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Rajaji National Park – Uttarakhand

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Photo: Jagdeep Rajput/Sanctuary Asia.

Rajaji National Park is a beautiful reserve to the east of Haridwar. It is famous as an elephant habitat and also harbours the mountain goat, goral. Part of the awe-inspiring Shivalik ranges in Uttarakhand, these forests at the foothills that comprise Rajaji are endowed with Sal trees and bamboo shoots. Finally notified in 1984, Rajaji has been at the helm of trouble, beginning right from the issue of notification. The Gujjar tribals, prevented from migrating northwards, live in Rajaji throughout the year collecting forest produce, adding to the natural stress due to landslides and soil erosion. Threatened elephant corridors and ill-located army ammunition camps all add to the problems. The future of Rajaji hangs by a slender noose-the very baan rope that is made from the bhabar grass harvested from the reserve? The jury would have to step intao Rajaji before they pronounce their verdict.

  • Plan your trip
  • Wild life
  • Habitat
  • Places to see
  • Useful tips
  • History

Best season

The park is open from mid-November to mid-June. Winters are the most pleasant time to visit the park i.e. between November and March, when the temperature ranges between 20-250C during the day. In summer, temperatures can be as high as 480C. During winter, making it convenient to visit the park. The park remains closed in the rainy season, when there is an average 750 mm. of rainfall.

Accommodation

Sanctuary Asia encourages sustainability in travel, so you can choose from one of the TOFTigers, PUG eco-certified lodges in the park vicinity and help sustain this destination.

V-Resort – Near the Chilla Gate

There are ten Forest Rest Houses within and around the Park. Besides these, there are also many private hotels and tourists complexes around Rajaji National Park and at Haridwar, Rishikesh, Dehradun and Mussoorie. So accommodation is not a problem in this reserve.

Chilla Tourist Rest House (5 suites): This establishment is run by the Garwhal Mandal Vikas Nigam. Electricity is available. Besides rooms and dorms, camping on the grounds is also a possibility.

Ranipur Forest Rest House (2 suites with electricity) and Motichur Forest Rest House (2 suites with electricity) are other options.

Phandowala Forest Rest House (2 suites with electricity) is closest from the Ramgarh gate, while Satyanarian Forest Rest House lies on Haridwar- Dehradun route (4 suites with electricity).

Asarodi Forest Rest House is located on the Dehradun-Delhi highway (2 suites with electricity), while Beribara Forest Rest House (2 suites. No electricity) is the nearest to the entry gate at Ranipur.

For bookings contact: Chief Forest officer or the Director, Rajaji National Park at Dehradun. Bookings can also be made on-line at www.rajajinationalpark.com followed by telephonic confirmation.

Transport

By Air: The Jolly Grant Airport (24 km.) is nearest to the northern border of the Park. A daily flight from here to Delhi takes barely 50 minutes.

By Rail: Sahranpur is the closest railhead that is well-connected to Delhi (187 km.), Calcutta (1,527 km.), Amritsar (337 km.), Lucknow (573 km.) and Jammu (473 km.).

By Road: Rajaji is accessible from several places. The Dehradun, Doiwala, Rishikesh, Haridwar State Highway is the most preferred road since one can access the Ramgarh, Motichur, Kunao and Chilla forests through this route. The Moradabad, Haridwar State Highway and the Delhi-Dehradun State Highway are other options. From Haridwar, buses leave everyday at 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. from Garwhal Motor Owners Union [GMOU] and return at 12 noon and 4 p.m.

Taxis can be hired from near the UP Roadways bus stand. Share taxis can be used at Rs. 10 per passenger. The driver should be informed of the time you intend to spend within the park. The approach into the park could be through the Ramgarh gate [14 km. from Dehradun] or the Mohand gate [25 km. from Dehradun], both of which can be reached via the Delhi-Dehradun highway. The Ranipur and Motichur gates [9 km. each from Haridwar] can be approached from the Haridwar-BHEL Mohand Road and the Haridwar-Rishikesh highway respectively. The Chilla gate is also approximately 9 km. from Haridwar and can be reached via the road to Rishikesh. The Laldhang gate is 25 km. from Kotdwara while the Kunao gate is 6 km from Rishikesh on the Rishikesh-Pashulok road.

On bicycle or on foot: You could cycle 13 km. to Chilla from Haridwar. The walk from Haridwar is across the Laltarao Bridge and then takes a left from the roundabout onto the Rishikesh road. Turn right just before the cable bridge over the Ganges canal. Cross the dam you reach a 100 m. away and turn left toward the artificial lake from where the road leads to Chilla, at a distance of about five kilometres.

