Shiswad – Raw, Rustic and Real.

Shiswad is in the midst of the magnificent Sahyadris, in the Western Ghats, in Northern Maharashtra. Sangamner, about 2 hours from Shiswad is the last town you will find on your way to this village. One might wonder if the remoteness of Shiswad is being stressed upon here. The truth is that it is. Done and dusted already as you pass this chaotic town, you will forget every little bit of the tiring journey as you approach the Ghats. Whether car sick or sleep deprived, the first view of the Ghats will transform your attentiveness from anything else that is on your mind to a deep meditative state. As you come closer and closer to Shiswad, tranquility and serenity seeps in. A liberating, fresh, cool air surrounds you. Something that goes beyond what words can express.

The village never tires of visitors, so if you become an object of curiosity to little children, even though they may have already seen quite a few tourists, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. As you enter the village, artistic doorways will greet you, unusual stone sculpture carelessly embedded on foundations will intrigue you, a line of oddly shaped stones- the local deities will bless you. And the colourful temple under the huge spreading banyan tree gives you a glimpse another lifestyle.

After the long journey, your stomach will be growling for some good food. And Shiswad doesn’t disappoint you.

A group of women in Shiswad are busy working. What’s cooking, you say. Utensils can be heard clinking against each other. The smoky aroma of freshly made Bhakri (Jowar or Bajra bread) and caramelized onions cooking permeates the air. Sita and her fellow SHG colleagues have set up a local enterprise at Shiswad and now they are busy cooking a sumptuous, traditional and authentic meal for Shiswad’s visitors. The promise of melt-in-the-mouth, thick and jaggery sweetened Malche (traditional pancakes), fills you with anticipation…

The pressure on Sita’s is like that of feeding an army battalion. However, the satisfied looks on her customer’s faces keep her going, and in moments the tired look vanishes. She knows that she has successfully prepared you for what comes next…
… an introduction to a different world…

Imagine being on a nature trail through lush green forests filled with more than 150 species of trees, shrubs and herbs…the tall Jambhul, the spreading Mango, the healing Hirda… imagine the prospect of sighting more than a 100 species of birds … pairs of Bonelli’s Eagles, who mate for life, preening Yellow-footed Green pigeons (they are the state bird of Maharashtra afterall), Pale billed flower peckers flitting and Oriental Scops Owls dozing in the trees…

… also Mongoose, Monitor lizards, snakes and skinks… and if you are very, very lucky (and very very quiet) Black-naped hare, langur, wild boar and (hold your breath)leopard crossing your tracks…

… add to this a host of butterflies in fields of flowers competing in a contest of color, Cicadas and frogs performing an orchestra and fireflies lighting up the nights…

… yes! You are in Shiswad!
(Nature trails and hikes can be arranged into the surrounding areas with local youths as guides.)

Back at the village are a bunch of tents that give you an ‘out in the wild experience’. (There is also an option of a cute little guest house smack in the middle of the village for the less ‘wild’ types.)

Located near the common village tank high on top of a hill, away from the village but within calling distance, they offer you the most breath-taking, 70 mm sight of the looming ancient Sahyadri. And as the evening fades silently into night, pinpricks in a darkening blue sky reveal themselves to be a breathtaking display of stars. The night sky at Shiswad cannot be imagined, only experienced.

Clearly, a journey to Shiswad is not just a picnic, a holiday or a good time. It is much more than that. It is gaining a fresh perspective to life.

High in the jagged land of the Western Ghats, this region is one of the bio-diversity hot-spots of the world. It preserves the delicate natural balance, essential for all life on earth and so needs to be conserved. Shiswad Ecotourism is an integrated effort toward Biodiversity conservation and also to provide sustainable livelihoods to the community. This has the dual aim of adaptation to Climate Change, as well as to reconnect communities bombarded by the rising trend of globalisation, with the natural wealth they possess and make them realise the importance and advantages of its conservation.

No hotels, liveried waiters or air-conditioning here. There are no insulations here from the reality of a hard life- the life of tribal farmers here has hardly changed for centuries. In few short hours, you can help farmers thresh wheat, harvest rice, chop wood, plough fields, milk cattle, rappel down slopes, hike up hills, swim in a crystal clear river, catch crabs, and most importantly do whatever your heart wants- roam, rejuvenate, introspect…

So, welcome to a look at life, Shiswad-style- Raw, Rustic and Real. 

14. May 2012 by admin
Categories: Adaptive Sustainable Development, Climate Change Adaptation, Eco Tourism | Tags: , | Leave a comment