The Bihar government plans to promote adventure sports – rafting and mountaineering — at the Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR) forest area. Its eco-tourism and some other projects are still in the pipeline.
“We have plans of introducing boating, rafting and mountaineering to draw adventure sports enthusiasts to the VTR,” said divisional forest officer (DFO), Range 1, Kanwaljeet Singh, adding, “We will also have a guide training programme to instruct 20 local boys, in the first phase, on how to interact with the tourists and brief them about it.”
Singh said plans to put up a stall of VTR at the Sonepur fair were also underway. “Entry gates would be put up at Madanpur, Goberdhana and Manguraha. Tourists will be charged a reasonable amount for sightseeing,” he said. The government also plans to develop more rest houses with the increase in the number of tourists.
Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi said, “About 90 motion sensor cameras would be placed at the VTR by this December to determine the exact number of Royal Bengal Tigers or other species in the area.” The government is working on a proposal to arrange paying-guest accommodation for tourists wishing to stay in villages to know more about Bihar culture, he said.
“We would also talk to the Nepal government about improving the condition of ‘Valmiki Ashram’ at Chitwan National Park, Nepal,” Modi said, adding that cheap LPG connections would be provided to the local households to reduce the cutting of trees for firewood as it would also benefit women who suffer due to smoke. “Timber would be provided at reasonable rates to locals for constructing their houses to minimize deforestation,” Modi said.
Regarding the shortage of armed guards and field staff at the VTR, Dipak Kumar Singh, secretary, environment and forest department, said the problem would be solved soon. “Under the Tiger Management Plan, grasslands, that are a natural habitat of wild animals, would be developed at the VTR. Anti-poaching camps would be organized, sensitive points would be marked for intensive patrolling and security arrangements would be tightened to prevent and put off forest fires,” he said.
The state government would also promote the folk and traditional art forms of the area to attract tourists. Under the Tharu Development Authority, efforts were being made to develop the skills of the Tharu youth and commercially market their works, said PHED minister Chandra Mohan Rai.
The government also plans to encourage local youths to invest in vehicles and hire them out to tourists for jungle safari and make it a source of income.
Ashram, a tourists’ hotspot
Among the number of places of tourists interest in the area is Valmiki Ashram. Travelling through the VTR, one reaches the ashram at the Chitwan National Park (CNP), Nepal. It has a small temple and is the hermitage of Valmiki, the sage who wrote the epic Ramayan.
The ashram is believed to be more than 17 lakh years old, said its head priest Shekhar Suvedi. He said the hermitage is of the Ramayana era and is thronged by believers in the month of ‘Magh’. “All through the year, people who come to the park also visit the ashram. However, in January-February, many believers especially come to visit the temple,” he said.
Valmiki Ashram is the place where Sita, wife of Lord Ram, is believed to have taken shelter after she was renounced by Ram. It is here that she gave birth to Luv and Kush who, later, stopped the horse of the famous ‘Ashwamedh’ yajna. The relics of these events and their tokens, such as ‘Gauri-Shankar conch’, ‘Amrit Kuan’ and Sita’s ‘spice-grinding spot’ are still present at the ashram making it a centre of attraction for tourists from across the world.
“The ‘Vishnu chakra’ at the ashram is photographed by many tourists who keep it in their lockets or rings as it is believed to shield one against accidents. The ashram also has a ‘yajna kund’ where Rishi Valmiki performed havan with 88,000 other rishis for world peace,” Suvedi said, adding, the local people developed the ashram and a few families living nearby took care of it.
Apart from the ashram, the VTR has another spot of religious interest – the ‘Nardevi’ temple. Lakhmani Puri, the temple priest, said, “The temple is believed to have brought happiness to many lives. People come here to pray for their wishes and the Goddess bless them with all they want.” He said the temple attracts a huge crowd on Mondays.
Not far from these two places is the ‘Jatashankar’ temple of Lord Shiva. It’s priest, Rifali Puri, who has been here for about 11 years, said, “The temple is ancient and believed to belong to the times of ‘Alha-Udal’, famous Rajput warriors. It is believed that all your wishes are granted here.”
The ‘Madanpur Devi’ temple is also a few kilometers from the VTR.
Apart from the religious places of interest, nature lovers can also experience some beautiful sightseeing locations. The Gandak barrage is one of the major attractions of Valmiki Nagar. The barrage is jointly owned by India and Nepal and has 36 gates, of which both countries have 18 each. ‘Triveni’ in Nepal and Ganauli and Harnatan forest range offer diverse wildlife shelters.
Ashokan Pillar at Lauriya, Bhikhna Thori, Done area, Udaipur wildlife sanctuary, Goberdhana and the Someshwar hills also provide options to tourists who want to relax in the lap of nature.
Read this article at Times of India .