Gujarat Travel Diary 2 – Wild and Wonderful Gujarat

Let us start this blog with a question.

When we say “wild and wonderful” where does our mind jump to immediately?

“Hakuna Matata. kusafiri” is the answer.

Confused with the answer? In the East African language of Swahili, it simply means “no worries”, “take it easy”. The answer is “Safari”.

Safari -An introduction

In Swahili, the word safari means “journey”, originally from the Arabic noun سفر, safar, meaning “journey”, “travel”, “trip”, or “tour”; the verb for “to travel” in Swahili is kusafiri. These words are used for any type of journey.

Safari entered the English language at the end of the 1850s thanks to the British explorer Richard Francis Burton. In 1836, British Army Engineer,

William Cornwall Harris led an expedition purely to observe and record wildlife and landscapes. Harris established the safari style of journey, starting with a not too strenuous rising at first light, an energetic day walking, an afternoon rest then concluding with a formal dinner and telling stories in the evening over drinks and tobacco.

The hunting aspect traditionally associated with the safari is said to have its origins where villagers got together to hunt wild boars and reclaim land for farming. However it was the British who used Safaris for hunting for personal pleasure and popularized it.

Gujarat – The wild and wonderful

Our trip to Gujarat contained two segments where we stuck to the spirit of William Cornwall Harris style of Safari as a means to understand the wild and wonderful Gujarat.

Segment 1 – Gir – The kingdom of the “Wild and Wonderful”.

Part A – Jungle Safari

The Gir National Park was established in 1965 in the erstwhile Nawab of Junagarh’s private hunting area, with a total area of 1,412 km2(545 sq mi), of which 258 km2 (100 sq mi) is fully protected as a national park and 1,153 km2 (445 sq mi) as wildlife sanctuary.

Kicking off the day at 0530 Hrs we started our Safari in the jungles of Gir. A four hour drive in an open Gypsy (A jeep) took us the nook and corner of the sprawling Gir Forest. We were lucky to spot a lioness marking her territory right at the start of the Safari. The rest of the Safari covered other animals and birds. Here is an overview.

Sasan Gir – Jungle Safari

This was followed by an exquisite lunch and siesta at the FERN GIR FOREST RESORT.

Part 2 – Devalia Safari

Evening Safari was a bit different; we wanted to present ourselves as “strange moving creatures with two legs” to the wild and wonderful. So we locked ourselves in a cage mounted on a Gypsy and paraded ourselves to the wild animals in the Gir Forest. Needless to say that the Wild and Wonderful didn’t bother about us at all and were busy at their routines.

Gujarat Tourism calls this place as “ Devalia Safari Park ” also known as “Gir Interpretation Zone- Devalia”. Here is our Safari with a dufference:

Devalia Park – Safari with a difference

Experience in this segment summed up – “High” on expectations (with increased Lions population and previous day sightings expectations built up) and “Moderate” on success in sighting.

Segment 2 – The Little Rann of Kutch – A saline sublime

In this segment, we moved away from the Jungle to the vast, dry and extremely hot saline desert.

Covering an area of 4954 Km2, Little Rann of Kutch is one of the most remarkable and unique landscapes of its kind. Wild Ass Sanctuary is located in this Rann which harbours the last population of Wild Ass (Equus hemionus khur).

It is a vast desiccated, unbroken bare surface of dark silt, encrusted with salts which transforms into a spectacular coastal wetland after the rains. The present saline desert of the Little Rann (saline desert-cum-seasonal wetland) of Kutch is believed to have been shallow sea.

We checked into the Royal Safari Camp at Bajana and relaxed after a sumptuous meal.

Part A – The Wild Ass Safari

We were ready for the Evening Safari. Temperature soared to 43 deg C (in the last week of March itself) and here we are driving in an open Gypsy towards the saline desert from the village center.

Wild Ass Safari – LRK

Part B – Nature’s Aviary at the Saline Desert

We even got down from the Gypsy and walked around the waterbodies to have an exclusive “darshan” of the birds around there. Wow. What a sight.

