the civilization of the world around and forgotten our civilization, signs of which are available in our backyard unprotected, unexplored, and left to be destroyed by weathering and vandalism with time.

The feeling of adventurist Bear Grylls turned out to an emotional attachment to the paintings. Our ancestors one day,25000-50000 years back might have stayed here…. painting the walls with natural colors…never knowing he/she will be remembered one day..,…

Yes we remember you …..we will protect your paintings….we will showcase our civilization to the world….Thank u Ramesh for protecting the treasure so passionately….these are treasures very close to our heart and will not be left to be destroyed at any cost…

With nostalgia and resolve to protect these ancient treasures of civilization, we returned to Ghosramal.On the way fresh footmarks of elephants were warnings for us not to stay long in the jungle.It was around 7PM and we boarded back into our cars at Gosramal.

(The place is in deep forest near Gosramal, about 20 kms from Rairakhl.May encounter face to face with wild animals.Necessary permission from competent authority and a local guide is must before entering to the area)

Jharsuguda and it’s Ancient RockArts.

Ranipur-Jharial.The 64 Yogini temple-My travel diary.

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Western Odisha is a place of many historic sites. Worship places of different religions and cults in different times of the past were being discovered around many places of western Odisha. One such very rare site of 64 yogini temple which was first to be discovered was at Ranipur-Jharial or Sindrikela.The other being at Haripur in Eastern Odisha. Ranipur Jharial was discovered by Major General Campell in 1853 and the temple is said to be made around 900 years ago.

64 Yogini temple

Around 100 KMs away from Bolangir towards Raj Khariar, Ranipur Jharial is near Bangomunda. Situated on an open stone, the 50-meter dia roundel surrounds the 64 yogini statues, is made of sandstones. Damaged due to weathering only 63 are seen in good condition. Lord Siva in a dancing pose is at the center under four pillars.

More than 50 small temples scattered all over indicate the importance of the place in the past. Said to be a place of different cults ,from Buddhism, Saivasim to tantric practices.

,

At a distance, the unique brick-made temple of Lord Indralat is said to be the highest brick-made temple and was built around the 7th century has some portion of Jaganmohan demolished.

Indralat temple

All the statues of 64 yoginis with animal heads are made out of sandstone. Once neatly carved, now has weathered badly.

Once a place of worship for many religious and cult groups now stands in a dilapidated condition. If restored, the place can add to the chain of tourist places around western Odisha and a major attraction for tourists.

…….see you soon with another location of interest and with another subject.

Waterfowl census 2021-An unique experience.

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Counting the winged beauties in and around the Hirakud reservoir was an unforgettable moment of lifetime for me.

Wetland International conducts a waterfowl census every year, all over the world. Odisha Forest Department under the age is of Wetland International too contributes to the census from different locations where birds are found in plenty. The Hirakud reservoir is one such place where many species of birds reside and many lands here from different parts of the world. I got an opportunity to participate in the exercise as a member of Chadhei Club Sambalpur, being invited by Forest Department.After a brief training on 5th, of Jan 2021 at Debrigarh Forest range office

Training seasons before bird census

The Hirakud reservoir bird census area was divided into 21 sectors of which I along with Ashis Pradhan and the forest department officials were allowed with sector No 6. On the evening of the 6th, we started for Lakhanpur, a small village on the banks of the reservoir near Ambabana, and reached the forest office there. As the census was to start early morning the next day, we were told to finish our dinner and reach Gobindpur village, an hour journey further deep into the forest to the place where our boat would start early morning at 6 AM. The forest department staff escorted us to Gobindpur after dinner and we took a rest in the guesthouse of the department there.

Dinner preparation at Lakhanpur.
Guesthouse at Gobindpur

With the excitement to participate in such a fascinating event and to see the birds in large flocks, I couldn’t sleep more than an hour. The next morning before the sunrise we all were ready with our camera, field guide books, and packed breakfast. News had come about the probability of bird flu spreading in some parts of the country. Thus one vet and his associate also accompanied us. They were to collect bird droppings for lab tests. We a total of 5 along with the boat driver did a photo session before boarding. Suddenly the lens cover of my camera slipped into the waters. One of the forest guards dived into the water to find it but could not. The water was too cold and I thought to let it go but we should not be late. The event is more important than the cover. Decided to smile on the photoshoot before boarding the motorboat.

The weather was a bit cloudy and my camera was asking for more ISO and wider ‘f’ stop……flocks of tuffted ducks, Great crested grebes..followed by Gulls, Godwits, stilts and many more.The whole of the water body was filled with birds..some resident and some from faraway places of Siberias.

We kept on clicking and counting, enjoying the beauty of Hirakud reservoir which has been enhanced by the colorful plumage of migratory guests and lively with their call sounds. Some of them had come here in search of food, some for a partner, some for breeding, and some as a stopover before continuing to other places. After breeding, they will go back to return next year. Again making the Hirakud resorvoir lively and beautiful.

