Feb 12, 2009

Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

One of the most tiring & often frustrating aspect of being an amateur bird photographer is inability to get true colours of the birds. The cameras might be good but the zooms leave much to the desire. And closer one tries to get to the birds, faster they fly away. It is challenging but, as I started with, also very frustrating. Even in the best of the sanctuaries, one needs to tread so carefully to reach into that distance which, to a bird, should be acceptable as non-threatening.

Hence a full resolution picture like this would be a dream-come-true:

or getting so close to a "magar" that you can advise it about maintaining dental hygiene (if only you are ready to forget the age old proverb "pani men rahkar magar se bair nahi lete"):

No, these are not the pictures taken at Zoo nor is this report about my having acquired a new zoom lens.

This is about Ranganthittu, a bird sanctuary unique by itself and Kokkare Bellur – a village about 100 Kms from Bangalore that has adapted itself to a lifestyle to suit annual visits of Pelicans & Storks.

Kaveri river, originating from Kodagu (Coorg), after leaving western ghats forms its first island at Srirangapattnam. Ranganthittu is a series of small islands located just before Srirangapattnam. Here, rather then conquering these islands, Kaveri has created a place that migratory birds find idle for nesting & breeding. Dr Salim Ali, with his foresightedness, was the first one to recognize the potential of this place and it was his efforts that led to conversion of this area in to a sanctuary.

My first visit to Ranganthittu was in October 2006. Those were the initial days of my passion for bird-photography. I was comparatively raw to the hobby and I used a Videocam for still photography. As a result, though we had a great time sighting White Ibis, Black Ibis, Darter, Stone Plover, Cormorant, Night Heron, and Brahminy Kite among other birds, my album had nothing great to show.

Since then, except the darter, I have had chance to see most of these birds in & around Mumbai itself, but in my mind I still could visualize the ones which I had seen 2 years back from such close quarters. Providence provided another opportunity to visit Bangalore and having completed my work decided to stay an extra day to visit Ranganthittu with my cousin brother – a friend, philosopher & guide always but more so through the growing up years of my life. The habits die hard - so off we were for bird-watching (albeit of a different kind) !!

We reached the sanctuary early morning, an ideal time when the the songs of birds can be heard easily - not because they are more vocal but because there are very few human beings around. Kaveri, in the morning light was resembling more like a placid lake, green in appearance, flowing discreetly as if not wanting to disturb the migrants it attracts.

In contrast to the serene river, the islets resembled huge colonies under reconstruction as Painted Storks, Open bill Storks, Spoonbills & Spot-billed Pelicans had staked their claims to various plots. Not at all concerned about the slump in property prices, these creatures were continuously chattering & calling out to their mates while finding suitable construction material to ferry to the site, and yet finding time enough to engage in courtship. The lower parts of these Islets were being occupied by Night Herons largely with few white breasted waterhens, large, little & median egrets also jostling for the space.

Countless number of cormorants had carved out a niche for their own and were spending less time in swimming & more in nesting. A few darters, perched among the tree branches, justified the reason for their also being called a snake bird.

A few Great Stone Plovers (Great Thick-knee) completed the picture, ever alert to the boats nearing them while unseen White throated Kingfisher filled in the back-ground score. Other birds seen included streak throated swallow near the entrance to the sanctuary, a few parakeets & grey hornbills in flight, Brahminy kites, sunbirds, tailorbirds, White browed wagtail & a pair of unidentified warblers.

The mammals, till homosapiens crowded the sanctuary, were represented by huge colonies of flying foxes. And yes, a few sun-bathing resident muggers, eyes closed & smiling at the memory of the last meal they had devoured, were occupying the smaller rocky outcroppings - oblivious to the floating population gawking at them.

Having feasted our eyes & having exhausted the shutterbug, we moved to Kokkur Bellur via a brief halt at 'Daria Daulat Bagh" - the summer palace of Tipu Sultan. A plain looking monument from far, due to sun-screen all around, hides the history that has been recreated through paintings on the walls of the monument. Situated amidst verdant green lawn hedged with tall trees all around is a single storeyed structure made up largely of wood.

The wall on one side of the hall depicts defeat of Colonel Bailey at Kancheevaram in a mocking style (the defeated colonel with knuckles pressed to the teeth depicting his fear & shock), the wall on the other side has been used as personal album of Tipu Sultan, depicting pictures of various kings of those times. It would be interesting to not only identify those faces but also to find out the reason for depicting them on the wall of a palace which was apparently used by Tipu to recover from the fatigues of the hard fought war. The colours of the courts have faded a bit but are still evidence to the rich heritage existing here.

