Jim Corbett: From legendary hunter to a renowned conservationist

July 24, 2021 12:00 PM

Apart from Jim Corbett’s spiritual aspect his sense of humour has been overlooked by his biographers.

He was the only European to see these divine lights.

By Professor Ajay Singh Rawat

Jim Corbett was a highly evolved soul which is vividly evidenced by the divine lights he witnessed in the Purnagiri Temple now in Champawat district. About the sanctity of this holy shrine Jim Corbett the legendary hunter and conservationist had mentioned to his friend late Professor G. S. Mishra, Pro Vice Chancellor, Lucknow University. The event which happened in total darkness had a great impact on him. He was later told by the priest of the shrine that very pious people witness these lights which he saw in 1929 on the sacred hill of Purnagiri when they were on a holy mission of relieving the villagers of the scourge of the Tall Desh man-eater. He was the only European to see these divine lights.

It is in the present Champawat district towards the Nepal border. About the lights Jim Corbett has mentioned. The day had been hot and we had covered some 16 miles since detraining at Tanakpur. I was comfortably tired and was enjoying an after-dinner cigarette, when on the hill on the other side of the river I suddenly saw three lights appear. I concluded that the wind blowing down the gorge had fanned to flames the smouldering embers in some dead-wood. As I idly watched these fires two more appeared a little above them. One of these two new fires moved slowly downward and merged into the central one of the original three. I now realized that what I had assumed as fires, were not fires but lights, all of a uniform size of about two feet in diameter, burning steadily without a flicker or trace of smoke. Then more lights appeared some to the left and others farther up the hill. According to local tradition Purnagiri is symbolized as a mountain of all good deeds that redeem her devotees from the cycle of birth and rebirth.

Apart from Jim Corbett’s spiritual aspect his sense of humour has been overlooked by his biographers. Jim has given ample evidence of it in all his works. In his ‘Man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag’ Corbett narrates the incident when he was forced to spend the night on a pine tree and when a sudden blast of wind struck the tree. “The gale was so strong that my heels and my head changed their relative position with the land of Garhwal.” In his book My India he describes a pay clerk, “As a jovial Hindu who was as broad as he was long and who exuded good humour and sweat in equal proportions.” In the same book is recounted the story of Narwa who was seriously mauled by a tiger and whom Corbett had saved by admitting him in the hospital under the care of a young and inexperienced doctor. Corbett writes, “When he undertook the job, he did it thoroughly, and many of the long scars on his chest and back that Narwa will carry to the burning ghat were made not by the tiger but by the doctor’s lancet, which he used very freely.”

(The author is a judicious mix of an academic and an activist. He is a pioneer in the field of Forest History and was the first Chairman from Asia of the Forest History division of the International Union of Forestry Research Organization, Vienna from 1995 to 2005. He has been awarded three National Fellowships and the international award, Order of the Golden Ark in Netherlands. As an activist he is known as One Man Army and has been fighting single handedly with his own finances against the builder mafia, timber mafia and poachers to save the Himalayas. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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