Barbara, September 6 (Odisha.in) Barbara forest in the district of Khurda and Nayagarh never fails to attract me.
There is a lovely teak wood bungalow at Barbara built originally by the British still maintained in immaculate condition.
It has to be accepted that whatever abuse we may heap on the British for looting us, the fact remains that they took pains to build many beautiful and outstanding rest houses and dak bungalows at truly picturesque locations.
We can be thankfully proud of such edifices nowadays, not the ugly and poorly constructed PWD IBs which do not last for more than a decade.
The forest village is named after the wife of a British forest officer who was supposed to have been killed by a tiger.
I have fond memories of spending many winter nights in Barbara warmly ensconced before a blazing wood fire, listening to the mysterious jungle sounds.
The timber smugglers of Nayagarh and Daspalla had been plundering the rich forests of Barbara in the eighties. Rapid expansion of Bhubaneswar had created a roaring demand for good quality teak wood.
The state forest department was helpless in the face of attacks by armed timber mafia and the state government fortunately deployed the CRPF. Though some CRPF jawans have lost their lives to malaria they continue to guard the forests of Barbara. My grateful salute to them!
Barbara forest has magnificent teak trees which were planted by the British in 1910 .Some of the trees are nearly 80 feet in height and are more than 8 feet in circumference. Such large teak trees are rare in our state.
One can visit Rajin hill top which is nearly 2,500 feet in height and is also cool in summers. There you will be amazed to find a deep well yielding fresh water for thirsty travellers.
The well was also constructed during the pre-independence era. The drive up the dirt track ghat road is an exhilarating.
A four wheeled jeep is required and as you climb up you will feel the pure air recharging your body and mind.
One can peer into deep valleys which are a naturalists delight with many rare herbs and orchids still waiting to be enumerated. Sunlight is scarce since the dense tree canopy prevents the sun from penetrating fully.
Many colourful species of orchids adorn the trees and numerous small fresh water springs gurgle their way down the hill cutting the road at various places. There is a small forest beat house on the top of the hill which was abandoned in the early eighties after many forest guards lost their lives to tigers .
The forest was once home to the tiger and leopard apart from herbivores like sambhar, deer, mouse deer and colourful bird species. However, the tiger is no longer seen.
Mouse deer ,the smallest species of deer still survive. One can see herds of deer grazing in the fields scattered in the jungles.
Barbara also has bison which are found resting contentedly under the tall teak trees. Nothing gives me more pleasure than enjoying a forest walk in Barbara and gulping down the fresh invigorating oxygen !