There is no one way to
describe Manas National Park.
Lying on the foothills of
the Himalaya, Manas is the most stunning pristine wildlife habitat in
India, comparable to the best in the world in the beauty of its
spectacular landscape. It is also a UNESCO Natural World Heritage (in
danger) site, a Project Tiger Reserve, an Elephant Reserve and a
Biosphere Reserve - a unique distinction. This Brahmaputra Valley
semi-evergreen forest Terrestrial Eco-region is also the
richest in species of all Indian wildlife areas and the only known
home for the rare and endangered Assam Roofed Turtle, Hispid
Hare, Golden Langur and Pygmy Hog.
shame is that we watched and participated in the butchering of Manas
for 17 years !!
Manas is the closest I
have come to seeing paradise on earth in my life - but that was 25
years ago. Today, Manas looks like an aged diva wearing rags, though I
think I still caught the familiar sparkle in the eye.
The focus point of Manas
National Park is the enchanting Manas River, named after the serpent
goddess Manasa. It is the
largest Himalayan tributary of the mighty Brahmaputra. Coming down the
Bhutan Hills from the north, the crystal clear waters of the Manas
river runs through the heart of the 500 sq. km core area of Manas
Park. The main tourist spot of Mothanguri, on the northern border of
Manas with Bhutan, is situated on the banks of this river.
Situated in the north bank of the Brahmaputra river, in Assam,
Manas lies on the international border with Bhutan. It is bounded on
the north by the Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan, on the south by
populous North Kamrup district and on both east and west by buffer
forest reserves which are part of
2,840 sq. Km Manas Tiger Reserve.
The Manas River flows
through the west of the park, where it splits
into two separate rivers,
the Beki and Bholkaduba. These and
five small rivers drain the Reserve which lies on a wide
low-lying alluvial terrace below the foothills of the outer Himalaya.
Limestone and sandstone form the bedrock of the savanna area in the
north while the grasslands in the south consist of deep deposits of
Burma Monsoon Forests of Manas lie on the borders between the
Indo-Gangetic and Indo-Malayan bio-geographical realms and is part of
the Brahmaputra Valley Biogeographic Province. The
combination of Sub-Himalayan Bhabar Terai formation with riverine
succession leading up to Sub-Himalayan mountain forest
makes it one of the richest biodiversity areas in the world.
Two major biomes are represented in Manas ~ the grassland biome and
the forest biome.
The main vegetation types are: i)
Sub-Himalayan Light Alluvial Semi-Evergreen forests in the
northern parts, ii) East Himalayan mixed Moist
and Dry Deciduous forests (the most common type), iii)
Low Alluvial Savanna Woodland, and iv)
Assam Valley Semi-Evergreen Alluvial Grasslands
which cover almost 50% of the Park. Much of the riverine dry deciduous
forest is at an early successional stage. It is replaced by moist
deciduous forest away from water courses, which is succeeded by
semi-evergreen climax forest in the northern part of the park.
A total of 543 plants species have been recorded from the core zone.
Of these, 374 species are dicotyledons (including 89 trees), 139
species monocotyledons and
30 are Pteridophytes and Gymnosperms.
The Park's common trees include Aphanamixis polystachya,
Anthocephalus chinensis, Syzygium cumini, S. formosum,
S. oblatum, Bauhinia purpurea, Mallotus philippensis,
Cinnamomum tamala, Actinodaphne obvata, Bombax
ceiba, Sterculia villosa, Dillenia
indica, D. pentagyna, Careya arborea,
Lagerstroemia parviflora, L.speciosa, Terminalia
bellirica, T. chebula, Trewia polycarpa, Gmelina
arborea, Oroxylum indicum and Bridelia spp. The
Grasslands are dominated by Imperata cylindrica, Saccharum naranga,
Phragmites karka, Arundo donax, Dillenia
pentagyna, Phyllanthus emblica, Bombax ceiba,
and species of Clerodendrum, Leea, Grewia, Premna and
Fauna: Manas is the melting point
of the west and the east, with many species at the westernmost and
easternmost point of their range representing a gateway for species
exchanges between the typically Indian and Malayan' faunas.
A total of 55 mammals, 50 reptiles and three amphibians have been
recorded, several species being endemic. Manas contains 21 of India's
Schedule I mammals and at least 33 of its animals listed as
threatened, by far the greatest number of any protected area in the
country. Some, like the Assam Roofed turtle Kachuga sylhetensis,
Golden Langur Presbytis geei,
Hispid Hare Caprolagus hispidus, Pygmy Hog Sus
and the only pure strain of Asiatic Wild Buffalo Bubalus
arnee, are only found/best seen here.
