Chilika Lagoon – The Queen of Natural Beauty

Queen of natural beauty, Chilika, the largest brackish water lake in Asia covers an area of over 1,100 sq. km. It is a great attraction for the tourists for fishing, bird watching and boating. In winter Chilika flutters with thousands of indigenous and migratory birds of many varieties from far and near – even from the distant Siberia. The fabulous beauty of Chilika which has inspired poets to sing its glory must be seen to be believed.

Situated on the east coast of India, and connected to the Bay of Bengal through a narrow sea mouth, Chilika is also a lagoon. And like all coastal lagoons, its waters are rich with life. It is the largest wintering ground for migratory waterfowl found anywhere on the Indian sub-continent. It is one of the hotspot of biodiversity in the country, and some rare, vulnerable and endangered species listed in the IUCN Red List of threatened Animals, inhabit the lagoon, for at least part of their life cycle.  On account of its rich bio-diversity and ecological significance, Chilika was designated as the 1st “Ramsar Site” of India. The Nalaban Island within the lagoon is notified as a Bird Sanctuary. The government has also identified the lagoon as a priority site for conservation and management.

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The Lagoon is a highly productive ecosystem, with rich fishery resources. The rich fishing ground sustain the livelihood of more than 0.15 million fisher folk who live in and around the Lagoon.  A 32 km long, narrow, outer channel connects the main lagoon to the Bay of Bengal. High tides near this inlet mouth drive in salt water through the channel during the dry months, from December to June. With the onset of the rains, the 52 river and rivulets falling into the Chilika are in spate, causing fresh water currents which gradually push the sea water out. Due to littoral drift prevailing along the east coast the inlet mouth constantly changes position. The sea water is Chilika lifeblood and without a regular inflow the ecosystem of the lake would decline. In the 1990s Chilika was regarded as a dying lake because of irregular inflow of seawater. But in 2000 a new mouth was opened and once again a source of livelihood for thousands – and a refuge for a variety of wildlife came alive.

Chilika supports some of the largest congregation of migratory birds in the country, particularly during the winter. Flocks of migratory waterfowl arrive from as far as the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea, remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, Central and South East Asia, Ladakh and the Himalayas, to feed and breed in its fertile waters. The water body boasts off about 211 bird species, largest Irrawaddy dolphin population, 217 fish species and more than 30 migratory species. The Irrawaddy Dolphin is the flagship species of Chilika lake. Chilka is home to the only known population of Irrawaddy dolphins in India and one of only two lagoons in the world that are home to this species.

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There are a number of islands within the Lake like Kalijai Island, Honeymoon Island, Breakfast Island, Birds Island, Nalabana (Island of Reeds), Parikud Island, etc. and are some of the important and interesting spots inside the lake.

The Island of Kalijai is famous as a center of religious worship due to the temple of Goddess Kalijai where a big fair is held annually. As per the legend, Jeei a girl from nearby village was travelling by boat with her father in Chilika to get married at Parikud Island. Due to storm the boat was capsized near the island on deep water and all survived expect the girl Jai. It is believed that after her death the girl became Goddess Kali and worshiped as KaliJai on the same island.

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The Island of Nalabana, 8 km in circumference occupies a unique place in the vast expanse of Chilika Lake as it happens to be the central point for the migratory birds. Due to high water level Nalabana remains submerged during rainy seasons. During winter months this became a rendezvous for birds who settle here to escape for cold winter.

Sand-Bar and Mouth of the Lake is a striking and un-explored stretch of 30 km of empty beach across the sand bar which separates the Lake from the Sea. Another point of interest is Manikpatna, located on the outer channel and has historical evidence of a port which was used for trade with Far East and also has the Bhabakundeswar temple of Lord Shiva and an old Mosque whose entrance door is made of the jaws of a whale.

