Why is it that we think of a retreat, of going away from it all, we always tend to go closer to nature?

I am fortunate enough to live in a community that is very close to nature. We have low-rise buildings, larger terraces, trees all over and abundant green spaces. I wake up with the chirping of the birds, and this continues all through the day, until they retire at sunset. A couple of bowls of fresh water, a few pieces of tomato and a smile in the heart is all it takes to connect with these birds. They have nested many times, and I’ve been privileged to see more than a dozen eggs hatch, and young ones being fed by their parents…

We are all extensions of nature – hence the term ‘Mother Nature’. We are born from nature, we live by nature, and when we are gone, we become part of nature again.

This cosmic bonding with nature is why we feel so calm and composed when we are surrounded by nature in it’s abundance. Take a walk in the morning sun, feel the green grass under your bare feet, run your fingers through the flowing water of a stream, hear the sounds of birds and crickets – being in nature, and with nature, is the antidote to any level of stress that you may experience. Being in nature can restore our mood, give us back our energy and vitality, refresh and rejuvenate us.

I just heard about the art of Shinrin-Yoku, or the Japanese art of forest bathing. Shinrin means forest, and yoku means bath.

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A prayer for humanity

Group Sadhana for 11 days – Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra, 108 times – for the country, for humanity. 

From home, but not alone. We all can – collectively, harmoniously, pray to nature, recognising our true place in the scheme of things. We are just a fleeting glimpse in the unending vista of images – let us be part of nature and not against it. 

ॐ द्यौः शान्तिरन्तरिक्षं शान्तिः 
पृथिवी शान्तिरापः शान्तिरोषधयः शान्तिः ।
वनस्पतयः शान्तिर्विश्वेदेवाः शान्तिर्ब्रह्म शान्तिः 
सर्वं शान्तिः शान्तिरेव शान्तिः सा मा शान्तिरेधि ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥


PIPLANTRI is a village located in RAJSAMAND District in Rajasthan State.

The villagers of Piplantri plant 111 trees every time a girl child is born, and the community ensures these trees survive, attaining fruition as the girls grow up.  Over the years, people have managed to plant over a quarter million trees on the village’s grazing commons, including neem, sheesham, mango and amla among others.


To ensure financial security, after the birth of a girl child, the villagers contribute 21,000 rupees collectively and take 10,000 rupees from the parents and put the amount in a FD, which can be broken when she is 20 years old.  To make sure the child receives proper education, the villagers make the parents sign an affidavit which also restricts them from marrying her off before she attains the legal age for marriage.



Shyam Sundar Palwal, the former Sarpanch (village head) started this initiative in memory of his daughter (Kiran) who died a few years ago.  The initiative begun in 2006 has turned Piplantri Village into an oasis.  The planting of the trees have raised the water level.  IT has also helped the village economy.  To keep termites away from the trees, many of which bear fruit, the village has planted more than 2.5million Aloe Vera plants around them.  Gradually, the villagers realised that Aloe Vera could be processed and marketed in a variety of ways.  So, the community now produces and markets Aloe Vera products like juice and gel, pickle and other items.  So, for the last several years, Piplantri is quietly practising its own home-grown eco-feminism and achieving spectacular results.  On an average 60 girls are born every year in Piplantri.


People also plant 11 trees whenever a family member dies.  The Village Panchayat, which has a studio-recorded anthem and a website of its own, has completed banned alcohol, open grazing of animals and cutting of trees.  Villagers claim that there has been no police case since the last seven or eight years.

Piplantri is well-known for its marble mining industry.  In this Gram Panchayat, the famous R. K. Marbles is located whose name is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Record for maximum production of marbles.


The village was awarded by the Rajasthan Government and included in Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Adarsh Gram Yojna and it is the only village from Rajsamand to get selected for it.

—————- Mahim Pratap Singh for The Hindu. 

Crater lake

CRATER LAKE (1,950ft deep) is situated in a 7,700-year-old caldera in the Cascades of south-central Oregon, United States.

crater lake twilight

It is famous for its intense blue colour and the clarity of its water.  The lake is the deepest in the US and, the third and the ninth deepest in the world, depending on whether average or maximum depth is measured.  Though no rivers flow into or out of it, its waters are replaced every 250 years through rain and snowfall.

