Animal escapades captured at Kanha’s natural museum

It usually gets difficult to speak when tongue fights a pathetic battle to concentrate both on the food that was being savored and the eagerness to talk at the same time. In situations like these, the best course of action is to eat in absolute silence. This was so true, when the aloo paratha‘, our bread dish for that morning met the spicy and extremely well-made egg curry. Our salivary glands were working full steam. An inexplicable bliss within the mouth reigned high when a spoonful of mango pickle was added to the cauldron of tastes.

We devoured the concoction at the Kanha’s cafeteria which had been offering mouth-watering dishes since we visited the national park. Our tour manager gave us ten minutes to be ready from boarding our old warhorse the Gypsy which would take us for the last time through the rolling grassy meadows of Kanha to the museum which perhaps had a story to tell. It was our last day at Kanha and we wanted to absorb every bit of it.  

The Gypsy brigade at the museum parking as visitors got a chance to see the natural life that existed in Kanha forest by Gautam Lahiri
The Gypsy brigade at the museum parking as visitors got a chance to see the natural life that existed in Kanha

By now we had acquired the knowledge of the jungle roads to quite an extent. The dusty roads fanned out of the Kisli gate entry into the wilderness. The museum at Kanha was not very far off at least that is what we learned from a fellow traveler. To relish the Kanha’s flowing beauty of nature’s bounty, we requested the driver to reach the destination taking a circuitous route. The unmistakable valleys covered with vegetation soon started passing our three hundred sixty degrees view as our heads made continuous scanning arcs.

Winter added a great flavor to the tour with its crisp early morning breeze. Gypsy is an open car, and when we stood out or faced the wind square on, the driving air made our noses and cheeks numb with cold, or more appropriately by the cool thrill which always built up when the forest presented itself around. At every turn of the road, an expectation existed to see something different.

The young sun mildly glowed at the rim of the forest horizon drenching the tall grasses and trees with a mix of crimson and green light at Kanha forest by Gautam Lahiri
The young sun mildly glowed at the rim of the forest horizon drenching the tall grasses and trees with a mix of crimson and green light

On our way, we saw horned bystanders who ran right in front of us into the thick undergrowth and once undercover strained their necks to gaze back at us.

A couple of sambars gave us company for a while.

A sambar looked through the branches and trees. The dark coat of its hide giving way of its presence at Kanha forest by Gautam Lahiri
A sambar looked through the branches and trees. The dark coat of its hide giving way of its presence

We finally reached the museum. It was nestled in a sprawling area. Tall sal and mahua trees ran wild around the parking space.

Disembarking from the Gypsy we made our way into the flat single storied edifice nestled among rows of tall trees.

The Kanha museum from its eastern end within Kanha forest by Gautam Lahiri
The Kanha museum from its eastern end

Neatly designed, the green colored sloping roofs were propped by gothic pillars. With due permission, I trained my camera on to few snaps that were quite unique. A section of the stone-laden pathway was created within which skeletons of the big cats were kept. An interesting assemblage of the animal framework on display.

Descriptions and annotations were everywhere for a visitor’s log book.

Main entrance to the Kanha museum remained under shadows of gigantic trees within Kanha forest by Gautam Lahiri
Main entrance to the Kanha museum remained under shadows of gigantic trees

Few exhibits caught our attention and they looked so terribly real. I found a man-made replica of two deadly snakes that abound not only the forests of Kanha but the entire Indian subcontinent. The guide told us few morbid stories of humans losing their lives when they inadvertently crossed their paths.

A cobra, a bow constrictor or a rock python can be as lethal as the big cats. The only difference is a cobra does not eat humans but kills. However, pythons are known to have crushed humans and devoured whole.

A cobra replica, one of the most lethal snakes on this planet in Kanha forest by Gautam Lahiri
A cobra replica, one of the most lethal snakes on this planet
The rock python looked so frighteningly real. Even the artificial rock created atop which it was rested looked uneven and flashed the display lights above at Kanha forest by Gautam Lahiri
The rock python looked so frighteningly real. Even the artificial rock created atop which it was rested looked uneven and flashed the display lights above 

As my camera panned from one item to the other two very different images of a tiger presented itself. A picture showed the tiger attacking or grabbing a deer.

A tiger attacking its prey brought to life by the picture at Kanha's museum at Kanha forest by Gautam Lahiri
A tiger attacking its prey brought to life by the picture at Kanha’s museum

The other one was quite gruesome. A half eaten wild boar; a struggle between the life and death in a jungle. It is the battle which has been raging since, time immemorial.

Kanha's museum picture of a warthog with its rear eaten away caught every visitor's attention  at Kanha forest by Gautam Lahiri
Kanha’s museum picture of a warthog with its rear eaten away caught every visitor’s attention 

A great account of tiger’s pug marks was on display. I wished I had the time to read the exhaustive documentation and the process by which a pugmark of a tiger is identified. It is indeed a science by itself and zoologists or veterinary specialists do not have to memorize the ways and means of identification.

Every pug mark was distinct and unique.

Encapsulated real pug marks were kept on display. The only give way to a tiger's presence in Kanha forest by Gautam Lahiri
Encapsulated real pug marks were kept on display. The only give way to a tiger’s presence

We had completed our tour of the Kanha’s natural archives and walked to the rear of the museum to catch some fresh air. There was a stream which ran at the rear of the building. A small clearing of grass and shrubs leading to one of the innumerable water courses that feed the bigger water holes of Kanha.

The colossal trees cast their shadows on to the ground with the faint white glow of the rising sun washing the surrounding countryside was a spectacle that soothed both our eyes and soul.

The small stream behind the Kanha museum flowing its way through the forest wastelands at Kanha forest by Gautam Lahiri
The small stream behind the Kanha museum flowing its way through the forest wastelands

After spending about two hours, enjoying the museum literature and documentation, we felt as if we were true experts of wildlife. However, the forest and its nuances are fathomless. It takes years of exposure and study to even come close to knowing it.

This time we had our lunch packed with us and was not the full course meal we had gotten used to. We snugly sat in the Gypsy and finished our lunch amidst the open forest. The light cold breeze swept over us putting everyone in a contemplative mood.

Our final passage through the Kanha’s sprawling trees, bushes, and woodland were yet to come and we eagerly waited to start the drive.  We will meet you soon as we would be driving over the uneven roads through the brown dust haze whipped up by the spinning wheels, a touch painted by the fiery sun.

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