Rambles in India Jungles – II

Rambles in India Jungles – II  --  by Prosenjit Dasgupta

The first time I visited Similipal National Park in Odisha, was in January 1975. I had heard about its great sal forests and wildlife in my childhood from my maternal grandfather who had stayed the area in 1940s on official work. January nights were cold, a chilling cold that seemed to drill through flesh and bone and closeness to a fire-place or heavy clothing had hardly any effect.  But blue-black night sky overhead was stitched with many stars, shining like diamonds and the sal trees stood watch beyond the light of the fire. 
Similipal was one of the first of the national parks to be brought under the Project Tiger in 1973. It is a huge area of about 2000 sq. kms. of hills and forests, lying to the north-east of Odisha, just adjacent to the forests of South Singbhum, in Jharkhand, then  a part of Bihar.  It had all the big game, especially elephants, but game viewing was not always successful as there were few roads, the vegetation was dense and there were many sources of water that kept the animals dispersed. 
The Joranda Falls in Similipal
For those who seek a jungle experience that is not exclusively focused on seeing a tiger in the wild, Similipal offers many aspects that can be equally interesting. As a first, it has one of most interesting landscapes with high hills practically catching the clouds, deep gorges, and beautiful water-falls.  Or, one may come across  orchids with their wonderful colours and shapes, glowing among the forest trees or butterflies gathered at a water seepage by a stream. If one is lucky – and I was lucky, but just on one occasion -  it may be possible to see at some distance as the afternoon wheels towards evening, a large gaur bull grazing at the fringe of the forest. 

The orchid, Rhynchostylis retusa, in full bloom 
Butterflies gathered at water seepage
Gaur bull at Chahala
As much as stories heard from my grandfather about his visit to places with strange-sounding names such as Chahala, Gurguria, Barheipani, Joranda and Dhudhurchampa and others, it was the information that trickled in by the end of 1975 about a tiger cub that was being reared by the local forest officer that saw me getting to Jashipur, then headquarters of Similipal National Park, in April of 1976. 
It was an amazing experience to come up with Khairi, the tigress, born in the wild and by then  nearly full-grown, with her yellow eyes and big fat paws, padding about in the compound of the forest rest house, or at times playing with her best friend, Bagho, the dog. It took some time and a conscious effort not to shy away instinctively from that big striped head, and the big canines revealed in a wide yawn. But at no time did I feel threatened and in fact there was an overall air of friendliness about Khairi that was disarming. I took several photographs and even some 8mm black-and-white  movies.
It was a fitting finale to our Similipal visit. 
(The author, Prosenjit Dasgupta, has written several books, one on his experiences with wildlife in “Walks in the Wild” in 2003 (now out of print), on Jim Corbett, the famous hunter; “Eco-Yatra” (on economic change in India since 1947), “Issues and Idioms” (trends in political discourse in India); “A Conflict in Thin Air” (the Sino-Indian border conflict of 1962); “Chasing a Dream” (on his trips to tribal areas of Bastar)  and “A Partition in the Mind” (a study of factors leading to the Partition in 1947).  Enjoy the other posts at his blog-site -

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