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SARISKA - WILDLIFE SANCTUARY

DISTANCE FROM MAJOR CITIES

Alwar:

35 km

Jaipur:

120 km

Coverage Area:

788 sq. km

Main Attraction :

Tiger, Spotted Deer And Wild Boar

BEST TIME TO VISIT:

November and June

Sariska became a sanctuary in the year 1958. The sanctuary came under the project Tiger in 1979 and became a national park in 1982. It is located at Kankwari fort, near Alwar, on the Delhi Jaipur Highway. The terrain is predominantly hilly, as it lies in the Aravalli range. It has total area of 788 sq. kilometres, with a core area of approx. 47sq. kilometres.

As in the Ranthambhore National Park, this park also contains ruined temples, as well as a fort and pavilions, built by the maharajas of Alwar. And the explorers delving deep into the jungle spread over nearly 900 square km can seek answers to shadowy mysteries in the crevices of the hills, remnants of a bygone age.


IN AND AROUND SARISKA

These forests, ages ago, are supposed to have sheltered the exiled Pandava brothers, heroes of the epic Mahabharat. The dense forest and difficult terrain of Sariska shielded them until they reached the court at Viratnagar 66 km away and lived there disguised as servants of the king. Only five boulders now remain to testify to the presence of the five Pandavas and their wife, Draupadi.

Tourists rarely return without a visit to the Hanuman Temple (Monkey God) in which the image is in a reclining position. Busloads of devotees crowd the route on Tuesdays, the monkey god's known weekday. On Wednesdays, the inhabitants of the sanctuary are allowed a rest from the sight of human invaders and animals are indeed most visible on these days.

In September each year, however, they almost disappear off the track as hordes of worshippers from near and far, descend on the place for the famous fair which offers the startling spectacle of persons crawling lengthwise on the road the entire 48 km distance from Alwar city. If one is lucky to be present at the right time, the ear can be treated to the fascinating narration of the folk epic, the pandun ka kada, a Mewati version of the Mahabharata, sung by a Muslim jogi for hours at a stretch.

At Bhartrihari, it is the group called Bhartrihari ke Jogi, who dominate with their powerful music at the fair in August. For hundreds of years, the place gave solace and shelter to the legendary sage Bhartrihari, the author of important Sanskrit works on nitishastra and epics. A millennium later he is still greatly revered by the local populace. A temple in the hilly area (35 km) of Sariska is dedicated to this saint. For every night over a month, a grand musical drama of seven hours in the style of Parsi theatre is enacted and draws a massive audience. It narrates the epic story of king Bhartrihari, renowned for his justices.

At a short distance from Alwar is a diversion taking one past the small fortress of Kushalgarh to Talbraksha (36 km). The moist palm grove valley transports one mentally to India's coastal areas and it is difficult to believe that one is geographically in a desert state. Langurs compete in numbers with busloads of constantly arriving pilgrims. Side by side at Talbraksha are hot and cold springs with immense healing capacities.

In a clearing is a cluster of temples of varying ages and one might almost miss the gem of them all, a 10th century temple relegated to the background. This temple, in the typical panchayatna (five houses) pattern, was probably built as a Vaishnava temple, but was converted for Shiva worship. The Vishnu legend is represented in the relief of Hiranyakashyap, Vishnu's great antagonist, being killed by the Narsimhavatar.

Talbraksha is mentioned in the Virata parva of the Mahabharata. It was here that an arrow Arjun shot into the ground sprouted the Banaganga and when his exile ended he was able to purify himself in this offshoot of the holy river before taking up his arms and weapons concealed in a tree. Unfortunately, the archaeological value of this temple, or of Talbraksha, has been little exploited.

Past tobacco fields and tiny secluded hamlets, in the hills beyond Tehola is the marvelous fortified temple town of Neelkanth. Located as it is in a remote valley, 22 km deep in the interior of Sariska and surrounded by a jungle well populated by animals, access to which it difficult even today. But tucked away in this green belt are shades of antiquity in sandy brown, stone gray, and marble black, in a plethora of weathered sculptures and ornately carved temples.

It is particularly fascinating to explore the widespread area of Neelkanth, preferably over a day culminating with a visit to the fort, Rajor. Around the Shiva temple, scattered all over are mounds still unexplored indicating the multiplicity of temples. One has only to remove the shrubbery and dig away the earth to find fragments of an amalak or stambha and sculptures on religious themes and musicians.

GETTING THERE

Air : Jaipur is nearest airport.
Road : Sariska is 35 km from Alwar, which is a convenient town to approach the sanctuary. Frequent buses ply between Sariska and Alwar. From Jaipur, Sariska is 120 km away and it takes three hours by road.

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