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SANJAY GANDHI NATIONAL PARK (SGNP)

Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), commonly known as Borivali National Park (BNP) is a miraculously preserved green oasis in the center of an urban sprawl. This national park is One of the very few, perhaps the only one of its kind, that is surrounded by a metropolis, sustaining a sizable population of big cats like Panthers. It is hard to believe, that within just less than an hour or so, one is transported from the hectic and fast life of the city to a serene and tranquil atmosphere of pleasingly verdant wilderness, serving as an outdoor museum to preserve the flora and fauna of this area.

Landscape

This rich and diverse forest holds more than thousand species of plants, 40 species of mammals, 251 species of birds covering migratory, land and water birds, 38 species of reptiles and 9 species of amphibians besides a large variety of fishes, insects and other life forms.

Panther is the largest predator of this forest, which can be easily seen in the late hours. Various other animals like Sambar (largest deer in India), Spotted deer, Chowrsingha (four horned antelope), Wild boar, Mongoose, Civet cat, Jungle cat, Langurs (leaf monkeys), Macaques may often be encountered. The park is very rich in bird and insect life specially butterflies, making it a truly naturalists paradise. Rocks and Hills near Kanheri (near the center of park) are ideal spots for Rockclimbers.

The forest cover of the park not only forms the catchment area for Tulsi and Vihar lakes, which are among the important sources of water for Mumbai, but also helps in keeping down the pollution levels of Mumbai by supplying fresh oxygen and acting as a sink.


History :
This forest has a history dating back to the 4th century BC., Sopara (Nalasopara) and Kalyan were two ports near Mumbai which use to trade with Greece and Middle East. The trade route connecting the trade centers and these ports passed through this forest. The rock cut caves of Kanheri were ancient Buddhist settlements dating back to the 1st century, on this route and also served as rest houses for travelers.
The word Kanheri is originated from Sanskrit word "Krishnagiri" means, "Black Mountain".
The forests of Yeur and Nagla constituted the state property under the Maratha Empire. When the forest dept. came into existence in 1945, the forests were surveyed and brought under proper management. Earlier the name of the park was "Krishnagiri National Park" and the area was just 20.26 sq. km.
In 1969, the park of present size materialised, by virtually piecing together the land of varying ownership. An independent unit of forest dept. called "Borivali National Park Sub-division" was created after adding the adjoining areas and "Krishnagiri National Park" was renamed as "Borivali National Park". In the early 80`s it was named as "Sanjay Gandhi National Park"


Location :
This emerald is situated about 40 km away to the north of the trapezoid shaped island of Mumbai city & about 8 km from the Arabian Sea. The area of the park lies between longitude 72°53` to 72°58`E & latitude 19°08` to 19°21` N covering an area of approx. 104 sq. km.


Map :

Map


Transport :
Suburban trains are a frequent and very popular means of transport in metropolitan area. Borivali is the nearest railway station from where the park entrance is just a km. away. Buses (route no. 188) on regular Sunday and public holiday's schedules transport visitors to Kanheri caves from Borivali station. Chartered vehicles frequently bring groups throughout the week. The nearest airport is Sahar International airport and is about 18 km. from the park entrance.


Geology :
The area comprises mainly of basic lava flows. These are commonly referred to as the `Deccan Trap` forming the part of the largest plateau basalt of the upper Cretaceous Eocans times (45 to 60 million yrs.)

Topography :
The terrain is undulating with great panoramic views of hills, valleys, lakes and open patches. Rising from an elevation less than about 30 mts. above mean sea level, the terrain culminates into a series of peaks dispersed throughout the park, the highest near the Kanheri caves being 468 mts.

Temperature :
The mean annual temperature is 27°C with a range of 15°C - 35°C over the period. Its proximity to the sea has a moderating influence on the climate. The weather is pleasant from Nov. to Feb., when the temp. is below 30°C. The relative humidity is always above 60%, very often exceeding 80% during monsoon.

Rainfall :
The southwest monsoon bursts about mid June & continues with vigour till September. The maximum rainfall occurs in July & August. The mean annual rainfall is 2500 mm.


Forest Type :
The forest can be classified into two main classes: South Indian Moist Deciduous & Semi-Evergreen, which can be further differentiated as,
a. Moist Teak Bearing forest.
b. Southern Moist mixed Deciduous forest.
c. Mangrove scrub.
d. Western Sub-Tropical Hill forest.


