In 1733 AD, Raja Badan Singh ‘s adopted son, Suraj Mal had shown signs of promise, when he captured the fort of Bharatpur from Khemkaran, the rival chief, whom he killed and thus laid the foundation of Bharatpur City. Maharaja Suraj Mal displayed immense courage and carved a niche for himself in the midst of political disorder. Gathering around him fiercely martial Jat peasants, he went from one success to another. He accompanied Emperor Muhammed Shah against Ali Muhammed Ruhela and in 1748 AD, at the battle of Bagru he led the Jaipur vanguard against the Marathas. He also defeated the commander-in-chief of the Mughal emperor. Despite being a very religious manhe was secular.
The history of Bharatpur dates back to the epic age, when the Matsya Kingdom flourished here in the 5th century BC The matsya were allies of the Pandavas in the Mahabharata war. According to tradition the name of Bharatpur is traced to Bharat, the brother of lord Rama of Ayodhya whose other brother Laxman was given the high place of family deity of the ruling family of Bharatpur. His name also appears in the state seals and coat-of-arms.
Bharatpur, which is also called the Eastern gateway of Rajasthan, was found by Maharaja Suraj mal in 1733 AD. Raja Badan Singh’s adopted son, Suraj Mal had shown signs of promise, when he captured the fort of Bharatpur from Khemkaran, the rival chief, whom he killed and thus laid the foundation of Bharatpur City. Maharaja Suraj Mal displayed immense courage and carved a niche for himself in the midst of political disorder. Gathering around him fiercely martial Jat peasants, he went from one success to another. He accompanied Emperor Mohammed Shah against Ali Mohammed Ruhela and in 1748 AD, at the battle of Bagru he led the Jaipur vanguard against the Marathas. He also defeated the commander- in –Chief of the Mughal emperor. He built numerous forts and palaces across the kingdom including the Pleasure Palace complex at Deeg. Bharatpur, is today known the world – over for its Keoladeo Ghana National Park. During the British Raj, the state covered an area of 5,123 km².; its rulers enjoyed a salute of 17 guns. The state acceded unto the dominion of India in 1947. It was merged with three nearby princely states to form the ‘Matsya Union’, which in turn was merged with other adjoining territories to create the present-day state of Rajasthan.
This magnificent bird haven in actual came into being paradoxically as a duck shooting preserve for Maharaja Suraj Mull of Bharatpur. He transformed the shallow depression formed by the confluence of River Gambhir and River Banganga into a reservoir by damming the rainwater in monsoons. Flooding of water created shallow wetland ecosystem causing it to be a perfect habitat for an astounding variety of birds. The park that was a hunting preserve for the Maharaja and the British continued to be so till 1964, after which the hunting was banned. A forestation policy of planting acacias was vigorously followed. However the ecosystem at the Park continues to be fragile due to pressures of tourism and need for water from surrounding villages. However the environmentalists won the day in 1985 when UNESCO listed it as World Heritage site and earlier in 1982 it was declared as National Park. And, today the Park is recognised as the most important breeding and feed grounds for the birds in the world. Some species are still endangered and especially the Siberian crane. Visitors are advised to maintain low noise level and avoid littering the park. The Park opens from sunrise to sunset around the year. The ticket is Rs 200 per foreign visitor and Rs 25 for Indian visitor. Vehicles are permitted upto Shanti Kutir about 1.7 kilometres inside at Rs 50 per vehicle. After this you can choose to walk, bicycle, or go by cycle rickshaw, Tonga or boat when the water level is high. The cycle rickshaw wallah’s displaying yellow plate meaning authorised double up as guides also carry binoculars. Hotels do supply packed lunches and you can get a bite at a canteen on the second gate and even at Forest Lodge. The Bharatpur habitat supports an amazing range of birds. For most visitors however the Park is evocative of the Siberian Crane (a winter migrant) and their journey to this wetland is well documented. However this species is threatened as only a few survivors reach after the arduous journey as most of them get hunted down in the mountains. During the monsoons period of July to august and a month more the wetlands are home to huge colonies of birds that breed and feed here. Some of the species that can be seen at the wetlands are Storks, Moorhens, Herons, Flamingos and Pelicans, Geese and Ducks, Egrets and Cormorants. While the Siberian Crane is a winter migratory. Other wildlife includes Sambhar, Neelgai, Cheetal and Black Buck. The habitat also includes nocturnal Leopard, Jungle Cat, Hyena and Fox. Amongst the rarity one can even sight a Python in the Park
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