Also called Bengal monitor (Varanus bengalensis) or common Indian monitor. Large or adult lizards generally dwell on the soil but smaller or juveniles also use tree cavities to dwell. Many are found inside the crevices in the hill rocks. These have a very shy nature as well as keen eye sight and can detect human presence from a considerable distance.
They look ferocious but are generally harmless. They eat eggs of birds and small animals like fish, small lizards. They are very common in the South East Asia and Indian subcontinent. They are called by different names in various parts of India.
In Western Parts of India they are called Bis-Cobra, Goyra in Rajasthan, Goh in Punjab. In Bengal these are called Goshaap and Ghorpad in Maharashtra.
These animals have a legendary grip even on the vertical walls. In Maharashtra there is a legend the Shiva Ji the great Maratha leader used to tie their tails with ropes and lob them up the enemy wall where the lizard will make a vice like grip and then his soldiers used to scale the wall of the fort.
These lizards are quite common in our area. If you suddenly come across one, you will be scared. But they are very shy and hide among the crevices, foliage or tree cavities.
The rivers in India are of two types. The ones like Ganga and Indus are perennial in nature because they originate in Himalayas and are fed by melting ice. Others are intermittent in nature. Their catchment area is foothills of Himalayas and these flow in full glory only during monsoons in the catchment area in hills.
One such river is Ghaggar. It originates in the village of Dagshai in the Shivalik Hills of Himachal Pradesh at an elevation of 1,927 metres (6,322 ft) above mean sea level and flows through Punjab and Haryana states into Rajasthan just southwest of Sirsa, Haryana and by the side of Talwara Lake in Rajasthan. Dammed at Ottu barrage near Sirsa, Ghaggar feeds two irrigation canals that extend into Rajasthan.
This river is located just a kilometre from our home and I visit it almost daily for morning walks and nature photography. Present conditions are described below:
Amidst a quite big bed, water flows in a thin winding strip. Wild shrubs like Kans grass (Saccharum spontaneum), acacia trees grow in its bed. Many people use it as a garbage dump and also for open defecation. The river bed is ruthlessly mined for sand and pebbles by the sand mafia. Of course, during the monsoon season the river is in spate. But rest of the times one can walk through it with ease from one bank to another.
The bed is home to many species of birds like Ring Plovers, Pratincole, Steppe Eagles, Wagtails, martins, lapwings and wiretails. Snakes also roam during summer mornings. During winter some migratory birds also come here.
Standing on its bank, I think about its past glory. Satellite imagery and other archaeological studies indicate that once upon a time it was a mighty river. So much so that Yamuna and Satluj were its tributaries on East and West sides respectively. It flowed in full force into Arabian Sea. Due to plenty of water and fertile land around, it was a perfect place for the humans to settle in the ancient times. It is now becoming clear from the evidence gathered from excavations that there was a big population living along its banks during Indus Valley Civilization. It was a part of Ghaggar Hakra River system.
Rig Veda the Aryan holy Text, mentions about the holy Saraswati river so many times, was a part of Sapt (Seven) Sindhu (River) which eludes to Ghaggar and its six tributaries including Saraswati. Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati are the trinity of rivers held in great reverence by Hindus.
Then the Times changed on geological scale. Tectonic activity changed the river associations. Yamuna realigned with Ganges and wayward Satluj with Indus stripping Ghaggar of much of its volume of water leading to the disintegration of the towns on its banks.
India has been on the name changing spree. During last 5 years names of many places, roads and monuments have been changed on the basis of the present names being reminder of colonial era or names being derogatory and names of some places being after some Moghul king who was not positively inclined towards the original inhabitants. Another argument for changing names was to replace those alien names with our own local heroes. Here is a list of some changed names during last 5 years in chronological order.
Bangalore became Bangaluru. In all, the names of 12 places in Karnataka changed to reflect original Kannada pronunciation. Mysore became Mysuru and Mangalore became Mangaluru.
Aurangzeb road in Delhi became APJ Abdul Kalam road.
Rajahmundry was renamed Rajamahendravaram in the honour of 11th century king
Gurgaon became Gurugram after Guru Dronacharya of Kauravas of Mahabharata fame. Mewat renamed to Nuh.
