Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Bhiwandi
About Sanjay Gandhi National Park
The Sanjay Gandhi National Park area has a long written history dating back to the 4th century BCE. In ancient India, Sopara and Kalyan were two ports in the vicinity that traded with ancient civilisations such as Greece and Mesopotamia. The 45 km (28 mi) land route between these two ports was partially through this forest.The Kanheri Caves in the centre of the park were an important Buddhist learning centre and pilgrimage site sculpted by Buddhist monks between the 9th and the 1st centuries BCE. They were chiselled out of a massive basaltic rock outcropping.The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (formerly Bombay Municipal Corporation) acquired the catchment areas of the Tulsi and Vihar lakes, and also added the land from the government dairy of Aarey under protection. The Krishnagiri National Park was established under the Bombay National Park Act in 1942. At that time the area of the park was only 20.26 km2 (7.82 sq mi). The dairy development board began operations near Krishnagiri National Park in 1954, but outside the area of the park. In 1969, 2076 hectares of land of the Aarey Milk Scheme (now known as Aarey Milk Colony) was transferred to the forest department. However, this area was not notified as reserved or protected forests. In 1976, an area of 68.27 km2 was officially designated as Borivali National Park.The Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra Limited (FDCM), Nagpur sent an official communication to the Regional Manager, FDCM, Thane on 22 July 1980 stating that the 2076.073 hectares of revenue land that was transferred from Aarey Milk Scheme was to be included in Borivali National Park. The communication also directed that 575 ha of the revenue land should be used to build a recreational zone, while the remaining 1501.073 ha will would remain a part of the Borivali National Park. On 10 October 1980, another communication from the FDCM, Nagpur to Thane directed the latter to declare the area as either as reserved or protected forests to allow the department to have stricter legal control. However, no such declaration was made.The park was further expanded to a total area of 82.25 square km in 1981. The park was renamed Sanjay Gandhi National Park in 1996, after Sanjay Gandhi, the son of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The same year, some forests from the Thane division were merged into the park, further expanding its total area to 103.84 square km.
Van Rani narrow gauge train
The park also features a "toy train" that runs on a narrow gauge railway. Named Van Rani, which means "jungle queen," it was operational for about twenty-five years before it was discontinued in 2001 because of the poor condition of the track. The circuitous route covers a 2.5 km (1.55 mi) distance. However, in 2004, fresh bids were announced for the repair of the track, which was estimated to cost around ₹3 million (equivalent to ₹7.9 million or US$110,000 in 2018). The tracks were repaired and the train was restarted. It offers a 15-minute ride along the foothills of the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial at 190 m (620 ft) Pavilion Hill, traverses a couple of bridges and tunnels, and passes over the Deer Park.
Tiger and lion safaris
Main attractions of the park are lion and tiger safaris for encouraging eco-tourism. The lion safari is a 20-minute ride through a 12 ha (29.65 acres) fenced forest area in one of the park's green buses. The park is home to an estimated 25 lions and lionesses, of which only 2 can be safely seen at close range from the caged buses. The remaining 23 have been relocated or placed in fenced areas far away from the roads used by the green buses. During visiting hours, some of the resident lions are let out into the enclosure, and can be viewed from the safety of the bus. There are 4 tigers that are kept semi-confined in a 20 ha (49.42 acres) fenced area that is toured by the buses. A 5 m (16.40 ft) high and 2,200 m (7,217.85 ft) long protective fencing surrounds the area. This is done so that all visitors can safely view lions and tigers in their natural habitat. Here the visitors are caged in the bus so the big cats can roam like in the wild. Two other tigers roam in a much larger area. There are many claims that these tigers and lions are tranquilized in the interests of tourism.
There are several public walking trails in the national park. The popular Ashok Van trail winds through thick forest to a dense cluster of Ashoka trees that are a welcome halfway resting spot. The return journey is usually via the Gaumukh trail that leads to an open volcanic rock face and ends at the Kanheri caves. A more challenging route is called the 'View Point' trail and leads to the highest point in Mumbai, which affords a panoramic view of the city and its three lakes – Tulsi Lake, Vihar Lake and Powai Lake. New jungle trails at Sanjay Gandhi National Park allow visitors to see the more unexplored parts of the park for a nominal fee. They are the 4 km (2.49 mi) Shilonda Trail, the 5 km (3.11 mi) Malad Trail, and the 6 km (3.73 mi) Yeoor Trail.Local conservation NGOs such as the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and World Wide Fund for Nature - India (WWF-India) bring groups of urban residents from Mumbai and elsewhere, sometimes in collaboration with other organisations, for regular guided nature education walks in the nature trails of Sanjay Gandhi National Park and organise special trips when the rare karvi flowers are in full bloom which only happens once every eight years.
Trimurti TempleIn the forest, there is a famous Jain temple called Trimurti (meaning "three idols") or Trimurti Digambar Jain Mandir. This temple is widely visited by Digambar sect of the Jain community. It has three huge idols of Lord Adinath and his two sons, Lord Bahubali and Lord Bharata. The statue of Rishabhanatha is 31 feet in height and the tallest off all the three; on either side are the statues of Bharata and Bahubali, each being 28 feet tall. There is a 51-foot kirti stambh (literally meaning "pillar of glory") also present here. Many muni maharaj (Jain saints) often stay here and preach to their followers before moving on.
The Kanheri Caves are a protected archaeological site at 19°12′30″N 72°54′23″E. The caves were sculpted by Buddhist residents around the 1st century BCE. The area was a settlement that once served as inns for travelers. The word Kanheri comes from the Sanskrit word Krishnagiri which means "black mountain". Buddhist ViharasSeven Buddhist caves older than Kanheri Caves have also been discovered very recently. Detailed exploration and documentation is awaited from The Archaeological Survey of India.