Entry fees are payable at the Forest Ranger's office, which is also close to the tourist bungalow at Chilla. Jeeps are available from Chilla to the park.

Elephant rides can be availed of from Chilla. These rides last two and a half hours and take a minimum of four passengers to an elephant. Students can avail of concessions.

Professional video and film charges are levied as follows:

Feature film charges: Rs. 20,000 for both Indians and foreigners.
Security for the film: Rs. 25,000 (Indians) and Rs. 40,000 (foreigners).
Documentary charges (per day): Rs. 2,500 (Indians) and Rs. 5,000 (foreigners).
Security for the film: Rs. 15,000 (Indians) and Rs. 40,000 (foreigners).

The park is most renowned for its elephants. The mountain goat, goral is another noteworthy resident. It is mainly confined to the precipitous pine-covered slopes. Besides the huge pachyderms and the nimble goats, you might come across huge herds of chital, sometimes as many as 250 to a herd.

Photo: Jagdeep Rajput/Sanctuary Asia.

Sambar, barking deer, hog deer, nilgai, wild pigs and sloth bears also inhabit these forests though you may not always catch a glimpse of these. The rhesus macaque and the common langur are fairly common here. Tigers and leopards are the prime predators in Rajaji. The leopard cat, jungle cat, civet and yellow-throated marten are other carnivores. Mammals like the hyena, jackal and the Bengal fox scavenge in the park. The Himalayan black bear though uncommon, can be sighted in the higher reaches of the park.

Several species of anurans, that describe toads and frogs, exist in the park. Uperodon systoma, Polypedates maculatus and Rana crassa are recorded from this park. The breeding pattern of bufonids shows interesting peculiarities. B. stomaticus and B.melanostictus breed in July-August on the northern slopes while the same species breed right until November on the southern slopes. Polypedates maculates which lives in hollows of trees, breeds only in July.

Porcupines, pythons and king cobras also share these environs. As many as twenty-eight species of snakes along with twelve species of turtles and tortoises and nine species of lizards, including the Indian monitor lizard thrive here. Golden mahseer exist in the Ganges, though these are greatly threatened by illegal netting.

Scolid wasps are the main insects and as many as 13 species have been recorded, five of which are new to all of Uttarakhand. 60 different species of butterflies in vivid colours flutter around in the park.

Rajaji boasts of more than 315 species of birds. Chestnut-headed, Bluetailed, Green and Blue-bearded Bee-eaters are found here. Five species of kingfishers include the Himalayan Pied, Lesser Pied, Small Blue, Stork-billed and White-throated. You can often see hornbills and junglefowls, especially the Red Junglefowl in these forests. Over 40 species of waterbirds visit the Ganges every winter. Cormorants, crows, the drongo, egrets, lapwings and nightjars, as well as owlets, partridges, pheasants, pond herons and treepies are some of the birds that you may see. India's National bird, the Peafowl is found in these habitats in plenty.

Rajaji is part of the Shivalik ecosystem that falls within the districts of Bijnor, Haridwar, Pauri Garhwal and Dehradun in Uttar Pradesh. Rajaji, Motichur and Chilla sanctuaries in combination, form the Rajaji National Park that covers 820 sq. km. in the foothills. The Ganga divides Chilla in the east and Rajaji-Motichur in the west. The Shivaliks consist predominantly of clay with coarse-grained, dull sandstone and brown shale. Geologically, the Shivaliks are made up of vast alluvium deposits, brought by the river and glacial actin from the Himalayas, millions of years ago. The deposits were then thrown up as mountain ranges through tectonic activity.

Photo: Aniruddha Mookerjee/Sanctuary Photo Library.

Vegetation/Flora

The Shivaliks are characterised by multi-layered forest vegetation, somewhat sparse in the upper tracts with low-density forests and grasses, lower down in the bhabhar plains. The northern slopes are dominated by Sal forests and in the south, there is mixed tree vegetation with bamboo, shrubs and grasses in the sub-canopy layers. Sal also occurs in the middle and lower southern slopes. The traditional bamboo Dendrocalamus strictus flowered in the 1960s. There has almost been no regeneration thereafter.

Two endangered plant species, Catamixis bracharoides exclusive to the Shivaliks and Eremostachys superba, seen only in Rajaji, are found here.