Nature’s Aviary

Experience in this segment summed up – “Low” on expectations (what do you expect, except a few Wild Asses and that too in a hot desert) and “High” on success in sighting (not only Wild Asses but also an impressive show by the Birds and Aditya, the Sun while setting).

Lessons learnt – Safari and Vedanta

This is our second Jungle Safari after the one at Kanha Tiger Reserve at Madhya Pradesh in 2018.

Safaris like these drive home several lessons, many of them straight from our Vedanta.

Here are some of my learnings:

1. If you are keeping your expectations (desires) high, you are bound to get disappointed (frustrated). After all you are looking for a few hundred wild animals (which are mostly territory oriented) in an area spanning thousands of square kilometers.

2. What you get to see (or otherwise) need not necessarily be seen (or otherwise) by someone who are either ahead of you or behind you. Your experience is unique to yourselves.

3. Time and Space can decide what you get or loose. In other words your experience is time and space limited.

4. Enjoy what you see, your experience. That moment is precious. The idea of being present and savoring the moment is not a novel idea, but it’s often a forgotten one. David Attenborough’s extraordinary documentaries on Animal Kingdom are awesome; no doubt about that. But nothing will ever have as big an effect as seeing the real beauty of the world and its inhabitants on safari by yourselves.

5. Silence is golden. Feel it and enjoy it. Through the day enjoy that moment where a bird or a monkey or a deer provides an alarm for an approaching animal. In the night at the Camp, listen to the insects’ hum and chirp; the stars in the sky and the sounds of nature.

6. See the positives. Even dirty roads and bushy terrain offers great views.

7. The Sun always provides spectacular views both in the morning and evening. Enjoy it and pray Aditya for keeping us alive.

8. Be patient. You have no choice. Sometimes what you want and expect doesn’t happen right away; sometimes what you want takes much longer than you thought it would.

9. Ears are better than mouth. Listening is Often Better Than Talking. Listen to the safari guide or just listen to the sounds of the bush. The point is that when we listen, our bodies are much more attuned to everything that’s happening around us. You also learn what you may not have known.

10. Life is not a rat race. Reconnect with the beauty of little things and enjoy.

Gujarat Travel Diary continues…..

The “In” in the Invisible ? Sivananda Lahari Verses 37-46

Here is a typical situation that my friend Ram goes through:

Ram joins as an important member of an Enterprise which serves customers across the globe. His job involves extensive travel & meeting varied customers and their representatives and provide quality service. He puts his heart and soul and works between 60 to 70 hours a week. His decisions are vital for the success of his organization. He loves his job immensely.

Now after slogging for couple of years, he takes a vacation and goes out to a forest with dense woods & streams. He spends time in exploring the scenic spread of flora & fauna, animals that wander and wonders at the manifestation of Nature. He settles down in the evening with his family/friends after a strenuous trek. He begins to unwind and contemplates. In the chat with his friends/family very often he compares the presence, behavior and response of animals & nature he encountered during the trek with similar situations that he had faced in his work environment. Like a movie flash back, he starts to compare his current actions, reactions and feelings that he faces to the ones that he, his colleagues or his customers faced/displayed at work. This is quiet natural, as the mental impressions of his high pressure job make their presence feel in his current environment. His focus on his job is so dedicated that he starts to see his job (which he loves so much) in everything that he sees or does. He sees his job in the work of a bird, he sees the reaction of his Boss in the behavior of an animal, he sees the risks of the job in the hazardous route of his trek, he sees the economy which drives his customers in the dark clouds, he sees the results of his work in the sun shine and the rewards that follow in the moon lit night with cool breeze.

What did Ram see “In the beauty of a flower, in the innocence of a baby animal, in the radiance of the sun, in the generosity of the earth, in the harmony of the universe, in the beauty of the heavens, in the waters of the rivers and streams and the vastness of the universe” during his vacation? He saw his passion, his commitment and devotion to his job.

Here is another perspective; suppose you take up a job on your own interest which will pay you a mammoth “industry standard setting bonus” and a severance pay better than the best. The job description goes on like this “Seeking the eternal presence of Lord Shankara in your mind”. With tons of interest, devotion and commitment you do your new assignment and like Ram you also take a break after two years. You visit Nallamalai Hills and the associated forests! What would you see and how will you describe what you see ? Looking forward to your views!