Crater lake

A post caldera cinder cone forms WIZARD ISLAND.  Crater Lake is also known for the OLD MAN OF THE LAKE, a full-sized tree which is now a stump that has been bobbing vertically in the lake for over a century.  The low temperature of the water has slowed the decomposition of the wood, hence the longevity of the bobbing tree.

There are two islands in Crater Lake  : WIZARD ISLAND, formed from a cinder cone that erupted after Crater lake began to fill with water, and the smaller PHANTOM SHIP, which has seven different trees living on it.  There are also colonies of violet-green swallows and several varieties of wildflowers and lichens living there.

Crater lake top view

While having no indigenous fish populations, the lake was stocked  from 1888 to 1941 with a variety of fish.  Several species have formed self-sustaining populations.  Due to several unique factors, mainly that the lake has no inlets or tributaries, the waters of Crater Lake are some of the purest in the world because of the absence of pollutants.  The lake has relatively high levels of dissolves salts, total alkalinity and conductivity.

crater lake

The Klamath Tribe of Native Americans, who may have witnessed the collapse of Mount Mazama and the formation of Crater Lake, have long regarded the lake as a sacred site.  Their legends tell of a battle between the Sky God (SKELL) and the God of the Underworld (LLAO).  Mount Mazama was destroyed in the battle, creating Crater Lake, called GIIWAS in the Klamath language.  The tribe used Crater Lake in “vision quests”, which often involved  climbing the caldera walls and other dangerous tasks.  Those who were successful in such quests were often regarded as having more spiritual powers.  The tribe still holds Crater lake in high regard as a spiritual site.

Since 2002, one of the State’s regular-issue license plate designs has featured Crater Lake.  The commemorative  Oregon State Quarter, which was released by the US Mint in 2005, features an image of Crater Lake on its reverse.

Jewel of Vidharba

Tadoba Tiger reserve

The TADOBA ANDHARI TIGER PROJECT is a Tiger Reserve in Chandrapur District of Maharashtra State.  It is notable as Maharashtra’s oldest and largest National Park.  It is one of India’s 43 PROJECT TIGER  —— Tiger Reserves.

The name TADOBA is the name of the God TADOBA or TARU, praised by the tribal people who live in the dense forests of the TADOBA & ANDHARI region, while the ANDHARI river that meanders through the forest gives the ANDHARI name.
Legend holds that TARU was a village chief who was killed in a mythological encounter with a tiger.  A shrine, dedicated to God Taru, now exists beneath a huge tree, on the banks of the TADOBA LAKE.  The Temple is frequented by Adivasis, especially during the fair held every year in the Hindu month of PAUSHA between December and January.

Tadoba tiger

The GOND Kings once ruled these forests I the vicinity of the CHIMUR hills.  Hunting was completely banned in 1935.  Two decades later, in 1955, was declared a National Park.  ANDHARI Wildlife Sanctuary was created in the adjacent forests in 1986, and, in 1995, both the Park and the Sanctuary were merged to establish the present Tiger Reserve. ——– TADOBA ANDHARI Reserve is the largest and oldest National Park in Maharashtra.  The total area of the Reserve is 1,  This includes TADOBA National Park, created in 1955.

There are about 43 Tigers in the Reserve, one of the highest in India.  Densely forested hills form the northern and western boundary of the Tiger Reserve.  The elevation of the hills ranges from 660ft — 1,150ft.  To the southwest is the 300acres Tadoba Lake, which acts as a buffer between the park’s forest and the extensive farmland which extends up to IRAI Water Reservoir.  This lake is  a perennial water source which offers a good habitat for MUGGAR CROCODILES to thrive.

