Home to over 300 species of birds, Keoladeo Ghana National Park popularly known as Bharatpur National Park, is situated near Bharatpur in eastern Rajasthan. The park lies between two of India’s tourism centres – Agra and Jaipur – about 190 km from Delhi.
Keoladeo is just two km from the erstwhile royal capital of Bharatpur, termed as the ‘Eastern Gateway to Rajasthan’. Founded in 1733 AD by Maharaja Suraj Mal, the place was named Bharatpur after Bharat, younger brother of Lord Ram.
Spread over an area of 29 sq km, the park derives its name from the ancient temple dedicated to Keoladeo located at the centre of the park. ‘Ghana’ means dense and refers to the thick forest, which covered the area. About 11 sq km of the park is marsh land and the rest comprises of scrub-land and grassland.
Bharatpur lake was created as an outcome of efforts to save the city from regular floods. The forests were the preferred hunting grounds for Bharatpur royals. Duck shoots were also organised annually for visiting British viceroys. According to historical records, over 4,273 birds were killed by Lord Linlithgow, the then Viceroy, in a duck shoot organised in 1938.
Keoladeo’s location is ideal as it straddles the north-south avian migratory route. The sanctuary attracts birds from India and also from Tibet, Siberia, Europe and China. Cranes including Siberian Cranes, pelicans, ducks, hawks, shanks, stints, wagtails, warblers, wheatears, flycatchers, buntings, larks and pipits, painted, open-billed, white necked and black necked stork, spoonbill, night heron, barheaded and grey-leg geese, imperial eagle, marsh harrier and laggar falcon can be found in the park. Monsoon is the best time to see the courtship of the birds and nesting inside the park
The park also boasts of an impressive list of fauna. Black Buck, sambhar, spotted deer, nilgais and pythons can also be spotted.
Bharatpur and surrounding areas including the sanctuary was believed to be part of Braj Bhoomi, which is closely associated with Lord Krishna. Mathura, birthplace of Krishna, is 40 km away, while Vrindavan is mere 15 km away.
The Bharatpur Lake was created as a result of efforts to save the princely capital from floods during monsoon. Maharaja Suraj Mal, the then ruler of Bharatpur, decided to construct an earthen dam (Ajan Dam) in 1760. The earthen dam was created at the confluence of Gambhir and Banganga rivers. The crater left behind by excavation of soil for the dam became the Bharatpur lake.
A system of dykes and sluice gates were added to regulate the flow of water in different sections. With the growth of green cover soon attracted birds and over a period of time, it became the hunting preserve of Bharatpur royals.
The first duck shoot in Keoladeo Ghana was inaugurated by Lord Curzon along with Lord Kitchner, the Commander-in-Chief on December 1, 1902. Stone plaques near Keoladeo temple speak about the exploits of visiting dignitaries since 1902.
By mid-60s, hunting was prohibited and the area declared a protected sanctuary in 1971 and national park in 1982. It became a World Heritage Site in December 1985.
Bharatpur offers a plethora of options to stay. From budget, to medium-range, resorts to heritage hotels, Bharatpur offers it all. Many of the hotels are located in close proximity to the Park. The government-run Bharatpur Forest Lodge is the only one located inside the sanctuary. Rajasthan Tourism also operates a hotel on the Jaipur-Agra road.
For the budget traveler, there are several options ranging from railway retiring rooms to paying guest accommodation. Paying guest accommodations offer both single and double beds; however, some have shared bathrooms.
A fee is charged for entry into the park. Fee is also charged for camera and video cameras. In case you hire a bicycle to tour the park, you have to pay for it too. The park is open daily from dawn to sunset during the season. For approved tourist guides contact: The Asstt. Director, Tourist Reception Center, Hotel Saras (RTDC) and Deputy Chief Wildlife Warden, Forest Rest House. Guides are also available at the Bird Sanctuary gate. Do not forget to carry binoculars for bird watching. Bird watching involves a great deal of patience and depends on season and timing. Forest Rest House operates a mini bus inside the park. Contact the Dy. Chief Wildlife Warden, Forest Rest House, for booking seats on the mini bus.
BEST TIME TO VISIT BHARATPUR
The average minimum and maximum temperature of Bharatpur is as given below. The best time to visit Bharatpur is also specified.