Bird life: The diverse habitat of Manas is ideal home for a
variety of specialized birds. Manas boasts the largest population of
the endangered Bengal Florican in the world and is also a great place
to see the Great Hornbill. The National Park lists around 380 species
and the adjoining hilly terrain in Bhutan can easily add a hundred
birds to that total. Good birds to look for are Greater Adjutant,
Black-tailed Crake, Red-headed Trogon, Swamp Francolin, Wreathed and
Rufous-necked Hornbill, Marsh and Jerdon's Babblers, Pied Harrier,
Rufous-rumped and Bristled Grassbirds, Hodgson's Bushchat,
Rufous-vented Laughingthrush, Finn's Weaver, Ibisbill and a variety of
Ethnic political and civil unrest
in the area (not unconnected with the conservation of Manas and
the poverty of the locals) led to unchecked arson, poaching and
looting in Manas for almost two decades. This caused
and loss of as much as 50 per cent
forest cover in many
parts, plus inevitably, the loss of animal species. The last rhino
of Manas was reportedly poached in
Kaklabari four years ago.
On ground conservation
action has commenced at Manas after the signing of an agreement
between the Bodo people and the Government of India in 2003 and
the subsequent formation of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).
The responsibility for management of the park now rests with the
BTC and specifically with an Executive Member of the BTC. The BTC
has stated that Manas is an asset and
should be managed to protect wildlife.
With these developments,
Manas appears now to be entirely peaceful and perfectly safe to
How to reach:
The National Highway No.31 adjoins Barpeta Road (not Barpeta town),
the headquarters of Manas Tiger Reserve. The nearest point on the
southern boundary of Manas National Park is 22 kms from the NH 31, and
19 kms from the town itself. Barpeta Road is 176 km from Guwahati,
from where one can drive to the
Mothanguri area. The journey takes about 51/2 - 6
hours by road. The eastern sector is also accessed from either Barpeta
Road (if coming by train) or from Guwahati. Pathsala town, 100 kms
from Guwahati, on NH 31 is the main entry point. From here the road
travels north on NH 152 for 30 kms to reach Lakhi Baazar, the entry
point. This journey takes about 41/2 - 5 hours by road from
The nearest rail junction is at Barpeta Road and the most convenient
airport is at Guwahati.
Guwahati - Bansbari : 196 kms; Barpeta Road - Bansbari: 20kms;
Bansbari - Mothanguri: 40 kms
Guwahati - Pathsala : 100 kms; Pathsala - Kaklabari: 30 kms
Public transport (bus) is available to Lakhi Baazar from Pathsala and
long distances buses connect both Pathsala and Barpeta Road from major
towns/cities on the east and west.
(Map Copyright © Sumit Sen 2005)
Permits: No special permits are
required to visit Manas. You must, however, obtain permission to stay
inside the forest from the Filed Director's Office at Barpeta Road.
Manas Tiger Reserves
P.O. Barpeta Road, Kamrup
Where to stay:
The central zone of Manas, covering the
Mothanguri area, is the most scenic and must be visited to appreciate
and savour the beauty of Manas. Eco-tourism has been recently
initiated in the eastern Kaklabari area by the Manas Maozigendri
Ecotourism Society, opening up this bird rich area to visitors. Though
connected, distances and road conditions do not permit visiting both
parts of Manas from one point. Those desiring to cover both central
and eastern parts are advised to make overnight arrangements for the
two areas separately.
1. Mothanguri Forest Bungalow
(Note: Food needs to be carried, meals for Forest Guards included.
Rates: Rest-house INR120/-; Park entrance fees: INR250/-;
Vehicle INR300/- (USD 1= INR 45/-)
1a. Forest Lodges at Barpeta Road and Bansbari
Contact: Smiling Tiger
Barpeta Road - 781315,
Tel: (0091)-3666 - 260288/261413
or, the Field Director's Office as above.
The Bansbari Lodge,
Bansbari (For Mothanguri area)
Manas Jungle Camp
For guided tours contact Sujan Chatterjee at
- 92°00'E Latitude: 26°30'
Rainfall: 3330 mm
Altitude: 60 -200m over m.s.l.
Temperatures: Min 5°C;
Best Season: November to March. Park is closed between
June and September.
- Birds of the Indian
Subcontinent - Richard Grimmett & Tim Inskipp. Helm Field Guide
- A Field Guide to the Birds of India - Krys Kazmierczak. Pica
- Birds of South-east Asia - Craig Robson. New Holland
- Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan (Vol. I-X) - S.
Ali & S. D. Ripley. OUP
- Birdwatcher's Guide to India - Krys Kazmierczak et al.
- Birds of South Asia ~ The Ripley Guide - Pamela
Rasmussen et al. Lynx Edicions 2005
- Indian Wildlife - Insight Guides. APA Productions 1987.
The Manas ~ Assam's unknown wildlife sanctuary - J. Burnett
(1958). Oryx 4: 322-325
- Conservation in Manas Tiger Reserve - A. Choudhury (1988).
- Manas ~ A Monograph - S. Deb Roy (1991). Tigerpaper 18(1)
- Manas tiger reserve threatened - P. Jackson (1989) .
Environmental Awareness 13(1)
- Manas: Paradise under siege - G. Narayan (1990). Sanctuary
Project Tiger Website
UNESCO World Hertiage Centre
UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre
Birdlife International: Manas
WWF Terrestrial Eco-region
Sumit K Sen,