Sariska – Unraveling Legends of Princes, Emperors and the Elusive Tiger
Sariska in Rajasthan is a picture perfect destination in spring. Nestling in the Aravalli hills Sariska is a National Park and a Tiger reserve second to Ranthambhore as a special interest travel destination for wild life enthusiasts. Visit during spring when the hills are clothed in colour and the trees filled with bird song and burgeoning blossoms. A hunting reserve of the Maharajahs of Alwar it assures the sighting of rare wild life apart from the elusive mysterious Tiger; a list that includes the Leopard, Panther, Jungle Cat, Jackal, Hyena, Gaur, Four-horned Antelope and Porcupine and Fox among animals and among birds, you will find Peafowl, Grey Partridge, Bush Quail, Sand Grouse, Tree Pie, Golden-backed Woodpecker, Crested Serpent Eagle, and the Great Indian Horned Owl among many other rare species.
In Sariska one discovers stories as old as India. Here ruined forts, temples and forests are wreathed in legend and stories unravel - of the five princes of the epics in exile, and of the heir to the Mughal Empire held captive in a jungle fort while his usurping brother proclaimed himself ruler.
According to the sacred Hindu text, the Mahabharata, the Pandavas during their period of exile found refuge in the region known as Sariska, tracing the history of the region as far back as the 5th century B.C. In the middle ages during the dominance of the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb, Sariska gained prominence once again when he imprisoned his elder brother Dara Shikoh in the Kankwari Fort.
Sariska owing to its strategic location between Jaipur and Delhi was considered a prized acquisition by many rulers and has historically been a region that has inspired its rulers to fight for its sovereignty. Originally a part of the kingdom of Mewar, the valorous Mewari warriors were always at war deflecting invasions. In the 8th - 12th century many rulers and wealthy residents of the region built innumerable Jain and Hindu temples. In early years of the 20th century Maharaja Jai Singh of Alwar lead a campaign to establish Sariska as a protected area. His early efforts proved successful when in 1958 Sariska was declared a wildlife Sanctuary and in 1979 a part of the Tiger Project that deemed it a national park.
Location and Climate
Sariska, one of the most beautiful regions in the state of Rajasthan in North Western India is situated 200km from Delhi and 107 km from Jaipur. The region covers an area of 866 sq km in all. Like Ranthambhore, the geography is characterized by tropical dry deciduous forests, tropical thorn forests, rocks and grasses.
Monsoon: July to September
Winter: December to February
Summer: March to June
The climate can be best described as erratic and unpredictable. Summer temperatures record 38.3 ºC maximum and 28.8º C Minimum while winter temperatures record 28.3 ºC maximum and 8 ºC minimum.
Sariska: Conservation History
Sariska was established as a Sanctuary and a Tiger Reserve by 1978, the present area of recorded reserve forest being 866 square kilo meters.
In the pre independence era the area within the Sariska National Park was in entirety a part of the Alwar State. It was maintained as and actively functional as a hunting preserve for royalty. After independence, in 1955 facilitated by the active campaigning that began with Maharaja Jai Singh himself, it became unlawful to hunt- this elaborates to state ‘it was unlawful to hunt, shoot, net, trap, snare, capture or kill any kind of wild animals’. The reserve was then made a Sanctuary or National Park in 1958. Soon centralising the need for the preservation of wild animals in a more effective manner few forest areas contiguous to the Sanctuary in 1955 were also incorporated.
Awareness: Initiatives and Constraints at the Sanctuary
Many initiatives are in place for the preservation of the Sanctuary and its flora and fauna. These initiatives are crucially dependent on the local people and governing bodies that are existent in Sariska.
Relocating villages: In the centre of the reserve are several villages and thought as to relocate the villages so as to safeguard them from animal attack and the animals from human encroachment.
Eco restoration and development: Alongside these efforts are the efforts to restore degraded hills and pasture development in the areas peripheral to the reserve so as to ensure fodder fuel needs of the people.
Village Forest Protection Committees: Village forest protection committees are functional and play an important role in forest protection.
Education and Awareness: Camps and trips are organized regularly with idea of environmental awareness for children in school. These efforts attempt to introduce the concept of conservation being about the wellbeing of the local people as well as f the preservation of the flora and fauna.
Protection Squads and Patrolling: A flying squad specifically for wildlife protection is stationed at Sariska headquarters of the reserve stand by ready to assist the field staff with reinforcements.
With all these measures in check the reserve faces constraints that threaten the existence of animals in particular the majestic tiger that is said to roam the Sanctuary and they are:
Increase of the human population inside the reserve at alarming rates and the livestock as in cattle and buffalo.
Encroachment of land by humans and livestock.
Grazing of cattle burdens the buffer zone.