Flora :
The park is a tree lovers delight in all seasons, with a great amount of biodiversity ranging from Adina cardifolia (Kadamb), Albizia lebek (Shirish), Pongamia pianata (Karanj), Tectona grandis (Teak), Dalbergia latifolia (Sesum) to species of Acacia, Zizyphus and evergreen patches of Euphorbia. In the drier months from February to May, spectacular flowering of Butea monosperma (Flame of the Forest) is a feast for one's eyes. Flowering of Bombax malbaricum (Red silk cotton) and Erytherina indica (Indian coral tree) add colour. There are large patches of Bamboo, which make the feel of the jungle even better. The forest has a lot of Liana (woody climbers), a remnant from wetter greener past, many species of Orchids and a large variety of shrubs. Every monsoon is riot of colours from the violet of Zingiberaceae Species to the stark white of Costus Species. Among the many spectacular sights, one which definitely is most worthy, is the seven yearly mass flowering of Strobilanthes Species (Karvi). It is a feature of the Western Ghats and one can find extensive flowering in the park. Millions of these flowers cover the slopes giving a purple touch to this beautiful landscape.


Fauna :
Small herds of Spotted deer, a solitary Sambhar, a darting Barking deer or being surprised by a Black naped hare running across your path are just some of the pleasant surprises of the National Park, but nothing can really match the awe, fear and goose pimply feeling when one is confronted by a large Leopard. The density of Leopards is one of the highest for any such wilderness, which makes this encounter a very real possibility. Slighting a Porcupine, which is rare, or a Palm civet, hardly seen these days or encountering a striped Hyena can make in a memorable experience. The lucky few can possibly see the elusive Four horned antelope or the extremely shy Mouse deer. The monkey species includes the Rhesus macaque, which is an introduced species, the Bonnet macaque and the completely vegetarian Hanuman langur (leaf monkey). The Indian flying fox is the biggest of the 17 bat species found in the park.
The National Park is a bird watchers paradise. From the tiny Tickell's flowerpecker (small bird in India), many species of Sunbirds (old world equivalent of the humming birds) to the majestic Whitebellied Sea Eagle it is a virtual visual feast with birds like the Paradise flycatcher, the elusive Trogon, many species of Kingfishers, Woodpeckers and Drongos the continuous calling of the Large green barbet, the wildly screeching Parakeets, the metallic calls of the Racket-tailed Drongo, the musical call of the Blue flycatcher or the extremely melodious song of the Malabar whistling thrush or the familiar refrain of the Spotted babbler are just a few facets of nature's symphony in this forest.
The Reptilian world is well represented by Crocodiles in Tulsi lake, Monitor lizards, Pythons, Cobras, Russess`s viper, Bamboo pit viper and the extremely rare Ceylonese cat snake recently discovered by the staff of Bombay National History Society. Smaller reptiles add to the wonder of this park. The invertebrate world from Crabs to Spiders to insects, Giant wood spiders, Signature spiders, Black wood spider with their large webs in monsoon is a treat to any naturalist. The insect world shows abundant variations in the form of Silk cotton bugs, Beetles and several kinds of Mantis.
The Butterfly world is represented in a fascinating range of sizes and colours and includes the spectacular Blue Mormon, the phenomenal artist of camouflage the Blue Oak leaf, the bright Jezebels and Large Yellow and White Orange tips, Monarchs, Egg fly, Sailors which are some of the many attractive butterflies one can find here.


Archeological Features :
The Kanheri caves located well within the park area are a major point of interest, presenting an accessible and interesting glimpse of the history and the culture of Buddhist India. Most of these 109 Buddhist caves chiseled out of the volcanic rock are simple small chambers, known as viharas (cells for monks). A few are larger & deeper chambers known as chaityas (for congregational worship). The main one which has colossal figures of standing Buddha, 7 m in height, on each side of the entrance porch, a colonnade of 34 pillars surrounding the interior halls and a overtopped stupa (shrine) at the far end, all carved in to the existing basaltic rock.

Sculpture of donar couples

These caves are dated from 1st century BC to 9th century AD indicating an well-organised Buddhist establishment of monks which existed on an ancient trade route connecting a number of trade centers & Indian ports. In this area there are nearly more than 100 inscriptions, out of which, three are in Pallavi, two in Sanskrit, one in Devnagri & the rest are in Brahmi script.

