City Secret – Mangarbani, near Chattarpur
Delhi’s most beautiful forest.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
You don’t have to fly to Copenhagen or Cancun to save the planet. The other day The Delhi Walla joined Pradip Krishen, author of Trees of Delhi, for an excursion in Mangarbani valley. It is a 100-hectare jungle, mostly consisting of Dhau trees, in Aravalli hills.
The solitude of the woods, only a few miles outside south Delhi, is refreshing. The forest is sacred, the trees are worshiped and there are two temples. The valley has a village of Gujjar herdsmen who believe in a mystic called Gudariya Baba. They warn: cut a tree’s branch and get ready for the Baba’s wrath. On Sundays, village children share stories of the invisible Baba under a Banyan tree.
Local lore apart, walking in the valley would make you sensitive to the preciousness of our fast-receding green cover. The forest’s wilderness – intertwined trees, twisted trunks, thorny twigs, sandy mounds, rocky riverbeds, bird sounds – is uplifting. But the continuous ghrrrr of airplanes – preparing to land at the Indira Gandhi International Airport – also reminds you that the concrete civilization is not far. This savage beauty is fragile.
Mr Krishen has talked about Mangarbani in his must-read book:
Mangarbani is a sacred forest, consecrated in the memory of Gudariya Baba, a local holy man, and protected by superstition that anyone who breaks a branch or grazes his goats here will suffer grievous harm.
It seems to work rather well. Gujar herdsmen with their goats or cattle skirt the valley nervously, calling urgently or throwing stones when an animal grazes too close to the valley’s edge. One result of this sacred conversation strategy is that Mangarbani has become a little outdoor museum of what Delhi’s Ridge – or at any rate, the steeper bits of it – might have looked like without biotic pressure.
Reaching Mangarbani is easy. Take the road to Chattarpur and drive down towards Faridabad. A few minutes after crossing the Delhi border, you would spot a large dumping site on the right. Turn into the rutty track and keep driving till you reach a dead-end. Your walk starts from that point.
Where Mangarbani, a half-hour car ride from south Delhi Nearest Metro Station Chattarpur
With Pradip Krishen (left), Delhi’s Tree Man
Delhi’s best-preserved secret
This is dhau
This is also dhau
30 minutes from Delhi
The Jungle Baba
Trees as haiku
A city secret
Pradip Krishen, author of Trees of Delhi
Mangarbani in December