By Mini Vijayan
The season of field trips commence towards the end of the monsoon season. A curriculum-prescribed one-day field trip was planned for botany students of Semester I and V of Carmel College, Goa. Mid-August to end-September seems to be the right time for field studies, especially, with reference to plants because the floral abundance is at its peak at this time of the year in Goa. Our trip was planned for August 19. The bus was waiting within the campus. Excitement and enthusiasm filled the air as we started off to Chandreshwar hills in Gudi-Paroda in the Quepem taluka, which are otherwise known as Chandranath hills.
The hills stand at a height of approximately 350 meters above sea level. One may reach the hills by hiking through a mud path or vehicle. The later will take you up to the edge of the steps, which are made of natural black stone. The steps lead to an ancient Shiva temple. Chandreshwar – Lord Shiva – was the titular deity of Bhoja kings who ruled South Goa till the mid eighth century. Apart from nature lovers, pilgrims also throng to the place during festivals. It is said that the Shivlinga is positioned in the sanctum sanctorum in such a way that on full moon days it gets bathed in moonlight! (Incidentally, there is a Chandranath temple in our neighbouring country Bangladesh, too.)
The bus dropped us at the foothills from where the team walked for more than one-and-a-half-hour during which they had a close look at floral components of the area. There was greenery everywhere and as we walked there was the background music of the stream to accompany us. However, we could not see the stream because of the thick vegetation. Sal (teak) was a common occurrence which was found in association with Macaranga Peltata (Chamdivado), Anacardium Occidentale (cashew), Mangifera Indica (wild mango), Garcinia(kokum), etc and shrubs like Mussaenda Frondosa (lavasat), Ixora Coccinea(patkali), orchids like Eria and climbers like Cissus, Vitis, etc, were common. Herbs were plenty. Seasonal Wild Balsams, Sida Rhombifolia, Sonerila Rheedi and Melastoma Malabathricum with its beautiful, bright purple flowers were abundant. Perched on muddy and rocky slopes grew wild Begonias, non- flowering plants like mosses, liverworts and ferns.
We sat for lunch on the steps and later visited a spring protected by the temple authorities.
Students were very receptive to the knowledge provided which made the trip a fulfilling experience.
(The writer is associate professor at the Department of Botany in Carmel College)
The Chandreshwar Heights
By Mini Vijayan