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Jim Corbett, Hunter who saved tigers

 

THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN NRI ACHIEVERS’ JULY-2016 EDITION

 

Jim_CorbettThis month, we celebrate the birthday of a fearless hunter, who turned into a saviour for tigers in India. I came across this story while I was sitting on the shore of Kosi River of Uttarakhand.

Few days back, I went to Namah Resorts in Dhikuli, Jim Corbett Park. I was interested in the lost temple of Vairapattana, which was supposed to be around this resort. I stayed there for few days, enjoyed the impeccable hospitality, and kept enquiring about the lost Shiva Temple. They pointed me to a direction and surprisingly, at mere 300 steps, I found the remains of Ancient Shiva Temple. My mission was complete, but during my discussions with staff and naturists at this resort, I learned few more things about the area.

One of the resident experts at Namah Resort asked me, if I know about Jim Corbett. I replied with a smile, “Yes! You made us interact with Mr. Imran Khan, the best known naturists in Jim Corbett National Park. He told us everything about flora and fauna.” He continued, ‘No Sir, I meant, James Edward Corbett’. I was quite. I have heard of him, but why is this gentleman emphasising so much. He praised Corbett and we retired to our room appreciating the spectacular sunset view across Kosi river. As I reached my room, I started reading about Colonel James Edward Corbett of the British India Army. By this time, Namah team sent me a wonderful Mocktail as reward for participating in one of their contests. Sipping this mocktail in the balcony of my cottage, I paid my homage to Google Baba and got started.

Colonel Corbett was born in Nainital in 1875 to the postmaster of Nainital, William Christopher Corbett. He spent his entire childhood in the region. During winters, the James Corbett with his other 15 siblings and parents used to stay in their family home downhill, what we now know as Corbett’s Village or Kaladhungi. After schooling, he was employed by Railways. He was so well versed with the jungle, that he could identify most animals and birds by the sounds they make. Soon, he became famous as the hunter, who would save locals from man eating tigers and leopards. His most famous kill was the tiger known as Bachelor of Powalgarh. Powalgarh is a connected reserve near Ramnagar. We were taken to Powalgarh the next day to show the site, where Corbett killed this tiger. We also have the largest tree trunk of this region in the vicinity. Corbett wrote a book titled ‘Man Eaters of Kumaon’. He mentions of several kills that he made and how he accomplished those victories. Interestingly, the only one to accompany him was his favourite dog ‘Robin’. His expeditions were all on foot. His book talks about the strategies he made to hunt man eaters in Champawat, Thak, Muktesar, Chowgarh, Rudraprayag, Kanda, Pipalpani and many more. The Panar Leopard was known to have killed as many as 400 people, before being slayed by Corbett.

Powalgarh

When Corbett analysed his kills, he found out that most of the man eaters had porcupine quills embedded deep in their feet. Some even had un-healed gunshot wounds. While I was discussing this with our nature expert at the Namah Resort, he explained that years of research has revealed that porcupine is the most common reason for tiger’s pain, unrest and forcing him to target slow moving targets like humans. Jim Corbett, when realized this, turned into a saviour of animals. He bought a camera and started filming tigers. I met James Champion a while back. He is son of Frederick Walter Champion, companion of Jim Corbett in his expeditions to understand and save tigers. He gave me few insights on how Corbett turned into a conservationist and led campaigns to protect tigers. Corbett and Champion established India’s first nature reserve, the Hailey National Park in 1936. It was named after Lord Hailey, governor of United Provinces (now Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh) from 1928 to 1934. His efforts laid the foundation of Project Tiger of Government of India, which helped us realize the reducing number of tigers and forced to take measures to save them. Today, his Hailey National Park covers 520 square kilometres of hill area near Nainital (Originally it was 323 sq. Km). It houses around 110 tree species, 50 species of mammals, 580 bird species and 25 reptile species. Initially, the proposal was to make it a Game Reserve, where British could come and enjoy hunting as a sport, while animals move freely. Princely state of Tehri Garhwal had already cleared most of this forest to save from invading Rohillas. When land came completely under British and restoring forest was underway, Jim Corbett played an important role to ensure that it stays as a Nature Reserve and not a Game Reserve. He emphasized on protecting the Tigers. He told, how careless hunting activities are turning tigers into man-eaters. His efforts were fruitful and the park was established. Later, in 1954 it was renamed as Ramganga National Park. But within 3 years, the Independent Indian Government gave credit to Jim Corbett and renamed this oldest national park of India as ‘Jim Corbett National Park’.

