Sunday, April 19, 2009

Living with the Spectacle monkey (contd.)

This Spectacle Monkey considered as 'vulnerable' with total conservation priotiy rating at "five". In Tripura the state government has established Gomati wild life protected area special for this primate's conservation.
For conservation risk this species of Phayer's langur has been placed under Schedule 1 of the Wild Life protection Act 1972/1991.

It is high time that the species is identified as "highly endangered" since its population is decreasing steadily following destruction of its habitat

When the dawn breaks in the winter, the monkeys stay on top branches of trees to get the warmth of the morning sun. Because, the whole night they had to spend under open sky in tree branches.

When it becomes slightly warm at about 6-30 A.M in the morning they start eating the green leaves of trees. It was also observed that the leaves of rubber plants are delicious to them.

Many groups of these monkeys stay only in rubber gardens and eat rubber leaves.
At noon, at around 12 to 12-30 they take rest.
It is also a time for making love. One monkey shows affection to it’s opposite counterpart and even at times they engage themselves in intercourse.
When the sun starts turning red from the dazzling yellow, the groups of spectacle monkeys start selecting their sites of stay at night.

They continue to eat leaves and cross one place to another to find the suitable place. The entire group finally come close and assembles in near by trees.

The monkeys have extreme love for their kids. Generally babies are born from the month of January to March. A one day old monkey grasps tightly his or her mother, who jumps from one tree to another. All the group members show affections to the offspring and like human being the baby is transferred from one lap to another monkey’s lap.

They become furious when any one attempts to attack their kids.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Living with the Spectacle monkey

Even monkeys sport spectacle and they are very special type of primate . It seems funny, but they happen to be the Spectacle Langur of Tripura. Commonly known as chasma Bandar and are found only in Tripura and adjoining parts of Assam and Mizoram.

These small, agile langurs were named as Spectacle monkey because of white rings encircling their eyes giving an appearance of wiring spectacles.

Last winter I stayed for about a fort night in Sipahijala sanctuary, nuzzled in India’s North Eastern state of Tripura, about only 22 K.M from the capital Agartala.

Shivering in the morning, during my hour long morning walk, the ups and downs of the sanctuary, I used to see the monkeys eating rubber leaves.

They live on tree tops and hardly come on the ground- even for drinking water. And whenever any one approaches, they just take flight to dense forest. It is really a typical monkey business, indeed.

Scientists call them Phayre's Langur and local people also call them ‘Dhudhmukhi bandar' because of a pale white patch surrounding their mouth.

Though male and female all wear "specs", they do not like the same "frame", of course. While white and round patch frame around the eyes is the distinguishing mark for males and triangular or cone shaped markings identify the langurs as female.

However, like human being, the specs are absent among the kids.

Like other langurs they also have long tails, spend most of their times in tree tops and eat leaf as staple food compared to the other monkeys.

The tail is blacker at the base but lighter distally. The ventral surface is distinctly white or whitish yellow.

Adult females are slightly larger than their male counterparts. They are lean and thin having a height of about two feet. The weight of the adults varies between six to nine KGs.

The monkeys always live in a group of 8-22, prefer to hang on trees and come down to earth only when they need to negotiate with tree canopy, and well of course, if they want to have a 'walk'.

Researchers say, three South East Asian sub species of T. phayrei are distributed in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

According to Dr Atul K Gupta, IFS, who has done extensive research on the primates here and in the country Phayer's langurs are confined to three north eastern states Tripura, adjoining Assam and Mizoram only, the largest population being in Tripura.

It is likely that Phayer's langurs might have migrated to Cachar in Assam and Dampa wild life sanctuary in Mizoram from Tripura only in recent past.

These areas are close to Tripura and connected by dense ever green forest.
Since of late the forest cover is being lost and canopy contiguity is disrupted the migration seems to have also stopped.

Despite having the similar habitat, presence of these primates were not reported from any where in the region which does not have any land connection with the state.

This fact only strengthens the idea that these bespectacled langurs were orginally from Tripura.
Even in Tripura though the Chashma Bandar is reported from all over the state, they are mainly found in South district than the other three --north, west and Dhalai.

