The railway station at Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan, the tourist city which is home to the Ranthambore National Park, wears a look unlike that of any other station in the country today. A team of local painters are busy giving it a makeover- paintings, graffiti and cut-outs depicting the flora and fauna of the region adorn the walls and ceilings of the station.
Touted to be the first of its kind in the country, the project is being funded by the World Wildlife Fund India (WWF-I).
"The idea was conceptualized by WWF-I along with naturalist and conservationist Valmik Thapar. We then discussed it with the Indian Railways and they accepted our proposal," says Sunny Shah, Landscape Coordinator, Western India T.L. WWF-I, adding that the Railways is providing them with ancillary support.
The objective is to spread awareness about conservation among tourists in Ranthambore.
Part of the project also includes a similar transformation of the Bharatpur railway station in the state and painting the coaches of the Kota- Nizamuddin Jan Shatabdi, a train which is frequently used by tourists to Ranthambore. These two phases will also be funded by the WWF-I.
While the Bharatpur railway station will be developed on the theme of the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, the Railways is also planning to develop the Kota station on similar such themes, says Manish Gupta Sr DEN (coordination), Western Central Railway.
"The Sawai Madhopur station is an old heritage building. We wanted to give it a theme-based look, apart from promoting tiger conservation, and the Rajasthan CM had also requested us to work on it. Though we have not funded the project, we are supporting the WWF-I and the initiative has given publicity and acknowledgement to the local artists that have worked on it," Gupta adds.
Gajanand Singh, who is an artist from the Ranthambhore School of Art and is heading the work, is proud of the new look they have given to the station. Close to 20 artists have been working on approx. 7,000 sqft area of the station for nearly two months now and Singh says they should wrap up the work in another two days’ time.
"It is not just tourists and foreigners who are excited to see the paintings, but also the locals. They say they’ve never seen anything like this. They all click pictures with the paintings," he says.
He also adds, "Some say they don’t even need to go to the national park now that they have seen the art in the station."
According to Aditya Singh, a photographer and resort-owner based-out of Sawai Madhopur, the station now resembles an art museum of wildlife.
"Passengers are already boarding off trains to see the station that is becoming the pride of the local community. Fabulous birds and animals, trees and lakes adorn the pillars, walls and ceiling of the station. The project is wonderfully inclusive and has a broad appeal to all visitors, from local villagers to foreign tourists, conveying a message of conservation and wildlife appreciation," he says.
All images courtesy: Aditya Singh