Now read this:

“There is a Spirit who is hidden in all things, as cream is in milk and who is the source of all knowledge and self-sacrifice. This is Brahman, the spirit Supreme. This is Brahman, the spirit Supreme. – Svetasvatara Upanishad.”

This is exactly what Adi Shankara saw in the woods of Srisailam. He always felt that God resides in him and imagined that He is present wherever he went and in whatever actions he performed.

He sees his mind as a monkey, a Swan, a peacock, a Jacobean Cuckoo, a ruddy goose, a pheasant etc and sees God in the blue sky, dark clouds, Sun, moon, rain, spring, autumn etc. He visualises God as a thief, a hunter, a Lion, a flower, a bird, an Yogi and a friend.

His poetic skills in describing how much he loves his most challenging job in various ways by seeing the Lord in every thing that he sees is just amazing and keeps you glued to the “Lahari” like the Surfer who enjoys riding the waves again and again.

Here are the Verses; there are two blogs; one covering upto Verse 46 & the next one upto Verse 54


Verse 37

आम्नायाम्बुधिमादरेण सुमनस्सङ्घाः समुद्यन्मनो

मन्थानं दृढभक्तिरज्जुसहितं कृत्वा मथित्वा ततः ।

सोमं कल्पतरुं सुपर्वसुरभिं चिन्तामणिं धीमतां

नित्यानन्दसुधां निरन्तररमासौभाग्यमातन्वते ॥ ३७॥

நலம் வாழ்த்தும் ஆத்மஞானியர் ஒன்றினைந்து திடபக்தியெனும் புரியினை

நல்மனமெனும் மத்தேற்றி மறைவேதமெனும் கடல்தனை பக்தியுடன்

கடைந்து இச்சைதீர்மரம், அமுதசுரபிப்பசு, சிந்தாமணி, பேரின்ப நிலைப்

பெரும் செல்வம் என உறையும் உமையொருபாகனை பெறுவரே !

Remember the Suvarnabhumi Airport at Bangkok !


Verse 38 (Seeing God in the rise of the Full Moon)

प्राक्पुण्याचलमार्गदर्शितसुधामूर्तिःप्रसन्नः शिवः

सोमः सद्गुणसेवितो मृगधरः पूर्णस्तमोमोचकः ।

चेतः पुष्करलक्षितो भवति चेदानन्दपाथोनिधिः

प्रागल्भ्येन विजृम्भते सुमनसां वृत्तिस्तदा जायते ॥ ३८॥

ஆனந்தக்ககடல் உயர, நல்மனம்விழைவோர் புடைசூழ, பக்தர் முகமலர

மலையொப்ப நல்முன்வினைப்பலன் புலப்படுத்த மாயமான் கையிலேந்தி

மன இருளகற்றும் கருணை பொழி உமையொருபாகனெனும் இறையின் காட்சி

அலைகடல் உயர, விண்மீண்கள் புடைசூழ, கமலம்தன் முகமலர

தூயகீழ்மலை புலப்படுத்த மான்குறிஉள்ளடக்கி, உலக இருளகற்றும்

வெண்ஒளி பொழி முழுநிலவதனைக் காண்பதற்கு ஒப்பமன்றோ

அக்காட்சிதனைக் கண்குளிரக் கண்டவர் பேரின்பம் அடைந்திட்டு

உலகோரை உயவிக்கப் பெருநிலை பெற்றாரே உமைநாதா


Verse 39

धर्मो मे चतुरङ्घ्रिकः सुचरितः पापं विनाशं गतं

कामक्रोधमदादयो विगलिताः कालाः सुखाविष्कृताः ।

ज्ञानानन्दमहौषधिः सुफलिता कैवल्यनाथे सदा

मान्ये मानसपुण्डरीकनगरे राजावतंसे स्थिते ॥ ३९॥

என் இதயக் கமலமெனும் நகரிலே அரசருக்கரசன் அனைவரும் மதியும் அம்புலியான் உறைவெனில், தவம் தூய்மை கருணை உண்மையெனும்

நாக்கால்கள் கொண்ட தருமம் நிலைத்திடும், பாவங்கள் களைந்திடும்

அழுக்காறு அவா வெகுளி இன்னாச்சொல் நான்கும் மறைந்திடும்

காலங்கள் எல்லாம் களிப்புடனே கழிந்திடும் சீரனெவே, பேரின்ப

அறிவுப் பயிரதனை செழிப்புடன் அறுவடை செய்வேன் இறையானே!


