As the sun going beneath the distant horizon beyond the mesmerizing landscape of Jawai , the aged priest seems to be in his 70’s slowly descending the stairs with the support of a stick towards his home located at the foothills after a long day of worship and looking after the holy Shiva temple situated over one of the Jawai hills. In proximity two leopards have appeared behind the huge granite boulders and playing with each other just overlooking him as if they are inveterate of looking at humans without showing their natural behavior of attacking. This is just one of the many interaction of humans and leopards which has became an integral part of the local lives.
Welcome to Jawai, an unconventional wildlife sanctuary in western india where humans are living for hundreds of years in the shadows of leopards without any conflict with the most solitary and nocturnal species of big cat family. Unlike other wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in India, Where tourists get crowded over dusty roads to get a glimpse of tigers and lions, Jawai is indifferent because its not so difficult to find a leopard in their natural habitat.
Major Places to See in Jawai
Constructed in an span of 11 years between 1946 and 1957, Jawai Bandh(dam) is built over Jawai river which is a tributary of Luni river. The primary objective was to make water available for irrigation to the villages in proximity. It was constructed by then Maharaja of Jodhpur, Umaid Singh. Spread in an area of 500 Sq.Km. Jawai dam is credited for being the largest dam in western Rajasthan. A part of the reservoir is dedicated as Jawai migratory bird and crocodile sanctuary.
Jawai dam is the major attraction and bird watching center as tourists get a glimpse of different migratory and indigenous species of birds. During winter season demmossile, common eastern crane and bareheaded geese can be watched in the shallow water and riverbeds of the dam. One can also locate sarus cranes(Flamingos) focusedly waiting for the fish catch, Spotbill and Comb duck swimming in the dam. Crocodiles can be located basking in the sun at the dam shores. Nearby jawai hills are habitat of many animals including jungle cats, jackals, hyenas, wolf, deers, nilgai, monkeys and of course leopards.
Devgiri Cave Temple
Also known as leopard temple, Devgiri Cave Temple is dedicated to Ashapura Mata ji and located just between the foothills and top of the Jawai solitary hills.
According to the local legend and prevalent belief, Ashapura Mata Ji is the mother goddess who protects the entire village and wildlife of jawai from all calamities. Tourists can get a glimpse of these solitary members of big cat family sitting on the whitewashed stairs and over the granite boulders near the temple.
Human and Leopards Peaceful Coexistence
Jawai is known for harmonious and peaceful coexistence of human with wildlife, particularly with leopards for centuries. The local inhabitant herdsmen from rabari community have developed cordial relationship with these big cats. Their relationship is based on mutual trust and respect. Even when at night, leopards come down to villages situated at the foothills of Jawai and occasionally hunt their cattle, these locals take it as an isolated incident and take effort to safeguard their cattle instead of any conflict or revenge with these night roamers. They believe these ghosts of the forest as the protector of entire region and as the messenger of god. Jawai is an example of mutual co-inhibiting of wildlife and humans and that’s why it has the largest population density of leopards in India.
Jawai tourism and travel guide
How to reach
Jawai wildlife sanctuary, located in Pali district of Rajasthan lies south of Jodhpur at a road distance of 160 Kms and 144 Kms from lake city udaipur The nearest railway station is Jawai Bandh which lies on Ajmer Ahmedabad train route. Nearest airport is Jodhpur having regular flight from Jaipur, Delhi and Mumbai.
Where to Stay
There are numerous accommodation options available with in 100 Kms of Jawai wildlife sanctuary depending on your budget. Many camps and hotels available near Sumerpur area on Jawai bandh road.
Things to do at jawai
Different camps located in the area organize interactive session with the rabari community, where tourists get an opportunity to understand their lives and culture.