From Daria Daulat Bagh, we moved to Kokkare Bellur (KB). The road to KB is a turn off (on the left after passing Cafe Coffee Day outlet at Channapatna) from the newly laid six-lane Bangalore Mysore highway. As you move on, the road becomes much narrower & difficult to drive on, with furtehr obstacles created by villagers using the vehicles movement to thrash Ragi from its husk. Talk of effcient cost reduction & energy saving measure. The paddy fields around were proving to be a good food provider for egrets, black ibis, barn swallows, Indian Robin, Pied Starlings, wagtails, Tits & Brahminy Kites. The lake formed by a dam had numbers of terns flying around while common coots were busy finding food.

Soon we reached Kokkare Bellur which, deceptive in looks though, is not an ordinary village. A village with an area of about half a sqaure kilometer has been considered (for over last 500 years) as safe heaven for nesting by spot Billed Pelicans - a specie which has been in decline over the years and is being treated as vulnerable, and Storks. Incidentally, the word Kokkare means storks in Kannada. The village was reverberating with the sound of flapping wings of Painted Storks who were all around busy with courtship rituals & nest building & no senas were around to stop them from exhibiting their love for each other.

Spot Billed Pelicans, lesser in numbers though, kept taking a flight every once in a while as an overhead patrol to safeguard their nests from the Brahminy kites hovering in the sky.

Interestingly, this place is managed, not by any government agency, but by the villagers themselves who have adapted their lifestyle to create a perfect symbiosis. In order to provide a safe environment to the birds, a villager is ready to forego income from his trees, if the same has been selected by a bird for its nesting. In return, the bird's excrement, rich in potassium, due to fish based diet of the birds, proves to be a natural fertiliser. No wonder, this readiness to adapt the lifestyle to protect enviornment, has led to an increase in the numbers of nestings over the years.

Quite possibly, therein lies a lesson, for all the agencies - governmental as well as NGOs & do-gooders, engaged in protecting environment. Ensure that local people understand the issues as well as benefits resulting out of protection of environment and you can achieve better results.

Meanwhile, for us, the day ended with one of the most beautiful sunset.

For more pictures of this trip & of the flwoer show at Bangalore's Lal Bagh, please click on the following link:

Feb 8, 2009

Rajasthan - Roads Lesser Traveled (3rd & concluding Part)

Hello & welcome back to final part of the travelogue to Rajasthan! This part covers our quick trips to Charbhuja Ji, Nathdwara, Haldi Ghati & Udaipur. But before that, thanx once again to all who continued encouraging me with suggestions & positive responses!
Charbhuja Temple

This temple is situated at about 40 km from Kumbhalgarh amidst the hills of Aravali. I had visited this place about 30 years back. Being our family deity and having come this close, we felt it is time to renew the blessings.

Again a very small town with lanes just wide enough to allow one vehicle with people walking on both the sides, chiefly populated around the temple itself. The temple, dedicated to the warrior swarup of Krishna, is said to have been one of the two temples constructed by Pandavas, the other one being Kedarnath. One of the local priest also informed us that only those devotees are allowed to be open the doors of Kedarnath (at the time of re-opening after winter) who have paid their tributes to Charbhuja ji. I wonder though how the records are being maintained for this purpose.


Nathdwara, though not an architectural marvel, is one of the perfect examples of our temples. Unpretentious in looks from outside, but houses one of the most beautiful idol of Shri Krishna. No wonder people keep revisiting this place again & again just to have a brief glimpse of Krishna.

Alas, one brief glimpse is all one gets at a time. And the reason is the way the temple is managed. In order to change the jhanki of the idol as the day progresses, the darshans are open only for 45 minutes every 2-3 hours. As a result, there is a continuous build up of eager devotees outside the temple gates who rush in the moment doors are open. In fact during this trip, we could not enter the temple on our first visit because in view of large crowd of devotees, the temple authorities had cancelled the 9 Am jhanki – thus making the next one more crowded!

