Hey, what do you know about Chambal? When a fellow travel writer posed this question to me… I went blank for a moment.
Charmanwati river, Phoolan devi, legendary bandit tales, mud moulds and the violent ravines… uuummmhhh…that’s it!
I sounded nervous because that was all I knew about or had heard about Chambal. Thankfully, the conversation happened when we were on the way to this land of unique habitat. The ignorant me was about to see a different side of Chambal, the one that is not only about bandits or the cursed river but is home to Gharials, Gangetic Dolphins, Indian Skimmers and 290 species of resident and migratory birds. 80 kilometers from Agra, this piece of land which is located at the confluence of three states- Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh is a place to be close to nature. With a vibrant diversity and a unique eco-system, it has lots to tap our interest.
The drive from Agra was not a very long one, may be because I dozed off. It was turbulent at times. Blame the roads or the rough patches in between. When the bus stopped, we were in one of the most green parts, the famous Chambal Safari Lodge. I thought Chambal would be all about arid and ravine lands but this sprung as a surprise. In the first look, it promised gracious and green hospitality to me and it did lived up to it. Let me take you around this beautiful, quiet, rural and idyllic place. You can just come and laze around here because 200 species of birds are seen in this lodge itself. Yes, just be careful to chose the right season to be here if you love bird-watching.
Since we only had a day here, it was important to make the most of it. If I had more time up my sleeves, I would have loved to walk around the lodge but for now, we had to do too many things in one day. I kept the nearby walk-around for the next morning. We freshened up in our rooms, had a home-made lunch and headed to the river. Our bus was soon on the road. It was a mix of pucca and katccha road and more of the ravines later. At around 1.5 kilometers before the river, we de-boarded the bus and walked to the river. Making our way through the path next to the fields reminded of my visit to my grandfather’s village. In fact a few villagers did stop to look at us curiously. We were a trail of 15 walking with cameras, accessories etc. The first person I met was this boy with the camel who looked keen to get clicked. (Picture below)
The walk to the CHAMBAL RIVER and the BOAT RIDE
The path through the fields soon took us to the river. The after-effects of the rain could be seen in the soil. And somewhere it also hinted the making of the ravines. Soon, when the Chambal river was in view, the myths and the legends associated with it began to afloat in my mind. Hope you know them?
If you have read the scriptures, I am sure you would have come across the Chambal river. Well, let me talk about the famous two stories. First, After the dice game and its events, Draupadi cursed everyone who would drink from the river or use it for anything. And later, king, Rantideva, sacrificed cows on the banks and made it infamous for ever. It was certified unholy and named Charmanyavati which means originating from the blood of thousands of cows. There are no temples here and no civilization on the banks. Now, the infamy has become a blessing because its the cleanest. The humans have kept away, thus everything is untamed around and marine life has thrived. It is a large breeding center for Ghariyals.
Soon we all climbed on our boats excitedly. We were promised some sights of ghariyals and lots of birds. And we were not disappointed. After floating for some distance, we went further towards the zone that would give us a sight of ghariyals. The outboard motor of the boat was switched off. We remained silent and we did spot a large ghariyal on the bank and saw some baby ones too. I didn’t get a picture. Damn, my camera lenses. My friend Swati did succeed in getting a good click of the bird and the gharyial. Read her post here.
Chambal river marks the boundary between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. As we were boating and enjoying the ride over the river, I am sure we touched M.P. state because I received an SMS on my cellphone “Welcome to Madhya Pradesh.”
When the sun showed indications of sunset, we decided to return as we had to go to Bateshwar temple too. During the boat ride, I learnt quite much about National Chambal Sanctuary from the guide. The NCS is a 400 km stretch of the river Chambal. The sanctuary starts at Kota barrage in Rajasthan. Apart from that we also learnt that Pelicans, spoonbills, cormorants, storks, geese, sandgrouse, flamingos and many birds visit it in the coming season. I am sure it would be one awesome sight to spot them all.
If you love spotting birds, be here at Chambal between December 4-6 at the country’s first Bird Festival. You will meet the birds as well as international wildlife experts, photographers, eminent bird watchers too. This region of Uttar Pradesh has very rich bio-diversity and makes for the choice of the event.
Next Morning before the SUNRISE!
To spent a night in the lodge was another unique experience. At one point it was scary too. The silence and the sounds were interesting. Before we were headed further to Etawah and then Lucknow, I did not miss exploring the beauty of the lodge in the morning.
This trip was part of my FAM tour with Uttar Pradesh Tourism.