Princess Aaliya’s passion of dinosaurs changed Gujarat village

New Delhi/Mansooruddin Faridi

The story goes back to around 1985 when children studied ‘D’ for ‘Dog’ or ‘Doll’ while learning the English alphabet. At that time, Alia Sultana choose to read ‘D’ for Dinosaurs and yet never realized one day this magnificent extinct creature would become part of her life as she would set up the world’s fourth-largest ‘Jurassic Park.’

The Jurassic Park located in village Raoli of Bala Senwar in Gujarat is today thanks to Alia Sultan’s struggle to wake up the authorities and create a museum and reserve for the fossils of this magnificent creature that once roamed on the earth.

Alia Sultana Babi is today credited with establishing the country’s first and the world’s fourth-largest Jurassic Park in Balasinor.

India’s Jurassic Park located about 100 km from Gandhinagar, is spread in an area of 428 hectares and contains many sections like the Dinosaur section, fossil section, etc. From life-sized dinosaur status to fossilized eggs that range from the size of duck eggs to cannonballs, paleontologists suggest that the eggs are more than $5 million years old. “It is believed that the area in and around the park could have been the dwelling place of these gigantic creatures,”  writes Madhuri Shukla.

Aaliya Sultana Babi is an amateur Palaeontologist and Conservationist. She  is the  daughter of the Nawab Sahib of the Babi dynasty of the erstwhile princely state of Balasinor. The Babi family belongs to the Yousafzai tribe of Pathans in Afghanistan. In Zabul province, this Pakhtun community is known as ‘Babi’ or ‘Babai’.The Sh

She has spent good years of her life, fighting in adversity for the preservation of the precious relics of the  extinct dinosaur species that once roamed the lands of her forefathers. She has taken it upon herself  to advocate for the protection and preservation of the rare dinosaur fossil site in the Raioli village (Gujarat) as a passion.

Speaking to Awaz-the Voice, Alia Babi says that dinosaurs were not very popular when she was learning her ABC. Back then, there was no internet and her interest in dinosaurs was innate. Later in life, her interest in dinosaurs continued to engage her mind and she was so pleased to know that area around where she was raised had been discovered as the biggest repository of fossils of Dinosaurs.

This accidental discovery about relics dated 67 million to 68 million years ago, was made while the area was being surveyed for minerals, probably by the Geological Survey of India in the seventies.

Alia Sultana Babi told Awaz-the Voice that the discovery of dinosaurs’ fossils in Gujarat was an accident. She was a child when the government’s officials discovered the skeletons and other relics of dinosaurs in the river bed. The surveyours found some unusual stones of the size of large fruits. Lab tests later determined that the find was dinosaur eggs and bones.

Over the next few months, fossils of about 1,000 dinosaur eggs and bones belonging to at least seven species were discovered, and it was a breakthrough in the field.

Alia Sultana Babi has fought hard to preserve the fossil beds of rare dinosaurs in Balasinor. The 46-year-old paleontologist is today known as “Dinosaur Princess” or “Doctor Dinosaur,”  as she has played an important role in galvanizing the government in setting up what is today  India’s largest Jurassic Park, the Dinosaur Fossil Park, and Museum.

The Dinosaur had brought an anonymous village on the world map, thanks to Sultana Babi’s love of the creature.

Usual lethargy marked the government’s response to the magnificent discovery. However, Alia Sultana kept running from one office to another and it led to the Gujarat government acquiring the area to protest a natural Fossil Park.

A fence was erected around the area and guards were deployed to check unauthorized entry. Initially, there were no roads to connect the fossil park. Most importantly, dinosaur bones are old and fragile, and walking on the river bed could further destroy them.

Often, tourists walking on the rocks would destroy bones, and protecting these was a major challenge. However, the setting up of the museum has helped preserve this priceless treasure.

She says, “We were taught to take care of people, whether in the Nawabi or the royal era. Though the time has changed yet people look up to us. They want us to do something for them,” said Alia.

The villagers were anxious about the museum. They knew it would change their lives. Every time Alia visited the village they would assemble asking her questions on the timeline of the proposed Park.

She says,“I decided to work for them because I like challenges, I took this mission as a challenge too.”

Today, Alia has adopted a local government school in the village and donated school books, along with lunch boxes for the children.

Before the epidemic, the museum was visited by 92,000 tourists between June and December 2019. Babi also conducts dinosaur and fossil classes at colleges and schools in his state and abroad. She has trained locals in maintaining the museum. 12 women from the village run the museum canteen. A few people also work in the museum. She says the men also work as guards and museum operators.

The fact is that dinosaur tourism in Jurassic Park has revived Balasinor’s economy, in the form of cafes, restaurants, hotels, and monument stalls.

A roaring six-meter dinosaur made of brass, cement, and metal greets visitors at the city gates.

n addition to the warm hospitality of the Babi family and the mystery of the nearby Fossil Park, the Heritage Hotel serves traditional Balasinor food to visitors. They are cooked in the royal kitchen under the supervision of Begum Farhat Sultana, Alia’s mother.

She also traveled to England to take part in the BBC reality show ‘Undercover Princes’.Garden Palace is a heritage hotel.’

On the one hand, Alia Sultana works to preserve the history and traces of dinosaurs roaming the land of her ancestors, on the other hand, Alia manages the Garden Palace Heritage Hotel where her family still resides.

Alia offers features on Trip Advisor and Google and is connected to Gujarat Tourism’s customer care. “Being part of the family heritage, I became attached to the area and wanted to work for it,” says Alia.

Alia Sultana Babi’s story is now in the headlines all over the world. Her unique struggle and success story has graced many Indian and foreign-language newspapers. She has also participated in various television shows and channels.

Alia’s steadfastness has been rightly acknowledged and rewarded by government agencies and scientific institutions. Femina and the Asian-African Chambers of Commerce and Industry have also felicitated her on her efforts to protect the heritage.

She was awarded by Hello Magazine and Royal Fables and also made it to the Times of India’s Times Power Women 2019 list for her fossil conservation efforts. He was named in the top 50 list of the 500 Most Influential People released by the New York Press News Agency.

Source: Awaz The Voice

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