It seems, more than an effort to be the link between the Krishna & his devotees, the temple showcases the importance of persons in control and the VIP guests, who get preference once doors are opened. Having visited this temple twice, years back, as part of the VIP entourage, this time round I realised the pains & frustrations of visiting such places as commoners. Also illogical seemed to be the decision of not allowing mobiles & cameras inside. God seemed to have been imprisoned by a few human beings – so ironical for Krishna who born in a prison, was on earth to liberate oppressed ones. The attitude provided a stark contradiction to Ranakpur temples trust, which is more friendly towards the devotees & the tourists and has tried to balance both.


A quick tour to Udaipur was part of our plans and with the times lost in travelling to Nathdwara on a day when we could not have a darshan, we actually had a very brief glimpse of Udaipur. Having stopped in Haldi Ghati for about an hour, we really had a paucity of time. Udaipur is a city having rich mix of history & natural beauty and hence it needs to be explored with about 3-4 days in hand and here we were, trying to compress it in few hours.

While Kumbhalgarh is the place to experience how people lived as warriors, Udaipur is the city to experience the lives of rich & famous during peaceful times. Nothing better showcases this than the City Palace – the palace of the Mewar dynasty, which has been converted into a museum. As one walks through the labyrinths of the castle, one can see the rich heritage of Mewar dynasty, boasting of names like Rana Kumbha, Rana Sanga, Rana Udai (founder of the city), Rana Pratap and Meera Bai. A number of functional rooms of those times have been maintained in the same manner as if the time has just stopped there and only the visitors have kept moving on over the centuries. Interestingly, while the clothes of these kings make one visualise their hude physique, most of the walk-ways in the Palace are barely large enough to allow only one person at a time.

Rajasthan had a tradition of painting its capital cities in a uniform colour – Pink for Jaipur, Blue for Jodhpur & so it is White for Udaipur. But curiously, the countless coloured panes of the windows peeping into the city provided a different view to the rulers. The traditions have continued even with the change of times.

City Palace is situated at the bank of Pichola Lake. Far on the right side of the lake, on a cliff of a small hillock one can see Sajangarh, another palace of the dynasty, viewing indulgently the neatly laid out Udai Vilas Palace (now a top of the line hotel), Lake Palace (a hotel in one of the islands in lake, well known for being a location for James Bond’s Octopussy), and Jag Mandir (a garden on an island from the dynasty times now converted into a restaurant). Though dried up in part, a small bridge connecting 2 parts of the lake near City palace, give a feel of the lake resembling Venice in earlier days.
The museum, showcasing the entire history is a pleasure to walk through. The sole irritants were the nose-up-in-the-air guides from various hotels accompanying foreigners, and thus assuming an inherent title to being superior then the large crowd of Indians tourists around. A number of them were pushing & shoving aside even the kids in order to lay down the red-carpet treatment to their clients.

From the city Palace we could see the Pichola Lake, filled with a variety of ducks and decided to take a boat ride into the lake. Apart from observing the city Palace from the waterfront and Lake Palace & Jag Mandir from close quarters, we could also see numerous Common Coots, Common Pochard, Spotbill Ducks and 2-3 varieties of cormorants, one providing us a proper look at its turquoise blue eyes.

We once again returned to Udaipur on the last day to catch our flight back to Mumbai. The journey, through the forests for part of the route, crossing dried up Banas river and part of which is through new highway being laid out to connect Mount Abu with Udaipur, also provided us a chance to visit a temple which is supposed to be original Nathdwara temple & from where the idol was shifted to the present location. We were informed by our taxi driver that even now, once or twice in a year, the idol is shifted to this place on the expressive request of the god which he communicates to the chief priest.

The place was serene due to absence of any devotee and resultant commercial culture with the priest busy in updating himself with the latest news. In contrast with the heavily commercialised approach road to Nathdwara Temple gate, there existed only one artisan whose work, though limited in display, spoke volumes of his capabilities. Though selling the products much superiors in quality, the prices were reasonable and the bargaining was dealt with smiling countenance. We in fact wondered, despite globalization and networked India, how many such small artisans’ talent is unexposed & hence not properly rewarded.

