The marshes of Keoladeo, more popularly known as Bharatpur, was the private hunting reserve of the Maharajas of Bharatpur. It was developed in the late 19th century by creating small dams and bunds in an area of natural depression to collect rainwater and by feeding it with an irrigation canal. Over the years, the lakes attracted great numbers of waterfowl and the Maharajas held grand shoots with family, friends and visiting dignitaries. Two-thirds of the park lies under water, the extent and volume depending on the intensity of the rains. The remaining one-third of the park is covered in dry deciduous forests (with Acacia, Ber, Kadam and Khajur trees) and extensive grasslands. On the raised ground outlining the wetlands grow a profusion of Acacia trees, where the resident water birds nest, often in large mixed colonies, a spectacular sight during the monsoon.
Keoladeo is famous as one of Asia’s finest birding areas, with over 380 resident and migrant species, including the Common, Demoiselle and the rare Siberian Cranes. It is also an excellent place to watch mammals like Golden Jackal, Striped Hyaena, Fishing Cat, Jungle Cat, Nilgai, Sambar, Blackbuck and wild Boar. The park derives its name from the temple of Keoladeo (Shiva) and ‘ghana’ which locally means dense, implying the nature of the vegetation. During the cool winter months it is also possible to see large Indian Pythons sunning themselves.
When to Visit Keoladeo National Park
The park is open throughout the year. Best months are August-November for resident breeding birds and November-March for migrant birds.
The park supports a population of 375 species of birds, numerous mammals and reptiles. With the onset of winter, migratory birds from all over world come here. They arrive by August and leave in February. Visitors include Coot Snipes, Spanish Sparrow, Red Crested Porhard, Rosy Pelican and Flamingo. The special attraction, however, remains the arrival of the rare Siberian Crane. The park is also rich in Pythons, Spotted Deer, Sambhars, Blue Bull, Black Buck, Jackals, Otters, Fishing Cats, Monitor Lizards.
Nearby places of interest are the Government Museum, Bharatpur which gives a glimpse of past splendour. Not far from the museum is the Bharatpur Palace which is an excellent blend of Mughal and Rajput architecture. There is the Lohagarh Fort which remained invincible despite several attacks by the British. Just 32 km from Bharatpur, is the Deeg Palace. This strong and massive fort was the summer resort of the rulers of Bharatpur and has many palaces and gardens.
The Keoladeo National Park is not very large being 29 sq km. There are well-defined treks which can easily covered on foot or on a cycle or you can hire a rickshaw (the best way). Rickshaw pullers have been trained by the park management in bird watching and are quite knowledgeable. Boats are also available on hire. A boat trip early in the morning or late evening is quite a rewarding experience. Do not forget to carry a binocular for watching the birds.
Bharatpur is located on the fringes of the Thar desert. This marshy land has very warm climate. Summers are invariably hot and winters are not very cold. Carry light cotton during summer and woollen during winter. Rainfall is less but sufficient.
Best Time to Visit
The park is open throughout the year. Best months are August to November for resident breeding birds and November to March for migrant birds.