Gandhamardan's healing touch
Read more below
- Published 29.11.10
Bhubaneswar, Nov. 28: A trekker’s delight and a treasure trove for rare medicinal plants, Gandhamardan Hill Range is famous for its two shrines of Hari-Shankar and Nrusimhanath.
Affordable and reachable both by rail and road, the region could be a perfect getaway for you this winter.
While Nrusimhanath is situated at the Bargarh end of the 6,000 hectare range, Hari-Shankar is at the Balangir side. Hari-Shankar is 40km away from Kantabanji on the Titlagarh-Raipur railway stretch and 90km from Balangir town.
The most interesting part of your trip should be the trek from Hari-Shankar to Nrusimhanath through the forest. It could take as much as six hours to cover the 15km stretch.
Hari-Shankar on the southern slope of the Gandhamardan Hill Range is unique because of its shrine of both Vishnu and Shiva. The entire hill range has more than 20 perennial streams.
While there are forest rest houses (FRHs) at Hari-Shankar and Nrusimhanath with four and two rooms respectively available in the range of Rs 100-Rs 250 a night, a budget hotel built by Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) at Hari-Shankar has air conditioned rooms for Rs 1,100-Rs 1,200 a night.
Budget hotels at Balangir town are available in the range of Rs 400-Rs 800 a night.
Balangir divisional forest officer (DFO) Rajkishore Sahu said: “People Chhattisgarh come to Hari-Shankar by trekking the entire way. The deer park between the temple and forest rest house (FRH) now has 200 deer. At Hari-Shankar, there is also a very beautiful herbal garden with 300 varieties of plants.”
Sahu said there are 300 separate plots dedicated to 300 different varieties of plants at the garden. Some of these plants are very rare in these parts.
“The herbal garden near Nrusimhanath contains 150 varieties of plants, but they are not planted in the way in which the Hari-Shankar thing has been done,” he added.
If you have a problem with the 15-km trek from Hari-Shankar to Nrusimhanath, you could opt for the road via Paikmal, taking which you could reach Nrusimhanath in two hours.
Though there are no big animals like elephants and tigers in the forest, you could encounter leopards, hyena, peacock, flying squirrel, monkeys, snakes, bear and wild boar.
“The facilities extended by the temple administration and the forest and ITDC people are good and one can enjoy the stay with the entire family,” said Mrutyunjay Tripathy, a state government employee who visited Gandhamardan Hill Range last year.
According to the Ramayana, while bringing the entire Gandhamardan range from the Himalayas to treat Lakshman with Sanjivanee, Hanuman, the valorous monkey god, broke some parts of the mountain and the pieces fell at the place where today’s Gandhamardan stands with its treasure of fragrant medicinal plants.
The hill range is composed of a cluster of hills with altitudes varying between 600 and 1,005 metres above the sea level. Bender, Butel, Chalidilli, Chhatradandi Gandhamardan, Potpani and Thuta are the prominent hills in this range. The range stands as a natural barrier on the border of Balangir and Bargarh districts.
“The forest in the hill range comes under the tropical moist deciduous type. Due to its diversified topography with 22 perennial streams, the region provides an ideal environment for the growth of both plants and animals. However, these resources are under severe threat due to over-exploitation including collection of firewood, fodder, medicinal plants and heavy incidence of grazing. Out of the 1,076 species of plants found in Bargarh district, a total of 850 species of vascular plants belonging to 540 genera under 138 families are available here,” said ecologist Prasad Dash.
“Of the 28 endemic medicinal plants found in the Eastern Ghats, seven are found in Gandhamardan alone. Dominance of phanerophytes indicates a tropical moist and humid climate. The top flat plateau of the hills running through the length of Gandhamardan is covered lush grasslands,” he said.
A variety of rare and endemic hill stream fish are also available here. Due to the rich floral diversity, a large number of honey bees and birds are found here. Because of the presence of a variety of plants, a large variety of butterflies are also found here,” Dash added.
But the hill range is most famous for its medicinal plants and is also known as an “ayurvedic garden”.
More than 400 plant species were found in the area with medicinal properties. Among them, Asparagus racemosus, Celastrus paniculata, Chlorophytum arundinaceum, Costus speciosus, Curculigo orchioides, Curcuma angustifolia, Gloriosa superb, Gymnema sylvestre, Plumbago zeylanica, Rubia cordifolia and Tinospora cordifolia were harvested in bulk for preparation of medicines by local people.
Unsustainable collection of the above medicinal plants has placed them in threatened and vulnerable categories in Conservation Assessment and Management Plan (CAMP) of the state. Some medicinal plants such as Asparagus gonoclados, Enicostema littorale, Pimpinella heyneana, Garcinia xanthochymus, Radenmanchera xylocarpa, Embelia basal, Symphorema polyandrum, Vernonia anthelmintica, Xanthoxylum rhetsa, Cordia macleodii, Litsea glutinosa, Pterocarpus marsupium and Schrebera swietenioides, which were abundant at one point, are now rarely seen and come under the threatened category of medicinal plants in Orissa.