Tadoba tiger reserve India

Other wetland areas, within the Reserve, include the KOLSA LAKE & ANDHARI River.  The Tadoba Reserve covers the CHIMUR HILLS and the Andhari Sanctuary covers MOHARLI & KOLSA Ranges.  There are thick forests, which are relieved by smooth meadows and deep valleys as the terrain slopes from north to south.  Cliffs and caves provide refuge for several animals.  The 2 “forested triangles” are formed of Tadoba and Andhari range.  The south part of the park is less hilly.  Tadoba Reserve is predominantly a southern tropical dry deciduous forest with dense woodlands comprising 87% of the protected area.  Teak is the predominant tree species.  Other deciduous trees include AIN(Crocodile bark), BIJA, DHAUDA, HALDU, SALAI & TENDU.  The PALAS or Flame of the Forest adds vibrant colour to the forest.  Black plum trees grow in the RIPARIAN habitat around the lake.  At the waterhole at PANCHADHARA, huge ARJUN trees are seen. Bamboo thickets and patches of grass are found throughout the reserve.  The climber KACH KUJALI (velvet bean) found here is a medicinal plant used to treat Parkinson’s disease.

Tadoba tiger reserve

Aside   from around 65 of the keystone species of Bengal Tiger, TADOBA TIGER RESERVE is home to other mammals like spotted deer, sloth bears, gaur, nilgai, dhole, striped hyena, small Indian civet, jungle cats, sambar, barking deer and CHAUSINGHA.  The Tadoba Lake is an ornithologist’s paradise, with a diversity of water birds and raptors.  195 species of birds have been recorded, including 3 endangered species.  The Grey-Headed Fish-Eagle eagle, the Crested-Serpent Eagle and Changeable Hawk-Eagle are some of the raptors.

Other interesting species included the Orange-headed thrush, Indian PITTA, Crested Tree-swift, Stole Curlew, Crested Honey Buzzard, Bronze-winged Jacana and Lesser Golden-backed Woodpecker.  The call of the Peacock is often heard.  74 species of butterflies have been recorded and that include the Monarch, Mormons and Swordtails.  Other insects located in the reserve are Praying Mantis, Dragonflies, Stick Insects and Jewel Beetles.  Spiders like the Wolf spiders, Crab spiders and Lynx spiders are common.



The KORNATI Archipelago of Croatia, also known as the STOMORSKI Islands, is located in the northern part of DALMATIA, south from ZADAR, and west from SIBENIK, in the SIBENIK – KNIN county.  With 35km length and 140 islands —– some large, some small —– in a sea area of about, the KORNATI are the densest archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea.  The Archipelago is the plural form of the name of the largest island called KORNAT.


There are no permanent settlements in KORNATI.  Simple houses in well-protected coves such as VRULJE, KRAVJACICA, LAVSA and others are used by mainland landowners as temporary shelters.  Most of the landowners are from the island of MURTER & DUGI OTOK.  Geographically, the KORNATI islands can be divided into main groups : the GORNJI KORNATI or UPPER KORNATI, closer to the mainland, and the DONJI KORNATI or LOWER KORNATI, which are mostly facing the open sea in the southwest.  The islands known as GORNJI KORNATI include the northernmost island of SIT and the surrounding islets, divided by a channel from ZUT and its surrounding islets to the south.  ZUT is the largest and most indented of these islands.


In 1980, the 89 northernmost of the 140-odd islands, islets and reefs of the KORNATI Archipelago were declared a National Park (NACIONALNI PARK KORNATI), protecting the islands and their marine surroundings.  The area covered by the National Park mostly coincides with the DONJI KRONATI, which includes the island of KORNAT and the surrounding islets, separated with a channel from the island of PISKERA and the surrounding islets.

The National Park includes 109 islands, of which 76 are less than 1hectare in size of the total land surface area of KORNATI (62 sq.kms), 85% is stony and only 5% has been cultivated.
The most important places on the KORNATI islands are : the shallow channel MALA PROVERSA, the oval-shape TALJURIC island, SPINUTA bay, STIVINA bay, the 4th largest island LEVRNAKA, the 2nd largest KRAST rock area TARAC SVRSATA VELA island, MANA island, PISKERA island, PANITULA VELA island, the picturesque LAVSA bay, the resort island RAVNI ZAKAN, SMOKVICA VELA island, the OPAT Peninsula, SAMOGRAD island, the PURARA Reserve for marine life, VRGADA & GANGAROL islands.