Dr Gupta during his survey of the primates in 1989 found 899 Phayer's langurs from 56 groups in the state.

If the figures of Siphajiala and Gumti wild life sanctuaries are included then the total number of these primates would be more than 1000.

The groups of Phayer's langurs with 8 to 22 members each having their own home range, seem to be very male dominant family. Usually a group comprises of one adult male, 3 to 6 adult females and sub adults, juveniles and infants.

Mother monkey gives birth to her golden brown baby between November and March and she devotes almost all the day for rearing the baby.

The father prefers to either jumping or yawing away his day on tree top and , if alarmed, makes calls sounding similar to 'kha kha kha' . Experts say : these primates have four different types of calls expressing different meanings in their social life.

Although the Phayer's langurs have their definite home range they do not mind if other sympatric species like capped langur, rhesus macaque, slow lorris or hoolock gibbon come to their homes.

Study on these langurs find they mainly feed on leaves of koroi, Harish, acacia and Krishnachura.

to be Continued ..........................

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pilak - A symbol of Hindu-Buddhist cultural affinity

Nestled in Jolaibari, a small town of Tripura’s South District, Pilak, an 8th-12th century archaeological site, stand mute as an eloquent symbol of Hindu-Buddhist cultural affinity as much as the glorious cultural past of the State.

Stone engravings and statues of Shiva, Surya, Baishnabi and Mahishashurmardini stand alongside the statues of Lord Buddha in different places like Shyam Sundar Tilla, Deb Bari, Thakurani Tilla, Balir Pathar, Basudeb Bari and others in a three square kilometer site.

The dominant form and style of the rock-cut images and the sculptures in Pilak carried the influence of Palas and Guptas of Bengal, influence of the Arakan in Mynamer (formerly Burma) and local style, Jawahar Achariya, a historian and numismatist, said.

The number of rock-cut images and terracotta plaques lie scattered in various places of the area, which has been under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India, speaking of the State’s past cultural glory.

“The moulded terracotta plaques bear resemblance with moulded plaques recovered from Paharpur and Mainamati in Bangladesh”, Achariya, who studied the history of the site, said.

Thaikhai Chowdhury, an official of the Information Department of Tripura and a Mog tribal said, “ There is a reference of Pilak as Pilakko in the stone inscriptions at Mruhang, the ancient capital of the old Arakan Kingdom in present Myanmar”.

He said that according to the folklore and oral history,there was close cultural link between ‘Pilakko” and Arakan via Chittagong Hill Tracts of Present Bnagladesh.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had taken over the site since 1999 and is now under protected under the provisions of the Government of India’s relevant Act of 1958.

A senior conservation assistant of the ASI, Narayan Chandra Debnath said, a new stupa was excavated at Sundari tilla.

Explaining the importance of the newly excavated site, Debnath says this is a full size Buddhist stupa built in 11th century on the pattern of architecture during the reign of ‘Palas of Bengal”.

Debnath who was in-charge of the Pilak site since 1999, said the stupa had been excavated under the supervision of ASI Superintendent, P Kumaran since Jan 1999 and completed in March 2006.

He pointed out that the stone image of meditating Buddha found in the sanctum of the stupa had “very close affinity to the tribal feature on the mouth”.

A top official of the state government said that government had plans to develop the site for Buddhist tourists of South-East Asia and other places and for this a project of Rs. 150 crore has been submitted to the centre.

The centre will seek financial assistance from the government of Japan, he said. The state government has already developed the site as a tourist spot by setting up a cafeteria and providing other facilities for visitors from outside.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Solar power lights up villages in Tripura

