“They used to light a torch right on top of that” insisted our guide. “How do you think they climbed up?” I asked, amused at the thought of someone clambering up the smooth pillar without even a hold of any kind. “They must have carried a ladder” replied our guide, his tone implying that he had never been questioned before. “Or maybe they rode elephants, and stood atop it to light the torch” added my husband, and the guide gleefully jumped at the idea, satisfied that the discussion was over. It looked like only I had caught the underlying sarcasm in my husband’s voice, and we shared a smile, just between ourselves.
Such were the moments which made our trip to Tadoba memorable.
The pillars we were talking about lined one side of the road in the Moharli section, and, I was at once diverted from our quest for tigers, and more interested in this glimpse of heritage I hadn’t quite expected in the wilderness.
Our first guide wasn’t as enthusiastic about them as I was, and he shrugged it off, saying that some king had built them as a marker for the road. He himself was far more interested in showing us a tiger and claiming his baksheesh!
Our second guide was a bit more enthusiastic. He was the one who propounded the torch theory, adding that these were the work of the Gond Kings, about half a century ago.
It was our third guide who told us that these pillars were used for communication purposes when the king traversed this road, and he was the one closest to the truth.
The pillars indeed were the works of the Gond Kings, who ruled this region in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. No one seems to know when the pillars were actually built, but they stand at regular intervals on the road which then connected Nagpur to Chandrapur, both of which held strategic importance. Very interestingly, the distance between two pillars is almost exactly the same, and the pillars also stand in a straight line. The present road curves, according to the routes now laid within the sanctuary, so the pillars only accompany us part of the way, but we can catch glimpses of the row of pillars standing tall amidst the trees as we follow the road.
Finally, coming to their purpose, they evidently were built for communication. It is most probable that the ring atop the pillar was for a rope to be passed through, which would be connected to a bell. The rope could be pulled from any point for the bell to ring, and the ringing pattern could have helped transmission of the message. It would indeed have served as an efficient means of communication, especially when it came to huge armies and royal processions.
It is, however, most impressive that these rulers, who are today relegated as tribal kings, worked with such forethought, planning and efficiency, something we find sorely lacking today even with modern technology and the best minds!
We saw the pillars every now and then as we wove our way through the forests, hoping for the tigers to show up. They reminded me of all the men who had come here before us, of those who had first created this path through the forest, braving all its dangers, and ensuring that others didn’t have to. I also rued the thought that they had made it a lot easier for the destruction of the forest; of not just its animals and its trees, but the very earth, for this is one of the most coal-rich areas in the country.
It is a bittersweet thought indeed that the men who built them are no more, but the pillars stand erect in their memory, some, proudly, newly painted, along a well laid road, some crumbling, some overgrown with creepers, used as a perch by animals and birds. The tiger prowls among them again, and travellers pass by them too, while only a few even notice them.
This is the first post in my series on my #summertrip 2015, and I hope to take you along with me as I recount stories from my month long trip, which took me across the country. To get an idea of all the places I visited, and what you can hope to read about, click here.
This post was featured in the Tangy Tuesday Picks on Blogadda, on June 2, 2015!!