There are two main places from where tourist enter Chilika. One is the Balugaon, Rambha area at a distance of 100 Km from Bhubaneswar and is connected by national highway number 5 and by main train route connecting Chennai and Howara. Buses are available from bus stops near the train stations to go up to the lake. The other point where tourist visit Chilika is from Satapada side which is located close to the opening of Chilika to sea. Located at a distance of 48 Km from temple town of Puri. Many tourist visit this part of Chilika after visiting Puri temple and Konark Sun temple. Satapada being close to sea, visitors can watch Dolphins swimming and jumping in this area. Motor boats operated by motor boat association are available here for boating.

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The NirmalJhar Water fall is just 12 km from Chilika and a great spot for picnic or even an overnight stay. This holy city of Puri famous for the late 11th century built Jagannath temple is also close to Chilika. The other major attraction at Puri is the beach, from where you can witness the glorious sunrise and equally mesmerizing sunset. It’s said that a visit to Puri is incomplete without visiting Chilika Lagoon.

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The adventurist could take a pole boat cruise and Glide through Chilika Lake’s fertile marshland. Spot migratory waterfowl and resident species jostle over freshwater wetland. Witness water lilies open with the rising sun and listen to the symphony of bird calls flutter in your ears. No birding tour in India will be complete without visiting Chilika Lake in Winter. Contact Road2Travel for your trip to Chilika Lagoon, and other locations in Odisha, India

 

 

Mandu- A Celebration in Stone

Mandu, is an abandoned city of ruins from India’s Mughal era. Perched along the Vindhya ranges at an altitude of 2,000 feet is Mandu or Mandavgad. A ruined city in the Malwa region of western Madhya Pradesh , central India. This fortress town on a rocky outcrop about 100 km (62 mi) from Indore with its natural defenses, was originally the fort capital of the Parmar rulers of Malwa.

Mandu, due to its strategic position and natural defences, was an important place with a rich and varied history. It was an important military outpost and its military past can be gauged by the circuit of the battlemented wall, which is nearly 37 km (23 mi) and is punctuated by 12 gateways. Towards the end of the 13th century, it came under the sway of the Sultans of Malwa, the first of whom named it Shadiabad – ‘city of joy’.

Mandu is a celebration in stone, of life and joy, A tribute to the love shared between the poet-prince Baz Bahadur and his beautiful consort, Rani Roopmati. The balladeers of Malwa still sing of their euphoric romance. The fort walls encloses a large number of palaces, mosques, Jain temples of 14th century and other buildings. The oldest mosque dates from 1405. Each of Mandu’s structures is an architectural gem; some are outstanding like the massive Jami Masjid and Hoshang Shah’s tomb, which provided inspiration to the master builders of the Taj Mahal centuries later.

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Jahaz Mehal/Ship Palace is situated between two artificial lakes, this two storied architectural marvel is so named as it appears as a ship floating in water. Built by Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din-Khilji, it served as a harem for the sultan.

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Hindola Mahal – meaning Swing palace is so named due to its sloping side walls. The Hindola Mahal might have been constructed during the reign of Hushang Shah about 1425 C.E. but may date to the end of the 15th century during the reign of Ghiyas al-Din,The Hindola Mahal may have been used as an audience chamber. There are a number of other, undated structures surrounding the palace – an evidence of the rich and glorious past.

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Hoshang Shah’s Tomb is India’s first marble structure, it is one of the most refined examples of Afghan architecture. Its unique features include the beautifully proportioned dome, intricate marble lattice work and porticoed courts and towers. It served as a template for the construction of Taj Mahal

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Jami Masjid Inspired by the great mosque of Damascus, this humongous structure is striking in both its simplicity and architectural style-with large courtyards and grand entrances.

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A large sandstone structure originally built as an army observation post , is known today as Roopmati’s Pavilion. Rani Roopmati – the love interest of Baaz Bahadur lived here and is said to have gazed at the Baz Bahadur’s Palace – situated below and also at Narmada river, flowing through the Nimar plains far below, a river which the queen revered. The Pavilion is a major tourist attraction and offers many scenic views. Rewa Kund- A reservoir constructed by Baz Bahadur for the purpose of supplying water to Rani Roopmati’s Pavilion. The reservoir is situated below the pavilion and hence is considered an architectural marvel.

