Along with being a minefield of flourishing wildlife and thriving greenery, the Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh’s Umaria region has always held mythological and historical importance. Travellers who come here to take in the rich history of the place can do so at the centuries old fort called the Hill Fort or Bandhavgarh Fort which sits majestically smack right in the middle of the famed national park.
The origins of the park and the fort dates draws its mythological origins from times as old as Ramayana. The remnants of lived-in caves, shrine structures inside the park indicate a lot of influence by the worship of Lord Vishnu and perhaps the biggest sign of it is the Shesh Shaiya, a reclining statue of Lord Vishnu at the spring of the Chakradhara stream that waters the Tala pond.
A recent tweet by IFS officer Parveen Kaswan has gone viral, renewing interest in the structure. In his tweet, Kaswan also spoke about how the sculpture is covered in green cyanobacteria who produce huge levels of oxygen on earth.
Where lord #Vishnu sleeps in all calmness. The reclining Vishnu sculpture is in deep forest of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, about 1000 years old. Do you see green #Cyanobacteria with it. They produce large amount of oxygen on earth. A message to conserve #wetlands also. pic.twitter.com/46P9xXqd1Z— Parveen Kaswan, IFS (@ParveenKaswan) December 19, 2020
As Kaswan’s tweet went viral, a lot of Twitter users also added facts about the structure and on cyanobacteria as well. Some thanked Kaswan for highlighting an obscure piece of sculpture for the netizens.
So, who built the Vishnu sculpture and what is the history behind the Bandhavgarh National Park and fort?
The Ramayana Connect
Ramayana has a significant mention of the Bandhavgarh region, according to this report. The name of the place is an amalgamation of two words, Bandhav- Brother and Garh -The Fort and is said to be gifted to Lakshmana by Lord Rama after the battle of Lanka ended. It is said to be around since the times of ‘Treta yug’ according to Hindu scriptures and has a lot of cave paintings and other remnants as examples of civilizations during those times.
Dynasties of Bandhavgarh
Many of the dynasties such as the Sengars, Kalchuris and Baghels were once rulers of Bandhavgarh, thereby enriching the place with their influence of art and culture and heritage. The Baghels, who are believed to be the longest ruling empire in the region, had shifted their capital to Rewa. The forest lands continued to be the hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Rewa. Studies in archeology has suggested the the fort may have been built around 10th CE. The Kalachuri dynasty, of whom the one at tripuri is the most famous, also had a base here and they were termed as the ‘Haihay Kshetra’ to differentiate. The Vakataka dynasty has also left their mark in the area with many stone writings bringing out their influence.
Sculptures, Other Places of Interest
Other than the majestic force, tourist are also encouraged to visit other points of interests that include the treasury, Seth Dhani temple, the Bandhavdheesh Temple, which is devoted to Lord Rama and a structure of Varah, the wild boar incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The villages surrounding the for and park often throw up sculptures and coins from the period. There also a few other structures of Vishnu’s avtaars like the ‘Matsya’ the Fish and another of the Turtle ‘Kachchap’.
The Bandhavgarh park is home to a wide array of wildlife such as tigers, cubs, and deer. The park is also said to be the original home to Mohan, the predecessor of all white tigers in captivity today. Sight of rare and exceptional bird like Malabar pied hornbill, falcons, vultures species are also to be enjoyed.