Bhubaneswar, Jan. 27: Saptasajya, the mountain range near Dhenkanal town, is a beautiful abode of nature, wildlife and mythology. Local residents say seven caves, seven hill ranges and seven beautiful streams on the road to Saptasajya welcome visitors.
The hill range begins 11km away from the district headquarters town. Legend has it that the Pandavas took shelter in the forests here during their angyantavasa (staying incognito).
Local people also believe that the famous Raghunath temple atop the hill of Saptasajya was dedicated to Lord Ram, who was also known as Raghunath.
While some travellers believe that the term Saptasajya refers to the seven beds of Lord Vishnu, forest officials say the hill range is a beautiful and balanced ecosystem where many rare and endangered medicinal plant species are found.
The temple of Lord Shiv is a major attraction here and there is also another small Shiv lingam a little above the temple amid lush green forests and bushes of wild flowers. It is possible to find the mouth of a stream just about 10 feet below the Shiv lingam. A monk stays at an ashram on the hills and practises yoga.
One has to climb more than 100 stairs to reach the Raghunath temple. As the presiding deity is Lord Ram, the three-day Ram Navami celebrations is one of the prime attractions for the pilgrims among the several festivals celebrated at Saptasajya. Apart from the Raghunath temple, Kali and Durga temples are also present there.
Saptasajya is also a favourite area for hikers. The highest peak in the range is around 1,900 feet above the sea level.
The forests of Saptasajya harbour moist deciduous to semi-evergreen forests. Around 500 species of plant species are found there including 30 species of orchids, 40 species of pteridophytes, a number of cycas and many herbaceous flora of medicinal importance, said ecologist Prasad Dash.
The mountain range is home to 120 species of birds, 20 species of spiders, insects, 50 species of butterflies, 20 species of mammals and 10 species of snakes. It is a corridor used by elephants. Other animals found here include squirrel, sambar, barking deer, leopard, chausingha, fox, honey badger and mouse deer.
Dhenkanal divisional forest officer Harmohan Maharatha says the Saptasajya forest range is one of the finest forest stretches with plenty of medicinal plant varieties and local residents co-operating to keep its resources intact.