Little Known Destinations

The Frog Temple at Oyal and SArus Congregration

Posted by Vikrant Nath on March 14, 2007

 
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 *BACKGROUND*

It was but the Fifth Day of the Seventh Year of the Third Millennium. The bright sun on a cold and windy winter morning was divine. The past fortnight at Dudhwa National Park had been completely packed and hectic. And as I drove past the sunny Lakhimpur town, National Environment Science Camp 2006-07 was finally over. Karavan Heritage and Nature Society had hosted this Camp for several school students from all over the country. The Camp had been a resounding success.

* Just around twelve kilometers from Lakhimpur, en route to Sitapur, lies the village of Mohamdabad. It was here at the jheel near this village that I sighted this huge congregation of Sarus Cranes. I The Sarus is one of the most enchanting sights of the countryside. A fleeting moment of a real life experience of the wild transcends endless hours of the best wildlife movies or watching animals in captivity. And if you have ever seen the Sarus dance during their courtship, believe me; your life has been worth living. I counted around 9 pairs that day.  I bid farewell to my feathered pals and set off with a resolution that I shall be back here very soon.

*VISITING THE WETLAND ONCE AGAIN* 8:00 AM. 16^th February 2007. The meter gauge passenger train is chugging past the beautiful railway station of Oel. This place is unbelievable.  It evokes the romanticism and innocence of a lost age. 

*NARMADESHWAR SHIV TEMPLE AT OEL* I begin my brief trek to the Narmadeshwar Mandir, dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is the auspicious occasion of Shivratri today.  The temple, popularly referred to the as the Medhak Mandir (Frog Temple), stirred my imagination a few years ago, when a friend told me about it. I catch a glimpse of the huge dome shaped roof of the temple. It seems quite impressive. I soon reach the gates of the temple. The beauty of earthy brown color of the brick temple is unmatched even by marble or red sandstone. A small but devout crowd has gathered for worship. I, too, collect a pooja ki thali and step in the temple compound. This temple is awe-striking. It is perhaps one of the most beautiful and possibly one of the oldest living extant temples in Uttar Pradesh. I have seen far more impressive temples than this. But this temple has a unique identity that distinguishes it from any other temple anywhere. The garb-griha (the sanctum) of the temple has been constructed over a frog shaped structure. It seems as though a frog is bearing the weight of the temple on its back. The sanctum, located at least 20 feet above the ground level, is accessed by means of steps on all four sides. . Even after many hundred years, the sanctum walls partially retain the old vibrant colors and floral designs. The devotees have thronged around the Shiva-Linga.  The place is pulsating with divine energy. The ambience is both somber and festive. After a while, I offer my obeisance to the Deity and climb down the steps of the temple. The main temple along with the four surrounding minor temples presents a grand sight. The frog structure and bas-relief sculptures upon the walls appear quite puzzling. The sculptures even though crude make an interesting study. I try to locate a spot where I can capture the beauty of the entire structure in totality. It is a futile effort. I end with many images of the temple. Full of admiration, I am eager to gather more information about its history and heritage. Luckily, I meet the Rajguru (the Royal Priest) of the temple.

*HISTORY AND HERITAGE OF THE TEMPLE*

He tells me that this temple has been built by the magnanimous Royal Family of the Oel Estate. The temple, according to him, is Four Hundred Years old. An ancestor of the Royal family found the Shiva-Ling in the holy waters of the River Narmada. It was consecrated and the temple was raised here. This temple is an invaluable possession of the Family; who refuse to part with it even in the most pressing circumstances. Another very interesting aspect, the Rajguru tells me, is that this is originally a Tantric Temple (like the famous Khajuraho temples). The sculptures on the temple represent the Tantric symbols. In fact the Frog itself is a Tantric symbol. Vedic practices have long replaced the Tantric traditions. I find all this fascinating and wonder why this great heritage is shrouded in oblivion!

VISITING THE MOHAMDABAD JHEEL AFTER A MONTH*

It takes me around half an hour to reach there to reach the jheel. There water seems to have receded somewhat. I look for exact spot where I had sighted the Sarus congregation. But this time not a single Sarus is to be seen. “Hard luck,” I mumble to myself, “perhaps I should have reached here earlier.” But I am not disappointed. I decide to wait for some more time resting underneath the roadside Arjun tree. A Collared Bush-Chat catches my attention. I like her acrobatic sorties from one reed to another. I also sight some drongos, lapwings and kingfishers. Relaxing lazily underneath a tree shade near a placid lakeside, on a nice sunny day, is a regal pleasure. I partake my share, but soon realize that I have my royal duties to attend to tomorrow. And I’d better reach the Oel railway station well in time to board the return train to Lucknow. I have hardly walked a 100 meters that I notice four large birds hovering high up in the sky. Their flight indicates that they are preparing to land. I focus my binoculars. . I am eager to see them land. With their wide wings outstretched and thin long legs pointing towards the earth, they use the air current to encircle the spot they want to land. Though high above the ground, their gradual descent has begun. The afternoon sun pinches my vision, but how can I ever forgo the sheer joy of this sight! The four paratroopers are now in descent. With every passing moment, they appear larger and larger. And then the touchdown; that is what is called perfect landing. They run a distance, strictly observing the laws of motion. The birds settle on the jheel and immediately get down to business. Of the four, one bird simply vanishes somewhere. The other three scamper for food. I shake my head in disbelief. They are Sarus!  Now I am simply thrilled. While I observe the Sarus, a few lads ferrying sugarcane on a bullock-cart observe me. They enquire about my pursuit. They tell me that their village jheel is home to many Sarus Cranes. I ask them if they can take me to the jheel.

