The largest dinosaur site in India is found in the Narmada valley across Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Millions of years ago the Narmada nurtured what today is a dinosaur graveyard as geologists like to refer to it as. Thousands and thousands of dinosaurs lived, bred and thrived here. A natural calamity caused their sudden extinction. The theories are many and you need to have a great storyteller in a guide to truly appreciate your visit to Balasinor.
We travelled through the rural belt of central Gujarat crossing many small and big hamlets and settlements, finally taking a narrow snaking road through Raiyoli to reach the Balasinor Dinosaur Fossil Park. The first sight that meets the eye is a museum complex on the main road itself where a dinosaur sculpture greets the visitors. The museum is under renovation and will soon have a collection of fossils and literature about the Rajasaurus Narmadensis and Rahiolisaurus Gujaratensis on display. The locals, not too many around though as the site is in one faraway corner of the inhabited villages, did not know much about the fossil park. But you must not give up, as we experienced and drove upto the 200 m far fossil park. Another dino sculpture and some selfie boards to take selfies against greeted us here. While we were still lost and looking for boards to guide us, came a motorcycle rider clad in an off-white pyjama kurta. He introduced himself as Bharat Sinh, the caretaker and guide at the fossil park. Bharat Sinh Ji’s immense knowledge and his interest in showing around the park took us by surprise.
We walked together in the warm winter sun towards the green railing bound enclosures towards the interior of the park. Bharat Sinh Ji started off with a brief and truly interesting story of how the site was discovered. A cement factory in the nearby area of Sevaliya was looking for fresh lime stone reserves and took assistance from Geologist Mr.Suresh Srivastava. Mr.Srivastava, when explored around the barren hills at Balasinor noticed pink and white fibrous deposits embedded between igneous rocks. On further investigating he realised that he had just stumbled upon a treasure house of fossils. More palaeontologists and geologists descended on the land and confirmed that this probably is the largest reserve of dinosaur fossils in India. Work to unearth the fossils and carbon date them to know more about the discovery began in 1981 and was carried out in intervals till 1999. Geologists and palaeontologists from over fourteen countries partook in excavations and carbon dating and assembling the fossilised skeletons of dinosaurs found here.
Important names to contribute in the major project include those of Dhananjay Mohabey and Sankar Chatterjee besides Gregory Wilson and Jeoff Wilson from University of Michigan and Chicago respectively.
Carbon dating revealed that the fossils were at least 65.5 million years old and that not just one or two but thousands of dinosaurs are buried here. The fossils are from the Cretaceous age. The site probably was a nesting ground for dinos as many fossilised eggs huddled in nests are found here. The Geological Survey of India has carefully erected enclosures around the major rocks that contain visible fossils. How interesting it is to walk around these enclosures with a knowledgable guide as Bharat Sinh Ji who with a stick points out the features of the fossils. You can spot a tooth, a femur, pelvic bones, a knee, cranial cavity, a spine, a claw and even a portion of the skin.
How did the world of dinosaurs suddenly get buried and vanish? The theory behind this is that due to an impact of a meteor hitting the earth, the dust and heat rose up choking the entire stretch of land, making it impossible for the flora and fauna to survive in such conditions. Another theory suggests that volcanic eruptions and sudden gush of lava came from the southern part and blanketed the entire valley, burning and fossilising everything that came in its path. This explains the burnt skin and “cooked” eggs found at the fossil park. The volcanic soil is rich in minerals and is black in colour. This belt grows great cotton owing to the mineral rich soil.
Lots of fossils collected from this park are at display at the museums in Kolkata and Jaipur where the Geological Survey of India has its research centres. As many as 75 bones from a single skeleton have been found here. The fossil park is 3rd largest dinosaur fossil park and second largest hatchery / nesting area of dinosaurs in the world! The fossil park is spread over 228 hectares of forest land and is guarded day and night.
A regular tourist would not know a rock from a dinosaur bone and might step on one thinking it to be just a rock. Bharat Sinh Ji picked one such pink rock up and asked us to tightly squeeze it in our palm. The rock held onto our palm as we opened the fist, sticking on. He then gave us another rock which did not stick at all. The first one was actually a bone and hence with fibre and oil it got sticky, the second one a regular rock and so behaved like one too :)
Balasinor Dinosaur Fossil Park is an ideal place to visit during your next vacations. Take young and old, everyone with you. Let the imaginations run wild, Mr.Steven Spielberg has already given us so much to amuse at! Such vast fossilised treasure lays buried here that you don’t have to go looking for it, it is all around you, right under your feet.