North India  |  Natural Splendor of Rajasthan

Natural Splendor of Rajasthan

For all one's inclination to believe that Rajasthan is a desert, it is difficult to ignore the fact that the region, in fact, has a varied topography, and includes from semiarid, desert-like conditions to among the oldest mountains in the world, and lush, water-filled valleys. No wonder too that its wildlife is so rich in variety, including from the tiger and leopard to endless varieties of deer, rhesus monkeys, reptiles including the python, and a profusion of bird-life that includes water-birds.

The Thar desert, also referred to as the Great Indian Desert, falls for most part within the state, though parts of it do stretch into other states such as Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana, and this is what gives Rajasthan its unique topographical character. Unlike the typical desert, it does not have oasis, palms or cacti, and is densely populated. Sand dunes characterize it, just as much as saline depressions and lakes. Interestingly, since legends refer to this area as under water aeons ago, scientists have now proved that some 25 million years ago, this was indeed the case.

 

Fossils unearthed in the Akal area point to the remains of ferns and forests of cycades that existed some 180 million years ago, pointing to a possibly hot, humid climate. In fact, the area has a geological history that places it under the sea on four different occasions, and evidence is profuse in the wood fossil park of Akal, and in other areas around Jaisalmer that together constitutes the Desert National Park. Another distinguishing natural feature in Rajasthan is the Aravalli mountain chain, often referred to as hills because the height is rarely beyond a thousand meters.

The folds of the Aravallis were used successfully by the Rajput princes to establish their citadels, but the mountains are among the oldest in the world, the result of early volcanic activities also responsible for their mineral wealth of copper, zinc, cobalt manganese, asbestos, soapstone, garnet, and marble. Since the Aravallis tended to be heavily forested, they became a natural refuge for birds and animals. Even though human degradation of the environment has led to deforestation, in areas where the forests are still thick, the reserves continue to offer sanctuary to their original, resident and migrant species. Two other topographical conditions typify Rajasthan. The first is the Vindhyan or Deccan Trap where theVindhyan hill system comes in contact with the Aravallis, creating a 'fault' that, most characteristically, can be detected in the Sawai Madhopur area with its Ranthambhor National Park.

 

The Vindhyan hills consist mostly of sandstone that, even though it may occasionally vary in color, has resulted in the building materials for many of the state's forts and palaces. The resulting topography is a landscape consisting of hard-topped plateaus made from tough, compact rocks. It is the creation of the 'fault' where the tow mountain chains meet that the mixed topography provides the ideal shelter for the tiger and its various prey species.Large,shallow lakes have also resulted, so that crocodiles
are not unusual in the desert state either. A last, distinguishing feature are the wetlands of the Indo-Gangetic plains, such as in the regions around Mathura and Agra, close to which Bharatpur is located. Excess water in the monsoons causes vast areas to be flooded, simply because the rivers cease to flow when they overflow their banks, instead of which they simply spread out and inundate the flat terrains around like a vast sea.

Part of this topography is shared by the Bharatpur wetlands as a result of the Jamuna that passes close by, and the other part by the Chambal which, as a tributary of the Jamuna, originates in the Vindhyas in Madhya Pradesh and skirts through its ravines to form Rajasthan's eastern boundary with that state. This may occasionally result in marshy eco-systems ideal for sustaining a variety of birdlife in these aquatic habitats.

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

The beauty of Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is extremely captivating and the brilliant sight of rare birds amidst such paramount greenery makes this place seem unnatural. This is one of those lucky sanctuaries that has pretty much everything to offer; culture, history, and excellent wildlife & of course an amazing array of exotic birds. Two-thirds of the Park lies under water and the remaining one-third is covered in dry deciduous forests and extensive grasslands.

Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Bharatpur

Declared a National Park in 1983, this 29 sq km park is one of the world's greatest heronries. Its shallow, fresh water marsh attracts thousands of migratory birds. Over 10,000 nests of egrets, darters, cormorants, grey herons and storks hatch nearly 20,000 to 30,000 chicks every year. There is an infinite variety of migratory birds. Mammals like the sambhar, blackbuck, chital, nilgai, fishing cat, otter and mongoose also roam freely here.

Ranthambhore National Park

This is the state's point of the Aravallis, the Guru Shikhar, lies in this 289 sq km sanctuary. Established in 1960, this provides shelter to the common languar, wild boar, sambhar and leopard. The grey jungle fowl can also be spotted here. Besides, a number of flowering trees enhance the beauty of this place.

Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary - Alwar

The other tigerland in Rajasthan which was brought under Project Tiger in 1979. Other than leopard, sambhar, nilgaai, wild dog and chinkara, the ruins of 9th and 10th century temples exist here.

Desert National Sanctuary

Established in 1980, it is a colossal park sprawling on 3162 sq. km. It has shrubs and trees in addition to rolling sand dunes. The wildlife wealth here comprises fox, desert cat, hare, spiney tail uromastix and sand fish. Thousands of sparrows, imperial sand grouse, bustards, falcons and eagles migrate here during the winters.

Kumbhalgarh Sanctuary

The majestic fort of Kumbhalgarh overlooks the 578 sq. km. sanctuary. The Aravallis hills, which remain barren for most of the year, turn green during rains and provide shelter to sloth bear, leopard, flying squirrel. It is also the only sanctuary where the Indian wolf is breeding suesssfully.

Mount Abu Sanctuary

The highest point of the Aravallis, the Guru Shikhar, lies in this 289 sq km sanctuary. Established in 1960, this provides shelter to the common langaur, wild boar, sambhar and leopard. The grey jungle fowl can also be spotted here. Besides, a number of flowering trees enhance the beauty of this pace.

Bhensrod Garh Sanctuary

A fairly new sanctuary, it was established in 1983 and covers a total area of 229 sq. km. of scrub and dry deciduous forest. Leopards, chinkaara, sloth bear can be spotted here if one is lucky.

Darrah Sanctuary

Previously the hunting ground of the Kota maharajas, this sanctuary was established in 1995 and covers an area of 266 sq. km. This hilly sanctuary with its thick forests is worth a visit. The animals here include wolf, sloth bear, chinkara and leopard.

Jaisamand Sanctuary

Established in 1957, this sanctuary is located beside the man-made lake of the same name. Covering a total area of 160 sq. km., it harbours sloth bear, leopard, chital, chinkara, wild boar and a number of birds. Some crocodiles and fish also be spotted here.

Other sanctuaries include Sitamata, Darrah, Chambal, Tal Chapper, Jamwa Ramgarh, Kaila Devi, Van-Vihar, Ramgarh, Shergarh, Todgarh-Rad and Jawahar Sagar.