Raioli village near Balasinor town in Gujarat is the place which was a fertile breeding ground for many species of dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Home to many vistas of colourful culture and a wide variety of traditions, spirituality, cuisine and entertainment as well as many architectural, and archaeological marvels, Gujrat has a lot to offer every visitor. This includes India’s first Dinosaur Museum and the world’s third-largest Fossil park, which happens to be the second-largest dinosaur hatchery in the world.
Situated at Raioli village near Balasinor town, the Dinosaur museum and fossil park are around 115 kilometres from the state capital, Gandhinagar. Raioli is the place which was a fertile breeding ground for many species of dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Witness history in the museum
Before entering the Dinosaurs museum, one can feel that era which was bygone, as a huge figure of a dinosaur welcomes you. You shiver for a moment, and once entered, the whole ambience, the environment created to give a feel of that extinct species, mesmerized you. Upon entering you will see sculptures of many dinosaurs in a circle like encroachment with trees and plants created with wood, to give an impression of a forest.
It creates a Jurassic era environment where the dinosaurs might have roamed around freely in Raioli. Nearly 50 sculptures of dinosaurs, including a life-size Rajasaurus Narmadensis, the indigenous breed that can be called the king of dinosaurs, have been erected here of different size, and shape, and depicts their habits and habitat.
Imagination goes wild
The museum which is spread over an area of over 25,000 sq. feet, has ten galleries in the basement and the ground floor. These galleries have exclusive 3D film presentations in Gujrati and the English language. In other galleries, you will find a presentation on dinosaurs of India and Gujarat, fossil exhibits and things which take you into the world of wonder and thrill you of course. Your imagination can also go wild here seeing the posters and sculptures, eggs and various things related to that amazing specie, about which we have only read in books or seen in films.
The foyer depicts an exact replica of the habitat of these creatures. A step in the atrium takes you 65 million years back. We can also see here a Time Machine, 3-D film, an interactive and amusing Dino fun for kid’s area, a vivid display of Mesozoic times, a souvenir shop etc.
Do they ever exist? You ask yourself several times while roaming that nicely built museum.
But that was not all…more to come. Just a little far away is situated a fossil park. Fossil remains, bones and eggs have been excavated since the 1980s. The park which we see today was mainly because of Princess Aliya Sultana Babi’s effortless efforts. She was the princess of the erstwhile ruling family of Balasinor. More than 10,000 dinosaur eggs were found in the area. They range from the size of eggs to canon balls.
Accidently, during the decade of 1980s, Palaeontologists found fossil remains and bones in the village of Rayioli in Balasinor. Since then, many excavations have taken place here. Findings revealed that there were more than 13 species of dinosaurs that thrived around 65 million years ago. With a crested horn a squat, thick-legged, heavy-bodied carnivorous dinosaur, Rajasaurus Narmandensis, King of Narmada, (Raja because of its crested horn and the second half of the name it got because of its geographical location which was near the river Narmada).
Second largest hatchery
A visit to this Balasinor Fossil Park, stretching the area of 428 hectares will leave you completely spellbound. Studies done at this site say that t the fossils were at least 65.5 million years old and thousands of dinosaurs are buried here. Fossils here are from the late Cretaceous age. Excavators believe that the site was probably a nesting ground for dinosaurs as many fossilized eggs huddled in nests are found here. It’s really a one-of-a-kind experience to see a femur, pelvic bones, a knee, cranial cavity, a spine, and other unidentified bones here.
The exceptional thing about this site is that it has both a hatchery and a graveyard. In 1981–82 during geological field mapping, two geologists from the Geological Survey of India (GSI), Ahmedabad discovered rounded, ball-like structures on a large pit of limestone bed. To know what exactly they are, they made thin sections and compared them with known dinosaur eggshells from North America and Europe, and convinced that the ball-like structures were indeed fossilized dinosaur eggs.
Further studies confirmed that the fossil egg-bearing horizon is underlain by calcareous sandstone containing sauropod and theropod teeth, and a conglomerate horizon yielding an abundance of dinosaur bone fossils Such a rich trove of fossilized bones and eggs occurring within a distance of a few kilometres is extremely rare.
More excavations were done after that and found a new species of dinosaur, Rajasaurus Narmadensis, having a braincase with an unusual protrusion in the form of a head-crest, which is the first of its kind reported only from India, a fossilized 3.5 m long prehistoric snake (Sanajeh Indicus) that got fossilized in an exceptional setting wrapped inside a sauropod dinosaur nest, indicating that snakes used to prey on dinosaur hatchlings.
You can also witness a six-meter-tall replica of Rajasaurus Narmadensis, made of mud, cement and metal, with a brass exterior.
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(Suman Bajpai is a freelance editor, translator and travel journalist.)
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