Baki Anogeissue latifolia, sain Terminalia tomentosa, haldu Adina cordifolia, behra Terminalia ballerica, jhingan Lannea coromandelica, kharpat Garuga pinnata, phauri Lagerstromia parviflora, bula Kydia calycina, badal Stereospermum chelonoides, sofed sirus Albizzia procera, tun Cadrela tonna, gutel Trewia nudiflora, gular Ficus glomerata are the prominent plant species. Sterculia villosa has bright scarlet flowers that add a dash of colour to the earthy surroundings. The bark of this tree is the elephant's favourite food.

The undergrowth is made up of karaunda Carissa opaca, gandhala Murraya koenigil and marorphali Helicteres isora. The grasses include Gorla Cyryspogon fuivus, Kummeeria Heteropogon contortus etc. Lantana camara, Adhatoda vasica and Colebrookia oppositifolia form over 50 percent of the shrub community. Weeds like Cassia tora and Parthenium histerophorus form half of the herb species. Fruit trees include ber Zizyphus mauritiana, amla Phyllanthes emblica and fig Ficus religiosa.

Entry into the park is not permitted after dusk. So it is best to move around within the park during the mornings and late afternoons and you never know, but you might be lucky enough to see some splendid animals. Travel a kilometre from the entrance gate to the park to an old machan, once used by hunters, but now provided as a useful place for visitors to watch for the park's various dwellers.

Visit tribal villages in the park, where Gujjars living in rustic clay huts tend buffaloes. They are sure to be generous with bowls of fresh, warm buffalo milk.

Photo: Jagdeep Rajput/Sanctuary Asia.

5 km. from Chilla towards Haridwar is an artificial lake where you might see several migratory birds, including Black Stork, Grey Wagtail, ducks and other water birds. Wild elephants drink at this pool at dusk.

The Bindevasani village is located 14 km. northeast of Chilla, on the Chilla-Rishikesh road. A 15-minute steep climb from the village leads to a Durga temple that also offers a splendid view of the confluence of the Bindedhara and Nildhara rivers.

Proceed 14 km. north of Bindevasani to Nilkantha where there is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Further from Nilkantha, Lakshman Jhula is the suspension bridge across the Ganges that leads to Rishikesh. It is believed to be the place where Lord Rama's brother Lakshman crossed the Ganges on a jute rope.

The Kumbh Mela is held, once every twelve years in the holy city of Haridwar. Situated on the banks of the Ganga, it houses the famous Bharat Mata temple and the Gurukul Kangri University. Har-ki-Pauri, built by King Vikramaditya is a sacred bathing ghat on the Ganges.

Dehradun is a pleasant and scenic town, at a height of 2,200 feet that is especially favoured by tourists.

Official vehicles are not available within the park, so if you attempt to come without your private vehicle or hired taxi, it could cause some difficulty.

Do not attempt night driving within the park since this is not only against the rules but is also not safe. Fishing too is prohibited inside the park.

Carry a camera for the park affords fine photographic opportunity.

You can contact the Director of the Park for bookings and entry permits. Also, before leaving the Park, make sure you collect a clearance certificate.

Useful contacts

Chief Forest Officer, Tilak Road, Dehradun, Uttarakhand.  

Director, Rajaji National Park, 5/1, Ansari Marg, Dehradun, Uttarakhand – 248001. Tel.: +91-135621669. 

The Friends of the Doon, C/o EBD Business Centre, 49, Rajpur Road, Dehradun, Uttarakhand – 248001. Tel.:0135-27748/ 24487/ 28730; Fax: 0135-28392.

In 1966, 90 sq. km. of the Dehradun forests became the Motichur wildlife sanctuary. The Rajaji and Chilla wildlife sanctuaries were set up in the forest divisions of the Shivalik and the Landsowne, in 1967 and 1974 respectively. Rajaji National Park, a syncitium of these three sanctuaries was named after the first Governor-General of India, Dr. C. Rajagopalachari, who was popularly known as Rajaji. In 1983, the notification of intent to declare Rajaji National Park was issued and in 1984, Rajaji National Park was finally established as an important protected area in the terai.

Photo: Jagdeep Rajput/Sanctuary Asia.

Gujjars, Taungyas and Gothias are some of the tribes that inhabit these forests. Gujjars, nomadic pastorals, are believed to have originally arrived at Rajaji as part of the dowry of a Jammu princess who was married in Sirmaur, in what we now know as Himachal Pradesh. They settled in the forests in huts called deras and were allotted sections of the forest called kholes for each family, where they are permitted to lop leaves of certain fodder trees between November and March, after which the Gujjars annually migrate to the Himalayas for the summer. They are polygamous and followers of Islam.

 
 
 

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