Anandapur Chronicles: Encountering wild elephants

Satyakam Ray

[Anandapur Chronicles- 1st story- The Naagmani]

This is the second installment of Anandapur Chronicles.

The beautiful aerial view of the Hadagada reservoir doesn’t fully justify the scenic spectacular it creates in the eyes of bemused tourists, upon the first visit. The hidden tourist treasure is located just 35 kilometers from Anandapur. Adjoining the reservoir, there is a very less known but magnificent Gada Chandi temple, in which Maa Kali is worshipped. The temple is located among the greenery of the mountains surrounding it. Our story revolves around these locations.

Sipping over a cup of hot beverage again, Maa and I were continuing our Chai Pe Charcha. Reminiscing and its consequences on the present and future has been the foremost factor in this chronicle exploration.

Baidakhia is a place very close to the Gada Chandi temple, just the other side of the mountains where the temple is located. Maa’s grandmother( paternal) had lots of farmlands over Baidakhia. She used to go to this place in the winter when the paddy is reaped. Local farmers used to cultivate the crops on her behalf and the total production was shared between two parties equally. The place, where the farmlands were located, was quite secluded. In the middle of the jungle, the farmers used to build small huts, where basic sleeping arrangements were made. To cope up with the severe winter cold of December month, farmers used winter fire and they had small bows, arrows for their protection from the wild animals living in the jungle.

The story belongs to the year 1967 when Maa was a little kid still studying in class 6th perhaps. Maa’s granny has arrived early in Baidakhia to look after the crop reaping. The winter had just reached its peak. The local tribes aka farmers had arranged a nice hut amid the jungle for her. Maa reached the place in the afternoon of one such wintery day. Very few local shops were present during these days. To go into the middle jungle, one needed the armed gangs of tribals, who knew the nooks and corners of the jungle very well. They were vigilant, often converse in tribal language among each other. They escorted Maa to the granny’s hut safely. There was a danger of snakes and wild elephants.

These tribal people used the resources of nature very well to their advantage. They had very little knowledge of the outside world, but they were the masters of the jungle. They very cheerfully gave the fishes they caught in the nearby canal, who passed through the jungle. In return, they needed little empathy, companionship, and little hot tea in the severe cold. Granny understood the rules of the jungles and its tribal farmers very well and lived accordingly.

The elephants acted as a menace for the farmers as they continued invading these paddy fields in the night and eat as much paddy as they liked. They were wary of fire only. They came in herds and were a quite scary sight for anyone who first time experienced the jungle style of living. The farmers had only the Mashal( torch) and a few bows & arrows to defend themselves and to drive away from the wild elephants to the main jungle again.

Maa had the pleasure( or misfortune) of encountering the wild elephants one night in the winter vacation stay. That night, after having the early dinner according to the jungle rules, Maa went to sleep in the hut alongside granny. One more male member was there, who was a relative. The trio was sleeping peacefully in the hut. Some yards close by, the farmers had their huts and the winter fire was going on as usual. The farmers must have gone to sleep, after the day’s hard work.

The night was quite chilly and the jungle was relatively silent. All of sudden, Maa got up from sleep at the midnight due to some footsteps and a rustling sound. After waking up, Maa saw two giant feet or hind legs of an elephant. The elephant was stealthily eating the paddy from the nearest paddy bunch. A group of elephants had invaded the farmland taking advantage of the sleeping farmers. Maa was about to scream in horror when granny forcibly shut Maa’s mouth with her hands and told her to be silent in sign language. She was up early and knew what’s happening nearby. A single scream would have diverted the attention of the large elephant towards their hut. The wild elephants had the tendency to crush the humans if by chance they get to know any human presence nearby.

Granny’s swift action averted any such incident. After 5 minutes of invasion by the wild elephants, finally, the farmers woke up. Those 5 minutes of the wait were the most anticipated anxious moments, Maa could ever fathom. The farmers chased away the elephants from the farmlands by the use of Mashal and a few bow & arrow. The trio could take a sigh of relief in the hut. This was the wildest encounter ever happened to anybody I know of.

Nowadays, wild encounters between men and elephants have become common news. Much encroachment of the jungle lands by growing population is the key factor behind it.

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