Apart from birds, the submerged temples were another area that made us curious and took us back to the time before the Hirakud reservoir was constructed. Several villages with their house, households, cattle would have stayed here. With the construction of the dam, everything submerged. People fled to new places leaving behind memories. The temples which were once places of gathering, now stand alone peeping out of the water sometimes when the water level is low in summer.Cattles who were left behind have migrated to small islands in the reservoir now called ‘Cattle Island’

It was around 2 hours past noon and we were back at the place from where we had started with a lot of memories and knowledge about the winged beauties.

After deboarding, we were welcomed by another team who had completed from the nearby sector. One of the boys among the caretakers of the guesthouse came running towards me with the lens cover in his hand. The sign of joy in his eyes to be able to salvage it from the deep water was not less than mine to find it again.

Data collected by us was handed over to Forest Department. We members of Chadhei Club Sambalpur contributed our expertise with the hope that the number exceeds next year. More and more migratory birds visit here.

The total count was declared the next day.Total numbers counted was 124294(98species) of which migratory species count was 103114(41species), higher than the last year count.

The migratory birds have now started leaving from here, to places from where they had come, with their kids and partners. Leaving some of their beautiful poses and actions captured on my Nikon camera. ….,..Leaving the submerged temples alone again.

Submerged temple

(Chadhei Club Sambalpur is a group of bird lovers working on conservation, Monitoring, counting and bird photography.Interested individual can join us for the cause of conservation.Join us on FB at Chadhei Club.Birds of Hirakud (BOD) is another group you may join for bird photography. Read my next blog on effort of Chadbei club towards awareness drive on conservation of birds)

Borra Caves-a tourist destination

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Borra caves-one of the beautiful tourist site in the Ananthagiri hills is around 90KMs distance from Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. Borra- the name is originated from the Oriya language means Hole. Discovered in 1807 by British Geologist King William, the caves are naturally formed from limestone rock deposits. The anthropology department from Andhra University found tools used by human habitats dating back 30000 years back indicates that human habitats once flourished here in the caves and around on the banks of the Gostani river.

Cave

However, what attracts the tourists most is the shape of the caves themselves. Around 200-meter long, the cave is a place of thrill for the visitors. The Tourist Department of Andhra Pradesh has beautifully decorated the cave with colorful lights adding to the beauty of the caves. Beautiful landscapes and hill tracks leading to the caves are inhabited by tribals. Thousand of tourists from around the country throng to this place of natural beauty. With the growth of tourist counts, many shops for foods and local products have come up adding to the economy of localities.

Localities selling their products collected from jungles.

The most favorite place for photography by tourists and photographers inside the cave is a ray of sunlight falling on a rock from the small opening of the cave.

Photography point
Photographers point

The memories of visit to Borra caves can be garnished with the purchase of local condiments grown and collected from the jungles by the local populace.

For lunch, one can rely on the nearby roadside vendors selling south Indian foods, bit spicy but tasty.

Another story , another place, Talk you soon.

RAM-chanda-Ni

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In India, Ram is not only a character in Ramayan. Ram is worshipped as God, as an ideal, and not just an idol. Even to the extent of establishing Ram Rajya where people will not have anything less than joy.
In the context of medical services, Ram rajya is far from truth.There are many doctors. And doctors are considered to be the lifesavers, the other face of God but with a rider….The more the Chanda(fee), the better form of God you get. Less the Chanda, less the service or even without a service.
Sambalpur is a small town with a large mass of not-so-good capability to pay the Chanda. There are many doctors…..like, Purohits, Pradhans, Sahus, Panigrahis, Tripathys…..and many more…all are lifesavers…but with a huge Chanda(fee). With a large numbers of poor people, the chanda is beyond their imagination and the lifesavers are Gods of no use to them.
In such a time, one life saver, a young doctor with a vision to serve, with the Hippocratic Oath not forgotten since graduation, comes forward to fill the gap between the lifesaver and the life.
Parents had named him Sankar Ram Chandani. And he does not take chanda (in sambalpuri chanda Ni, or nochanda/fee)…Dr.Ramchandani
….Doctor in true sense with the oath in mind and heart to serve had invigorated his noble sight of Ram Rajya where poor will be treated with one rupee only (which is as good as chanda-ni). Gradually, the clinic or Rajya immediately got filled with many needy and poor people. Yes it is possible to establish Ram Rajya with no huge chanda but a rupee only. Only Ram shoud be available. Ram, the ideal man, should be available.
Thousand salutes fall short for this man. Dr.Ramchandani of Burla VIMSSAR, the true Ram and his parents.(the photo is copied from Dr.Ramchandanis FB)

Dr.RAM-chanda-Ni. Yes you are Love for the humankind and trendsetter for a Ramrajya.