MANAS.....  a pride of Baksa

Manas was declared as Manas National Park in 1990 is a Wildlife Sanctuary, declared UNESCO's Natural World Heritage site, a Project Tiger Reserve, an Elephant Reserve and a Biosphere Reserve in Assam. Located in the Himalayan foothills, it is contiguous with the Royal Manas National park in Bhutan. The park is known for its rare and endangered endemic wildlife including as many as 60 species of mammals, 312 birds, 42 reptiles, 7 amphibian, 54 fishes and more than 100 speices of insects inculding the Assam Roofed Turtle, Hispid Hare, Golden Langur and Pygmy Hog.Manas is famous for its population of the Wild water buffalo.

Manas is located in the Eastern Himalaya foothills. The park is densely forested. The Manas river is the main river, a major tributary of Brahmaputra river. The Manas River flows through the west of the park, further it splits into two separate rivers, the Beki and Bholkaduba. Manas and five other small rivers flow through the National Park which lies on a wide low-lying alluvial terrace below the foothills of the outer Himalaya. The river also acts an international border dividing India and Bhutan. The bedrock of the savanna area in the north of the park is made up of Limestone and sandstone, whereas the grasslands in the south of the park is made up of deep deposits of fine alluvium. The combination of Sub-Himalayan Bhabar Terai formation along with riverine succession continuing up to Sub-Himalayan mountain forest making it one of the richest biodiversity areas in the world. The park is 950 sq. km. in area and situated at a height of 61m to 110m above mean sea level. The minimum temperature is around 15 degree C and maximum temperature is around 37 degree C. Heavy rainfall occurs between May and September and the annual average rainfall is around 333 cm.

The name of the park is originated from the Manas River, which is named after the serpent goddess Manasa. The Manas river is a major tributary of Brahmaputra River, which passes through the heart of the national park. The Manas National Park was declared a sanctuary on October 1, 1928 with an area of 360 sq. km. Manas Tiger reserve was created in 1973. Prior to the declaration of the sanctuary it was a Reserved Forest called Manas R.F. and North Kamrup R.F. It was used by the Cooch Behar royal family and Raja of Gauripur as a hunting reserve. In 1951 and 1955 the area was increased to 391 sq. km. It was declared a World Heritage site in December 1985 by UNESCO. The park is well known for its rare and endangered wildlife which is not found anywhere else in the world like the Assam Roofed Turtle, Hispid Hare, Golden Langur and Pygmy Hog. Manas houses more than 450 species of birds. Manas have the largest population of endangered Bengal Florican. The major other birds includes Giant Hornbills, Jungle Fowls, Bulbuls, Brahminy Ducks, Kalij Pheasants, Egrets, Pelicans, Fishing Eagles, Serpent Eagles, Falcons, Scarlet Minivets, Bee-Eaters, Magpie Robins, Pied Hornbills, Grey Hornbills, Mergansers, Harriers, Ospreys and Herons.

The best way to watch wildlife at the park is to use powerful binoculars, with night vision facilities at night. A popular way to explore a majority of the Manas National Park in Assam is in a 4-wheel (Jeep) drive petrol vehicle. Much more terrain becomes available if on an elephant ride, but these are usually restricted to a few kilometers near the gate. A raft ride on Manas river from Mathanguri ending 25 km downstream at Bansbari is also a popular option. These take you deep in to the densest areas of the forest and often right in between some of the wildlife there, including elephants, rhinos and wild buffaloes. The park is open from November to April, and is closed in the remaining period owing to the monsoon.

Inside the park, one may stay at Mothanguri the forest department bungalow, or at a small facility run by the NGO Manas Ever Welfare Society (MEWS). Or one may stay at the park entrance in Bansbari, where there are two tourist lodges and also some cottages run by MEWS.Tourist may stay at the nearest town of Barpeta Road just 15 minutes drive from the Park Entrance.At Barpeta Road, luxury Hotels like Queens Castle, Hotel Doly, Prashanti Tourist Lodge(Under Assam Tourism) conducts package tours. One may stay at Budget Hotels at Barpeta Road namely Geetanjali,Trpti hotel etc. Alternately, one may stay at Kokilabari in the Eastern range (traveling in from Pathsala), where a facility is run by the NGO MMES (Manas Maozigendri Ecotourism Society). Both the MMES and MEWS are constituted with volunteers from the fringe villages. MMES is the older group, and many of its workers were erstwhile members of the Bodo liberation struggle. The MMES camp has 4 ethnic cottages in a som plantation meant for rearing of famous muga silk of assam at the park boundary.

Kahitama R.F. the Kokilabari R.F. and the Panbari R.F. were added in the year 1990 to form the Manas National Park. In 1992, UNESCO declared it as a world heritage site in danger due to heavy poaching and terrorist activities. In 25 February 2008 the area was increased to 950 sq. km. On 21st June 2011, it was removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger and was commended for its efforts in preservation.

There is only one forest village, Agrang, in the core of the National Park. Apart from this village 56 more villages surround the park. Many more fringe villages are directly or indirectly dependent on the park. The park is divided into three ranges. The western range is based at Panbari, the central at Bansbari near Barpeta Road, and the eastern at Bhuiyapara near Pathsala. The ranges are not well connected; while two major rivers need to be forded in going from the centre to the Panbari, there is a rough trail (the daimAri road) connecting the central to the eastern range. Most visitors come to Bansbari and then spend some time inside the forest at Mathanguri on the Manas river at the Bhutan border.

The Burma Monsoon Forests of Manas lie on the borders between the Indo-Gangetic and Indo-Malayan biogeographical realms and is part of the Brahmaputra Valley Biogeographic Province. The combination of Sub-Himalayan Bhabar Terai formation with riverine succession leading up to Sub-Himalayan mountain forest makes it one of the richest biodiversity areas in the world.

The main vegetation types are:

  • Sub-Himalayan Light Alluvial Semi-Evergreen forests in the northern parts
  • East Himalayan mixed Moist and Dry Deciduous forests (the most common type)
  • Low Alluvial Savanna Woodland, and
  • Assam Valley Semi-Evergreen Alluvial Grasslands which cover almost 50% of the Park

Much of the riverine dry deciduous forest is at an early successional stage. It is replaced by moist deciduous forest away from water courses, which is succeeded by semi-evergreen climax forest in the northern part of the park.