The most unique and rare Motifs, which appear at Kanheri caves are:
1. The eleven headed Avalokiteshwara.
2. Makara which appears on the Buddha's throne at about shoulder level.
The presence of Burial ground-cemetery is also a rare & interesting site to visit.


Best Time to Visit:
The park is very unique in its nature, making it difficult to specify any particular time as being the best time. For the sheer enjoyment of the greenery, wilderness and tiny waterfalls & streams, monsoon is the best time. For bird watching and general viewing along with climbs at Kanheri hills, November to February are the ideal months. Serious mammal tracking may be possible in April - May when water supply is limited because of which visibility is the greatest.

Number of Visitors :
This unique park is visited annually by over 30 lakh people, on an average 8000 to 10000 visitors visit it everyday, making it one of the most visited park in India. On Shivratri (auspicious day of Lord Shiva), the temple near Kanheri attracts more than one lakh devotees and pilgrims.


Recreational Zone :

"Krishnagiri Upavan" with an area of approx. 5.5 sq. km. is reserved as a recreational zone inside the park, to cater the educational and recreational needs of the people.

Lion in Safari park

Amongst the several attractions of the Krishnagiri Upavan, the Lion Safari is the most famous. The thirteen-hectare Lion Safari park surrounded by a 6.5-m high fence, with crisscrossed roads, offer close encounter with the majestic King, from special buses.

Through there is a sustainable population of crocodiles, the King of parks aquatic world, in Tulsi lake, it is very difficult to sight them. For easy sighting of these animals, the park offers a Crocodile park where these reptiles of different sizes can be viewed together.
Another attraction of the recreational zone is "Vanrani", the mini train that is a favorite of young visitors. A 15-min. ride on this train takes one along the fort hills of the famed Gandhi memorial, traverses couple bridges and tunnels and passes over the Deer Park.
There are other attractions like boating in the lotus filled lake, gardens and children's parks.


Cottages and Camping facilities :
Four rest houses and two camp sheds are available for visitors on prior reservations, which can be done between 10.00 to 17.00 hrs. on working days.


Entrance Fees :

Entry to the Park :
Timing : 07.30 to 18.30 hrs.
The following entry fees are recovered at the park entrance gate.
Adult - Rs. 2.00 per day
Child - Rs. 1.00 per day
Child below 5 years free
Vehicles - heavy (truck, buses) - Rs. 25.00 per day
Vehicles - light (cars, tempo etc.) - Rs. 15.00 per day
Motor cycles, rickshaw - Rs. 5.00 per day
Tanga (horse carriage) - Rs. 3.00 per day

Lion Safari :
Timing : Morning session - 09.00 to 13.00 hrs.
Evening session - 14.20 to 17.20 hrs.
Rate (Per trip) - Adult - Rs. 10.00
Children - Rs. 5.00
Child below 3 yr. - free
Buses are available at an interval of 20 min. (closed on Monday)

Mini Train (Vanrani):
Timing : Morning session - 09.00 to 13.00 hrs.
Evening session - 14.20 to 17.20 hrs.
Rate (Per trip) - Adult - Rs. 5.00
Children - Rs.2.50
Trains are available at an interval of 20 min.


Problems of the Park :
This precious and verdant park of Mumbai is under tremendous pressure of the oversizing metropolis surrounding it. Encroachment from outside and within the park for human settlements is causing environmental degradation. Careless attitudes of devotees/pilgrims (more than 1 lakh people) on Shivratri pose a threat of fire hazards. The man-animal conflict on the boundary of the park arising because of panthers looking for easy prey like stray dogs near garbage dumps, quarrying on the periphery and quite a few instance of bootlegging are some of the other major threats to the park. .


For Additional Information :
Dy. Conservator of forest
Sanjay Gandhi National Park,
Borivali (E), Mumbai - 400 066
Tel.: 91-22-8860362; 91-22-8860389


Parklovers :
This page was designed and complied by Mr. Kalpesh Shroff with the help of other parklovers:
Prof. Sudhakar Solomonraj
Mr. Vivek Kulkarni
Mr. Parvez Cama
Ms. Sharmila Pradhan
Please send your comments to kalpeshroff@hotmail.com or at the following address:
Mr. Kalpesh Shroff,
55, Chandrabhuvan, 1st Carpenter Street,
C.P. Tank, Mumbai- 400 004,
India.
Tel : 91-22-3852208

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Last Update : 7th April 1998

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