A different sort of nature reserve, the Sariska National Park is seeped in features unique to its geography and to the effects of time, that of its royal history and the modern issues of poaching and the ensuing measures. Located in Rajasthan, it has mostly dry deciduous forests and thorny arid vegetation, unusual for a bustling hub of biodiversity. Also, there are major historical landmarks, palaces and temples, that speak of its significance during the reign of the local Rajput kings and Mughals.
Being home to a great number of big cats, including tigers and leopards, Sariska was a major hunting ground for the royal family in the late 19th and early 20th century. While that recklessness stopped during times more modern, it was replaced by a more sinister, clandestine poaching, for the supposed medicinal properties of the feline species, leaving hundreds of dead tigers in its wake. The national park being deemed a tiger reserve has stemmed that flow significantly, and Sariska has surprisingly and resiently held on to its abundant biodiversity.
Without dragging things out, here are the highlights of one of the foremost wildife destinations in India, the Sariska tiger reserve.
Flora and fauna
The forests here are a mix of dry deciduous forests, scrub-thorny arid forests and strecthes of yellow-green grass. While Sariska is teeming with greenery, the plant species are predominantly the ones that are acclimatised to drier climates. Major among the trees is dhok, besides other regional species like kaday, ber, arjun, banyan and bamboo, though the bamboos don’t grow as tall as in other regions. Besides these trees, you’ll also find grasses, shrubs and herbs, all mostly on the drier, thornier side.
Like it is already well-known, the reserve is famed for the Royal Bengal Tigers. Though their numbers have significantly dwindled for reasons mentioned above, there are still a few here and renewed efforts of relocation and breeding have been underway for some years now. Besides, there are other attractive wild species like leopards, hyenas, jackals, wild dogs, various species of deer including sambhar and chital, monkeys and langurs, and over a 100 varieties of birds.
While Sariska, located in the Alwar district and close to Amber and Jaipur, isn’t as famous for its history as for its widlife, it only works to its advantage. While almost everyone is busy looking out for the big cats and the deers, one can steal a quiet, uncrowded visit to these monuments and buildings in and around the park.
While some places of interest like the Sariska Palace, the Kankwari Fort, built by Raja Jai Singh I, where Aurangzeb jailed his brother during a period of power struggle, and Pandupol which is a Hanuman temple beside a feshwater stream, where the Pandavas from Mahabharata spent some time from their incognito exile, are within the park itself. There are other attractions like the Siliserh Lake and the adjoining lake palace built for the then-queen as a retreat and hunting-lodge, and believed-to-be-haunted Bhangarh fort are a short drive away.
Rajasthan has always been known for its riotous culture and festivals, and Sariska is no exception. Some major places of interest and festivals are:
A royal hunting lodge within Sariska which is now a heritage hotel.
Bhangarh & Ajabgarh
Image Source- Flickr
Known for being two fo the most hanuted places in India, with many surrounding folklores and legends, which are also excellent specimens of Rajput architecture.
Image Source- Wikimedia
A festival of marital fidelity, spring and harvest which gets its name from Gana (a name for Lord Shiva) and Gaur (standing for Shiva’s wife Gauri or Parvati, symbolising marital blilss). The festival is celebrated with great fervour by the Rajasthani womenfolk and the celebrations last a fortnight.
Best Time To Visit
Being located in Sariska, the summer here can be particularly harsh, while the winter can be pleasant to cold. The night temperatures are known to be markedly lower than the day-time ones.
The best time to visit would be September/October to March/April. The months between April and September, including April and September are quite hot during the day, thus not conducive for outdoor activities.
How To Reach
By Air: Sanganer Airport, Jaipur- 111 km away
By Train: Alwar Junction- 3 km away
By Bus: Alwar,, 3 km away