Kornati park

Most of the terrain in the KORNATI islands is KARST- limestone which, in the distant geological past, arose from sediment from the sea.  In the stone on the islands, there are numerous fossils of crustaceans and fish.  In the area, there are examples of all typical forms of KARST : bizarre shapes formed by the atmosphere, unexplored caves, areas of flat rock and, above all, cliffs.  KARST rock is porous, rapidly draining and dry, and so therefore are the KORNATI islands.  Numerous cisterns supply water for people and animals.

Kornati islands

Human presence on the KORNATI islands appear to extend back to the Neolithic Age.  The presence of wealthy Romans is attested by the mosaic floors of Roman Villas and the KORNATI island has a small TORETA (tower), that was probably built in the 6th century AD.  The island of PISKERA was also inhabited during the Middle Ages and served as a storage point for fish.  Archaeological sites in STRAZISCE & TARAC and on LEVRNAKA & LAVSA provide evidence that, during the Roman Era, life on KORNATI was very active.  There are many buildings and it is known that there were also stone quarries.

Deforestation and subsequent erosion and overgrazing by sheep and goats, for whose benefit the scrub was periodically burnt, impoverished the fauna and depopulated the islands, which were purchased by citizens of MURTER during the late 19th century.

Kornati islands panorama

Apart from seagulls, which are the most numerous animals, there are some lizards and ring-snakes, and 69 varieties of butterfly, some amphibians and rodents.  As regards marine life, the KORNATI islands are typical of the Adriatic and the Mediterranean, but, due to the underwater relief, streams and special characteristics of the sea in this labyrinth, there are also some peculiarities : algae, coral and sponges.  At one time, the sea was the richest, in the Adriatic, for sponge hunters.  The rare mollusc PINNA NOBILIS, lives in the KORNATI and is protected by law.

Not only the land, but also the sea, is within the protection of the National Park.  Fishing is limited in order to allow the regeneration of fish shoals that had been severely over-fished.

Kornati national park_

Vegetation on the islands is very sparse.  There have been 200 known varieties of Mediterranean plants, but they have degenerated.  The most common plant is a tough variety of grass, but there are many scented and medicinal herbs : sage, feather grass and XERANTHEMUM, and these provide the best forage for bees.  Olive trees account for about 80% of the land under cultivation, followed by vineyards, figs, orchards and vegetable gardens.  It is thought that the KORNATI islands were once covered with forests of Mediterranean Holm oaks, QUERCUS ILEX, but as open fires demanded a great deal of wood, the forests were slowly destroyed.



ENROSADIRA ( ALPENGLOW) is the phenomenon in which most of the peaks of the DOLOMITES take on a reddish colour, which gradually changes to violet, especially at dawn and dusk.

This phenomenon is due to the composition of the rocky walls ( a mixture of carbonate and magnesium).  It is especially seen in the summer evenings, when the air is very clear and the sun shining drops to the west.
The phenomenon ENROSADIRA can manifest itself significantly different throughout the year and can even vary from one day to the other.  These variations in colours and durability ENROSADIRA, are due to the different positions of the sun during the year and the conditions of the atmosphere.  The phenomenon occurs on the DOLOMITES, especially at dawn it appears on the crags facing east, while at sunset is on the walls facing west, and the colours are so magical.  This phenomenon also occurs on the GRAN SASSO of Italy.  The term ALPENGLOW, which literally means “turning pink”, comes from the word LADIN ROSADURA or ENROSADORA.


There is a legend of King Laurin, a dwarf king, who had the ROSENGARTEN (in German : ROSENGARTENGRUPPE) a beautiful rose garden, (the meaning of the German word is precisely “the rose garden”), it offers an alternative explanation to the phenomenon and suggestive.

