Nature parks and wildlife sanctuaries are safe havens for the diverse flora and fauna, and the north-Indian state of Uttarakhand is home to an important one - the Govind Pashu Vihar Wildlife Sanctuary. Situated in the Uttarkashi district of the state, Govind Pashu Vihar was initially established as a wildlife sanctuary and later it attained the status of a national park.
Govind Pashu Vihar Wildlife Sanctuary came into existence in the year 1955 as a part of the Upper Tons Valley in Uttarakhand. The area, where this national park lies, is rich in its past and certain legends are associated with it as well. A mythological instance is directly linked to the epic Ramayana. It is believed that when Lord Laxman - Lord Rama's brother - was severely hurt during the war, Hanuman came to this very region in search of 'Mrithasanjeevani' - the wonder medicine.
Moving on to comparatively recent times, the British supervised this area during their reign in India for extracting timber, providing forest rest houses and building roads throughout the region for easier access. Post-independence, the state forest department took charge of these responsibilities resulting in the increase in forest rules and regulations and a decrease in timber extraction.
Another fascinating historical fact is that the original name of this wildlife sanctuary was Tons and it was later renamed after an eminent Indian politician and freedom fighter - Govind Ballabh Pant.
The Govind Pashu Vihar lies in the higher reaches of the Garhwal Himalayas, covering a total area of 957.97 square kilometres, and has an altitude ranging from 1400 to 6323 metres above the sea level. The entrance and starting point of this sanctuary is Naitwar. The mountains inside this park and sanctuary include Black Pearl, Swarg Rohini and Bunder Punch. The Har-ki-dun Forest Rest House within the premises of the sanctuary is famous for its privileged location amidst the valley of wildflowers. The park outlines the Tons River, which is a significant branch of Yamuna River as we go higher up the altitude. Govind Pashu Vihar receives a maximum rainfall of about 100-1500 nanometers.
Plant species like Rhododendron, Oak and tropical Euphorbia scrub can be found in abundance in the Govind Pashu Vihar Wildlife Sanctuary. The western Himalayan broadleaf forests dominate the lowest elevations of the sanctuary while the highest elevations are home to the western Himalayan subalpine conifer forests. Some of the noteworthy trees present in the sanctuary include deodar cedar, chir pine, silver fir, blue pine and several deciduous species. Other than that, we can also find numerous important medicinal plant species within the sanctuary.
Govind Pashu Vihar is home to several endangered species such as Snow Leopard among other animals like Brown Bear, Musk Deer, Western Tragopan, Indian Porcupine, Golden Eagle and many more. Approximately, there are about fifteen species of large mammals and one hundred and fifty species of birds in the sanctuary. The Indian Government launched the Snow Leopard Project in this place, which aims towards developing special conservation measures to protect the endangered species of Snow Leopards. Some of the endangered bird species that can be spotted in the park are the Steppe Eagle, the Bearded Vulture, the Himalayan Snowcock, etc.
Entry Fee and Permit
The entrance charges into the Govind Pashu Vihar Wildlife Sanctuary are minimal and subject to change. It is therefore advised to contact the authorities to get more information about the fees. For those who wish to visit this national park will need to get in touch with the Deputy Director of the park posted at Purola to get all the necessary permits and permissions required for entering the Govind Pashu Vihar Wildlife Sanctuary.
Since safaris are not possible in the Govind Pashu Vihar Wildlife Sanctuary due to its elevated location, visitors have to trek through the area to explore the park and the sanctuary. There are four main trekking routes inside the park, the most favourable one being the 38 kilometres long Sankri-Taluka-Osla-Har Ki Dun route. The most challenging route among the four is the Naitwar-Himri-Droni-Rupin Pass-Sangla route that is 60 kilometres long. The other two routes are fairly balanced in terms of their difficulty levels :
· One route comprises Sankri-Taluka-Osla-Ruinsara Tal - 40 kilometres · The last one is the highest altitude trek starting from Ruinsara going all the way up to Yamunotri - 20 kilometres
· Har-ki-dun: A real treat for the eyes, especially during the summer season, the valley of Har-ki-dun has extensive growth of flower species and the tourists greatly admire it for its breathtaking ambience.
· Ruinsara Lake: Although only the determined minds make their way up to the Ruinsara Lake, this natural spectacle located high up in the Garhwal Himalayas inside the premises of the park surely gives a sense of accomplishment and refreshment.
Best Time to Visit
Since the upper reaches of the Govind Pashu Vihar Wildlife Sanctuary receives extreme snowfall during winters, the months from May to October are the best time to visit this natural habitat. During this period, the temperatures are pleasant, and the faunal grandeur is at its peak.
How to Reach
It is quite straightforward to reach the Govind Pashu Vihar Wildlife Sanctuary as it is nearly 200 kilometres away from the airport and railway station. Thanks to a robust laid-out road network, Govind Pashu Vihar is connected to the major cities. Many government and private vehicles operate at frequent intervals that will take you directly to the national park. Dharkadhi, which is about 17 kilometres from the park, is the nearest town from the sanctuary.
A trip to the northern part of India will be incomplete if you do not visit the Govind Pashu Vihar Wildlife Sanctuary. This natural habitat is a unique representation of reservation projects and wildlife exploration, existing coherently. Be it the discovering the rare, endangered species or exploiting the adventure-filled trekking possibilities, the Govind Pashu Vihar is a complete wildlife destination.