We traveled to the border of India with Nepal, where began the legend of a creature able to attract people from around the world: The Indian Unicorn.
An incredible animal with a horn on its forehead, which can cure the ills of poor people who share ground with him.
We follow the traces of this myth built 20 centuries ago crossing a jungle inhabited by wild creatures among which stands out one, the unicorn and is now known as the Indian rhinoceros, a unique species with enormous power on his forehead.
But our unicorns have a taste for the high grasses of the banks of the swamp, and both in Kaziranga and here in Chitwan, these grasses are also a valuable resource for the human populations living around the edge of the park.
Since 1973, when it was declared a National Park, due to the fact it was the only place in Nepal where rhinoceroses remained, a number of human settlements have been moved, the people transferred to more fertile places without wild herbivores.
When the season arrives, the local inhabitants cross the river, and enter the reserves, armed with their recently-sharpened sickles.
Here they find what they are looking for. The natives have a legal concession to harvest the high grasses each year. Around 60,000 people gather almost 11,000 tonnes during harvest time, which lasts for 15 days or so.
The bushels accumulate, reaching a market value of some 450,000 dollars. As well as the income from sales to the paper industry, the grasses are also a basic construction material for these people. They are also used to feed the domestic cattle, which cannot stray far in search of pasture, for fear of being attacked by tigers.
The heavy monsoon rains make constant repairs to the roofs necessary. This is also done with dried grass. Underground water, clean and healthy, is, fortunately, abundant. And from this, and the soil, the women make adobe which, of course, also includes grass among its ingredients.
These towers, called “machams” are watchtowers from which to spot wild animals. There is always a lookout on duty, ready to raise the alarm whenever a tiger or a rhinoceros enters the fields, posing a threat to the workers’ lives.
But the rainforests of Asia are almost as old as fire itself. They have tremendous powers of regeneration, the ancient strength of vegetation. Certain species are invulnerable to fire. They do not burn, they simply resist. The semul trees are fire-proof, and they are therefore the final refuge in the jungle. “Chitwan” means “The Heart of the Jungle”. And once more in this part of the world legend and reality go hand in hand.