Saturday 31 March 2012

Bear Wrestling

Now we know from where humans have learnt the art of wrestling. I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time. This small video was shot at Renuka Wildlife Sanctuary in Sirmour, Himachal Pradesh, India.

Bear Wrestling

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Morni Flowers

Morni Hills area is full of wild flowers. I am not an expert at recognizing flowers, therefore, I will just post these photos of wild flowers that I clicked in the Morni Hills area including the Tikkar Taal. I would love your comments about the names of the flowers that I could not recognize.

Red Flowers

The photo below of course if the flower of the Pine tree which later on becomes the cone.

Pine Tree Flower

Red Flowering Tree

White Wild Flowers

Yellow Wild Flowers

Wild Flower

Then there were lemon like fruits growing in the wild. The size was smaller then that of a lemon and it was not on a tree but on bushes.

A Wild Fruit
I saw some wild cactus trees that had grown to a height of 20 foot or so.The smaller ones do have the red flowers as well.

Red Cactus Flower

Red Cactus Flower Closeup

Then there were these purple flowers growing wild in great numbers having soft bristle like qualities.

Wild Purple Flowers

The flowers in the photo below were near the bed of the Tikkar Taal lake and are very small in size and growing just couple of centimeters from the earth.

Blue Flowers
You can read my earlier post on Morni Hills region by clicking these links - Birds at MorniMorni Hills & Morni FortTikkar Taal Lake, & Is Archaeological Survey of India Sleeping?

Saturday 24 March 2012

Is Archaeological Survey of India Sleeping?

During my visit to the Morni Hills area I had gone to Tikkar Taal and was wandering around when I saw this temple claiming to be an ancient Pandav Shiv temple. Some people claimed that the Pandav's stayed here for some time. I was surprised to see very old hand chiseled statues, figurines and tablets just lying around or casually placed in utter neglect.

The temple exteriors looked relatively new so when I asked a local he said that the temple was built only 25 years back when the statues were discovered lying buried underneath. Since the statues do look old I am surprised that how come the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has not shown any interest in preserving these statues and tablets.

Some of the figurines were those of the Hindu Trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

Figurines lying outside the temple

I could make out Shiv and Parvati in various amorous poses as well as smaller figurines of Ganesh.

Shiv-Parvati figurines at the Pandav Temple at Tikkar Taal

Some of the tablets have been also put on the pillars while others are just lying around as can be seen the in the photos above and below this text.

Pandav Shiv Temple at Tikkar Taal

Please wake up Archaeological Survey of India and do something about this.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Birds at Morni

The Morni Hills area is a bird watchers paradise. There were so many birds that I saw for the first time in my life (I am no Ornithologist). Some of the bids I recognized while most of the others I could not. I even sought help for identifying some of the birds in case I was able to capture them in my shots which was not very often.

The birds photos below were taken in the Morni and Tikkar Taal areas. See my earlier posts of Tikkar Taal and Morni Hills & Morni Fort.

Some of the birds I was able to see just by chance for example the Coal Tit bird and the Indian Robin came quite close to where I was sitting in the hope of getting some food.

Coal Tit Bird

Indian Robin Female

The Red Vented Bulbuls were quite content with eating these round fruits of the trees.

Red Vented Bulbul eating a tree fruit

Red Vented Bulbul

I was able to spot two cormorants at the Chota Tikkar Taal. I have watched these birds for the first time and did not know the names initially. I queried at Indiamike to know which bird is this. The Cormorant is a beautiful bird which dives in water for food and can stay underwater for pretty long.

Cormorant at Tikkar Taal

The White Capped Red Waterstart I found was not at all shy and was sitting on a paddle boat on the Tikkar Taal for quite some time.

White Capped Red Waterstart

The beautiful kingfishers I was able to see and click near the Tikkar Taal lake.

White Throated Kingfisher

The Wild Life Wing of the Forest Department of Haryana also has a Pheasant breeding centre at Morni. Some of the Pheasants look like the ordinary cocks but others are very colourful and beautiful.

Kaleej Pheasant

I was also able to locate Barn Owl near dusk at Morni Hills. As the name Morni suggest yes I was able to see few peafowls as well. In the evening near the lake several Egrets,  Indian Pond Herons and Red Wattled Lapwing were also visible.

The area is also home to the Crested Kingfisher, Wallcreeper, Bar-tailed Treecreeper, Oriental Turtle Dove, Quails, Grey Francolin, Black Francolin, Himalayan Bulbul and Red Jungle fowl among several others.
In winters several migratory birds visit the area from as far as Siberia.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Morni Hills & Morni Fort

Beginning of March this year I went to the only hill station of Haryana - Morni Hills. It is about 50 kns from Chandigarh bordering the state of Himachal Pradesh. The place has its own charm. Very few tourists venture towards it as everyone somehow wants to head towards the queen of the hills Shimla. Only people from Chandigarh and near by areas come this side and that also mainly as a day trip.

Sunset at Morni Hills

I experienced beautiful sunsets at both Morni and Tikkar Taal (see my earlier post of Tikkar Taal).  The sun at Morni sets high up in the sky itself. You think it would go down the horizon but it vanishes high in the sky itself.

Morni or Mir Jafar Ali Fort

Besides the serene atmosphere Morni also has the Morni Fort (or the Mir Jafar Ali Fort). The Governor General of India by a 'Sanad' had bestowed the ownership of the Morni Hills and the fort to Mir Jafar Ali on 26 October 1816 in consideration of his old rights and the assistance rendered to the British troops during Gorkha campaign. The forest department acquired it in 1977 from the descendants of Mir Jafar Ali.

