2 million years ago! Our species Homo sapiens did not exist then. The earth’s climate and the terrain looked very different from now what you see. In Odisha, which today is the most populated region, the coastal plain was all under seawater. Around that time, however, in the eastern part of Similipal, close to the present Budhabalanga River and its tributaries, had witnessed a spurt of activities by a band of Homo erectus, a species of ape in human evolution that had evolved in Africa and had spread in parts of Asia and Europe, in search of food. Homo erectus used sharp stone tools and lived on hunting and gathering. Kuliana, a modern village near Baripada was one of their earliest homes in Indian Subcontinent.
The periphery of Similipal, Odisha’s Earliest Human Settlement
In the high-tech 21st century it is difficult to imagine how would be the landscape in the remote Stone Age and what other animals coexisted with them. The entire area must be a thick jungle and a major watershed in North Odisha Highland.
Today, one does not get disappointed, thanks to the existence of a large forested region, called Similipal, one of the 11 UNESCO declared biospheres in India and a major tiger reserve.
Lulung forms of Similipal’s eastern border and entrance to its core area. Surrounded by lush green forest, sky touching mountains, sprawling meadows, gushing rivers and streams and tiny hamlets of local Adivasis, Lulung is Similipal’s best-kept secret. Here bliss meets wilderness in perfect harmony.
Lulung is the entry point of Eastern Similipal near Pithabata Gate at a distance of 22 km from Baripada Town and 273 km from Bhubaneswar. There are regular buses from Bhubaneswar to Baripada throughout the day and night (6 hours). One can also take a train from Bhubaneswar to Balasore and then a bus for Baripada. From Baripada one can reach Lulung hiring an auto-rickshaw. For Aranya Nivas, one needs to book through online (https://simlipalforestresort.com/)
The pride of Lulung is, however, its star attraction Aranya Nivas, a luxury resort in the lap of nature. Spread over an area of 18 acres, the resort is an ultimate home in luxury for the soul seeking travellers.
Similipal once used to be the hunting ground for the Maharajas of Mayurbhanj was declared as one of the first tiger reserves in India in 1956 and project tiger in 1973. Spread over an area of 2700 square km, Similipal is one of India’s densest Sal forest. The tribal communities of Ho, Munda, Bhumija, Santhal and Mankadia live in the buffer area. The forest of Similipal falls under Eastern Highlands Moist Deciduous Forests Ecoregion with tropical moist broadleaf forest and tropical moist deciduous forests.
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The indigenous people living inside Similipal and its periphery live harmoniously with jungle. They don’t allow anybody to damage the forest resources that they have been depending upon for ages.
According to their belief, Ban (Forest) Devta (God) guards their forest and protect them from diseases and natural calamities. A bunch of terracotta horses and elephants guard Ban Devta, who has shrines under large Karma trees.
Karma dance and songs are performed in honour of Karma Devta. Both men and women go to the jungle accompanied by groups of drummers and cut one or more branches of the Karma tree after worshipping it.
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A legend goes: seven brothers were living together. The six elders would work in the field and the youngest would stay at home. He would entertain in dance and songs around a karma tree in the courtyard with his six sisters-in-law. One day, they were so engaged in dance and song that the brothers’ lunch was not carried to the field by the wives. When the brother arrived at the home they became agitated and threw the karma tree into a river. The youngest brother left home in anger. The evil days fell on the remaining brothers. Their house was damaged, the crops failed and they virtually starved. While wandering the youngest brother found the karma tree floating in the river. Then he invoked the god who returned everything. Thereafter he returned home and called his brothers and told them that because they insulted Karma Devta, they fell on evil days. From then on Karma Devta is worshipped with full devotion.
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The worship of Karma Devta shows the deep respect for forest among the local Adivasis. At Aranya Nivas, the tribal faith is truly appreciated. The shrine of Ban Devta which fell inside the resorts before its construction is not only restored but is allowed for regular worship by the locals.
Everyday evening a special programme karma dance is arranged for resident guests. As the dark shrouds after sunset, the swing of women dancers accompanied by soulful Karma songs with the beating of dhols by their male companions around sacred fire drive everyone liberating themselves into uniquely crafted human stories with worshipping nature forming the centre stage.
The luxurious resort of Aranya Nivas is a plant lover’s paradise. From Spider Lilly to Lemongrass and from Fern to Temple Grass and Japan Lilly, the surrounding of walking paths of the resort’s sprawling meadow area is a treat to eyes.
Similipal is notoriously known for malaria though it is reduced now drastically. However, Lemongrass plants are tastefully planted as screen guards before each suit of the property to ensure protection from mosquito bites.
The poolside of the resort is a place to rejuvenate with.
But what you cherish most is the gushing sound of the river throughout the night and the morning transforming your suit’s neighbourhood into a musical aura.
The gastronomic experience at the resort is the icing on the cake. On regular intervals, you are served the best of herbal tea.
Truly Lulung Aranya Nivas is bliss in the wilderness.
Author – Jitu Mishra
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org