PHOTOGRAPHY A commendable effort undertaken to save the sacred forest of Mangerbani

Caught up in the mundane things of life, we often remain oblivious to the significant. One such treasure that the bustling metropolis of Delhi has remained largely unaware of is the sacred forest of Mangerbani, spread over 500 acres and located off the Faridabad-Gurgaon highway. The lush green forest locally known as Bani, spread over an offshoot ridge of the Aravalli hills, is home to rare plant species. It is believed that not a single sapling has ever been planted or destroyed. Highlighting these different aspects of the site is a photoexhibition “The Lost Forest - Sacred Grove of Haryana” that is on at the foyer of India Habitat Centre in New Delhi all this month.

According to Duhita Jagtiani of Carrot Films, the 16 frames depict Mangerbani in all its glory by focussing on three aspects of the forest — sacredness, bio-diversity and wildlife. Carrot Films, a production house making independent documentaries, is behind the endeavour and on World Environment Day on June 5 it also had the first film screening of their latest production, “The Lost Forest”, directed by Ishani K Dutta, followed by a discussion involving those who are fighting to save it.

Duhita says the basic idea is to raise awareness about the site which exists in such close proximity to us. “The film is just a one-day thing but the images will be up all through the month,” she points out.

The photographs clicked by Pradip Krishen, Moumita Das and T.K. Sajeev, contrary to what one would expect, are not documentative in nature. The rather artsy images strive to bring out the beauty of these rare species. Duhita says they consciously chose to highlight the beauty of it all. “Since we are visual people, we will obviously focus on the visually exciting elements,” says the young camera professional.

There are photographs of not jut Dhau, Krishna Kadamba and Ronch but also the temple of Gudariya Das Baba, the saint who lived here many, many years ago and is believed by the Gujjar community to be the preserver of the forest. There are images of the shrine as well as the caves in which he is said to have attained samadhi .

Publicity for the site is crucial at this point when danger is looming large over this ecological system. Haryana Draft Development Plan Mangar 2031 will make this forest land available for non-forestry activities like hotels and industries but there has been a strong opposition by the Gujjar community, activists and environmentalists. “There is a hearing before the State forest department this month. They will conduct site visits. Some kind of development has already started but only on the periphery of Bani as of now. Since they are the ones who have flouted the rules, we seem to be winning this fight and save the forests,” expresses Duhita.