Verse 40 (Farm irrigation)

धीयन्त्रेण वचोघटेन कविताकुल्योपकुल्याक्रमै-

रानीतैश्च सदाशिवस्य चरिताम्भोराशिदिव्यामृतैः ।

हृत्केदारयुताश्च भक्तिकलमाः साफल्यमातन्वते

दुर्भिक्षान् मम सेवकस्य भगवन् विश्वेश भीतिः कुतः ॥ ४०॥

அறிவெனும் இயந்திரமிட்டு வாக்கெனும் குடமெடுத்து

கவியெனும் கால்வாய் வழி சதாசிவப்புகழெனும்

அமிழ்தொப்ப நீரதனை அடியானின் இதயவயல்விளை

பக்தியெனும் பயிருக்கு பாய்ச்சிட்டால் பயனுள்ள

அறுப்பினால் பஞ்சமெனும் பயம் எனக்கு எங்கனம் உலகநாயகனே!


Verse 41

पापोत्पातविमोचनाय रुचिरैश्वर्याय मृत्युञ्जय

स्तोत्रध्याननतिप्रदक्षिणसपर्यालोकनाकर्णने ।

जिह्वाचित्तशिरोङ्घ्रिहस्तनयनश्रोत्रैरहं प्रार्थितो

मामाज्ञापय तन्निरूपय मुहुर्मामेव मा मेऽवचः ॥ ४१॥

பாவங்களைக்களைந்து முக்திக்குவித்திட்டு பேரின்ப்பெருஞ்செல்வம் பெற

என் வினைபுலன் உறுப்புகளாம் நா உனைப்பாட, மனம் உனைநினைய,

சிரம் உனைப்பணிய, இருகரம் உனைத்தொழ, தாழ்கள் உன்வலம்வர,

செவிகள் உன்புகழ் கேள, கண்கள் உனைக்காண, இவை விழைந்து எனை வேண்ட, அங்ஙனம் பணிபுரி என நீ கட்டளை இட்டு, எப்பொழுதும் எனது

உறுப்புகள் தடையின்றி அப்பணிகள் புரிய சக்தி கொடு, மரணத்தை வென்றோனே !


Verse 42 ( Mind – The Fortress of Devotion)

गाम्भीर्यं परिखापदं घनधृतिः प्राकार उद्यद्गुण-

स्तोमश्चाप्तबलं घनेन्द्रियचयो द्वाराणि देहे स्थितः ।

विद्यावस्तुसमृद्धिरित्यखिलसामग्रीसमेते सदा

दुर्गातिप्रियदेव मामकमनोदुर्गे निवासं कुरु ॥ ४२॥

திடமான துணிவு கொண்ட மன உரம் எனும் புற மதில் உள்ளே

தடங்காணா ஆழமிகு விற்பன்னம் எனும் அகழி தாண்டி

நல்முன்வினை விளை பண்புகள் தோழமைப்படையெனக் காக்க

ஞானவினைபுரி உடல் உறை உறுப்புகள் வாயில்களென முடித்திறக்க

பரம்பொருளறிந்த மெய்அறிவு எனும் பெருஞ்செல்வம் இழைத்தோட

உன் தேவைக்கேற்ற அனைத்துப்பொருட்களின் இருப்பிடமென இருக்கும்

என் மனம் என்னும் கோட்டையிலே எப்பொழுதும் குடியிருந்து மகிழ்ந்திடு

உமையவள் மனம் கவர், அடையஇயலா அரண் வாழ் மலைவாசனே, சங்கரனே!


