Connect with us

India

Once in a blue bloom: Kerala’s famed neelakurinji set for rare mass bloom

Published

on

Once in a blue bloom

Thiruvananthapuram, July 12 (IANS/Mongabay) Starting late July, the Anamalai hills near Munnar in Kerala will be resplendent, clad in a purplish blue carpet. The famed neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana) will burst into flower – a phenomenon that occurs once in 12 years. Hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to flock to the Munnar hills to behold the spectacle that lasts up until October.

Munnar is home to the highest concentration of neelakurinji plants in the country – spread over 3,000 hectares of rolling hills. Each shrub reproduces once in its life time and dies after flowering. It takes another 12 years for the seeds to sprout again and grow up to 30 to 60 centimetres high, for another glorious bloom.

The neelakurinji belongs to the genus Strobilanthes, which is a tropical plant species found in Asia and Australia. There are about 450 species of Strobilanthes in the world, of which 146 are found in India and of them, about 43, in Kerala.

Image result for neelakurinji strobilanthes kunthiana

Strobilanthes Kunthiana

The blooming of neelakurunji this year has ensured the fourth most important place for the Western Ghats in the Lonely Planet’s 2018 Best in Asia.

According to Prasad Ambattu, a journalist and a resident of Munnar, there are two 12-year cycles simultaneously going on in the Anamalai hills. In one cycle, the last neelakurinji bloom was in 2006 and the next one is now, in 2018. In the other cycle, the last bloom was in 2014.

The mass flowering neelakurinji provides a feast for butterflies, honeybees and other insects. The purple flowers hold a large amount of nectar, which especially attract the eastern honeybee (Apis cerana).

“This honey from the neelakurinji is very special. It lasts for about 15 years without getting spoilt,” said G. Rajkumar, chief coordinator of the NGO Save Kurinji Campaign Council. He added that the honey is supposed to have medicinal properties.

Rajkumar also said that the ecosystem that supports the kurinji plants plays a major role in bringing water to the Amaravati river which is a tributary of the Kaveri river, a main water source for Tamil Nadu. “The Kurinji reserve is in the catchment area of Amaravati river,” he said.

The tourist boom begins

The forest department expects a large number of tourists to arrive in Munnar during this season, said Lekshmi Rajeshwari, forest range officer at Devikulam, which is part of the Eravikulam National Park, the prime destination where neelakurinji will bloom.

“One million tourists, including travellers from Europe and the United States, are expected to visit this amazing place this year,” she said.

Last October, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had communicated through a social media post that around eight lakh (0.8 million) tourists are expected for the bloom season and the state government aims to introduce a series of measures to protect the Eravikulam National Park. As an unprecedented number of tourists will visit the region, the government plans to restrict the numbers entering the park and the amount of time they spend there, said Vijayan’s post. Action on waste management and required tourist facilities are to be in place to safeguard the national park.

Encroachment on the neelakuri habitats

The Kurinjimala Sanctuary was declared in 2006, during the previous mass flowering to protecting the neelakurinji and its habitat. “This sanctuary gives the rarest, most spectacular view of neelakurinji,” said G. Baburaj, an environmentalist. “But it is eyed by many,” he added, elaborating that the area is being encroached on by resorts, hotels, plantations and small farms.

Image result for Encroachment neelakuri habitats kerala

Pic, (HT) An encroached plot in Munnar; (inset) the kurinji in bloom.

To put an end to the encroachments, the Kerala government passed an ordinance in 2006, for protecting the Kurinjimala Sanctuary. Since a number of settlements came under the area in the sanctuary, which was raising a stir among locals, the government, in the ordinance, authorised a sub-collector to adjudicate land claims after hearing complaints.

The proposed land that came under this ordinance included 2,041 houses, more than 53 government offices, 12 schools, 62 temples, churches and even banks. There were allegations against local politicians for forging title deeds of land ownership in the areas declared as protected.

However, for Kurinjimala to be declared as a wildlife sanctuary permanently under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, there is need for the settlement officer (in this case the Devikulam sub-collector) to go through the settlement of rights process for those who have inhabited or have rights over the land. This has now happened.

In November 2017, the Kerala Government decided to redraw the boundaries of the Kurinjimala Sanctuary – a move which had invited criticism alleging that it was to support the encroachers.

Following the controversy, Pinarayi Vijayan had promised that the reserve’s area will not be reduced at any cost. He told media representatives that a committee will be formed to study the issues at the reserve and it will look in to the settlement concerns.

There is also a case pending in the Kerala High Court, demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) enquiry into the involvement of the local member of Parliament in fabricating documents for the land. Similarly, there are hundreds of such encroachments in the reserve, claims environmentalist G. Baburaj.

Protection for neelakurinji habitat finally declared

Now, in the latest decision as of April 2018, the Kerala cabinet has decided to ensure that the proposed Neelakurinji Sanctuary will have a minimum of 3,200 hectares. Though the cabinet had decided not to evict people with title deeds, it plans to redraw the boundaries in cooperation with the revenue department.

Related image

Picture Credit : iamlark

The cabinet decision includes appointing a settlement officer, conducting drone-based survey to identify the forest land and amending The Kerala Promotion of Tree Growth In Non-Forest Areas Act 2005 to prevent growing acacia and eucalyptus in the reserve forest area, all meant to benefit the Kurinjimala Sanctuary.

