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TRAVELOGUE

LAWACHARA

Nature in our own backyard

Lawachara National Park is a perfect getaway for nature lovers in Bangladesh. It is located at Kamalganj Upazila, in Maulvi Bazar district in the northeastern region of the country. It is about 60 km south of Sylhet.

There are daily bus services available from Dhaka to Srimongal every hour from Sayedabad Bus Terminal and the journey takes about 3.5 hours while getting to Lawachara by car takes about 3 hours from Dhaka. From Srimongol anybody can hire any transport to go to the park which is only a few kilometres from the city centre. Experts say that the period between November and March is the perfect time to visit the park.

Lawachara National Park covers approximately 12.5 km of semi-evergreen forests of the tropical and subtropical coniferous forests Biome and mixed deciduous forests of the tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests Biome. The land was declared a national park by the Bangladesh government on July 7, 1996 under the Wildlife Act of 1974. The terrain of Lawachara is undulating with scattered 10 to 50 metre hillocks. Locally known as tila, the hillocks are primarily composed of Upper Tertiary soft sandstone. The park is crossed by numerous sandy-bedded streams, one of which is the Lawachara tributary, from which the park derived its name.

Biological diversity in the Lawachara National Park is vast. Consisting of 460 species, of which 167 species are plants, 4 amphibian species, 6 reptile species, 246 bird species, 20 mammal species, and 17 insect species. One of this is the critically endangered Western Hoolock Gibbons, of which only 62 individuals remain in the area. The Hoolock Gibbon is the only ape in South Asia. The largest living population in Bangladesh is in Lawachara. The park is a well-known spot for bird-watching.

After reaching the park I had several routes to choose from. I started off with the main route going through the middle of the park. Hums of birds could be heard from many directions. Monkeys could be seen roaming freely. Good news of visitors -- animals in Lawachara are generally very friendly and do not attack humans. Following the paths few small canals of running down rainwater are crossed. The water in the canals is fresh and refreshing when one dips one's feet. At around the middle of the trail I stopped by in an indigenous village.


There are about eighteen villages near Lawachara. Two of them (Magurcharapunji and Lawacharapunji) are located within the boundaries of the park. Indigenous peoples in the area include the Christian Khasia people, the Hindu Tripuri people, the Tipra people, and the Monipuri people. They have their own way of life in the small hills of Lawachara. One of the main sources of income to the people here is Paan cultivation. Many packages of newly grown Paan could be seen around the villages. They have an innovative way of growing Paan vertically in the hills.

There are several places of accommodation in the Park's territory and nearby. Srimongol city is very near and there are several hotels present there for both food and accommodation. Various Eco-Cottages are present inside the park's territory. The park is now well-maintained and funded by the USAID.

Parks such as Lawachara are very limited in our country. But they are indeed very vital to the protection and conservation of the vast bio-diversity we have in such a small yet remarkable land. A trip to Lawachara can be a very intriguing experience for family, friends and nature lovers where new adventures abound.

By TamimSujat
Photo: Tamim Sujat


FYI

Khana

She is a legend; a larger than life figure whose sayings or bochons (sayings) have transcended time and are with us till today. Myths surround this iconic figure of history, each varied and unique in their own special way. This however can be said with certainty that Khana was a woman, and one with an intellect beyond her time.

It is said that Varaha, a renowned astrologer and one of the courtiers of king Vikramaditya of Ujjain, came to know that his unborn baby would die after birth. The scholar predicted that his child, Mihir, may escape death, provided he floats the new born on water. So the baby was put in an earthen pot and floated out in the open sea.

The pot eventually reached, Sinhala (now Sri Lanka). At around the same time Lilavati, the child princess of Sinhala had lost her parents at the hands of the Ravanas and was then being reared by them.

The Ravanas rescued Mihir and started to rear him with Lilavati. Both the children studied astrology and became experts in the field from a very early stage. In the course of time they fell in love and married in secret.

One day they both fled from Sinhala and by crossing the sea reached Mihir's home at Ujjain. Based on their astrological predictions, both Mihir and Khana discovered Mihir's aristocratic lineage.

Varaha was glad to see the return of his son, and was introduced to his daughter-in-law.

Gradually people came to know of Lilavati's expertise in matters of predicting fate and in the due course of time she was invited to king Vikramaditya's court. Young and talented, Khona soon spurred jealousy amongst the court-astrologers, especially her father-in-law. Varaha one day instructed his son Mihir to cut Lilavati's tongue to stop her from speaking, making her 'mute' or 'Khana'.

Before cutting her tongue Mihir gave Lilavati a last chance to profess her predictions. She gave forecasts on agriculture, weather, astrology and different sides of human life. Later these forecasts came to be known as 'Khanar bochon' Khana's words. She died of excess bleeding after the severance of her tongue.

Another version of the mythology states that Khana was born at an auspicious moment --Khana from Khon, or moment. According to Mahavangsa, an ancient history book of Sinhala and according to the historians, a Bengali prince established a colony at Sinhala. He was the abandoned son of the king Singhabahu of Rarha, now in Chandpur --Chittagong division. He started as a merchant and later he became so powerful that he conquered Sinhala. He established a long-standing dynasty that ruled the land for a couple of centuries.