Bangalore city railway station renamed KrantiviraSangoliRayanna, 19th century freedom fighter.
Race Course road in Delhi renamed Lok Kalyan Marg, giving 7 RCR a new address.
Ganda village in Fatehabad district of Haryana renamed AjitNagar after a petition to PM by teenager Harpreet Kaur Malkat. Kinnar village changed to Gaibi Nagar. Both previous names had derogatory shades.
Odisha’sWheeler island, home to a missile testing range was renamed APJ Abdul Kalam Island.
Kandla port in Gujarat was renamed Deendayal Port to mark the centenary year of JanaSangha co-founder.
Chor Basai in Rajasthan lost Chor. Nachania in Bihar became Kashipur.
Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road station named after British governor was renamed Prabhadevi.
“Miyon Ka Bara” village in BarmerRajasthan got new name Mahesh Nagar as residents alleged that due to Muslim sounding name it was hard to get marriage proposals.
Mughalsarai junction founded in 1860 and one of the busiest junctions in country renamed as Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya junction.
West Bengal assembly passed a resolution to change the state’s name to Bangla. Mamata Banerjee didi found that due to alphabetical pecking order, her bureaucrats were called last at central meetings. With changed name “Bangla” pecking order will be on top almost.
The process continues unabated. Next on the anvil are the names of trains based on the great personalities which belonged to the originating stations.
There are many references to “Jand” tree in Punjabi literature. Foremost it is connected to a place called Danabad the village of Mirza in the legend of “Mirza-Sahiban”. After getting Sahiba from her home on the day of her marriage to someone else, and sneaking on his mare-called Bakki in local language, he decides to take rest under the cool shade of Jand tree. He was overconfident that even after taking rest for the summer noon, he will make it easily to his native place before the end of the day. Rest is well known. He was killed by Sahiban’s brothers who came chasing them.
Then there is a famous Gurudwara called “Jand Sahib” in Bathinda Punjab where Guru Gobind Singh is said to have rested under a Jand tree. And and there is one tree located behind Kiran Cinema in Chandigarh which I saw today. This is said to be very old and indeed it looked like that as only skeleton was there. Many people worship it.I always thought about how this tree must look.
I found a very beautiful video describing the beauty of this tree by Mirza. it is in Punjabi language but brief summary of the meaning is “Mirza describes the cool shade of Jand tree, the branches are touching the ground, you shouldn’t say no to sitting under the shade of it. And why to stress the mare in the hot sun because it is not rainy season. You don’t worry, we will reach Danabad (his native village) before the sunset.
Before Chandigarh came into existence, there were villages here. People lived mostly rural life based on agriculture. They worship female goddesses which is attested by many temples in the area. Like Hindu culture they worshipped trees and idols. The Jand tree is one such tree which was worshipped in the area.
There are not many trees of this species in this area nowadays. I was curious to know how this tree looked like and other details. I found an article in the English daily “The Tribune” which gives the good information about the tree.
The tree known by scientific name of “prosopis cineraria” is endemic to dry areas and is found mostly in Rajasthan and adjoining areas of Punjab and Haryana. It is known by is known as “Jand” in Hindi and Punjabi, “jandi” in Haryanvi, “khejri” in Rajasthani, and “sami or samri” in Gujarati. The tree plays an important role in ecosystem of arid and semi-arid areas. All the parts of the tree are useful, it is called kalp taru or wish fulfilling tree.
During Vedic times, khejri wood was used to kindle the sacred fire for performing yajana. There are references of it in Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Lord Rama worshipped khejri tree known as Sami Pooja, which represents the goddess of power, before he led his army to kill Ravana. The worshipping of this tree is referred to as samipuja. Pandavas also worshipped this tree and hid their weapons in it during their agyatavasa.
Khejri tree provides shelter and protection to animals and birds in desert areas. This tree is home to many large birds like kites, hawks and vultures.
