Sanjay Gandhi National Park also known as Borivali National park is a huge protected region covering area of 104 sq. km and bustling with wildlife and natural resources. The park is located to the northern part of suburban Mumbai city and engulfed by Malad, Borivali , Mulund and Aarey Milk colony on either side. The park is claimed to be Asia’s most visited National park drawing almost 2 million annual visitors and the largest park in the world located within city limit. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park has been flourishing with innumerable species of flora fauna and the intricate rock-cut kanheri caves which lie inside the park has also been one of the major sources of attraction for the tourists visiting the park.
Some prominent historians believe that the park is dating back to the 4th century BC during the Buddhist settlement in India. The Complex rock-cut Kanheri caves which is located at middle of the park once used as main accommodation and Buddhist learning centre. The caves are believed to be in use during… Initially the park was given the name Krishnagiri National park and later in 1981 it was renamed as Sanjay Gandhi National Park with its fully-fledged state to commemorate Sanjay Gandhi.
Sanjay Gandhi National park is a home to many endangered species and bustling with wildlife and bio-diversity. So far one thousand plant species, fifty-thousand species, forty species mammals and one hundred and fifty species of butterflies have been recorded. Kadamda, teak, karanj and ziziphus are major plants found in the forest.
The park is blessed with extinct Bengal tiger along with other mammals. Bonnet Macaque, Barking Deer, porcupine, Indian flying-fox, Samber Deer and India Leopard are the some major mammals roaming inside the forest. Reptiles including crocodiles, pythons, cobras, Bamboo pit Vipers are living in the jungle. Some blue Mormon, blue oak leaf and bright jezebel butterflies are also spotted in the forest with rich quantities.
The forest is also enriched with birds. Golden orioles, racket-tailed, peacock, woodpeckers, paradise flycatchers have been spotted in the park. In addition sunbirds and various species of kingfishers are also found here.
Inside the park the major attraction is rock-cut Kanheri caves. It is a cluster of one hundred and nine Buddhist caves once used for residence. The one hundred and nine complex rock-cut Buddhist caves consider to be built during the1st century BC to 9th century and manifest the Buddhist cult in India. The cave is embellished with huge stone pillars stupa and a stone plinth. The stupa is known as Buddhist shrine. In addition, some canals and cisterns are built to drain out the waste water. Inside the caves, the walls were exquisitely carved with statues of Buddha, incarnation of Avalokiteswara and decorative woodwork which still present on the roof. Most of the Caves are Buddhist Viharas , a place used for living and mediating purpose and larger number of Viharas is an testimony of well organized establishment of Buddhist monk .Chaityas or the larger halls were meant for congregational worship. The viharas was the only way to connect with many major trade centers including ports of Sopara, Kalyan,Nasik and Ujjain. kanheri was developed as a reputed university during the period of Maurayan and pundit Atisha once visited the university. Apart from the caves tourist can also visit to Vanrani Narrow gauge train. Boating inside the park also available comprises two and four seats. Lion safari and tiger safari often attract the visitors and a twenty minutes ride through the park boosting eco-tourism.
The park is open during the day from 7.30 to 5.30 and tourist can enter at that time only. The location is well connected and can be accessed by both rails and roads. Borivali is the nearest station to the park and from there public transport including buses, taxi and auto-rickshaw are available to reach the location. Western Express Highway also bypasses the park.