Saturday, April 16, 2016

Flying Squirrel, Sloth Bear and Mahuva Cheers, a joyous flight of Nature in Kevadi

Flying Squirrel, Sloth Bear and Mahuva Cheers, a joyous flight of Nature in Kevadi

We along with the choukidar Chaturbhai were waiting since 6.30 pm, and watching cautiously at the hole of a Mahuva tree continuously for 50 minutes without a blink of eyes. In the dusk of nature, hundreds of cicadas (tamara/Squoda) were making continuous sound, welcoming the night. The sound reminded me the call bell of the Gujarat assembly.

Slowly a squirrel came out of the tree hole, moved up on the branches of the tree, ate some soft leaves and then took a long glide in front of us. We could see the full picture of the squirrel from its bottom very well. Awesome! It was nearly 75 metres beautiful glide and passing through the branches of trees by a nocturnal squirrel in front of us in dusk at 7.20 pm at Kevadi on 15 April 2016. Nobody could click the camera, as the animal disappeared in just 5-7 seconds.

Everyday it moves out from a hole, move for a minute on the branches of the tree to eat the soft leaves, goes to the upper branch and then take a flight beautifully to come down by gliding against the gravitational force of the earth. Nature has given it a net between front and rear legs so that it works like a wing or a support to glide. They again go up on a tree and again glide. Whole night they move in the jungle for their food. And before the dawn returned to the hole of their native tree.

It is called "flying squirrel", one of the wonder of nature that people can see in the interior areas of a tribal district of Chotaudepur. There are only 6 squirrels living in two trees of the Forest Guest House, Kevadi, an Eco Tourism Centre. There is a group of a dozen squirrels living in Ratanmahal forests of Panchmahals. It has a life line of 4-5 years and it gives babies 1 or 2 in January every year. It is a nocturnal animal, vegetarian, survive on leaves and fruits.

Chatur, 4 feet, 40 kg, our Nayaka Chokidar is watching the animal for many years. When he came with a bitter smell of liquor, I asked him, have you drank Mahuva? No Sir, I drank tadi in the afternoon, he replied. Tribal drink tadi everyday. If drank in the morning, the drink Nira has a nutritive value. It gives cooling to the body in hot summer. But with the Sunlight, it becomes Tadi, a toxic drink in the afternoon.

In a social hierarchy of tribal, Nayakas are coming below the Rathavas. Rathavas are the land owners and Nayakas are the labourers. Rathvas eat halal and Nayaka eat halal and dead too. Eating dead animals decides their social inequality. The religious organizations of Kabir panthi, Swadhyay Parivar, Swaminarayan, etc, are making the tribal "bhagat", freeing them from drinking liquor and eating meat.

In South Gujarat, their social hierarchy starts with Dhodia Patel at the top, followed by Chaudhary, Vasava, Gamit, Konkana, Bhil, Kathodia, Kotvalia/Vansfodia respectively in descending order. Tadi reminded me the act of Gandhi and Morarjibhai, cutting of tadi trees from South Gujarat for tribal welfare. Shri Narayan Guru in Kerala made the tadi toders free from this toxic drink and upgraded their social status through education.

It was a Ramnavmi night, moon was shining more in a pollution free area of Kevadi. The stars were twinkling, and little clouds were making a beautiful white circle around the moon. We went to a nearby site below the hill. Forest department has made a water hole for the wild animal. The family of Sloth bears living in the den on the top of the hill come down at around 8.30 pm everyday. One after another we saw two members of their family. One crossed the road in front of us and another passed through it's daily route. We had a German made torch of 2000 metre range, that made the watching of beautiful omnivores dark black animals the Sloth bears easy. We could see it's two eyes reflecting against the light. Sometimes, the Panther comes. We waited for another 15 minutes, but at last return to the guest house to close the day.

This area is rich in Mahuva forest. The flowering season if Mahuva is over, now the fruiting started. They store flowers and eat as meal and make liquor. The liquor is an orthopedic use for external massage, can use as an alternative of anesthesia, treat cold and cough. There is prohibition, therefore, no tourists can enjoy the 'mahuva liquor' !!!

The Mahuva fruits will be used by tribal for making edible oil, called "doliyu" for cooking their meals. It is a medicine for joint pains. My mother used to describe the poverty with a proverb made from this doliyu: karam ma lakhyu karsaniya, jane koni javu? karam ma lakhyu doliyu, to ghee kyathi khavu? Tribal use now other oils too. Development has reached to their homes!

Kevadi in Gujarati means how much? Small or big? The place is small but site is big in watching the Flying Squirrels, Sloth Bears, Jarakh (wolf), Pangolin, and by chance a Panther.

Are you tempted? Don't worry,  2 rooms of forest guest house, 4 cottages and 2 tent rooms of ETC will take care of your rest and accommodation. The tribal food is delicious, particularly the Dhebara of Udad daal with red chatani of Chilly-Garlic are the tastiest. And the most important part is the joy with Nature.

Flying Squirrel, Sloth Bear and Mahuva Cheers!!! Lol.

Do visit Kevadi, the Eco Tourism Centre of Chotaudepur District of Gujarat.

16 April 2016

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