*THE SARUS CONGREGRATION*

Yet again I savor the delights of rural India, as the bullock-cart rocks ahead to Gajnipur. Upon arrival at the village and during the walk to the jheel, I am joined by many more escorts. My escorts bombard me with a variety questions. They, finally, conclude that I am a government official making a count of the State Bird of U.P. They emphasize that I must mention Gajnipur in my report. They opine that this might help in the development of their village. Before long, I reach the edge of the village jheel. I wonder if this is the Shangri-La that the Tibetan mystics talked about. Before my mortal eyes, I behold a large congregation of Sarus, lined as though in a queue. I take a deep breath. This is no dream. A journey that began more than a month back has been fulfilled. *I count twenty-eight Sarus in the queue. Another pair is seen on another side of the jheel; that makes it thirty. Plus the four at the Mohamdabad jheel, makes it thirty-four in all. Wonderful!** * The villagers tell me that the Sarus is unmolested in this village. People respect the Sarus and do not harm the bird. I laud their attitude. They feel happy. I tell them I’ll be back. I take a final look. The grace and beauty of the birds leaves me spell bound. I retrace my steps wondering whether the Sarus can survive the rapacious encroachment of its habitat by the ever expanding sugarcane farms and sugar mills in this region.

 

Little Known Destinations

Dattatreya Ashram, Murbad

Posted by Susan Sharma on March 11, 2007

 
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Indian Wild Life Club 

Ant hill in the premises                             

 

Nature lovers’ haven in the outskirts of Mumbai

 

-S.Ananthanarayanan

 

Indian Wild Life Club

A short two hours drive from Mumbai takes one to Dattatreya Ashram, a dream come true of Prakash Tendulkar, mountaineer, swimmer, yoga exponent, Sanskrit scholar, nature and medicinal plant enthusiast and civil servant; and of his wife, Jyotsna, mountaineer, trekker, storehouse of Maharashtrian cuisine and folklore  and professor of Statistics in a leading Mumbai College.

 

With the help of an architect from Kalyan, Mumbai, Prakash was able to finalise the design of the ashram - the Geodesic dome, surrounded by 10 comfortable dwelling rooms, laid out in the form of a “lotus opening out”.  

At the entrance to the Ashram are a massive Mahua tree and 3 teak trees, originals of the plot before Prakash came there. Almost no tree was cut in the layout of the Ashram, but ever so many were planted!

Indian Wild Life Club

Over 150 types of medicinal plans thrive in the plant beds. A start had been made with 33 varieties that were already in the farm – which were identified and labeled. 

 

There are varieties of trees, there is a solar cooker,  the farm has its own cows, with calf; and Nandi the bull, till Prakash gave it away to a farmer who had lost his own. The farm also has Bambi the dog, ever ready to welcome visitors, and sundry birds, cobras, monitor lizards, rodents, insects, wild boars, rabbits, nature’s bounty!

 

There is a pebble walk, paved with pebbles collected from different rivers in India and even from the banks of Manasarovar, in Tibet. “The idea is that a walk down the pebble path can bring to the walker the benefit of visiting all the rivers and Manasarover too”, quips Prakash.  

  

Prakash and Jyotsna would love to have you over. Just drop them a line, at pstendulkar@yahoo.com. 

( Text and photographs-S.Ananthanarayanan)

Climate change and Global Warming

Clean Energy

Posted by Susan Sharma on March 11, 2007

 
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Clean energy, ................is 2.3% of the US electricity market.

The 2.3% breaks down the following way:
1.5% from bio-mass
0.44% from wind
0.36% for geothermal
0.01% for solar power.

The other 97.7%?
49.7% coal-fired
19.3% nuclear
19.1% natural gas
6.5% hydro
3% oil-fired

Wow. 97.7% is non-renewable, with 50% carbon spewing coal.

Source:  http://tinyurl.com/32zb2k

 

Asiatic Lion

Will it go Extinct?

Posted by Susan Sharma on March 11, 2007

 
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Will the Asiatic lion go extinct in the wild during our lifetime? Read what experts and concerned individuals have to say on the ground realities by clicking HERE.

Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests

Reactions from Assam

Posted by Susan Sharma on March 09, 2007

 
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Reactions from ASSAM

.....The tribal bodies are doubtful about the efficacy of the new Act in protecting fully the interests of the tribal people as successive governments in Dispur have failed in the past to protect the tribal belt and blocks, leading to the alienation of the tribal people from their ancestral land. Secondly, they fear that non-traditional forest dwellers, such as immigrant settlers, might take advantage of the ambiguity in the nomenclature "other forest dwellers" in the new Act to claim occupancy rights. Thirdly, they say that the new Act has not taken into account tribal customary laws, which are essential to protect both forest and tribal rights. ........

........Environment protection groups, on the other hand, fear that if the rights enshrined in the new Act are granted without responsibility, they will prove to be detrimental to the existence of the forest cover and result in increasing human pressure on the remaining forest land. They point out that encroachment of forest land in many areas of the State received political patronage, and express the apprehension that some politicians may now take advantage of the provisions of the new Act to encourage more organised encroachment. "The tribal organisations should come forward to shoulder the responsibility to ensure that the rights provided in the new Act are not misused to degrade forest land," said Dr. Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, secretary-general of Aranyak, a leading organisation in the field of biodiversity conservation in northeastern India. ..................

Source: http://tinyurl.com/3br2ol

Interlinking of Rivers

Comments on interlinking rivers

Posted by Susan Sharma on March 09, 2007

 
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Ezine

Comments on ezine

Posted by Susan Sharma on March 09, 2007

 
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nature/wildlife films

Discovering nature without the Discovery Channel

Posted by Susan Sharma on March 07, 2007

 
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"My parents have always been opposed to buying a TV and they were trying to explain to us the reasons why they were not falling in line with the TV-buying public.


We couldn’t understand all their arguments until they finally put it to us this way: TV is for those who will never get to experience the real thing. Do you want to actually visit, some day, all those beautiful places they show on TV, or would you rather be happy with just seeing them on the screen? The choice simply put was: Buy a TV, or travel around instead. We chose travel. And I am proud to say that till today we have never allowed the idiot box space in our house. We have travelled instead to almost all parts of India. I learnt snake catching in Pune, handled crocodiles in Mamallapuram, studied spiders and earthworms in Chennai and even travelled to Thailand and Malaysia in my quest to learn more about reptiles. All of which I managed to do because I never sat in front of a TV."

Read the full article by Rahul Alvares, a  young snake rescuer from Goa, who has recently won the ’Young Naturalist Award’ given from Sanctuary Magazine by clicking here.

Source: http://tinyurl.com/yum5ty

 

Engineers and Environment

Saving electricity at IITB

Posted by Susan Sharma on March 06, 2007

 
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IIT Mumbai, Powai, is saving electricity on a daily basis and it’s being done with a few thousand square feet of mirrors, discovers Piali Banerjee

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) is doing it with mirrors
nowadays. There’s an initiative to save electricity on a daily basis in IIT,
Powai, and it’s simply being done with a few thousand square feet of
mirrors.
There are 12 faculty offices in the mechanical department of IIT where
using tube lights during the day is passé. Diffused sunlight is used
instead. (Like most offices, these too are designed in a way where
artificial light is needed all day.)
"Saving electricity is more important than producing it. That’s why we
decided to use the sunlight with the help of mirrors," says Chetan Solanki,
who hit upon the idea and set up mirrors in his own office, only to find
many of his colleagues asking for deflected sunlight in their rooms, too.
So, today he’s a busy man, organising mirrors for everyone.
"I’ve just received a fresh consignment of mirrors, so I’m ready to do up
10 more offices," he says.
So, how do the mirrors actually work? "A long panel of mirrors is fixed
above the windows of the office, facing the floor. This deflects the
sunlight from outside, onto the ceiling of the room. The ceiling being
white, and not-so-smooth, this light is dispersed to the rest of the room,"
explains Chetan.
"One more mirror is placed near the ceiling, which can actually redirect
the reflected sunlight bang on to the desk. Since this is diffused light, it
brings no heat with it."
For a 10 by 15 sq ft office, you need about 15 sq feet of mirrors, at a
cost of Rs 30 per sq ft. Since every office is fitted with two tube lights,
for a working day of eight hours, this ’mirrorwork’ saves 700 Watthours of
electricity, which works out to Rs 3 saving per day. It takes about six
months to recover the cost of the mirrors… After that, it’s a free lunch
forever.
Source: Mumbai Mirror dated 6March 2007


 

Bio-Diversity

Scientists Launch Amphibian Ark to Stave Off Frog Extinctions

Posted by Susan Sharma on February 27, 2007

 
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In February, 2007 scientists from around the world kicked off the Amphibian Ark project, a global campaign to protect the world’s vanishing amphibian species from a ravenous killer fungus, widespread habitat loss and exposure to pollution and global warming. Project organizers are asking zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums around the world to each take in at least 500 frogs from a threatened local species to protect them from the killer fungus, chytrid.

Source: http://www.emagazine.com/view/?3617

 

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