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Baz Bahadur’s Palace – Built by Baz Bahadur this 16th century structure is famous for its large courtyards encompassed by large halls and high terraces. It is situated below Roopmati’s Pavilion and can be seen from the pavilion.

The mystical beauty of the monuments, amidst the sprawling lush green landscape and the purple sunset sky, paints the live picture of the bygone era. The effect is completed by the rich surroundings of mango, tamarind and banyan trees. The place is also famous for its ‘Khusrani Imli’, tamarind trees which bear fruit only in the rainy season and juicy custard apples

For being an abandoned ancient oasis, Mandu is relatively easy to get to — it’s a couple hours’ bus ride from Indore. But the real bonus of Mandu? There’s “almost a total absence of Western tourists.” And who doesn’t love an undiscovered spot? Contact Road2travel to discover Mandu

LAKE PRASHER – MANDI

Surrounded amidst the towering Dhaladhar ranges of Kulu valley is a small blue watered lake called Prashar. The lake known to locals is a well kept secret in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh, about 3 hrs drive from Manali. Prashar Lake is about 100 km from Manali and 48 km from Mandi and is at a height of about 2700m from sea level. The last 20 km of the road to the Lake is very bad and dangerous and this is one of the reasons that most tourists who flock to Manali do not have a visit to this beautiful location in their itinerary. The other reason is the total apathy of the Himachal Tourism Department.

If you start the Journey from Mandi, the road takes you through Runjh, Katidhi village and then village Kamand. Kamand is very beautiful place along the bank of river Uhal. After Kamand you will reach Village Kataula, the largest village in this valley. After a few kilometers we follow the link road to Shagli village . Prashar lake is still 23 Km from this point and now the road conditions deteriorate. Last tea stop is village Baggi after that the drive becomes more difficult. The road runs along the lush green pine forest and despite the lousy road you feel good. From Baggi you will reach Prashar in 1.5 to 2 hrs.

From Manali it is a pleasant 55 km drive on NH 21 to Bajaura. The road runs alongside the beautiful river Beas and after bypassing Kullu town reaches Bhunter. About 3 km beyond Bhunter is the right turn from Bajaura on to the State Highway. After 26 kilometer drive on a small, lonely, beautiful road, you reach the ‘Y’ junction, where straight road continues for Mandi (25 km) and left road leads to Prashar Lake (23 km).

Once you reach Lake Prashar the heart stopping and bumpy road is forgotten, you feel like a winner and the panoramic view of the himalayas and the lake give you a heavenly feeling. It is here that the sage Prashar is said to have meditated.  On the lake’s edge is a three storied Pagoda-like temple dedicated to the sage. Capped with a roof of slate tiles, the temple has a wealth of wood carvings. An old temple, it is said to have been built by Raja Ban Sen of Mandi in the 14th century. An entire panorama of snowy mountain ranges is visible from this location. If some one want to stay here one can book the guest houses of HPPWD or HP Forest Dept.

The young and adventurous could also trek to Prashar Lake. The trek follows a beautiful trail that goes through a series of reserved forest cover, small rivulets and scenic pasture-lands. One can enjoy the local mountain village culture as the trail goes through the muddy tarred path of the local villages here. The trail is quiet enjoyable and gives a breathtaking 180 degree view of Dhauladhar, Pir Pinjal and Kinnaur mountain ranges. This makes for a perfect weekend trek with its proximity and good road connectivity with cities like Delhi, Chandigarh.

The temperature here range from -9 deg C to 23 degrees C and in winters there is heavy snowfall and the last few km of the road is closed. The best time to visit is April to July and Sept to Nov.

For your visit to Manali and Lake Parasher contact Road2Travel