The journey though did not end without a surprise in store in form of a new nice & swanky

airport at Udaipur. But on ground infrastructure availability was not adequate as the journey ended with the customary delay of flight and availability of information being too little & too late.
However, for me, it was time to look back at the last 6 days filled with mostly great memories and look forward to here & beyond for another holiday. And for those who want to have a look at more pictures clicked during this part of the trip, can visit following link

Feb 2, 2009

Rajasthan - Roads Lesser traveled (Part 2)

Ranakpur to Kumbhalgarh

The journey to Kumbhalgarh takes one through the forests of Aravali hills, in stark comparison with Shivaliks which we travelled to in summer. Shivaliks are seductive in nature, with lots of curves, cliffs & deadly turns, shrouded among the tall fir trees. Unlike Shivaliks, Aravali hills are more comforting in nature with terra firma always in sight & within reach, no presence of scary cliffs & deadly turns on the road. The lush green fields including those of Sugarcanes & Mustard mixed with barren fields in-between, was a paradox in itself, and so were the appreance from nowhere of large havelis surrounded by a number of small rural 'kaccha' houses.

Barring a brief halt to change the punctured tyre of our taxi (that gave us a chance to sight an eurasian sparrow-hawk and a couple of grey hornbills) & to have delicious hot mirchi-wada & samosas at Saira, we reached Club Mahindra resort at Kumbhalgarh well in time.

Club Mahindra Kumbhalgarh

Club Mahindra has taken over an existing hotel & converted it into a resort. The style is very much Rajasthani. Exterior in typical Gerua (Reddish Brown) colour and interiors finishing in deep hues of Yellows, Blues & Greens, provide an ambiance that is elegant & regal in style. A mid-size swimming pool providing turquoise blue tinge to the view (though lying empty due to cold weather), couple of big lawns, lots of trees & shrubs within the resort and an ever-crowded activity centre complete the entire picture.

A couple of negative factors though are – one, high priced food (still sold out due to the fact that the nearest alternate available is about 4 kms away in the small town of Kelwara with no vehicles available). The restaurant staff’s excellent service and ever smiley countenance to some extent at least makes up for the high prices of food. The second negative – the exhorbitant rates of Taxi service available from the hotel. Though there is an alternate available right outside the gate by a couple of taxi operators who have pitched a tent across the road, but soon we realised that the service provider to the resort & those guys have cartelized the entire operation. As a result, even though one can hire cheaper taxis from Kelwara, the cartel does not allow it to happen. I hope Club Mahindra management does something to break this cartel soon as it was the only sore point of our entire journey.

Kumbhalgarh Fort

Kumbhalgarh fort was established by Rana Kumbha in 15th Century. Earlier, the place was a bastion belonging to Jain descendents of Mauryan empire in 2nd Century. Under the rule of the king Rana Kumbha, the kingdom of Mewar stretched right from Ranthambore to Gwalior. The kingdom also included vast tracts of Madhya Pradesh as well as Rajasthan. About 84 fortresses were used for defending Mewar from its enemies and of these 32 were established by Rana Kumbha. Kumbhalgarh was one of the best, with massive structure leading to its invincibility. It is not a marvel of architectural beauty but important for functional reason. Set amidst the rugged terrains of Aravali mountains with wild forest all around (difficult to surmount even now without the help of any technology or road), further protected by a wall that runs for about 36 Kms and has a rampart of about 25 ft width (thus becoming the second largest wall of the world after Great wall of China), austere in style, shunning any opulence, with narrow staircase to deter easy access by the enemies - all pointing to the use of this fort as warriors's hideout. No wonder, the fort was conquered only once in history, and that too by the combined forces of Delhi, Jaipur & Marwar.

The top of the fort provides a bird’s eye view of the Mewar region. In fact, the entire lay-out of the complex, from above reminded me of similar lay-outs of the ruins of Greece. The fort complex, with ever-present huge gates ('pols' in local dialects) and massive walls also houses a number of temples dedicated to hindu & jain deities including Shiva & Ganesh. A priest is still employed by the present Maharana to care for the shrines of his ancestors. Twice a day the Priest's family makes the stiff uphill climb to the castle to light the sacred lamps before vermilion-daubed images of Hanuman, Chamunda, and Ekling. A beacon tower at the top was used for lighting up flames that would summon Mewar's chieftains to warFort's another claim to history is an octagonal room where Maharana Pratap was born who went on to fight with Mughals for seeking his self-respect & independence. Another interesting paradox is a room where at a later age his grandson Prince Karan entertained the future Mughal Emperor Shahjahan.

Tourists were much lesser in number as compared to what we saw a couple of days later at Nathdwara & Udaipur. But for those present, the end of the day brought two exclusives - first by nature, one of the most beautiful sunsets;

and second, a man made one- when the entire fort complex was lit up. These lights, which remain on for about 30 mins, everyday, literally transforms the entire fort into an oasis of Gold in the middle of the mountains.

