Impressions of my first visit to Chevella Banyans - Jayati Mitra

When I first came to Hyderabad I joined a group of birdwatchers to visit Ananthagiri Hills in early winter. During the first leg of the journey I reached the small dusty town of Moinabad. From there, I noticed an abrupt change in the surroundings. I wrapped my shawl tightly around my shoulder as I could feel the sudden drop in temperature when the cool breeze gently touched my face. The distant green cover shrouded in the morning mist slowly began to take shape in the form of huge banyan trees lined up on both sides of the road .They looked to be very old and mature with heavy trunks of wide girth and innumerable prop roots hanging down. They leaned towards each other as if trying to hold hands forming bowers. This amazing sight prompted me to step down from my vehicle and walk around the place.

I could see Peafowl moving around and Asian koels resting amidst the dense canopies. A huge flock of Rosy starlings were trying to settle down after migration to their winter destination. I watched the sky with my binoculars and could spot the approaching Short-toed snake eagle looking for a prey in the huge open space down the slope beside the road. The space was full with grasses and wild flowers, some of which I could find to my delight were tangedu, gunugu, blue ipomoea and my favourite starry red Ipomoea hederofolia. 

I rested for a while on one of the rocks which perhaps has been standing there since the first human appeared on this Earth. I could hear the song of a Tailorbird and watch the flying Drongos. Upon looking down, I could observe  a colony of mushrooms surrounding the base of the tree trunks. Several ants moved around. The varieties of butterflies were also striking -- red, blue, yellow and black...common crow, plain tiger, common jezebel, common wanderer, small grass yellow, cabbage white and so on. The presence of butterflies always indicates the existence of a healthy and thriving ecosystem. 

I could feel my mind becoming calm, and after relaxing for a while, I made my way towards Ananthagiri Hills. As I observed the avifauna on the old banyans, the numbers crossed more than a hundred species!

Over the years, as I kept going on this road for bird watching and nature walks, the ultimate truth dawned upon me -- these banyans of Chevella are not just a row of trees lining a street but a part of a very diverse habitat. They have stood there over a century, spreading their roots and canopies to form a banyan forest, which acts like buffer zone attracting all creatures big and small and sheltering them.

This unique system acts like a continuation of the protected reserve forest system of Ananthagiri Hills. They are supporting all these creatures both endemic and migratory, and ought to be protected as a part of this larger ecosystem extending across Ananthagiri Hills of Telangana and our country. The place is a must visit for researchers, and nature lovers alike, and should be protected for the future generations to study the rich biodiversity of the scrub jungle.

Photos credits
Banyan: Sadhana Ramchander
Ipomea: Anand Vishwanadha