Verse 43 ( Sankara the medieval hunter)

मा गच्छ त्वमितस्ततो गिरिश भो मय्येव वासं कुरु

स्वामिन्नादिकिरात मामकमनःकान्तारसीमान्तरे ।

वर्तन्ते बहुशो मृगा मदजुषो मात्सर्यमोहादय-

स्तान् हत्वा मृगयाविनोदरुचितालाभं च सम्प्राप्स्यसि ॥ ४३॥

இங்கங்கு செல்லாமல் என்மனம் தன்னில் வசித்திடு ஆதிவேடனே!

எல்லையில்லா என்மனம் எனும் அடர் வனமதில் கட்டு ஏதுமின்றி

அழுக்காறு அவா எனப்பல வலிய மதமிகு விலங்கினங்கள் திரிகின்றனவே

அவ்விலங்கினங்களை வேட்டையாடி விளையாடி பலன் பெற்றுமகிழ்வாய்

ஆதிஅந்தமில்லா மலைவாசனே மகாதேவனே உமைநாதா!————————————————————–

Verse 44 (Sankara the Lion )

करलग्नमृगः करीन्द्रभङ्गो

घनशार्दूलविखण्डनोऽस्तजन्तुः ।

गिरिशो विशदाकृतिश्च चेतः-

कुहरे पञ्चमुखोस्ति मे कुतो भीः ॥ ४४॥

கரமதனில் மான் இருத்தி வேழத்தை வீழ்த்தி வேங்கைதனை

வேட்டையாடி விலங்கினம் வதைத்து விந்த முகமுடன்

ஒளிமிகு உடலுடனே மலைகுகை வாழ் அரிமா என, என்

மனக்குகையுள்ளே, கையிலே மானேந்தி, வேழ அசுரனை வீழ்த்தி

வேங்கை அசுரனை வேட்டையாடி, உயிரினமனைத்தும் உள்ளடக்கி,

தூயவெண்மை உடல் கொண்டு, ஐந்துமுகத்துடனே மலைவாசன்

அண்ணாமலையான் அமர்ந்திருக்க, அடியேனுக்கு ஏது அச்சம் !



Verse 45 (Mind – the bird)

छन्दःशाखिशिखान्वितैर्द्विजवरैः संसेविते शाश्वते

सौख्यापादिनि खेदभेदिनि सुधासारैः फलैर्दीपिते ।

चेतःपक्षिशिखामणे त्यज वृथासञ्चारमन्यैरलं

नित्यं शङ्करपादपद्मयुगलीनीडे विहारं कुरु ॥ ४५॥

உபநிடத்து உயர்கிளைகள் யாப்பிலக்கண கீழ்கிளைகள் கொண்டு

வேதவித்தகர் பறவையென வெகுநாடும் அமிழ்தெனும் காமமுக்திப்பழமிகு

பேரின்பப் பெருநிழல்தரும் மறையெனும் அழிவில்லாஇம்மரத்தில்

சங்கரனின் பொற்பாதமெனும் கூடதனில் வசித்திருந்து விளையாடு,

சிறகடித்து பறந்தலைந்து ஓயாதே மீப்பெரு எண்ணப் பறவையே !


Verse 46 ( Mind – the Kingly Swan)

आकीर्णे नखराजिकान्तिविभवैरुद्यत्सुधावैभवै-

राधौतेपि च पद्मरागललिते हंसव्रजैराश्रिते ।

नित्यं भक्तिवधूगणैश्च रहसि स्वेच्छाविहारं कुरु

स्थित्वा मानसराजहंस गिरिजानाथाङ्घ्रिसौधान्तरे ॥ ४६॥

பாற்கடலின் அமுத அலை ஒளியிலே தாழ்நக ஒளி இனைந்து

வளர்பிறைகதிர்விளை வெண்மையுடன்கூடி செம்பவழக்கற்களின்

அழகேற்றி ஞானியரெனும் அன்னப்பறவைகள் வெகுநாடும்

மலைமகள் நாதனின் பொற்பாதமெனும் மாளிகையில்

மணமகளிரென உறையும் பக்தியெனும் மங்கையருடன்

விளையாடி மகிழ்வாய் ராஜ அன்னப்பறவை எனும் என்மனமே !


To be continued in the next blog ………….