In my search for interesting experiences in Delhi, I often tread off the beaten path. After attending Anshika Varma’s photo installation on the Delhi Ridge, I was inspired to go on a moonlit walk through the Sanjay Van forest. Kush Sethi, a Delhi Ridge enthusiast and researcher with Toxics Link, conducts periodic guided walks here on full moon nights.
Sanjay Van welcomes you
Sanjay Van is the forest area near Vasant Kunj and Mehrauli. Authorities in charge of the area have recently attempted to beautify it in hopes of attracting visitors. The original forest was a vast shrubbery with little tree cover, when the British government planted the Vilayati Kikar or Prosopis Juliflora in the 20th century. This tree flourished and spread quickly throughout the city.
Amaltas trees added to beautify the forest
The walks are mostly conducted in the winter season, with a few sporadic sessions during the rest of the year. On March 1, 22 people met near the Qutub Institutional Area, and took off on a true adventure.
All set for the walk!
Sethi has been conducting these walks since 2013, and explained that nighttime walks aren’t expressly forbidden, but frowned upon. He’s been questioned twice by guards during his walks, but with no serious consequence. In a span of 2.5 hours, we covered three sites in the forest, including a portion of the Lal Kot Wall which belonged to the Rai Pithora Fort, the lake, and the observation tower.
The Lal Kot Wall from Rai Pithora Fort
The Lal Kot Wall and observation tower gave us fantastic views of the distant city, and a clear unobstructed sky. The lake was breathtakingly beautiful, its serene stillness mirroring our feelings that night. We spotted a Nilgai or Blue Bull in the distance, which made our experience even more fulfilling.
Walking up the remains of the wall
Our time at the observation tower was enhanced with the addition of ambient music curated by architect and sound artist, Ameet Singh; which he’d emailed us beforehand as part of a listening experiment. The music and the phenomenal surrounding transported us into our own private world. My friend, Vani, brought her home-made gujia’s (this was a night before Holi) which we gleefully shared under the starry sky.
Sharing conversations and Gujia under a beautiful night sky
The observation tower
Before the walk, safety had been an important concern; from wild animals, authorities as well as ghosts! However, we didn’t face any issues. The large number of people ensured we felt safe, as did Sethi’s confident steps and vast knowledge base. Two members of our group went missing at one point (having taken the wrong turn) but there was ample data connectivity so we connected with them easily. We definitely didn’t see any ghostly white ladies or priests floating around!
Gorgeous views of the lake
This excursion was an eye-opener for me in many ways. I was alerted to the beautiful forest in the heart of my city. I met like-minded people that I may not have otherwise. Most of all, I discovered my own latent spirit of adventure. Ordinarily, I would never venture out with a group of relative strangers into a forest at night; and I certainly wouldn’t climb rocks and walk 4 km without batting an eyelid! Having done it now, I can’t wait for my next adventure.
With Kush Sethi, after the walk
Find out about moonlit walks in Sanjay Van by following this Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/SanjayVanDelhiRidge/
The next Full Moon Walk is scheduled for March 31, 2018.
Fee for the walk: INR 400
Get in touch with Kush Sethi here: firstname.lastname@example.org
I’d recommend a certain level of fitness (you should at least be used to walking minor distances) before attempting this.
Moonlit Walk in Sanjay Van Experience: 4.5/5