Many Rajasthani families use the green and unripe pods (known as sangri) in preparation of curries and pickles. The importance of the medicinal value of samitree has been highlighted in our ancient literature. The bark of the tree provides immediate relief to a person bitten by snake or scorpion. Its leaves and fruits are used in preparing medicines for curing nervous disorders. The medicines prepared from its bark are also used for treating diarrhoea, dysentery, piles, worm infestations and other skin problems. The bark is also used to cure leprosy, bronchitis, asthma, tumour of muscles and to improve concentration. The gum of the tree is nutritive and good in taste and is used by pregnant woman at the time of delivery.
In Punjab and Rajasthan, folk singers belong to mostly Muslim religion. First example is of Mardana the disciple of Guru Nanak who played the Rabab when Guru sang the praises of the God. He along with Bala were constant companions of the Guru and accompanied him on his sojourns far and wide. The tradition continued and many of the famous singers in Punjab claim to be the descendants of Mardana. Also they have become so attached to Sikhism that from their outlook supporting the turban and beard, no one distinguish them from being the Sikhs.
Among these folk singers was Kuldeep Manak who hailed from Jalal village in the Bathinda district. He was born in 1951 and died in 2011. His father and forefathers were singers who sang in the Gurudwaras. His original name was Latif Mohammad which he later changed to Kuldeep Singh Manak. He supported the turban. For about 30 years from the age of 17, he was undoubtedly the king of folk in Punjab. Like when Sun shines, the stars fade away, other singers did not stand anywhere near in comparison except Surinder Shinda.
His voice was like the jangling of silver coins-pure and rustic. Bathinda borders Rajasthan and is a very dry and dusty place. There are frequent sand storms in the evening after the intense heat in the day time. The wind howls in the alleys and sand covers many things. One of the lyricists described his voice like the wind blowing during the storm-raw and hitting straight your heart. Since he sang the subjects related to folk stories and religion, he was immensely popular in the countryside. People were crazy about his songs. He sang a genre of folk music called Kalian and was called the Badshah of Kalian.
His songs cover so many popular and even unheard of Quissas-the stories of valor and love-which include Heer Ranjha, Laila Majnu, Mirza Sahiban, Kima Malki, Sassi Punnu as the love stories, Banda Singh Bahadur, Dulla Bhatti the Muslim Rajput who drove Akbar to such a desperation that he had to shift his base from Agra to Punjab to quell the Dulla, Jaimal Phatta-two Hindu Rajputs who refused to give their daughter to Akbar in marriage just like the parents of Jodha Bai did, Jagga Daku the Robinhood of Punjab and the death of Kehar Singh by his mother in law and brother in laws for the greed of money.
Further, his songs based on the religious stories like Sarwan of Ramayana who carried his blind parents from place to place for pilgrimage and was killed by an arrow from Raja Dashrath the father of Lord Rama, Pooran bhagat who was thrown in a well on the orders of his father King Salwan on the false charges made by King’s young wife Loona, subsequent rescue of Pooran by Guru Gorakhnath and his becoming a saint, then Raja Rasalu who was Pooran’s step brother born to the same Loona with the blessings of Pooran. The songs are replete with such stories.
The credit for his fame also goes to lyricist Dev Threekawala. The duo had a great rapport and churned out all this famous stuff. The winning quality of his songs was very simple and rustic language which tugged at the strings of the hearts of the simple village folks.
He was buried after death according to Muslim traditions. There were reports in the media that his wife who belongs to Sikh community tried to excavate his grave and to perform last rites in Hindu tradition but was prevented by the villagers.
Koeladeo refers to another name of lord Shiva. Koeladeo National Park is on the world heritage list of UNESCO. It is located in the State of Rajasthan of India. It is an important wintering ground of Palaearctic migratory waterfowl and is renowned for its large congregation of non-migratory resident breeding birds. Due to its strategic locations migratory water birds congregate here from different part of the world. Some 375 bird species and a diverse array of other life forms have been recorded in this mosaic of grasslands, woodlands, woodland swamps and wetlands of just 2,873 hectare.
It owes its existence due to efforts of Dr.Salim Ali and first prime minister of India. It would have been reclaimed otherwise long back. It was a major duck shooting area during the time of kingdoms and British in India. Parties were arranged for pleasure killing the innocent birds regularly by Jaat Royalty even
well after the independence.
