Week­end get­away: Bharatpur and Deeg Palace

Even though Bharatpur falls po­lit­i­cally and ge­o­graph­i­cally within Ra­jasthan, it has a strong in­flu­ence from neigh­bour­ing Ut­tar Pradesh in terms of the peo­ple’s food, cus­toms and other habits.

Alive - - Content - By Neha Kir­pal

The ma­jor things to see in Bharatpur are the Ke­o­ladeo na­tional park and the Deeg palace. It is ad­vis­able to visit the Ke­o­ladeo na­tional park early in the morn­ing when the birds are eas­i­est to spot. At the crack of dawn, you might get to hear some mu­sic of na­ture in the form of bird calls or even those of Asian jack­als

dur­ing sun­rise! Walk­ing through the en­tire park is a leisurely ex­pe­ri­ence, but in case you think you may feel tired, you can hire a rick­shaw to take you through it. The rick­shawal­lahs charge a fixed rate of Rs 100 per hour. The rick­shawal­lahs also dou­ble up as guides in­side the park, as they are very knowl­edge­able about all the birds, flora and fauna seen here—and keep point­ing out in­ter­est­ing sights to you as you move along.

One can also spot some va­ri­eties of an­i­mals here such as the spot­ted and hawk deer, nil­gais, hye­nas, wild boars, jack­als, snakes, an­telopes (which look like they wear socks on their feet) and pythons (you might even chance upon some of their skin!). Among the trees found here are the In­dian ju­jube and the mis­wak (used for mak­ing tooth­paste). You will also

come across a num­ber of mounds or ter­mite hills in­side the park.

The park con­sists of more than 375 species of birds. It is be­lieved that while most of the mi­gra­tory birds are veg­e­tar­ian, it is the lo­cal avian species that are car­ni­vores. Al­most in­stantly, you will see roseringed para­keets, bul­buls, par­tridges, pea­cocks and pea­hens. To­wards the wet­lands, you will no­tice that the land­scape changes con­sid­er­ably from the ear­lier drier area. Here, you can de­light in the sight of some bluethroat Siberian birds and ducks, white­breasted wa­ter­hens, laugh­ing doves, pur­ple sun­birds, ashy prinias, black red­starts, painted storks, pied my­nas (or star­lings), spoon­bill storks, north­ern pin­tails and shov­el­ers, yel­low-footed green pi­geons, gad­walls, ori­en­tal mag­pie-robins, spot-billed ducks, dron­gos, pur­ple moorhens, pel­i­cans, ea­gles, whistling ducks, pur­ple herons, black­crowned night herons, crested honey buz­zards, Eurasian teals and col­lared doves, Amer­i­can white ibises, Chi­nese coots, spot­billed white egrets, grey herons and grey­hound geese from Hol­land, blue king­fish­ers (which are al­ways seen alone, fish­ing on their own), cor­morants (which fish to­gether in groups), snake­birds (which can be seen catch­ing fish from the wa­ter and then dry­ing their wings) and ru­fous treepies (also known as the ‘Tiger’s tooth­picks’ for their unique habit of clean­ing tigers’ teeth after a kill!). Fur­ther, four dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of owls are found in the park—spot­ted, col­lared scops, ori­en­tal scops and dusty ea­gle.

But of course, the iconic species of open wet­lands seen at the na­tional park is un­doubt­edly the Sarus crane, which at 1.8 me­tres is the world’s tallest fly­ing bird. These en­dan­gered birds need lots of space, are ter­ri­to­rial, and form life­long pair bonds (which is why they are some­times called life part­ners). In In­dia, they are con­sid­ered sym­bols of mar­i­tal fi­delity, be­lieved to pine the loss of their mates even to the point of starv­ing to death.

‘Ke­o­ladeo’ means ‘Shiva’, and the Lord also has a tem­ple within the premises of the park. Other at­trac­tions in­clude an area where vis­i­tors can in­dulge in some boat­ing and the Salim Ali Visi­tor In­ter­pre­ta­tion Cen­tre. Re­al­ized through a part­ner­ship be­tween WWF-

In­dia, the gov­ern­ment of Ra­jasthan and Swarovski, the Cen­tre has been ded­i­cated to one of In­dia’s leading or­nithol­o­gists. It has been de­signed to gen­er­ate aware­ness and en­cour­age the con­ser­va­tion of wet­lands, as well as to achieve long-term con­ser­va­tion of wa­ter in the re­gion. The park is eco­log­i­cal in other ways—it uses so­lar pan­els for pump­ing wa­ter. There is also a can­teen in­side, where you can get your­self a hot cup of tea, cof­fee or small snack—and a bab­bler may come and sit be­side you while you eat!

This world her­itage site is a must-see for all bird watch­ers and wildlife en­thu­si­asts!

