I was born in Punjab. I lived there during the initial years of my life with my Dadi before we moved to Chandigarh. When I was growing up in and around Punjab the state was all about agriculture and the army. I never thought of it as a tourist destination. Yes, there was a Golden temple – but then it’s a place of worship and not a tourism product. So, this time, when I heard about the tourism circuits of Punjab, including the heritage walks at Amritsar and Patiala and the restored palace of Kapurthala, I wanted to stay back and go around the state. Within the time available, Punjab Tourism organized a small trip to Ropar for an early morning Nature Trail. Now, I had crossed the place umpteen times. But never knew this is home to thousands of migratory birds.
Nature & History Trail at Ropar
Sh Jaspreet Singh, a passionate local environmentalist took me around the trail. His knowledge of the birds was impressive. He knew exactly where to find them. He took us on the banks of River Sutlej which had curious bluish-green water. And the youngest ranges of the Himalayas – the Shivalik range reflected in its water. The fog was just lifting its cover and birds were just coming out to meet the sun’s rays.
Sadabrat Nature Trail
We spotted many birds by the river, in the Sadabrat nature trail which is a wetland, and by the government guesthouse. Flying foxes or fruit bats are found in this range in abundance. We saw bunches of them on the treetops hanging upside down. Inside the Sadabrat trail, the trees are documented and there are quite a few herbal trees around. I could also see a lot of Datura trees – a fruit that is offered to Shiva.
A park by the river marks the place where a treaty was signed between Maharaja Ranjit Singh and William Bentinck the then Governor-General of India. That divided the territories across the two banks of Sutlej into two. A monument in the park in pink and yellow tells the history of Ranjit Singh & his army, but this is a recent monument. There is an old colonial building but Jaspreet Ji told me that this is not the building where the treaty was signed. And that building has either been lost or was just an open temporary settlement where it was signed.
Museum housing excavations
Excavations around Ropar have revealed it to be a site belonging to Indus Valley Civilization. A small museum in the city, near City College, houses the excavated artifacts. You can see the various pottery items, especially the burial pottery along with the beads, toys, and jewelry. Terra-cotta figurines from various eras of history make a substantial part of this collection. Some of the excavations from Chandigarh during its building had already indicated that this region was a living region since the times of the Indus Valley. Sutlej River which was then known as Satadru was a part of the Indus Valley river system.
A mound near the museum is the actual site where excavation was carried out, locals call it Pahadi. On top of this mound is a square structure in red bricks with the brick size indicating that the building is 300-400 years old. Small bastions protrude out in all four corners. Inside there is amaze-like construction with concentric walls closing to an inner sanctum. A guard sleeping inside could only tell us that it is an old building. At the corner of this mound where actual excavations would have taken place, you can see some old walls in many layers. On the other end is an old well that now seems to be under preservation. You can see the town of Ropar or Rupnagar from this vantage point and you see typical small-town India, going on with this life.
Already looking forward to my next trip to Punjab.
If you want to go to this town for birding, you can get in touch with Sh Jaspreet Singh Ji at +91 94176 07444 or [email protected]