While hunting has ceased and the area declared a national park in 1982, its continued existence is dependent on a regulated water supply from a reservoir outside the park boundary. The park’s well-designed system of dykes and sluices provides areas of varying water depths.
Due to its strategic location in the middle of Central Asian migratory flyway and presence of water, large congregations of
ducks, geese, coots, pelicans and waders arrive in the winter. The park was the only known wintering site of the central population of the critically endangered Siberian Crane, and also serves as a wintering area for other globally threatened species such as the Greater Spotted Eagle and Imperial Eagle. During the breeding season the most spectacular heronry in the region is formed by 15 species of herons, ibis, cormorants, spoonbills and storks, where in a well-flooded year over 20,000 birds nest.
The infamous shooting of the birds has been described by Dr.Ali. In one such shoot, Dr Ali recounts the exploits the then viceroy, Lord Marquess VAJH Linlithgow. He fired fired 1,900 rounds of .12 bore ammunition on November 12, 1938, although despite a bruished shoulder and ego had not much to show.
The heartless shoots were so gargantuan that there there are several records of 2,000-3,000 birds being killed in a single day, and three records even of over 4,000. The all-time record of 4,273 ducks and geese to 38 guns was made in November 1938, with Lord Linlithgow as the presiding slayer.
I remember when we were young in late fifties and sixties, weather transitions were fairly uniform. The farmers whose hard work can turn to dust till the crops are harvested and safely brought home, were fairly confident about weather. We saw only poor monsoons once in a while and crops failing badly and food scarcity. In those days farming was dependent on the blessings of nature especially for water. The variety of crops and food items was not much. Only native seeds were used and often mixed crops were raised. For example, wheat alongwith sprinkle of barley or mustard. Only those crops were raised in the same field which did not use the same nutrients. Number of crops raised were limited and land was kept fallow in cycles to restore its fertility. In those days agriculture was not considered a business.
Slowly all this has changed. Land has been drained of its nutrients by raising two or three crops in a year. It is in fact never given time to take a break.
Over the years, the weather is becoming highly wayward or unpredictable. It seems that old theory about how the monsoons in the North India began in Assam and water laden clouds were then directed towards western India from Bengal to Bihar and then Uttarpradesh and Punjab side. Rajasthan however remained a dry area, is not true anymore. Rains can precipitate anywhere. For example many areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat were innundated while states which were regular recipients of monsoon remained devoid of.
Environmentalists say all this is happening due to our activities. Global warming due to carbon dioxide blanket is told to be the culprit. It is the same carbon dioxide which once was the only gas in the atmosphere alongwith water at the beginning of the Earth. The bacteria changed it all fixing the carbon dioxide in the form of oxide minerals and sugars in plants. All this seem to be too true. Such events had taken place many times in the life span of the Earth. Nature is too big to be manipulated by the humans. May be there are minor additions. We see now more rains, floods and more cold weather in India.
Bishnois of Rajasthan, is a community which is very close to mother nature. Bishnoi means twenty nine: Bees meaning twenty and nao meaning nine. Their name, follows from twenty nine principles which they follow in community and connects them to nature. They live in harmony with nature and protect plants, trees and animals. They get everything for sustenance from mother nature taking only that much what is required.
Bishnois consider it their ‘Dharma’ to save lives of animals and trees. Many animals like peacocks and antlers roam freely in their courtyard. They see to it that the newborn babies of the bucks get the necessary nourishment till the time they grew independent enough to into the woods. In the recent past, the community had launched strong protests against the killing of black bucks allegedly by Bollywood actorSalman Khan and ex-skipper Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.
Below is a proof of their devotion to the principles to save trees and animals, which is nothing but flora and fauna in the modern jargon. It is the picture of a Bishnoi community woman feeds an injured baby deer at a village in Rajasthan’s Bikaner.
Nobody teaches them this philosophy of love for nature in a school. Rather, society needs to learn from them. All that is required is sincerity and keeping our greed and aristocratic habits under control. Killing these innocent animals was the pastime of aristocratic society of India and Britishers. This picture appeared in “The times of India” for which I am very thankful.