The Dang District in India remains isolated encompassing 1788 Sq Km in a rugged valley noted for pristine teak forests.
Even though it lies about 200 kilometers north of metropolitan Mumbai, the Dang District remains quite isolated and materially developed.
Encompassing 1788 Sq. Km. in a rugged valley noted for its still largely pristine teak forests. The district has an overall literacy rate of 38%, the second lowest among 24 districts in Gujarat. Almost 100% of the population resides in the countryside, sustaining themselves, just above the subsistence level by growing local varieties of millet and other seed crops. However, this is a district where all the 311 villages are electrified and connected with maximum number of black top roads.. The Dangs is the abode of tribals i.e. Varli, Kukna, Bhil, Nayaka and Kotvariya. All the 311 villages of the district are fully covered by dense forests named as Mahal, Kalibal, Galkund, Don, Waghai and Pipaldahad.
As per the 1991 census, the population of the district is 1.50 lakhs. The Dangs is 100% tribal district declared by the Economic Times and also it was one of the most backward districts among top 20 in India mentioned in the bulletin of Planning Commission but Dangis have started coming out of the extreme poverty by opting mixed crops in their regular agricultural practices. Dangis are far beyond the other tribals of the country. They have started innovative ways of irrigation to their farms and youth of the community has started opting jobs in service sector. Although most of the tribals in eastern pocket do migrate in search of better employment, yet their hunger for education, better lifestyles and search for stability have caused them to move up the ladder in an ascending manner.
Biodiversity of Dangs
The Dangs district contains many protected forests that the Dangis, (word in commonplace known for local residents) are allowed to use for cultivation and residence. An effort to bring new cash flow to tribals through sustainable use of resources has been made and implemented successfully, through the MALIKI scheme of planting and allowing the logging and replanting teak and bamboo varieties, on a cyclical mode to enhance conservation and make forest trees based incomes possible. There is a greater need to sort out their basic problems relating to higher education technical education and matters touching the areas of new creation of opportunities in the services sector. Dang is a treasure of forest resources and medicinal plants. Plants like Embelia ribes, Solanum indicum, Mallotus philippensis, Gloriossa superba, Tylophora indica, Nordostachys jatamansi, Gymnema sylvestre, Coleus forskohlii, Costos speciosus, Chlorophytum borivillianum, Chlorophytum tuberosum etc. are found in abundance. Cultivation and need based agro-system can be utilized to make them economically viable.
Dang district's strength lies in its rich forests and its weakness is its remoteness and backwardness. This remoteness and backwardness has been target of the district administration supported by State authorities and consistently in the last 3-4 years, the district has come up in all manner at all levels and in all fields.
Most people believe that Gujarat is a dry, arid state and there are hardly any forests. But, this view is changed in a jiffy, once they visit Dangs. This southern district of Gujarat has the highest forest cover among all the districts of Gujarat. Its high precipitation, fast flowing rivers (Purna, Khapri, Gira and Ambika) lofty moist forests, lush bamboo brakes and hilly terrain make it a paradise for nature lovers. Being located in the Western Ghats or Sahyadri mountain range, it possesses an exceptionally rich flora and fauna. Undoubtedly, this is one of the richest districts in terms of biodiversity. Several species of birds and plants (eg. orchids and climbers) unique to the Western Ghats are seen in Dangs. Dangs, besides holding this unique and rich biodiversity also harbors rich cultural diversity. Tribal communities belonging to Bhil, Warli, Kokni and Gamit tribes inhabit it. All these tribes have strong links with nature and wealth of indigenous knowledge- including that of medicinal plants. They literally glorify and bathe or soak in matters of day to day health through the traditional knowledge systems carried since antiquity, and handed to them since generations as a part of their culture pattern.
With lush forests, bamboo landscapes, and waterfalls to greet you at every nook and corner, you will really feel that you are in the wilderness, in cozy lap of nature, embracing nature face to face. The entire hilly terrain of Dangs harbors an amazing variety of plants, butterflies and birds; the forest appears alive and inviting. Although there are numerous waterfalls in Dangs, the Gira fall at Girmal stands out best, as it is the highest waterfall of the state. There is a smaller Girafall at Waghai with waterfalls on Mahal and Ahwa-Waghai route. For those with an adventurous mind, a trek on Barda and Bhegu falls is a must to keep body fit for eternity.
Dangs is the place of origin of four gushing and torrential rivers: namely Purna, Gira, Ambika and Khapri. These rivers with crystal clear water provide beautiful scenery to any route that you take in Dangs as you keep going along them or crossing them frequently. They curl up in serpentine manner, and are all along the corridors of the paradise, exhibiting the multi-mode nature at its best.
The only hill station of Gujarat is also located at Dangs. In monsoon, a visit there would take you among the clouds as you wind your way to the top. The real splendor of the rains will be apparent to one and all from the picturesque perch. There are many places of interest including the sunrise and sunset point, the lake, the rope-way, the Governor hill, Step garden and the Ayurvedic garden. Several visitors make repeat visits to this somber, silent, solitary and unruffled spot, to breathe air laced with medicinal herbs to lift them off their asthmatic conditions.
In Waghai, you would see the biodiversity interpretation center and botanical garden, the latter being a unique one, of its kind. The bamboo groves and luxuriant forests of Mahal, Bardipada and Vansda are worth visiting too every time.
Imagine a festival that revolves around the payment of purse from the treasury and you'll probably feel struck in seconds. But wake up! The Dangs Darbar in Ahwa, Gujarat may date back to the age of the British Raj, but nowadays it's really just an excuse for a few days of merry making, lively celebrations by the local tribal people, with a sense of nostalgia and spirits flying high above oneself.
The Dangi tribals, or adivasis, are sprinkled like petals of a flower in this beautiful abode of the mythical Gods, known as the Dangs. Every year, just before Holi, they flock in thousands to the local capital of Ahwa for a joyful fair filled with dancing and singing.
The tradition of the "darbar" dates back to the time of the British, when the political agent used to pay an annual subsidy to the local rulers, the Rajas and Naiks, for the right to their lands in a somewhat placatory gesture to these fierce native tribes. To this day the District Collector still officiates the celebrations to make them mix up with their past memories and glories.
In modern times the festival has become one long celebration of local folk culture, with spellbinding dances symbolic of various birds or animals as well as a garba program and lots of songs and dramas. Merchants come from all over the state to sell their wares and people take a lot of trouble trekking on foot for appearance, wearing traditional and colorful dress, the women laden down with heavy silver jewellery.
So come, enjoy Dangs in the monsoon, watch the local tribals sow their traditional grains- Nagli among drizzling rain. See gurgling waterfall beautiful plants and animals that reside there. Don't let the opportunity go, because Dangs is a jewel in the crown of Gujarat. If you are a nature lover and fond of trekking, bird watching or just relaxing in natural surroundings, there is only one destination for you in Gujarat- the Dangs. Also known as Cherapunji of the state, Dangs comes alive in the monsoon. Average rainfall of 2500 mm, which is spread over 90 days, makes Dangs a paradise. It has got fascinating road network, and connected by roads from Mumbai and Nasik on both sides and also the drive from the mainland of Gujarat through Baroda or Surat is itself a mental joyride in itself.
Dr Sudeep Kumar Nanda: He is a Government Civil Servant in Government of Gujarat. He has been guiding and watching the progress of Dang District for more than 20 years. He can be contacted via email on firstname.lastname@example.org