One day, the Prince of the LATIMER, intrigued by the sight of roses, departed into the kingdom of King Laurin.  There he saw the King’s daughter (LADINA), fell in love with her and kidnapped her to make her his bride.  King Laurin desperately threw a curse on his rose garden, guilty of having betrayed the position of his kingdom : neither day nor night, no human eye could most admire.  But, King Laurin forgot sunset when, even today, the garden and its colours become visible and appreciated.

Tigress queen of Ranthambore

Ranthambore tiger

The TIGRESS QUEEN OF RANTHAMBORE aka MACHLI (Code Name: T-16) is one of the most famous tigresses and the most-photographed one at that.

She is an ICONIC FIGURE of Rantahambore National Park in India.  MACHLI is celebrated with tiles such as QUEEN MOTHER of Tigers, LADY OF THE  LAKES and CROCODILE KILLER.
She was born in 1997.  Formerly, she was known as JHALARA, which is a location of the Park site where she used to live.  She was name MACHLI (fish), due to a fish-shaped mark that had been seen on her mother’s face and MACHLI had a fork-like mark on her face.  MACHLI gave birth to 11 tiger cubs including 7 females and 4 males.  The progeny of MACHLI increased the tiger population in the Park and made about 60% of tigers of her ‘lineage”.  Also, she was kept to protect her cubs from threats including from male tigers and other animals.

Ranthambore tiger

She is famously known for her “hunting skills” and “strength”, when killing a 14-foot-long      mugger crocodile.  Due to the crucial fight, she lost a couple of canine teeth.  A report says that India had earned about USD10million per year due to tourists attracted by the tigress, for the last ten years.

She won the LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD of Travel Operations for Tigers, due to her contribution to conservation and tourist attraction that earned significant economy for India.  Today, she has lost almost all of her teeth, territories and strength due to aging.   She is 19yrs old (as of May 2015), higher than the average 10 – 15 year life span of tigers in the wild.
Her 50-minute story with a title of TIGER QUEEN was aired by National Geographic & Animal Planet Channels.  On the 19th of October, 2012, the story of MACHLI was aired on the BBC’s Natural World.  The episode was titled : QUEEN OF TIGERS : Natural World Special.  It was produced by Mike Birkhead and presented by Colin Stafford-Johnson.  The Indian Government issued a commemorative postal cover and stamp to honour the tigress for her ecological and economical contributions.
MACHLI is considered the “most photographed tigress in the world”.  She once reigned supreme in the woods of Ranthambore.  More than half of the tiger population in RANTHAMBORE & SARISKA Tiger Reserves of Rajasthan is of her lineage, as her two female cubs were airlifted to SARISKA in 2008 to re-populate tigers.

Rub’ al Khali

Rub' al Khali

RUB’ al KHALI (Arabic : EMPTY QUARTER) is the largest continuous sand desert in the world, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula.  The desert covers some 650,, including parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE and Yemen.  It is part of the larger Arabian Desert.

rub_al-khali top view

The Desert is 1,000km long and 500km wide.  Its surface elevation varies from 2,600ft in the southwest to around sea-level in the northeast.  The terrain is covered with sand dunes with heights of up to 820ft, interspersed with gravel and gypsum plains.  The sand is a reddish-orange colour due to the presence of FELDSPAR.  There are also brackish salt flats in some areas, such as the UMM al SAMIM area on the desert’s eastern edge.

Sand dunes empty quarter

Along the middle length of the desert, there are a number of raised, hardened areas of calcium carbonate, gypsum, clay that were once the site of shallow lakes.  These lakes existed during periods from 6,000 to 5,000 years ago and 3,000 to 2,000 years ago.  The lakes are thought to have formed as a result of “cataclysmic rainfall” to present-day monsoon rainfall and most probably lasted for only a few years.  However, lakes I the MUNDAFEN area in the southwest of the RUB’ al KHALI show evidence of lasting longer, up to 800 years, due to increased runoff from the TUWAIQ ESCARPMENT.

