Revival of Govardhan Parvat: The Mountain Moved by Krishna

In our country where mythology plays a big role in the lives of its inhabitants, many sites like hills, rivers, and caves have their associations with the mythology. One such concerns the Lord Krishna and is called Govardhan Parvat (mountain).

The legend is that when the uninterrupted deluge threatened to innundate Mathura, Krishna lifted the entire mountain on his little finger to make an umbrella to protect the Mathura.

UP government has planned to revive the almost barren Govardhan parvat situated about 23 kilometres from Mathura. Government plans to plant the herbal plants on the mountain. These are:

Kadamba: It is a tropical tree. Krishna and Radha are said to have conducted their love play under the cool shade of the tree. It is used as one of the raw materials in the preparation of “itars”.

Tamala or Indian bayleaf or tezpatta: It is commonly used in Indian culinary as well as medicines particularly for alleviation of diabetes due to the presence of highly antioxidant enzymes.

Karira: Scientific name is Capparis decidua. It’s spicy fruits are used for culinary purposes like vegetable, curries, and pickles. It is also used in medicine.

Pakar : It belongs to mulberry family. Leaves have sour taste.

Pilkhan: Scientific name Ficus virens. It grows to heights of about 100 feet. It is Avenue tree. It bears “strangler figs” because they can germinate on other trees and strangle them. It is used in Thai cuisine.

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Steppe Eagle: Endangered Bird

Steppe Eagle is also known as Aquila nipalensis in the scientific language is a scavenger. This species breeds east in European Russia from across Kazakhstan into Kyrgyzstan, China and Mongolia. Birds winter mainly in south and south-east Asia.

The bird is placed in the Red List by IUCN in the endangered category. There are many reasons attributed to the decline in population to such an extent. Some are like loss of habitat and exposure to radioactive radiations in its basic habitat.

Bird winters in South and South East Asia. It has suffered in Pakistan and India due to the presence of a drug Declofenac in the carrion of the dead animals which these birds feed on. This drug is used extensively in the treatment of cattle in these countries.

Thus these birds suffer both at the original residence as well as their temporary stay in Asia.

I chanced upon a ditch amidst the bushes where the carrion are being dumped. One can observe the eagles flying over the area. Earlier there were mostly Egyptian Vultures but now a group of these Steppe Eagles have landed here.

 

Oriental Honey Buzzard

It is also called crested honey buzzard with scientific name as Pernis ptilorhynchus. It  is a bird of prey in the family Accipitridae, which also includes many other diurnal raptors such as kites, eagles, and harriers.

It is quite big raptor with a long tail. It’s head is very small like that of pigeon. It is a specialist bird feeding on the larvae of bees. It also consumes crumbs of the honeycomb. Additionally it take cicadas.

It’s flight is very stealthy. In a forest it is possible to spot it only when it is perched on top of very lofty trees.

Again I spotted it quite a number of times in the forest near my home. Here are some pictures.

 

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Front view
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Side and top

Shaheen Falcon 

There is a forest near my home. It is maintained by Department of Forests. The department has converted a small portion of the forest into a Nature Park. I am a regular visitor to this park where sometimes very different birds make their appearance. One day, I was lucky to spot this beauty perched on the branch of a leafless tree.

It was sitting very patiently perhaps inviting me to take as many pictures as I liked. I took so many pictures. When I processed them, I had some confusion between Eurasian Hobby and Peregrine Falcon because the former was spotted many times by me.

But it turned out to be Shaheen Falcon juvenile.

The shaheen falcon with scientific name Falco peregrinus peregrinator is a subspecies of Peregrine Falcon. It is found mainly in the Indian subcontinent. Other common names for the subspecies include the Indian peregrine falcon, black shaheen falcon, black shaheen, Indian shaheen. It is a master hunter and usually takes the prey in the air. It can achieve horizontal speeds up to 240 kilometres per hour and when it descends, can attain a speed of 300 kilometres per hour.

