We drove down to the Suketi Fossil Park from Chandigarh. It was a pleasant day, and this part of Punjab-Himachal journey is quite a lot of fun, until almost the end. But by then you’re already very excited, and when one hails from Delhi, you don’t quite complain about some potholes here and there.
Being the first Asian park to be constructed at the literal venue where the actual fossils were found, it is extremely well-maintained. It has life-size fiber-glass replicas of ancient animals whose fossils and skeletons were found on the same site. Such tremendous views of these bewitching models are splendid enough to attract a huge number of tourists every year – but well, by some stroke of weird luck, does not.
The Fossil Park was set up by the Geological Survey of India, and the one-hall Museum inside the park has some rare original fossils from 8.5 million years ago. For someone who’s interested in palaeontology, or science and loves animal-history, this is the place to go (in my head I was only thinking of Ross from FRIENDS)!
The exhibits in the museum have a plethora of skeletal remains of different groups of skulls and limbs of mammals, skulls of hippopotamuses, tortoises, gharials, tusks of 22 species of elephants, rocks and charts and paintings related to the several aspects of plants and animals life of the past and present. The stone items on display belong to the Early Palaeolithic Man. The museum also houses antiquities unearthed by ‘Captain Cautley’ in the area, from which he dug out the remains of Asia’s oldest human ancestor. The country’s postage stamp to commemorate the centenary of the Geological Survey of India in 1951 is displayed as well. This stamp has a picture of two elephants with tusks.
Apart from being an absolutely adventurous experience, a visit to this Park can also be educational. To see, and know about the animals that once inhabited the place you’re standing at, can be absolutely surreal. There is a Hippopotamus with six incisors, the Saber Toothed Tiger, the Mammoth Elephant, the Giant Turtle, a 4-horned giraffe and the Crocodile – and the artist who made them (uncredited of course), does a neat job of taking you to the Jurassic period.
Himachal Pradesh is one of the most-visited tourist destinations in India and yet this Park does not feature on tourist-itineraries. A few things I wondered:
* Why couldn’t the displays be more creative, or narrate the history / facts about the animal. I would love to know more about the Giant Turtle, but the network wasn’t very good, so I couldn’t google it right there and then.
*Another thing that I felt – almost feel this way every time I visit an amazing place is that, India being the land of stories, we aren’t very good at storytelling. The Suketi Fossil Park lacks any promotion / advertising or even word of mouth. The keeper of the Garden guided us but that was about it – much like the time we visited Aam Khas Bagh.
Photography wasn’t allowed, but the keeper was nice enough to let me take some pictures, on the condition that I don’t print / publish them – this kind of a restriction in the age of Instagram is quite sad, and unfair to a place which deserves to be promoted.
The Suketi Fossil Park, is one of the rare gifts of nature, nested in the Shivalik hills – where the remains of extinct prehistoric animals have been found preserved as fossils, and is part of our rich geological heritage. We just need to open our eyes and hearts to it.
PS: While writing this post, I thought it would be a good idea to provide links to these pre-historic animals so all you readers could dig deeper. Instead, I stumbled upon this piece in The Tribune, dating back to 2003. 13 years later, not much has changed.