You don’t have to fly to Copenhagen or Cancun to save the planet. The other day Pradip Krishen, author of
Trees of Delhi
, took us for an excursion in Mangarbani valley. It is a 100-hectare jungle, mostly consisting of Dhau trees, in Aravalli hills.
The solitude of the woods, only a few miles outside south Delhi, is refreshing. The forest is sacred, the trees are worshipped and there are two temples. The valley has a village of Gujjar herdsmen who believe in a mystic called Gudariya Baba. They warn: cut a tree’s branch and get ready for the Baba’s wrath. On Sundays, village children share stories of the invisible Baba under a Banyan tree.
Local lore apart, walking in the valley would make you sensitive to the preciousness of our receding green cover. The forest’s wilderness — intertwined trees, twisted trunks, thorny twigs, rocky riverbeds, bird sounds — is uplifting. But the continuous ghrrrr of airplanes preparing to land at the Indira Gandhi airport reminds you that the concrete civilisation is not far. This savage beauty is fragile.
In his book, Krishen writes, “Mangarbani is a sacred forest, consecrated in the memory of... a local holy man, and protected by superstition that anyone who breaks a branch or grazes his goats here will suffer harm.
“It seems to work rather well. Gujjar herdsmen with their goats or cattle skirt the valley nervously, calling urgently or throwing stones when an animal grazes too close to the valley’s edge. One result of this sacred conversation strategy is that Mangarbani has become a little outdoor museum of what Delhi’s Ridge — or at any rate, the steeper bits of it — might have looked like without biotic pressure.”
Reaching Mangarbani is easy. Take the road to Chattarpur and drive towards Faridabad. A few minutes after crossing the Delhi border, you would spot a dumping site on the right. Turn into the rutty track and keep driving till you reach a dead-end. Your walk starts from that point.