Indian cinema tells us that royalty is about opulence and grandeur, with flowers and pearls strewn on the paths of kings. There is always someone to fan the king, to sing him a melody or entertain him with a dance. Bidar, the crown of Karnataka, is one such place where you can experience what it is to be a king or a queen.
We headed toward Blackbuck resort, on a path lined with bright orange. The Flame of the Forest gave us our first brush with royalty.
Purple-rumped Sunbird on a Flame of the Forest tree
When all of North Karnataka is dismissed as hot and dry, the floral welcome on a road lined with mini forests and nurseries caught us breathless. One might easily miss the right turn toward the property, because of such distractions along the way! Driving along the mud road, we met the locals chilling out at their favourite waterholes. A family of Yellow-wattled Lapwings which seemed quite comfortably settled, Red-rumped Swallows that gulped down a quick sip and somehow seemed to feel we were eyeing their drink, or White Wagtails that didn’t seem to care.
We entered the gate to a grand musical reception. It was a symphony in B minor, B for Bidar and minor for the Vilaspur Reserve Forest. Red-vented Bulbuls were the main singers, singing throughout the day. Ashy Prinias, the background singers, joined the chorus. The resident langurs ran on the rooftop to introduce some drum beats. The chief over here is the Indian Robin, showing up on different perches, except when we took out our camera. The Common Tailorbird is quite common, quite camera-shy, and quite a treat to watch.
Red Vented Bulbul
The people behind the scenes are proud of their symphony singers and the impressive tree cover – Flame of the Forest, Boswellia serrata, Hardwickia binnata, to name a few. After a long drive, we were famished. Over a sumptuous lunch that could best be described as homely, Nipun, the manager, regaled us with his witty one-liners and tales from the wild. After a short break, the naturalist guided us on a trek to the hills that overlook the resort. We sat at the top, watching the sunset throw golden rays on the cottages, while a Plum-headed Parakeet whizzed past us.
The Blackbuck Resort
The plum sunset changed into a dark night. It was time for a different kind of learning.The knowledge-hungry staff set up their telescope and we were in for a treat, observing the rings around Saturn, the moons of Jupiter, and many a constellation. The symphony continued with a different set of singers – coots, nightjars, insects and a flock of Bar-headed Geese.“The campus itself is so active; do we even need to go on a safari?” The next day, we did decide to go anywayand try our luck with Blackbucks and the elusive Indian Fox. The grassland, adjacent to an air force base, is home to two large herds of Blackbucks. They were lazing and grazing, play-fighting with one another, or galloping away when stray dogs mobbed them.
The elusive Indian Fox
A young male Blackbuck
Peace and quiet reigns in the grassland, except when a flight takes off or lands. We spent time watching a Siberian Stonechat, which seemed to be alright with any noise or sound, flying away only when there was a sonic boom. A flock of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse played hide-and-seek and Indian Coursers ran the grassland marathon. It was a flurry of activity at dusk, with over 30 harriers settling down to roost.
Our second day had a tryst with history. We neared the Bidar fort and what a sight it was! Surrounded by a meandering moat, the mighty fort of the Bahmani Dynasty stood magnificently. We went up the winding path and into the vast courtyard, admiring the Solah Khamb Mosque. The colourful murals and calligraphy at Rangeen Mahal, the architecture within Gagan Mahal, the cannons and cannonballs told us their stories. This historic city has many more monuments to treat the eye and the hungry mind. There are also places of worship like the Gurudwara and Papanash Shiva temple. Bidar has made an entry into the 2014 list of World Monuments Watch
The winding path to Bidar Fort
Apart from the Blackbucks of Bidar, there is yet another black beauty, the famous Bidriware. One of the owners of a store demonstrated how the figurine, predominantly set in zinc and decorated by silver patterns, transformed into the magic of black and silver. A skilled craftsman dipped it into a boiling concoction, in which a key ingredient was soil from within the Bidar fort. Only that soil, they say, can give the black lustre to the Bidriware.