The empty quarter

Evidence suggests that the lakes were home to a variety of flora and fauna.  Fossil remains indicate the presence of hippos, water buffalo and long-horned cattle.  The lakes also contained small snails, OSTRACODS, and when conditions were suitable, freshwater clams.  Deposits of calcium carbonates and opal PHYTOLITHS- indicate the presence of plants and algae.  There is also evidence of human activity dating from 3,000 to 2,000 years ago, but no actual human remains have been found.

Fauna includes arachnids (e.g. scorpion) and rodents, while plants thrive throughout RUB’ al KHALI.  As an eco-region, it falls within the Arabian Desert and East Sahara-Arabian xeric shrub lands.

Rub Al Khalai sand dunes

Geologically, RUB’ al KHALI is the most oil-rich site in the world.  Vast oil reserves have been discovered underneath the sand dunes.  SHEYBA, at the north-eastern edge of RUB’ al KHALI, is a  major light crude oil-producing site in Saudi Arabia.  GHAWAR, the largest oil field in the world, extends southwards into the northernmost parts of RUB’ al KHALI.

Camels Rub Al Khali

Desertification has increased through the millennia.  Before desertification made the caravan trails leading across the RUB’ al KHALI so difficult, the caravans of the frankincense trade crossed the now virtually impassable stretches of wasteland until about AD300.  It has been suggested that UBAR or IRAM, a lost city, depended on such trade.  The traces of camel tracks, unidentifiable on the ground, appear in satellite images..  More recently, tribal populations were also present in certain parts of RUB’ al KHALI.  A few road links were connected with these tribal settlements to the water resource and oil-production centres.

Trees are yogis

Lord Krishna states in the Bhagwad Gita, “I am Peepal among trees”.  Trees are Mahayogis.  As an evolved human spreads divine aura, joy and peace, so do trees.  The moment it sprouts from earth, it spreads its arms (branches) towards the sky to receive all energies, head held high to get connected to universal life force for growth, yet rooted on earth.  It flows with natural forces, making itself stronger, taller and beautiful.

Radha Krishna

Trees always give just like the rest of Nature, teaching and reminding us that giving is the Law of Nature.  If we imbibe this, it will make the atmosphere pleasant and congenial for growth.  Tree is a Guru and reflection of the Supreme Provider..  It is the provider of bounties which are required for our healthy and natural survival.  That is why a tree reflects what it is to be alive, without thrusting and enforcing anything or being a doer.  It is alive till the last moment, and even when it perishes, every part of the tree is of great value.  There is no human habitat which does not have something made out of a tree or its produce.  Trees impart manure to earth  and its roots provide shelter to insects which live underground and nourish the soil.

No matter how much a human plucks its leaves and scratches its bark, the tree never retaliates.  It continues to be patient and does its karma.  Trees are a source of livelihood to so many.  Magnificent is the life of trees that spreads life force to all, giving shade to the tired souls and fruits to everyone, irrespective of caste, creed …….. and provide a restful abode to birds.  Trees are a great source of inspiration to writers, poets, philosophers and visionaries.  Wisdom dawns on those who do intense sadhna and dhyana under densely leafed old trees.  Buddha attained enlightenment under the natural canopy of the Bodhi tree.

big tree

Trees are the most beautiful poetic expression of Supreme Intelligence.  Trees are the embodiment of sensitivity also.  What you feel when you touch it or nurture it, reflects in its blossoming or flourishing the significance of feel.

Those who plant trees in faraway places bring salvation to ancestors and future generations, according to the Shiva Purana.  The one who plants Tulsi by igniting Vishnu, gets fruits of performing 100 yajnas, states the Padma Purana.
There is a shloka in Subhasittam : The tree provides shade while standing in the sun, bearing fruits for the benefit of others, like real virtuous SAT PURUSHA.”  Expect nothing from others like a true yogi and derive energy from the Eternal Source.  The Tree’s mission is welfare and nourishment for all, providing shelter and nutrients to even those who pelt stones at it, giving truly a great message of unconditional love by being most silent and graceful spokesperson of nature.  
Let us all realise and get enlightened by the purest wisdom of the Tree that plays the Divine Music of harmony and peace, in perfect sync with nature and like the tree, let us spread love an light all around.
—————— Meena Om.