Perched on Killa hill, Tobakla, a remote tribal hamlet in Tripura's south district now shines in the dark with a non-conventional solar power plant supplying energy under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vaidyutikaran Yojana.
A septuagenarian, Bikram Singh Jamatiya is a delighted man today. ''My village is remote which can be approached only on foot. We lived in darkness at night. Now it is different," he told a group of visiting journalists.
"Earlier, we saw electric lights only when we went to Udaipur, the district town, which is about 25 km from the village," he said.
Bikram Singh is not alone. 62 tribal families of the village under Kochigang panchayat of Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) are now beneficiaries of this non-conventional energy source.
The solar photovoltaic plant with a capacity of 10 Kilo Watt has been installed there at an investment of Rs.40 lakh.
''After sunset the village wore a ghostly look as the only sources of light were kerosene lanterns, but we have bid farewell to darkness,'' said Chandrasandha Jamatiya of the village.
The Science and Technology Department, the nodal agency for electrifying the remote villages with non-conventional energy, had initially granted only two bulbs for lighting each family's house.
But with the gaon panchayat approving a fan and a tv set, the department agreed to supply energy for a charge of Rs 10 per item, said Abhabananda Jamatiya, sarpanch of Kochigang Panchayat.
Tripura Power minister, Manik Dey said, "solar energy is being given to remote villages where conventional power is yet to reach. We want to electrify all villages in the state."
He said, the Left Front government was implementing the centrally sponsored 'Kuthir Jyoti programme'.Betweeb 1993 to 2007, electricity consumers increased to 3,54,500 under the programme of which 52,852 families were from rural poor and tribals. 50 per cent rural people were benefited by the programme, he said.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Unakoti - Ankor Vat of the Northeast?

Unakoti, it’s name meaning one less than a crore, dating back to the 8th or 9th century, is one of the biggest bas relief sculptures in India of gods and goddesses of Hindu mythology and scenes depicting the life of Lord Shiva.
Unakoti, is a 178 km drive from the state capital of Tripura nestled on the Raghunandan hills of Kailasahar subdivision of North Tripura district.
According to Hindu mythology, when Lord Shiva was proceeding to Kashi along with a crore of gods and goddesses he made a night halt at Unakoti.
Shiva instructed the gods and goddesses to wake up before dawn and proceed to Kashi.
In the morning when none except he got up, forcing him to set out for Kashi alone, Shiva cursed the gods and goddesses turned them to stone.
Therefore, ‘Unakoti’ acquired its name—one less than one crore.
According to the Archeological Survey of India, Unakoti dates back to the 8th or 9th century, if not earlier and is the biggest bas-relief sculpture in India.
“Unakoti is the Ankor vat of the Northeast, “said Panna Lal Roy, a scholar and self taught historian ,who extensively studied the archeological site.
“We can compare it with Ankor Vat, because we find an amalgamation of Hindu and Buddhist influences in the rockcut carvings though it is essentially a Hindu religious site with thousands of statues of Hindu god and goddesses”.
These sculptures include figures of Lord Shiva, Shri Ram, Hanuman and Ganapati.
The images are of two types – rock carved figures and stone images.
Among the rock cut carvings, there is a 30 feet high image of Lord Shiva in grey stone carved into the vertical rock face.
A small, rock strewn stream flows besides the figure of Shiva.
The central Shiva known as ‘Unokotiswara Kal Bhairava’ is about 30 feet high including a 10 feet high embroidered head dress.
On each side are two full size female figures—one of Goddess Durga standing astride a lion and another female figure.
There are also three ‘Nandi’ bulls half buried in the ground.
Just about fifty metres downstream, are three imposing images of Lord Ganesha.
There is a gigantic four- armed seated Ganesha and on its side two standing figures of Sarabhuja Ganesha with three tusks and the Ashtabhuja Ganesha with four tusks.
The central Shiva and the gigantic Ganesha are masterpieces.
Sources in the ASI said, some statues were still undiscovered in the jungles which needed to be preserved, while many were taken away by local people for worship at home.
There is talk of UNESCO declaring Unakoti as a world heritage site, the sources said.
There is another myth associated with this enchanting place, according to which Unakoti was the unfinished dream of a sculptor, who wished to make it a place of pilgrimage for a crore of deities.
His dream remained incomplete, as one image was short, thus it came to be kjnown as Unakoti.
Huge religious fairs are held here on Makar Sankranti and Ashokastami with thousands of people arriving and also taking holy dips in Kundas.
There is a tourist lodge in area. Tripura tourist corporation would soon announce some package tours to attract more tourists.