Saturday, April 23, 2016

Lions of Satadhar

Lions of Satadhar

Jhaverchand Meghani, the patriot poet of Gujarat whom Gandhiji called a national poet, wrote a beautiful poem on the bravery of a girl of Gir, "Charna Kanya". The poem starts with narrating the might and awe of a lion, "savaj garaje", the king of the jungle! Describing in minute detail the fearful effects the lion had on different creatures. With this backdrop, the poet introduces Charankanya, a young 14-year-old innocent Charan girl, playful and full of life. She is coming face to face with the lion! Something unbelievable happens -- the girl sees the lion eye-to-eye and then runs behind him with a stick, screaming out loud, "ubho reje, gir na kutta ubho reje". Seeing her, the lion gets afraid and runs away! 

JN Singh and I were traveling together in Gir Sanctuary after 23 years, on 25 January 2016. We did see lions eating the kill in the sanctuary area, but I wished to see the grown up lion with fur. We then moved to Devalia Captive Park. 75% of the Gir Tourists visit the park every year. 

We saw a group of five lions were enjoying their morning feast of Chital. Meantime, the forester found out two lions at one location. We were moved to that site. We saw two grown up lions, with beautiful fur coat, leisurely coming from our front, came closure to our vehicle, looked at us and pass through with shame filled fireless eyes. I was surprised. Where is the king of the Jungle? The Savaj? Where has their wildness gone? They were walking without worry and as if they had good breakfast at Jungle Mess.

Curiously, I inquired with the Foerster? 

They are Sarkari Sir, he replied instantly. They are zoo breed, kept in the Safari park. They can't hunt. In jungle, mother teaches hunting, body opening and eating skills to her cubes. But in zoo, they don't get the  chance to learn all these skills and tricks. They are permanently dependent on zoo feeding. If left out, they can't manage their food and will die of starvation.

I remembered Satadhar, a place nearby, where the pilgrims go in hundreds and eat at the langer (ram roti). Many pilgrims drop money in the donation box but some eat the langar free. And when some body eat free meal, without his own efforts or contribution, he walks with shame filled eyes.

The two Asiatic Lions we saw in the safari park, had beautiful fur tawny-golden, speckled with black lines, with a silvery sheen in Sun lights. But they were not the Savaj, the Kings of the Jungle, I had in my mind, described by Poet Jhaverchand Meghani.


24 February 2016


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