Walk in the wilderness

The resort is situated close to Kumbhalgarh Wildlife sanctuary, which boasts of a number of wild animals including Hyena and wolves. The rides to sanctuary are available through the Taxi operators but I soon realised their lack of adequate knowledge about the sightings of animals as well as the birds. Hence rather than visiting the sanctuary, we decided to take frequent walks in the wilderness around the resort itself, including a lake at a distance of within a kilometer.

Initially we decided to explore the resort for birds and soon my efforts struck pay dirt. A White bellied Drongo, A Brown capped Pygmy woodpecker & an Oriental white-eye provided a warm welcome amidst the sound of ever-flitting numerous tailor-birds. A pair of Rufous treepies were being chased away by the Jungle Babblers (such crowish behaviour!) and an alexandrine parakeet kept surveying the entire scene perched amidst the branches in a Buddha like trance.

The water level in the lake was low due to scant rains this year. The bird activity also seemed to be subdued. While white breasted Kingfisher (back in its avatar of being a fisher) kept flashing its blue in flight, the lake also had a pair of common teal, spot-bill ducks and some cormorants. White wagtail, yellow wagtail, chat alongwith a sandpiper were the other birds at the water level.

The scene was different though on and along the the roadside. Black Redstart, Eureasian Wryneck, Small Minivets, Crested Bunting, Indian Robin, Tawny bellied Babbler, Great Tit, Black Lored Tit, Indian Silverbills, Jungle Quails, Chestnut Shouldered Petronia, White cheek Barbet & Copper Smith Barbet, Purple Rumped & Purple Sunbirds, Spotted & Laughing Doves, Asian Koel, Greater Coucal, Black headed Cuckooshrike were some of those which I could click. The link for these pictures is given below:

Despite not visiting the sanctuary, we were still not short of sighting of mammals. While travelling to & from Udaipur we encountered a Hyena and a fox. The encounter with Hyena was after the dark and though we tried to click its pictures, it ran away, scared of the vehicle. The fox, was seen in the morning and curiously it posed for a picture before deciding to get away. Another tourist informed us of his encountering a leopard & its cub just a day before on the same route of Kumbhalgarh – Udaipur. Also, while we were on our walk in the wild, during mid-morning we heard a deep rumbling sound of an animal which kept repeating for some time. The way the sound appreaed to us, fortunately for us, unfortunately for the mammal, we did not encounter this one.

One of the interesting things we noticed were the eagerness of the villagers to be photographed. Soon we realised that the eagerness was for earning a quick buck which most of the foreigner or NRI tourists are ready to disburse. In fact, one old man, who was keen on inviting us at his home and posed readily for a picture, stopped being hospitable and gave us a tongue lashing the moment he realised that his efforts were not going to be fruitful.

After so much of writing ( & patient reading on your part!) I am sure 'ab to break banta hai'.

So again, for all the visitors to this page, await the final chapter about Udaipur for this particular travelogue. Meanwhile, given below are the links to the pictures for:

Ranakpur & Kumbhalgarh - http://www.flickr.com/gp/7271923@N06/7w028a

Birds in Aravali Region - http://www.flickr.com/gp/7271923@N06/4V7k1M

Rajasthan - Roads lesser traveled (Part 1)

The name evokes memories of forts, palaces, temples & desserts. Having spent most part of the school vacations in Kota (being the place I was born), I always have had a fascination with the history of the state. One of my favourite books in growing up years was a brief history of various riyasats of Rajasthan. Unfortunately, over the years, the book was lost somehwere. but the fascination was not.
The land of warriors, well-known tales of bravery of kings like Rana Sanga & Rana Pratap and of treacheries of those who sided with enemies to bring down their own kith & kins, Mira Bai’s devotion to Krishna, Rani Padmini’s beauty & immolation - everything to me has added to the Romance that is Rajasthan. For the modern generation, Rajasthan probably is the only link to a crucial part of history of the country itself.

The beauty of Amber Fort & Hawa Mahal of Jaipur, Sonar Killa and romance of Desert at Jaisalmer, Jodhpur’s palaces & enigma of Zubeida, Udaipur’s natural beauty and its palaces (converted to well known top-of-the line hotels) and Chittor’s fortress, Bharatpur & Ranthambhor’s wilderness have all contributed to the mystic of Rajasthan.