Forest fires that occur when the grasses dry up during the summer.
Poaching of fauna and flora - Illegal collection and felling of timber and fuel occurs yearlong. During winter certain tribal communities poach deer, birds and the wild boar for meat. But what is deeply disturbing are the accounts of the disappearance of the tiger from Sariskar. Efforts were made to relocate tigers from nearby Ranthambhore.
An understanding and anticipation of the beauty and diversity of Sariskar must be seen against the backdrop of adversity as well. An informed traveler can do much in terms of the understanding he/she achieves while at the Sanctuary. Global scrutiny and the green traveler are crucial for preservation.
Dhok Anogeissus pendula a dominant tree species in the park covers over 90 per cent of the forest area. The leaves of the Dhok are eaten by deer, antelope and nilgai and hence are an indispensable pard of the food pyramid and prevalent ecosystem.
Boswellia serreta, the source for Frankincense Essential Oil, and Lannea coromandelica, Shimati are found growing in rocky patches.
Kattha, Acacia Catechu and wild Bamboo are commonly sourced in the valleys. Palas, Butea monosperma and Ber Zizyphus spp are also found in some valleys.
Other important tree species found at Sariska National Park:
Arjun, Terminalia arjuna
Gugal, Commiphora wightii
Kadaya, Sterculia urens
Amla, Emblica officinalis
Bahera, Terminalia bellerica
The Kankwari Fort
One of the many famed forts in the Alwar district Kankwari Fort is located within the Sariska National Park 18 km from the entrance gate. In ruins today it is a fine example of a jungle fort or vanadurg. Kankwari Fort is where the heir to the Mughal throne Dara Shikoh was held captive by his younger brother Emperor Aurangzeb.
The Ancient Shiva and JainTemples
A visit to the Neelkanth and Garh Rajor while covering the Sanctuary on your Sariska tour is compulsory. The temples are situated within the area of the Sariska tiger Sanctuary, and they date back to 9th-10th century. Contemporary to the Khajuraho temples they are ancient and deemed archeological treasures.
Pandupol or Pandu gate is a natural arch engraved in the limestone because of the action of water falling several hundred feet from above the ground. During the rainy season a breath taking waterfall occurs at the Pandupol.
There is a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman or Pandu which is beautiful as the Panupol forms a natural backdrop to it. Legend elaborates that the Pandavas spent some time at Pandupol in Sariska during their period of exile. Another legend claims that at Pandupol Bhima who possessed ‘the strength of a thousand elephants’ was defeated in a battle of egos by Lord Hanuman.
Sariska was known as the royal reserve of the rulers of Alwar. This palace built by the Maharajas of Alwar, has now been converted into a hotel.
A water palace or hunting lodge built by Maharaja Vinay Singh for his Queen Shila in 1845 overlooks a Siliserh Lake. It is situated 12 kms from Sariska southwest of Alwar. The lake is artificial created by a dam. It is serene nestled amidst woods and hills. The lake covers an area of about 10.5 sq. Kms. Converted into a hotel the palace is now called Lake Palace and is a serene peaceful holiday option.
Vijay Mandir Palace
10 km Sariska built by Maharaja Jai Singh in 1918 A.D it is characteristic of the resplendence of Alwar royalty. Vijay Mandir Palace also overlooks a lake and is visited by devotees of the nearby Sita Ram Temple especially during the festival of Ramnavami. The ground floor of the place has been converted into government offices and district courts, while the upper floor is maintained as a museum.
Jai Samand Lake
6-km from the city, Jai Samand Lake is an artificial lake constructed by Maharaja Jai Singh in 1910 A.D. A favourite picnic spot, it is a beautiful site during the monsoons when the lush green surroundings add to its charm. It is ideal for water sports and is a popular angling site.
How to Get There
The city of Sariska is accessible by rail, air and road.
The nearest railway station is 37 km away at Alwar (37 km), which is connected to the major parts of Rajasthan and India.
The nearest airport from Sariska is at Jaipur. Indian Airlines, Jet Airways, and Sahara fly to Jaipur from Ahmedabad, Aurangabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Jodhpur and Udaipur.
Sariska National Park is located off the Delhi-Alwar-Sariska Road. Sariska lies at a distance of 107 km from Jaipur and 200 km from Delhi. Sariska is well connected to Alwar where there is direct access to Delhi by bus.
In the summer light cotton clothing makes travel comfortable, and in the winters light woolen clothing is advisable. If you are to spend a night outdoors in one of the Sanctuary’s many hides then it would be safe to carry your own sleeping bag and make provision for refreshments and meals at the nearest hotel or lodge.
Where to Stay
Sariska Tiger Haven
Tiger Den Sariska
Siliserh Lake Palace Hotel