The narrow river Charanganga runs through the dense canopy wriggling its way through like a slim snake. Where the light manages to pierce through, a glistening rivulet can be seen sparkling in between the thick foliage of trees and shrubs.
A muddy bank interspersed with jutting stones and twisting tortuously as the water body steers itself on the way to human civilization makes you awestruck. As the banks stretch, they spread their inundated breadth creating marshy grasslands all around. These are the favorite hunting grounds of the tigers who pounce upon the helpless prey slowed down by the slush.
This is one facet of Bandhavgarh the other one makes the place mysterious and esoteric. As you drive through the grasslands encapsulated by forested slopes the last attestation you would expect in this isolated wilderness is that of humans.
The drive stretches through a row of cliffs interspersed by picturesque glens and muddy stretches. The panoramic grandeur inescapable and very much conspicuous also fetches forth into sight a strip running like a necklace on the top of the mountain called Bandhavgarh. This is the stone wall surrounding the Gond Fort built perhaps two thousand years back.
The panorama is stunning and surreal challenging your limits of imagination. As the drive proceeds the view enlarges an ancient temple sitting on the edge appears into vision fortifying cohesive Hindu character of India throughout the centuries.
It is said that the fort was gifted to brother Laxman by Lord Rama and hence the name (bandhav=brother, garh=fort). The temple which appears as a tiny speck in the moutainous spread is dedicated to Lord Rama, Sita & Laxman.
An old slender bodied priest would trudge every day high up to the temple through tiger infested wilderness to perform his religious duties. He was the Royal priest appointed by the erstwhile rulers of Rewa. He was an enigma that could gel well with the esoteric set up and would never escape your eyes on safaris.
As you climb towards the mountain across the grasslands a sudden climb appears. The slender metallic road rises sharply twists and runs to make the climb a tortuous experience and a challenge to the driver. After a long climb a respite in form of a fairy pool occurs.
This is Shesh Shaiyya a twenty feet stone idol of Lord Vishnu reclining on the edge of a fairy pool. The groves accord a cool shade and the dense canopy is the breeding place of the tigers. The pool is fed by trickles from the mountain stream which slide down between ferns through the stony slope covered by lichens.
This is the ancient feature of the reserve cool and refreshing meant to offer respite to the tired soldiers on horses perhaps a thousand years back. All through caves, courts, horse shelters can be seen carved in the rock.
Whence you climb higher on foot you come across and arch made of stone with a massive wooden gate. A colony of bat lives here now. Upon entering through the gate also known as Tala (Lock) also the name of the village at the park gate you come across an idol of Lord Visnhu overlooking the rampart into the ecosystem below. The sight is mesmerizing and the fearful isolated wilderness looms large all over. Far away from the maddening crowd the place is serene and calm enclosed in an eerie vacuum of silence.
The top of the mountain contains zoomorphic idols of Lord Vishnu besides large reservoirs, scattered artifacts and fort and temple ruins. The Rama Temple lies on the edge of the steep mountain and overlooks the whole forests.
Here at the top of the table top mountain the mesmerizing panorama unfolds. Stand here in complete silence and experience the magical tiger land that is Bandhavgarh National Park in India.