So when we decided to travel to Rajasthan for a short trip, Kumbhalgarh was not even on the list of our preferred destinations. After all so little is known about Kumbhalgarh. A state that is full of glamorous and well traveled tourist hot-spots, the name of Kumbhalgarh hardly evoked any reactions.

To be fair, had it not been a Club Mahindra location, we might not have had thought of travelling to this place too. Even friends in Rajasthan were unaware about the place. To everyone it looked like one of the relics of a forgotten history. By the end of our trip we had realised that it was not a relics rather the place where history was actually made.

But before the detinations comes the journey. After all while it is essential to keep a destination in mind, one needs to enjoy the journey. In losing the journey, we lose beauty. We lose experience. We lose the essence of life.

Journey to Kumbhalgarh

One can travel to Kumbhalgarh through railway via either Falna or Udaipur (equidistant from Kumbhalgarh at about 80 Kms distance by road). Unlike the railway journey we have had to North in summer at the height of Gujjar agitation, this time round it was the planning & ticketing that was hectic & chaotic. However, once the train started from Bandra Terminus, the journey was uneventful and peaceful. The only excitement during the journey was provided by the small rats in the train who, while plundering through the passengers luggage, also found time enough to have fights in the gangways.

We reached Falna, early morning. The weather outside was cold, crisp & delightful, perfect one for a good masala tea. The road to Kumbhalgarh from Falna goes via Ranakpur & Saira and through the forests of Aravali range. The road is well maintained and cool weather around made the drive very enjoyable. As the sun rays started making the horizon gold and life in the village started stirring, we left a hoarding stating "Moonlight" behind. Soon, the rays of sun peeping in through the hills & the bushes, providing the surreal effect to the drive. Within some time, we reached our first halt – Ranakpur temples.

Ranakpur Temples

I had first visited the place when I was in 9th and then again while I was in college. At that time I had found Ranakpur quintessentially what can be termed as a “one horse town”. I remember having walked in the forest in the middle of the night with the RTDC hotel manager because my father wanted to interview an old sadhu who was one of the oldest resident of the area.

Now, after 20-25 years too, there does not seem to be any increase in the population. Apart from the RTDC hotel, it is only the temple premise which has any semblance of being populated. The years have also aged the façade of temple a bit but the grandeur of these temples has remained intact.

Ranakpur Jain temples were constructed about 600 years ago during the regin of Rana Kumbha. These temples are perfect examples of the creative splandour of those times. Having been constructed with light coloured marble (a more porous and brittle stone and hence difficult to carve), the temples lie amidst the forests with hills around providing further protection. Perhaps that has been the reason that while other temples faced rampaging during the reign of fanatic Mughal king Aurangzeb, inaccessibility to these temples kept them safe.

Designed with face to all four directions, temple’s numerous shikhars are supported by about 1444 marble pillars, each exquisitely carved. Unlike temples of Nathdwara & other Hindu temples, the Ranakpur temple trust is more accommodating in nature towards tourists. One can view it through out the day except restriction on photography inside the temple premise during morning hours. Having reached there early morning, we realised that photography in the temple is permitted only during mid-day and hence had to be satisfied with whatever pictures we could click of the façade.

Sun having risen, the shikhars of temple were being used as perching ground by a number of birds, including Rufous treepie, white-breasted kingfisher (having seen it most of the times now-a-days near the fields, shouldn’t it be renamed as Kingfarmer?), a fowl which soon disappeared in the foliage, plum headed and alexandrine parakeets, a number of rock pigeons & spotted doves, peacocks & peahens, Black-headed Ibis and Pond herons. Langurs (Black faced monkeys) balancing themselves on various branches & using early morning sunrays to warm themselves were though a subdued. However, they were compensated more than by the ever-chattering jungle babblers. The good news is that the crows were largely absent but the bad news is that the jungle babblers have usurped the place of crows in most of these towns & villages. Sounding equally shrill most of the times, these flocks of jungle babblers were everywhere like scavengers and scaring away other birds.

Here I end first part of my travelogue, partly in roder to givea brief respite to myself but more to provide much needed break to those who have got tired of reading it but are just being nice. The second part shall be dealing with the time spent at Kumbhalgarh & around. Meanwhile, for those who would like to check out the pictures clicked in Ranakpur & Kumbhalgarh can click on the following link.

Those wondering about absence of birds, well, I have not turned a new leaf. The birds were there and so was my camera. The report shall be in part 2 and so would be the link to their pix.