You might have explored many of the biological sanctuaries, but BR hills Tiger reserve has much more to offer. Apart from the beauty and feel of a wild sanctuary, you can also get to experience the culture and lifestyle of very ancient and pure Soliga tribes. BR hills tiger reserve is blessed with over 400 ancient sacred places.
Flora and Fauna
The Biligirirangana hills or BR hills is situated in south-eastern Karnataka along with border of Tamilnadu. As it is present at the conflux of Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats, the sanctuary gets favorable environment for sustenance of flora and fauna which is unique for both the mountain ranges. It offers an amazing site of natural beauty with hills, ridges and grasslands. In the north of BR hills lie the town of Kollegal and its reserve forests. BR hills tiger reserve is well separated from Bandipur Tiger reserve as plains of Yelandur and Gundlupet are situated in the westward direction of BR hills. To the south, the mountain range merges with Satyamangalam Tiger reserve which is further declined into Coimbatore plains. In the east, it is surrounded by Kollegal forests and a few villages and thus separated from Mahadeswara Malai hills.
BR hills tiger reserve is one of the 42 global source sites for tigers. Apart from tiger, you can also spot Gaurs, wild elephants. Although BR hills is Karnataka’s most juvenile Tiger reserve, but these are one of our oldest forests. This is because it has been declared a Tiger Reserve only in January 2011. A large number of variety of habitats is been supported by forests on BR hills, thus giving shelter to enormous variety of wildlife ranging from some species from scrub forests and drier region to species of wet forests of Western Ghats. The forest contains more than 270 species of birds. It is a must go destination for nature lover and bird watchers.BR hills is blessed with great and diverse fauna. You could easily spot a large and noisy flock of Rosy Pastors (a bird species) in the evening as they roost in nearby foothills. Laughing Dove, Jungle Babblers, Munias and Bushlarks are other most populated species of birds in BR hills forests. But, the most beautiful host who would welcome you in BR hills is Baybacked Shrike(a bird) which can be spotted few hundred kilometers after crossing the Gumballi Check post. When you climb up the Gumballi check post, the region changes to dry deciduous forest wherein Laughing Doves are replaced by Spotted Doves and if you climb even further, they are changed into Emerald Doves. Wet climate of the region also gives substantial environment for thriving of frogs, insects and reptiles.
As you keep on climbing up, the climate gets wet resulting in taller and large trees. The forest also includes woody climbers that stretch from tree to tree making a beautiful natural bridge like pattern. Apart from Tigers and Elephants these area is also populated by Giant Squirrels, striped necked Mongoose, wild Dogs and Barking Deers.
The Soliga Tribe
Soliga is a scheduled tribe which dwells in forests of BR hills of Karnataka. One legend says that Soligas are son of Lord Malaye Mahadeshwar, Karayya. Malaye Mahadeshwar when saw in depth infinity of his son with nature and animals, he asked him to reside in the forests of BR hills. Their mother tongue is sholaga language. They thrive on harvesting and sale of NTFP(Non Timber Forest Produce). They follow and practice Hindu religion very sincerely which gives us another reason to believe how old Hinduism is.
Soliga Tribe is very ancient and nomadic in nature. They have been living in BR hills from way back centuries. The literal meaning of the Soliga is “children of the Bamboo”. As they have lived for centuries in BR hills, they know the intricacies of flora and fauna of this region. They live in deep forests in small shelters known as “pudus”. They do cultivation in their own farms and produce pigeon- peas, beans, pumpkin and millet. They have so much in depth knowledge of forests and nature that it could be even used in biodiversity conservation. Soligas are so intelligent that the know- how and knowledge of using forest reserves is in their blood. They never over -do it and maintain a perfect balance between nature and human being. If Soliga’s opinion is to be believed, the natural fire in forests is an inherent part of forest biome and if they are extinguished forcefully, that would lead to increased parasitic load. They feel so contended because of their deep nexus with nature.
400 + sacred places in BR hills
BR hills have been heavily blessed with lots of sacred places to visit. This also unfolds the fact that Soligas are very religious and nature inclined people. They find God in the trees of the forest which shows deep devotion and their faith in nature. There is a tree named Michelia Champaca (Doddasampige) which is believed to be 2000 years old. Soliga people worship the tree as Lord Mahadev and they celebrate Mahashivratri in a very grand way. They dance in groups around the tree. On the east direction of tree, there are more than 100 Lingams and they are worshiped extensively by Soligas. This tree blooms with orange and yellow flowers in the month of April.
There is an organization named ATREE(Ashoka Trust For Research In Ecology and the Environment) which claims that there are more than 400 sacred places in an area of 540 square kilometer of the forest.
On the top of the hill range, there is a magnificent temple of Lord Ranganatha or Lord Venketesh. It is known as Biligiriranga in local languages. An ancient Sri Malaye Mahadeshwara Temple is built on MM hills. Malaye Mahadeshwara is synonymous with Lord Shiva and Lord Biligrirranga is symbolic of Lord Vishnu. This is the reason Soliga people feel that they are truly protected and blessed with both the Gods.
It is only possible in a country like India where people are so deeply entangled with nature that they find God in them. These facts lie on pillars of faith and believe. The way by which Soligas are helping in the preservation of nature is commendable as well as scientific too.