Until 1947, Corbett and his sister lived in Gurney house in Nainital. The house was sold to Mr. Sharad Prasad Varma, which is now passed to his granddaughter Ms. Nilanjana Dalmia. Corbetts retired to Kenya, where Jim Corbett kept working hard to protect the wildlife. He was escorting Princess Elizabeth of England during her Kenya visit and they were staying in Tree Tops Hotel when King Geroge VI passed away. Next morning, when Elizabeth was told about this incident, she came down from Tree Tops and left for England as a Queen. Corbett wrote the famous lines that day in the visitor log book of Tree Tops:

For the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into a tree one day a Princess, and after having what she described as her most thrilling experience, she climbed down from the tree the next day a Queen—God bless her.

He passed away on 19th April, 1955. We celebrate Corbett’s 231st birthday this 25th July.

– Vikramjit Singh Rooprai

The Grand Trunk Road

We’re marchin’ on relief over Injia’s sunny plains,
A little front o’ Christmas-time an’ just be’ind the Rains;
Ho! get away you bullock-man, you’ve ‘eard the bugle blowed,
There’s a regiment a-comin’ down the Grand Trunk Road;

– Rudyard Kipling

Thousands of years ago, when the earliest known human civilizations decided to explore far far away lands, the concept of migration started. One such migration forms the famous archaeological finding called the ‘Cemetery H Culture’, which spreads from Harappa in Pakistan to the Ganga-Yamuna Basin in India, covering entire East-West Punjab (circa 1700 BCE). This is also considered to be the nucleus od Vedic Civilization. As we all know, this Indus Valley Civilization revolved around trading. They established common paths to move between various settlements, which are used till date.

GTRoad_Ambala

In around 3rd century BC, as the Mauryan Empire was flourishing, a road was built to the main centre of learning ‘Taxila’ and later even further up to Balkh in Khurasan (now in Afghanistan) from Patiliputra (now Patna). This road was used by every traveller who had to cross Khyber Pass and enter into the Hind. The same route was used by invaders like Ghori and Ghazni. With time, the road reached the eastern end of empire, which today falls deep inside Bangladesh. A Greek observer recorded that Samrat Chandragupta Maurya poured manpower to maintain this road. This road is mentioned in several ancient texts and appears as “Uttarpath” (Northern-Road).

SherShahSuriTime passed and rulers came and went, ruling over the entire breadth of Hindostan, which stretched from present day Afghanistan to eastern ends of Bangladesh. In 16th century, as Emperor Babur came to India, he hired Farid Khan (aka Sher Khan) an Afghan born in Sasram (Bihar), who later dethroned Babur’s son Humayun and took  over the throne of Delhi, and became Emperor of Hindostan. This general, popularly known as Sher Shah Suri decided to restore this ancient path and make it more useful. He deployed enormous labour to revive the Uttarpath and connected his hometown Sasaram to Agra. He died soon after that, the Mughals that came afterwards connected Kabul (Afghanistan) with Chittagong (Bangladesh) using this road. Today, this road connects the capitals of 4 countries and covers a total distance of 2500 kilometres (1600 miles). During this time, this road was known by many names, eg: Shah Rah-e-Azam (“Great Road”) or Sadak-e-Azam or Badshahi Sadak.

Map

In 18th century, as the British came, they maintained this road and later converted it to a motorable road. They started calling it the “Grand Trunk Road”, sometimes also referring to it as the “Long Walk”. During that period, it was maintained between Howrah and Peshawar.

ShambhuSerai

kosminarIt is very interesting to see how the Afghans & Mughals built ‘Kos Minars’ at each ‘Kos’ (ancient measuring unit with 1 Kos approximately equal to 1.8 Km). They also built forts and most important, Caravan Serais (Inns) at regular distances. These Serais had a mosque, rooms for travellers, area reserved for animals and lot more to offer to travellers than they can ask for while travelling for thousands of kilometres. Many of these Serais are lost, but most of them still exist. Today, huge urban settlements have come up around those historic serais and the only way to identify is to check the name of locality, as most of them still use the old serai names.

