National Chambal Sanctuary
National Chambal Sanctuary, named after one of India’s cleanest and longest rivers Chambal, covers an area of 1240 sq kms across the three states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and eventually joins the River Yamuna. The rivers flows through the ‘behad’ – the famous ravines of Chambal. The area is steeped in folklore of proud and defiant dacoits rebelling against oppression of the ruling powers.
It was declared a Protected Area in 1979, which includes a 425 kms stretch of the 900 kms long Chambal river and its adjoining forest land, in an effort to protect the forest and river ecosystem, as well as the largest wild population of the endangered gharial or fish eating crocodile. These forests and their freshwater ecosystems are best known for the wide variety of aquatic and bird life found here. They are home to more than 320 resident and migrant birds, and one of the few places on earth for nesting for the threatened Indian skimmers! Of the 26 turtle species found in India, 8 are residents of these waters. Other wildlife found here are the critically endangered Gangetic dolphins, smooth coated otters, striped hyaenas, Indian wolves, black buck, and the muggers. National Chambal Sanctuary is listed as an Important Bird Area and is a proposed Ramsar Site.
Things to do
Set against a stunning backdrop, framed by the ravines and sandbanks, the calm waters of the Chambal River are best explored on boats. The gentle pace of the River Safari is designed to provide spectacular sightings of the gharials, muggers & turtles basking in the sun; the many migratory and resident birds flying sorties; the occasional glimpses of the Gangetic river dolphins breaking surface.
Jeep Safari-Sarus Trail
The Sarus Crane Conservation Reserve is a widespread wetland area, interspersed by cultivated fields, where large numbers of the Sarus Cranes breed. Although not a protected area, since 1999 the Supreme Court of India, recognising its importance as a habitat has designated the area a reserve with restrictions on development. Several species of wetland birds and raptors are also found along the course of this safari.
The Blackbuck jeep safari heads southwest towards the countryside between the Chambal and Yamuna ravines, for excellent sightings of Blackbuck deer and numerous dry land birds including the Indian Courser. It is also a fascinating journey through remote hamlets and habitations; a world that is strangely as connected as it appears removed from modern India.
The ancient settlement of Bateshwar is situated on a crescent bend of the river Yamuna. More than 40 temples dedicated to the glory of Shiva glisten pearly white along the ghats of the river. A multitude of architectural styles, time periods and historical events are reflected in these simple shrines.
The ghats are evocative of Varanasi and the temples of Pushkar. A timeless landscape, an un-hurried pace and the calm, positive vibe of heartfelt prayer.
In October-November, the open areas around the temple complex play host to an annual animal fair, the origins of which stretch into antiquity. Of immense significance in the Hindu religious calendar, the fair is also of great commercial importance and is renowned as the 2nd largest animal fair in the country (Sonepur in Bihar being the largest).
The religious fair commences after ten days of animal trading and a lull of 4-5 days. This period is considered the most auspicious for offering prayers at Bateshwar and is an important fixture for saints, sadhus, tradesmen and villagers. A colourful pageant of rural India that is as unchanging as it is timeless.
Holipura village, located at the edge of the Yamuna ravines, near Bateshwar, is a stronghold of the Chaturvedi clan who claim descent from the Greek soldiers of Alexander’s army. Many of the clan rose to positions of great prominence and built substantial havelis (grand homes) to announce their arrival. Built over a period of time, with influences ranging from Mughal to Colonial and adapted to a rural scenario, the havelis have a unique architectural blend and are a beautiful synthesis of myriad traditions. Several are inhabited by the descendants of the original owners, retaining a certain character and charm. The village is a microcosm of rural Indian life with the symbiotic relationships of the inhabitants reflected in its layout. The interactive walk through Holipura is conducted by a member of the village community, culminating in refreshments at his home.
Best time to visit
November – March