Khana was a princess of that dynasty and so it is assumed that Khana's mother tongue was indeed Bengali. However, scholars cannot unanimously predict the exact period of her life and neither her mother tongue, but do however concur that the present day bochons have been narrated in their exact form for at least over a millennium.

There is also little doubt, though contradictory to some legends, Khana was originally from Banga, the land of the Bengalis. Khana herself introduced her as the daughter of Atanacharya in her bochons.

The West Bengal scholar, Dr Abdul Gafur Siddiqui opined that Khana was born in East Bengal but she was married to Mihir of the village Deuli at Barasat in Chabbish Parganah of West Bengal. Both Mihir and Varaha were the courtiers of Lord Dhumketu Roy.

Khana made predictions on myriad subjects ranging from weather, health and environment but it is her directions on agriculture that she will forever be remembered. Agriculture was introduced by women and for the same reason her quotes on agriculture are based on rhymes with a feminine touch.

Khana is a woman of mystery. Her lineage, her nationality and the time period of her existence are all shrouded in myths and legends. But there is unanimous agreement that she was scholarly and a woman of intellect.

By Mahtabi Zaman


CHECK IT OUT

KFC: Smart eating with Streetwise

Perhaps one of the best things that people love about KFC, one of the world's most famous chain restaurants, is their unfaltering commitment to quality and value. With their latest endeavour called “Streetwise” KFC has managed to prove their commitment to quality and value even further. The Streetwise offer is a more economic menu, emphasising on the needs of the youth.

The Streetwise offer starts at Tk.75 for a Chicken snacker. People can also enjoy a Hot wings snack box with two hot wings and one coleslaw for Tk.120, a Strips snack box with two boneless chicken strips and one regular fries for Tk.120, and a one piece chicken snack box with one piece chicken and regular fries for Tk.140. Overall, the Streetwise offer gives you both great value for money and for your taste buds.

“Our Streetwise offer is all about giving you great taste at smart prices. It's the perfect answer when you feel like a quick bite and you need to match your money to your hunger. We hope our Streetwise offer will make more people enjoy the same goodness that KFC has to offer with the coolest savings” said Akku Chowdhury, Managing Director, Transcom Foods Ltd.

KFC is an international restaurant chain in Bangladesh that opened its flagship outlet on 6 September, 2006 at Gulshan. KFC has 9 outlets in Dhaka at Gulshan, Banani, Baily Road, New Eskaton, Mirpur, Dhanmondi, Purana Paltan, Uttara and Laxmibazar, one in Chittagong at Lalkhan Bazar and another one in Cox's Bazaar.


WRITER’S BLOCK

The tall “tola” tale

Fahmeena Nahas

My house, a beautiful, old Assam-type building, has a variety of animals living in peace. The squirrel family, the mongooses, different varieties of birds and butterflies, the geckoes, numerous stray dogs, and cats and above all, the “tolas” all live with us and in perfect harmony. Or is it really perfect? As far as the tolas are concerned, it is not perfect at all. This particular species is playing havoc in our otherwise blissful life.

Tola is the Sylhety name for Civet Cats. They are not really cats but they do have a cat-like appearance. The mouth is quite small but the tail, with brown and off-white stripes, is very long. The tail and its body remain fluffed up giving it a chubby appearance.

According to Wikipedia “The term civet applies to over a dozen different mammal species. Most of the species is found in Southeast Asia… The word civet may also refer to the distinctive musky scent produced by the animals.”

The musky scent is actually a pulao-rice like smell. As the “tola” moves around my house, it seems like pulao is cooking, enhanced with a strong animal smell. Since it has started living here, I can vouch that I'm completely off pulao!

The “tolas” have made a nest on top of our wooden ceiling from where they urinate on a regular basis. The wooden ceiling with its cracks and crevices is not the ideal material to hold the pungent pulao-smelling liquid. So we have a rain of the same liquid regardless of the place where it is landing. Our in-house carpenter, Jalal, tried to get rid of our furry friend (read enemy) by sealing off the openings to the space above the ceiling with strong wire netting. We thought that was the last of them.

But no, the obnoxious creatures were back, and with a vengeance. They started urinating right over my kitchen. Jalal got up to see how they could get past his invincible barricade. They had pulled the iron net and tore up the wood to which it was adhered.

One day a guest came upstairs into our living room and sat on the divan to open his shoes. Just then we heard a huge thump on the ceiling. Both of us looked up and I exclaimed that it must be the “tola”. He was impressed that we lived with the wild. “Obhoyarrono” (natural safe-heaven) he called it. I groaned and asked him to come and sit on a more comfortable chair. Within a minute of his moving, the insufferable creature decided to “answer to the call of nature” just above the place he was sitting. Well, it was a close call for my guest!

As I'm typing this, my friend the “tola” is sleeping quite peacefully above the ceiling of my kitchen. He is quite oblivious to the fact that a bunch of suicidal human beings are on the verge of extinction due to his atrocities.


 
 

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