There’s something about the city of Gwalior that is extremely special and overwhelming. Be it its intricately carved temples, majestic forts, opulent palaces or the stories of royalty frozen in its walls, this erstwhile kingdom boasts of an old-world, stately charm. Known for its rich cultural legacy beautifully captured in its many heritage sites such as the Jain sculptures at Gwalior Fort, the Mann Mandir Palace, which is known as the pearl in the necklace of palaces, the Chattrabhuj Temple, where the first written evidence of the numerical zero appears, and the statue of Rani Lakshmi Bai, a symbol of the 1857 rebellion – this historical city holds a special place in the minds of all curious travellers.
However, few know that it is not just its man-made architectural heritage and illustrious past that make up the character of Gwalior. This city brims with parks and gardens, and boasts of a rich natural heritage and unique flora and fauna. From the Garden of Flowers (Phool Bagh) which was built to welcome the King of Cambridge, to the Italian Garden complete with musical fountains that was built for the relaxation of the Scindias, these sprawling spaces give the city a lush green cover, adding to its beauty.
Gwalior boasts of another park that is not just visually alluring but is also an initiative by the Madhya Pradesh Government towards the conservation of eco-heritage and the encouragement of greener practices to instill an attitude of sustainability among the youth. The Tapovan Eco Park, situated on Jhansi Road is an effort to maintain and build the cultural and natural legacy of Gwalior. Through a unique nature walk organised by Sahapedia under its outreach programme, ‘India Heritage Walks’ on January 13, 2019, a day after the National Youth Day (celebrated annually on the birthdate of the great leader, Swami Vivekananda), the participants will get to explore exactly this.
Leave behind the bustle of the city, forget its rich past for a moment, and live the present. Let the green denizens sprawled across 200 acres inspire you to think about sustainable development practices for the future, just like Swami Vivekananda did. Live his words, ‘arise, awake, and don’t stop until your goal is reached’ as you walk through the lush foliage of trees and plants at Tapovan – a Sanskrit word derived from two words, 'tapas' meaning penance or spiritual practice and 'vana' meaning forest.
The walk is being led by 20-year-old Gwalior citizen, Saloni Sharma, who is currently pursuing her graduation in travel and tourism. A certified photographer, she believes that heritage walks give a deeper insight into the social, cultural and geographical significance of the space. This nature walk through the forest park aims to do the same by exposing participants to the flora and fauna found in the Gwalior region as they embark upon treks and nature trails to witness some spectacular species of birds like peacocks, sparrows, bulbuls, Indian roller birds and cuckoos. The park is also home to Varasus indicus, a type of dragon lizard.
While you try to spot these species, do not forget to admire the numerous trees that grow in this forest and nurture the environment. Sal trees, Aeglo marmelos (Bel Patra), Banyan trees, Amaltash, Hari, Guava, Mango, Baheda and other significant plants stand tall and mighty along with signboards that explain their Ayurvedic importance. However, the rarest and the most interesting sight to behold in the forest is that of the broken bone trees. These trees don’t bear any flowers and their pale white branches look like broken bones. Apparently, there are only 50 broken bone trees left in Madhya Pradesh, which is why Tapovan Park is trying to protect them.
Interact with the forest guards to hear more stories about human interaction with the environment, understand the deciding factors of habitation of a particular species, and get a deeper insight into how the food chain and the local ecosystems work. Visit the forest museum to get more perspectives, and capture the natural heritage in all its glory through your camera, for photography is a powerful tool not just to document, but also to aware and educate people about what we have and what we may lose if we continue being irresponsible.
In the crisp, clean air of the forest, become one with nature and let it inspire you to be more environmentally conscious, sustainable in your actions and sensitive towards other species. As Swami Vivekananda rightly said, “They alone live, who live for others.”
This guided tour is free. For more information and registration, click here.
To learn more about Gwalior’s rich heritage through Sahapedia, click here.
Feature Image Credit: Gwalior Khabar Live/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mYNl9bGcCU