 

Popular Towns on the GT Road

 

afghanistan_small Afghanistan

starKabul, Surobu, Jalalabad, Torkham (Khyber Pass)

 

pakistan_small Pakistan

Torkham, Landi Kotal, Wali Khel, Ali Masjid, Jamrud, Peshawar, Nowshera, Attock, Wah, starIslamabad, Tarnol, Rawalpindi (& Taxila), Gujar Khan, Jhelum, Kharian, Gujrat, Gujranwala, Kamoki, Muridke, Lahore, Wagha

 

india_small India

Atari, Amritsar, Kartarpur, Jalandhar, Phagwara, Goraya, Ludhiana, Khanna, Sirhind, Rajpura, Ambala, Shahbad Markanda, Kurukshetra, Karnal, Panipat, Sonipat, starDelhi, Ghaziabad, Bulandshehar, Aligarh, Etah, Kannauj, Kanpur, Fatehpur, Khaga, Allahabad, Handia, Gopiganj, Varanasi, Mohania, Sasaram, Dehri, Aurangabad, Dumri, Dhanbad, Asansol, Raniganj, Durgapur, Bardhaman, Howra-Kolkata, Gaigata, Bangaon, Petrapol

 

bangladesh_small Bangladesh

Benapole, Jhikargacha, Jessore, starDhaka, Sonargaon, Jamaldi, Daudkandi, Comilla, Feni, Baroiar Hat, Sitakunda, Bhatiari, Salimpur, Chittagong

Out of many rivers, one Nile

There is no grammatical or typographic error in the title. When I read it first, I was confused and confronted with someone, who not only explained me the depth of this line, but unknowingly solved a big mystery for me.

It was 25th January of 2012. I was sitting in a office in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, looking at this line on the cover page of Sudan’s only English Magazine. When I said, it should be “Out of many rivers, one is Nile”, Mr. Mustafa Khogali, the man behind this magazine ‘In The City’ said it is ‘”Out of many rivers, one Nile”. Which means, Nile river comes out of many small rivers. 

6One small explanation of 30 seconds, changed it all and I realized, how much misinterpreted this country is. When you are outside the boundaries of Sudan, you think that it is one of the worst countries. When you search on net, you will find drought struck poor hungry people, starving from food and water. You will find all sort of bad things written on American and European sites. The US Sanctions make it worse. But the moment you land on their airstrip, everything changes. You then enter into a country, with infrastructure much better than most of the developing countries in the world. Let’s talk about it one by one…

Khartoum, the Capital

Slab in a Temple

Khartoum is the Capital city and hence the best in terms of infrastructure and development. I tried connecting my handset to WiFi as I landed on Airport and I got free WiFi. There nothing exciting in this, but what’s exciting is that wherever we went in Khartoum, I tried to connect to WiFi and I got a free connection almost everywhere. I checked my mails at every restaurant I went. I was connected to Facebook without a GPRS throughout the city. It will take another 20 years for Delhi to get there. The national museum of Sudan is much bigger than what we have in Delhi. They had managed to relocate three ancient temples within the huge lawns of the museum. At the museum for wildlife, I saw hundreds of stuffed animals and birds. I could never imagine that Sudan alone had such a huge variety of birds. Not to mention, reptiles, sea life and untouched corals.

Nile of Niles

Burj-al-Fatih Those who don’t know, river Nile is actually a combination of Two major rivers and several small canals. The two major rivers are White Nile and Blue Nile, which meet each other at the capital Khartoum. The merger is decorated by beautiful hotels, the palace, several eateries, museum and a lot more.

 

Of Pyramids and Pharaohs

If you think Pyramids and Pharaohs lived in Egypt only, you are mistaken like I was. We 25people sitting outside Sudan think that Egypt is the land of Pyramids. Whereas, the truth is that Sudan has some most distinctive pyramids on earth. Though I did not get a chance to visit the Site with series of Pyramids, but I did visited their museum, where they had coffins of their deceased emperors and three huge temples. Although the pyramids of Sudan are much smaller than that of Egypt, they have a very unique architecture. I noticed several wooden coffins but the best part was a huge stone coffin, which belonged to some emperor from history. This coffin had amazing carving on every wall and corner. There were pyramids with the face of pharaoh resembling an animal. This reminded my of Indian Mythology. We have lot of similarities.

 

Surprise treat – Rabi’ al-awwal

I never knew that it is the birth month of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Our host Mr. Adil El-Hag took us to the Mahdi Mosque in Omdurman, Sudan. Sufi dances at singing reminded me of the Hindu ‘Kumbh-Festival’ (Haridwar) and Sikh ‘Hola-Mahalla’ (Anandpur). Being inclined towards Sufism, this was a blessing for me and I will never forget such a surprise treat. (I’ll try posting videos soon).

 

The Prepaid Country

The best thing I learned was that everything in Sudan is prepaid. Even electricity. You need to recharge before you can use it. Isn’t it good. You never get bills, because you pay before you use.

 

With Thanks

I have a lot to write about Sudan. About its people and the land. But Let’s split it into various blog posts. Let this post be an introductory post with my special thanks to all the people I met there. Specially Adil, Muhammed, Mustafa and Walid.

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