(In arrangement with Mongabay.com, a source for environmental news reporting and analysis. The views expressed in the article are those of Mongabay.com. Feedback: [email protected])

Cities

Shaikh Akleem is ‘Sita’, Afzal Ansari is ‘Lord Shiva’ in this Bihar Ramlila

Published

on

Bihar Ramlila
The stage is set for the Ramlila — the dramatic re-enactment of the life of Hindu god Lord Ram performed in the run-up to Dussehra — in this small Bihar village, with Muslims plentiful among the performers, organisers and the audience. (Credit-HT Photo)

Sato Awanti (Bihar), Oct 17: For nearly four decades, Muslims in this Bihar village have been helping Hindus celebrate Dussehra and playing mythical characters in the Ramlila — a dramatic representation of the life of Lord Rama. The village is an example of India’s composite culture and the communal harmony lived through Dussehra.

For 10 days, Shaikh Akleem is Goddess Sita, Guddu Tiwari is Lord Rama while Afzal Ansari is Lord Shiva and Amit Singh becomes Hanuman, enthralling people from far and near with their get-up and performances in Sato Awanti, a village in Kaimur district, about 200 km off Patna.

Shaikh Akleem (19) is thrilled playing the role of Sita, with Tiwari as “Maryada Purushottam Ram”.

“I am lucky to play Sita, loved and respected by all. It is a matter of pride for me,” Akleem said.

Guddu Tiwari, playing the role of Rama, said that Ramlila here was unique because it was played and organised with the help of Muslims. “Both Muslims and Hindus treat Ramlila as their own, it is special for us.”

This is a part of decades-old tradition started by a group of Muslims with the support of Hindus in Sato Awanti. Both the communities enthusiastically participate in Ramlila in the village.

“It all started 36 years ago, in 1982, when a few Muslims, including Jamaluddin Ansari and Nurul Ansari, decided to organise Ramlila. Over the years, this village has become popular for it,” said Shaikh Mumtaz Ali, the Director of Ramlila in the village.

In the first Ramlila organised in the village, Khurshid Alam played the role of Lord Rama and Jamaluddin Ansari acted out Kumbhakaran, the younger brother of Ravana. Sharfuddin Ansari, a martial expert, has been helping the troupe depict war scenes.

Shaikh Mumtaz Ali, the father of Akleem, said that “we have successfully managed the Ramlila show for the last six days, and hope to do so for the remaining three days”.

The response of the people has been overwhelming, Shaikh Mumtaz Ali said.

During the evening show, loud chants of “Siyavar Ram Chandra Ki Jai” by the audience that has several Muslims can be heard.

“Not just Hindus, but several Muslims from the neighbouring villages and some from far-off villages come to watch our rare show,” said Shaikh Mumtaz Ali.

According to Suresh Singh, the patron of Ramlila in the village, both Muslims and Hindus donate money and work together to ensure the success of the show.

“In our village, more than religious, it is a social event with participation from all. It’s a positive sign,” Suresh Singh said.

This year, Tauqeer Ansari is playing the role of Kumbhakaran. Dozens of children, both Hindu and Muslim, form the “Vanar Sena” of Lord Rama, he said.

The spirit of conviviality can be gauged from the fact that Hindus help Muslims take out the Muharram procession in the village.

“We are proud that Muslims help us, support us to celebrate Durga Puja. They have set an example of harmony. This is unheard of anywhere else,” Guddu Tiwari said.

Mahesh Prasad, a villager, said: “We can’t think of celebrating the festival in such a big way without the support of Muslims.”

IANS

Continue Reading

India

Rampal gets life imprisonment in second murder case

Published

on

rampal

Hisar, Oct 17: A Hisar court on Wednesday awarded life imprisonment to self-styled godman Rampal in the November 2014 murder case (FIR number 430). 

The court of Additional District and Sessions Judge D.R. Chalia, who convicted them on October 11, awarded the life sentence.

This comes a day after, Rampal and 14 others were sentenced life imprisonment in another case, connected to the death of four women and a child, who lost their lives due to suffocation and illness during the impasse at his Ashram.

Last week, the court had convicted Rampal and others under Sections 302 (murder), 343 (wrongful confinement) and 120 B (conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The two murder cases against him relate to the murder of six people during violent clashes between his supporters and Haryana Police at his Satlok Ashram near Barwala town in Hisar district.

Since their arrest in November 2014, Rampal and his aides have been lodged in the jail.

WeForNews 

Continue Reading

India

Sabarimala Temple opening: Police detain protesters

Published

on

Pamba, Oct 17: The Police on Wednesday detained people protesting against the entry of women in the age group of 10-50 to Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple.

Some of the devotees had been staging a sit-in chanting Ayyappa mantra in protest near Pamba base camp against the Supreme Court verdict permitting women to enter the shrine.

In another incident, strong protests by Sabarimala traditionalists reportedly forced a 40-year-old Andhra woman, named Madhvi and her family to abandon their trip to the Lord Ayyappa temple.

Today is crucial for the Kerala government as it pitches to implement the September 28 Apex Court judgement.

The doors of the temple that would be opened at 5 p.m. would remain open till October 22. This is the first time that the shrine would be opening after the apex court’s verdict.

WeForNews 

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Most Popular