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Gautala Autramghat Sanctuary is a reserved forest and protected area in Maharashtra state. Also known as Gautala Abhayaranya, the sanctuary came into existence in 1986 when Government of Maharashtra declared sanctuary on existing reserved forest area. It is 72 km away from the Aurangabad city. It is situated in the Ajanta and Satmala hill ranges of Western Ghats in the proximity of Aurangabad and Chalisgaon.
The name Gautala Wildlife Sanctuary is derived from the adjacent village of Gautala. The Gautala village is named after Gautama Rishi, one of the Maharishis of Vedic times. A small cave which is said to be his abode exists still today.
Covers a total area of 26,061.19 hectares, this bowl shaped hilly terrain has a Reserved Forest Areas of 19706 ha. in Aurangabad district and 6355.19 ha. in Jalgaon district.
Aurangabad, Kannad, Chalisgaon state Highway passes through this sanctuary. The sanctuary presents a picturesque panoramic view. There are places like Chitalkhora caves, temples, lakes and sparkling waterfalls which attracts the people towards it. Kedarkund, Sita Khori and Mahadeo Taka-Dhawal Teerth are some waterspot inside the sanctuary. Gautala Talab, a tank, has good environs.
The sanctuary associated with prehistoric and early historic religious practices. Patna Devi, an ancient temple dedicated to Parvati, attracts thousands of devotees especially during Navratra and Chaitra festivals. The temple is now under the protection of the Archeological Survey of India. The forest rest house at Patna Devi offers dormitory facilities for students. Gautala sanctuary also has a Buddhist cave temples. Hidden in the bowels of the Satmala ranges, the cave temples, popularly known as Pitalkhora, are the oldest examples of rock-cut caves in western India. The Pitalkhora or 'Brazen Glen' is located Bharmarwadi village in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra state. Nearly 40 km west of Ellora caves, it is a remarkable series of caves stands amidst a secluded gorge of spectacular natural beauty. Since the caves are located high up on the hill,, one have to climb steep steps to access these 14 Buddhist excavations, mostly monasteries. The stream is usually full of water during monsoon.
Antur Fort, is another important monument near the sanctuary. Situated at a height of 2,700 feet, it was built by the Marathas in the 15th century. It is noted for its fortification remains, doorways and a dargah with an arched structure. It also carries a carved inscription dating back to the period of Nizamshan.
The sanctuary also offers trekking, rock-climbing and nature study camps for adventure lovers. Jungle survival camps are also organised for students. For this one have to taken pior permission of forest officers and take assistance of a person who is familiar with the area and seek information from him. Littering and lighting of camp fires is strictly banned.
The area has dry deciduous forest with stunted tree growth. Major tree species exist in the area are Anjan, Khair, Dhawada. Tree height remains less than 10 mts. Hills tops have Sparse vegetation. Slopes are covered with Euphorbia spp. River valleys support moist zone species such as Arjun and Chandan valleys have got diversified vegetation.
In the past efforts are done for afforestation area under various plantation schemes together with intensive soil and water conservation works. Grass lands at hill tops, plain growth have good growth grasses. Thus the diversified vegetation scattered intermittently support rich faunal diversity. Particularly it is good for sloth bear habitat and excellent for birds resident as well as migratory.
The forest in the sanctuary provide ideal conditions of harbourage to a variety of birds and animals. There are atleast 54 species of animals and 230 species of birds do exist in the sanctuary. Major wild animals are Chinkara, Sloth bears, Bats, Wanderoo, Wild boar, Jungle cat, Monkey, Leopard cat, Civet cat, Barking deer, Fox, Jackal, Langoor, Leopard, Nilgai, Hare, Bats, Grey Langur, Dhole, Wolf etc. Among the bird species, Storks, notable migrants are Cranes, Spoonbills, Storks, Ibis, Pochards, and many other species of Waders. Peafowl has much dominance in the area in addition ground birds such as quail, patridges, Jugale fowl. Reptiles includes snakes-Cobra, Krait, Keel backviper, Python, Rat snake are seen. Monitor Lizzard is also seen in this sanctuary.