Peregrine falcons were greatly prized by Mughal kings especially emperor Jahangir. It appears on the emblem of Pakistan Air Force. Pakistani cricket team is also nicknamed after this raptor.

Staring at me
In full glory

Greater Cormorants: Fishing Experts

During these winter months, a number of migratory birds visits India from the countries where winter is very severe and also food availability is low. These annual visitors add colour to the season.

Many of the migratory birds are water waders and land in the lakes , big pools and other water bodies. Amongst these are greater Cormorants. They are huge birds and expert fishers. They hunt in groups and there is great jostling and fighting for the catch snatching.

In older days the trained Cormorants were used for river fishing in Japan and China. A snare was tied at the end of the neck which in addition to keeping the cormorant under leash also prevented the Cormorants from eating the fish except for smaller ones. As soon as the bird caught a fish, it was taken out from water and made to spit out the fish.

Nowadays, it is only a tourist attraction.

These days a number of these big birds have descended on Sulkhna Lake in Chandigarh. I took some pictures.

 

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A group fishing
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Sun soaking on a tree

RIP CASSINI 

Cassini probe finally plunged in the rings of Saturn at a speed of 120000 kilometres/hour to say goodbye. But before its glorious end, it help in demystifying so many secrets of the most beautiful planet Saturn.

Some of the milestones:

Launched in 1997, Cassini arrived at an orbit around the planet in 2004. Ended on 15 September 2017. During this time from 2004 to 2017, it took hundreds of thousands pictures. Here are salient achievements:

Distance traveled: 7.9 billion kilometres

Orbits around Saturn: 284

Images sent: 453048

Data compiled: 635 GB

Scientists associated: 5000 from 27 countries

 

 

 

 

 

 

Findings:

  1. Discovered 6 out of 60 moons of the planet. Some look like potatoes and others have colourful streaks. Different textures, composition and shapes.
  2. Discovered Global ocean of salty water beneath ice surface on one of its moons called ENCELADUS. These are pointers towards possibilities of life.
  3. One season on the planet is of 7 years duration of earth. It entered in winter, spring and summer.
  4. In one of its moons called Titan , discovered hidden oceans of water and liquid methane.
  5. Beautiful rings are made of ice. Moons and moonlets interact with rings and feed them with required material to maintain the shape.

Rare Foods Series : Reed Salt

Can we imagine any food without salt? In addition to the taste it adds, Salt is an essential nutrient for the human body. It is an electrolyte which helps the transmission of the messages from different parts of the body to the brain and vice versa. It is present in the cells. Any imbalance in its concentration whether in the form of deficiency or excess can play havoc with our body. When dehydration occurs, the salt has to be replenished by the intake of oral rehydration solution. It is lost from our bodies during perspiration and blood becomes thicker and our bodies require water.

In addition salt is used as preservative for pickles and other foods. It acts as a barrier to the bacteria which attack the food and decompose it.

Salt comes from the evaporation of the seawater collected in the salt pans. After water evaporates the salt is left behind which is then made to undergo the processes of purification. Those who live in the urban areas and especially near sea coasts never feel it’s importance.

But still there are people living in the remote areas where access to this commodity is impossible. Some of such communities live in Kenya. These tribes, as the saying goes : “Necessity is the mother of invention ” has developed a way to compensate this by extracting the salts from the REED STALKS.

Method

Bunches of river reed are cut into smaller pieces and dried on the hot stones for about a period of 3 days to reduce the inherent moisture. Then the stalks are put on very slow fire. When organic ingredients burn, the ash is left behind. Ash is collected and boiled with water and filtered to get pure salts dissolved in the filtrate while impurities are left behind.

The filtrate is then boiled till only the salt is left behind. Sometimes they add a pinch of pepper powder to add flavor to it.

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This picture has been taken from the beautiful website from Luke Duggleby an ace photographer. URL to his website is given below.

http://www.lukeduggleby.com/

(if the picture is not for free use, I will delete it)