Morni Fort from a distance

Normally the fort is not visible from the road and only when one approaches closer is it visible. To get a better perspective I climbed a nearby hill. The view in the picture above has been taken from another hill. 

Inside view of the Morni Fort

The fort has very few visitors so one can spend quiet moments exploring the fort. How come this beautiful old structure is barely known in the tourist circuit? I feel it is not well advertised by any of the Haryana government departments.

Morni Fort

Some restoration work of the fort has been undertaken but they have been able to merge the old and the new well.

Pine Forest at Morni

The Morni hills have good weather from October to March. Some parts are well forested though in other areas agriculture is taking over the forest land. If one is seeking adventure then there are plenty of trekking options available. I for one choose my own routes at random.

A small pond with reflection of trees at Morni

I stayed at the Mountain Quail Hotel run by the Haryana Tourism. It has 16 rooms with room rates of Rs 1200, 1600 and 2000. Though the Haryana Tourism has a website to do online booking but it does not work all the time. At least I was unable to book a room online.

Hotel Mountain Quail, Morni Hills

If the Haryana Tourism wants to attract more tourists, it needs to maintain its website in a better way. Most of the time rooms are available (first couple of days only my room was occupied!). It is only on weekends and holidays that there is some rush.

Saturday 10 March 2012

Tikkar Taal Lake

I am normally interested in going to smaller and off the usual tourist destinations. Therefore, this time I decided to visit the Morni Hills and its adjoining areas. Morni Hills is the only hill station of Haryana and is located in Panchkula district. Morni Hills is also the Tehsil headquarters. Tikkar Taal (Taal means lake) is about 45 kms from Panchkula and about 300 kms from Delhi and can be reached in five hours from Delhi.The road condition from Panchkula to Tikkar Taal is good.

Sunset at Tikkar Taal

In fact at Tikkar Taal there are two lakes - the bigger is known as Tikkar Taal and the smaller is called Chota Tikkar or the Sherla Taal.

The Twin Lakes: Bada Tikkar and Chota Tikkar

The water of the smaller lake is muddy. Both the lakes are surrounded by hills on all sides and therefore have a good natural catchment area for the collection of rain water.

Chota Tikkar

Closer to the smaller lake is located the Adventure Park maintained and run by the Haryana Tourism. It has taken the concept from outside but is not of the same standard. e.g. the Tree House is build on an artificial tree. But the only good thing it that the Tree House gave me a vantage position to see the smaller lake from above.

Tree House

One can visit the Adventure Park (entry ticket is Rs 50 per person) though I was not at all impressed by the same. It has ghost house, monkey maze, tree houses, swinging bridge (seems it is broken for quite some time with no one bothering to repair it). The Adventure Park that I visited in British Columbia, Canada for example was far more advanced and interesting.

Entrance to the Adventure Park

I was also able to see some water birds for the first time which I have not seen before.

Chota Tikkar from the tree house

The bigger lake has very clear water and it is mainly on this lake that boating, camping and other adventure activities are carried out. One can take a paddle boat for two persons for Rs 100 for 15 minutes.

Tikkar Taal

The Tikkar Taal is about 550 meters by 460 meters whereas the smaller one is about 365 meters (both ways). There is also a theory that both the lakes are interconnected by an underwater channel but I have my doubts on this theory as water of Tikkar Taal is clear whereas the water of Chota Tikkar is muddy.

Tikkar Taal from another angle

Haryana Tourism maintains a hotel at Tikkar Taal which has four AC rooms (Rs 1500) and two 16 bedded dormitories (Rs 200). The location could not be better as it is right on the lakeside.

Accommodation of Haryana Tourism

The place has limited eating options - either the Haryana Tourism maintained restaurant or the Happy Restaurant (closer to the Chota Tikkar)

On week days there are few persons who visit the place so one can have the place to oneself but I believe weekends could sometimes become maddening specifically if it is some holiday like Holi. Hordes of people, mainly the young crowd, come to the place from Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali. Mostly they stay there for less than an hour. More than the lake, it is probably the drive to it that they enjoy.

Best time to visit the Tikkar Taal area is October to March as the weather is pleasant. One can stay either the Haryana Tourism hotel or the smaller hotels. Smaller hotels do not have a online  booking system. Of course I was not able to book a room online even on the Haryana Tourism website. They seriously need to upgrade their website and match the ones maintained for example by the Himachal Tourism.

Sunday 4 March 2012

Aquatic Life - Renuka Lake

Renuka is located in Sirmour district of Himachal and can boast of having the biggest lake in the state. It has a circumference of three kilometers and though part of the lake has ceded to the weeds the lake at least is not polluted and people do not throw garbage in it.

The lake by the same name has a religious significance and therefore the devotees come and feed the fish and the tortoises in the lake. Another adjacent but smaller lake is called the Parshuram lake and it also has lots of fish and turtles.

Some of the turtles are at least two foot long.

Turtle in Renuka Lake

They have to compete with thousands of fishes for the food that the pilgrims drop in the lake and obviously the fish are much faster than the turtles!

Another Turtle

I also saw several catfish which are fish with prominent barbels. These were mainly in the Parshuram Lake.

Lots of migratory birds also visit the area due to the presence of the water body.

Fish in Renuka
There are so many fish in parts of the lake that the moment one throws something in the water to eat there is a churning of water as several fish together make a ferocious moment to grab hold of the food.

A Fish Too Many!
Since fishing is not allowed the numbers have grown and I think that the local administration should take steps to control its numbers.