The Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary, otherwise known as the Keoladeo Ghana National Park, is one of the world's most renowned bird feeding and breeding grounds. The park is over 29 km² and has 364 species of birds, including some threatened migratory birds from central Asia.
It is also a major tourist centre with scores of ornithologists arriving here in the hibernal season. It was declared a protected sanctuary in 1971. It is also a declared World Heritage Site.
The sanctuary was created 250 years ago and is named after a Keoladeo (Shiva) temple within its boundaries. It was a natural depression, and was flooded after the Ajan Bund was constructed by Maharaja Suraj Mal, the then ruler of the princely state of Bharatpur, between 1726 to 1763. The bund was created at the confluence of two rivers, the Gambhir and Banganga. The park was a hunting ground for the maharajas of Bharatpur, a tradition dating back to 1850, and duck shoots were organised yearly in honor of the British viceroys. In one shoot alone in 1938, over 4,273 birds such as mallards and teals were killed by Lord Linlithgow, the then Governor-General of India. After India's independence, the rulers of the princely states were allowed shooting rights until 1972. In 1982, grazing was banned in the park, leading to violent clashes between the local farmer and Gujjar communities and the government.
Flora and fauna
The sanctuary hosts a small wintering population of the rare Siberian Cranes. Other species include the ruddy shelducks, gulls, northern shovelers, northern pintails, coots, garganey, tufted ducks and common pochard.
The best time to see the park is in October to Februray when there is a lot of migratory birds, otherwise it can be relatively bird free. The best times for bird spotting is early evening and morning.
Fees and permits
Admission is ₹200.
An optional cycle rickshaw driver is ₹100 an hour, and an optional guide is ₹150 an hour. Another way to see the park is to hire a bike (bicycle) at your hotel or at the entrance of the Sanctuary (costs approx ₹40/five hours). Most cycle rickshaw drivers are also trained as bird guides and you may not need to hire another guide if you are taking a cycle rickshaw.
Prices fluctuate through seasons, and air conditioning generally costs up to ₹50 more.
- Jungle Lodge - Ph 05644225622. ₹150-₹300
- Kiran Guest House - Short walk from the park. Single, shared bathroom. ₹80 double, private bathroom ₹150-₹300 Ph: 05644223845
- Rainbow Lodge - Ph 05644220253 Dm/r ₹100/₹300