Deeg Palace

On the way to­wards Delhi, comes the charm­ing Deeg Palace lo­cated about 35 kms driv­ing dis­tance from Bharatpur via Al­war. Our guide, Jais­ingh Saini ji, looked like a relic in him­self, as he leisurely guided us through the palace while dol­ing out loads of in­for­ma­tion. The largest palace in Ra­jasthan, Deeg Palace was the erst­while cap­i­tal of Bharatpur. Made of sand­stone, it was built by the Jat rulers Ma­haraja Su­ra­j­mal and Jawahar Singh. The palace has a mix of ar­chi­tec­tural styles rang­ing from Ra­jput, Ben­gal, Hindu and Mughal. In 1956, it was do­nated to the Gov­ern­ment of Ra­jasthan and ac­quired by the ASI.

There are other sur­prises in store about Deeg. Ap­par­ently, the palace has the sec­ond largest can­non (called Lakha) in Ra­jasthan after Jaigarh Fort’s Jaivana (the world’s largest ever wheeled can­non). Saini ji men­tioned that un­for­tu­nately the palace has been side­lined by tourists who mostly flock to other forts and palaces in big­ger, more well-known cities in the state. Since it is also not on the main high­way, Deeg of­ten gets by­passed by road trav­ellers too.

Steeped in his­tory, the palace has 10 dif­fer­ent mon­u­ments in­side as well as a fruit gar­den. The in­te­rior is made up of four floors con­sist­ing of old fur­ni­ture, and a wa­ter body at the back of the palace which keeps it cool. Fur­ther, it has a to­tal of 2,000 foun­tains (the max­i­mum in the world). The coloured foun­tains still run twice ev­ery year. In­side the premises, there is also Noor Je­han’s swing and a 400-year old south-fac­ing Hanu­man mandir made of jade stone.

The palace also con­sists of a mar­ble build­ing which came all the way from Agra and was as­sem­bled here. Used as a guest house back in the day, the Mughals had built it very sci­en­tif­i­cally— com­plete with slid­ing doors and cross-ven­ti­la­tion. Close by, is a tiger cage where the king would keep his tigers, as well as a huge wa­ter tank that can store up to six lakh gal­lons of wa­ter.

The wa­ter pipe, made of clay, goes 15 feet un­der the ground. Apart from this, there are four wells, a Dur­bar Hall that was used as the Supreme Court, and an area which was used as a Gram Pan­chayat. An­other struc­ture, the Ke­sav Bhawan, con­sists of 300 jets, which makes it seem like it has a nat­u­ral air con­di­tioner. Here, there is also an akhara hall for pe­hel­wans.

All in all, Bharatpur is quite a dis­cov­ery. More­over, it’s eas­ily ap­proach­able from the cap­i­tal and is perfect for a short week­end get­away!

Bharatpur: Fast facts Driv­ing dis­tance from Delhi: 200

kilo­me­tres

Best sea­son: Oc­to­ber

to March

How to reach: You can eas­ily reach Bharatpur by road from Delhi (via the Ya­muna Ex­press­way). When driv­ing from Delhi, a smooth run on the wide Ya­muna Ex­press­way is the best route to get to Bharatpur. You will need to turn to­wards Mathura, where you will move off the high­way for about 50 kms or so. This is the only stretch where road gets a lit­tle bumpy, crowded and has a few pot­holes; but it is still not too bad. Here, you will cross Mathura on the way, where you could even make a stop at the fa­mous Dwarkad­heesh tem­ple.

To re­turn to Delhi from the Deeg palace, you will need to take the route to­wards Mathura; cross Kosi, Pal­wal, Go­vard­han, Farid­abad, and en­ter Delhi through the old Agra high­way.

Where to stay: This small city has plenty of lit­tle ho­tels all si­t­u­ated close to the main hub—the Ke­o­ladeo na­tional park. Take your pick be­tween The Park, Shiv Vi­las Palace, Saras (RTDC), Ea­gle’s Nest, Laxmi Vi­las Palace, Sun­bird and The Birder’s Inn. If you want to stay in­side the na­tional park, then choose Ho­tel Bharatpur Ashok, which is an ITDC for­est lodge.

Where to eat: Since Bharatpur lies on the UPRa­jasthan border, there are lots of places here where you can eat tra­di­tional de­lights like dal baati churma, ka­chori, etc. To sam­ple a taste of the city’s lo­cal food, head to

Choburja Bazaar, the main mar­ket square. Once here, you should head straight to De­vi­ram Ka­chori Wale for a sump­tu­ous meal con­sist­ing of a va­ri­ety of tra­di­tional ka­cho­ris—dal, alu, pyaz and khasta. You can also go to Gopal Mishthan Bhan­dar or Saini Mishthan Bhan­dar for some of the fa­mous rabri and jalebis! Close by is also the Ganga mandir and Lax­man mandir, both of which are worth a visit.

In­side the Ke­o­ladeo na­tional park.

A pair of Sarus cranes.

The Deeg

Palace

A court­yard at the an­cient palace.

The side fa­cade of the glo­ri­ous palace.

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