The jungles of the terai are turning yellow and carpeting the floor with golden leaves. I received some beautiful pictures from Mohd Umar, forester of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve today. People who cannot go to jungles at present, can see the beauty of the Terai forests in these pictures. The jungles change swiftly and sometimes even a gap of a fortnight is enough to miss out on such grand but rare spectacles. The leaves will still be there on the very same forest floor, but in a mere span of a few weeks, you may find this gold replaced by a dark brown. There are many instances like this in the jungle, where natural marvels may not be seen again for a long time, and we find that they are sometimes wiped off from the canvas of nature altogether.
“From air to air, as through an empty net, I made my way between streets and
atmosphere, offering, in the advent of autumn with its largess of leaves like
a shower of coins, and amid the sprouts of springtime, my greetings and
farewells to that which the greatest of loves places before us like a long
moon in a dropped glove.”
The yellow Terai jungles always remind me of Pablo Neruda’s famous From the Heights of Machu Picchu where he denotes autumn, with its largess of leaves, as a shower of coins. An apt imagery, this sums up walking through Dudhwa’s forests. Fall in Sal forests not only looks like the shower of golden coins, but also sounds like one. The crunch of the dry leaves under each step resonates through the jungle tracts, as if it is the sonorous tinkling of gold coins. This beauty of the leaf fall in Sal jungles becomes more beautiful in case of gregarious flowering in the Sal trees. Before the leaves start getting yellowish, the crowns of the tall, swinging Sal trees become pale yellow, and one can see the drizzling of the golden dust of pollen of the Sal flowers falling from them. This pollen covers every inch of the forest roads, leaving them shimmering under the bright sunlight of spring.
This is the time of leaf falls in the deciduous jungles of the country. In India, we have both dry and moist deciduous forests, in which most of the trees shed their leaves periodically.
Terai jungles are mostly dry deciduous in nature, where giant Sal trees dominate the forest crown, with their associates like Asna, Rohini, Jamun, Kusum, Harra, Baheda, Haldu, Kachnar, Paakad, and Amaltas. An interesting feature of Terai forests is that although all these trees are deciduous in nature, this does not imply that all of them shed their leaves and bear new leaves at the same time. It is as if the system of the jungle is such that it is not completely devoid of leaves during fall. Similarly, during the period between fall and the advent of new leaves, one or another species is either shedding its leaves, or sprouting succulent, shiny new ones, making the jungle full of new life. It seems that nature does not want to disappoint us to an extent that all the trees are without leaves, and instead wants to manifest the beauty of life – where at one place or the other, an event of happiness is always happening, just as the birth of new leaves.
Although the time when fall happens is bright, warm, and shiny, walking through the woods during this period is slightly melancholic but soothing and brings oneself back within. The time helps in rendering one as one with the earth, it makes one smell the floor of the forest and hear the silence of nature, as the sense of peace the forest imparts lingers on.
Photos: landscapes by Mohd Umar, Forester, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve; forest road covered with Sal flowers’ pollen by Ramesh Pandey
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