Balasinor The Jurassic Park of India

Food tastes sumptuous when masalas ground with dinosaur eggs are added to it! Dinosaurs roamed around Gujarat freely millions of years ago! There are dinosaur species that are unique to India with Indian names.  Are these facts or fiction? Well, if your answer is fiction, then you are mistaken. All of these statements are facts and not a figment of imagination. Balasinor, the Jurassic Park of India, is where we learnt these facts.

Balasinor the Jurassic Park of India

Located 85 km from Ahmedabad in Rahioli village near Balasinor town are possibly the third largest dinosaur hatchery and India’s one of its kind dinosaur museum. Fossils of three types of dinosaurs have been found here and documented viz Rajasauras narmadensis, Rahiolisaurus gujaratensis and Titanosauris suarpods. Over 10,000 dinosaur eggs and several dinosaur bones have been unearthed from this site. India never ceases to amaze. But the sad part is not many are aware of this hidden gem in Gujarat.

On our way

It is 9:30 am, and we are on our way to Balasinor from Ahmedabad. Our friend Pooja from Gujarat Trails has organised a guided tour of the Balasinor Fossil Park and Museum with Nawabzadi Aliya Sultan Babi. She is the authority and honorary guardian of this unique dinosaur site. We receive a call from Princess Aaliya checking where we are. She tells us to let her know once we reach the TCGL (Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited) signage 3 km away from Balasinor. Our excitement is palpable as this visit has been long on our wish list.

Balasinor Signage

Balasinor Dinosaur Fossil Park

We soon reach the dinosaur fossil park. A large model of a Titanosaurus welcomes us. A white sign with a dinosaur skeleton and the name of the fossil park stands in a corner. As we walk further, we see a cluster of barricades. The barricades or cages enclose dinosaur fossils and have signages giving details of the fossil. The pink and thread-like striations are the fossils embedded in the rocks. We see a father, with his young son in tow, patiently answering the curious boy’s queries. He seems a budding paleontologist who may one day discover a new dinosaur species for all we know. Ulna, femur, vertebrae and several other bones of various dinosaur species can be seen in the rocks. Saucer-shaped pits where dinosaurs laid their eggs can be seen.

Titanosaurus model at Dinosaur Fossil Park @Rafiq Somani
White signage at Dinosaur Fossil Park @Rafiq Somani

Baracades enclosing fossils

Dinosaur Fossils @Rafiq Somani

Cage 03

Cage 05

Cage 09

Eggs and nests fossils

Amazed and Awed

We are amazed as these are just some of the dinosaur fossils excavated. There may be several others buried, waiting to be discovered. For all you know, we may be standing on one! One can only imagine what a sight this must have been millions of years ago, with different types of dinosaurs freely moving around Balasinor.

Balasinor Dinosaur Museum

We bid adieu to the dinosaur fossil park and head to the museum which is a few metres ahead, where Princess Aaliya is waiting for us. Compared to the fossil park, the air-conditioned museum is buzzing with tourists. A humongous model of a dinosaur, which we later learnt is the Rajasaurus Narmadensis is in the front yard, and Triceratops greets us at the entrance.

Rajasaurus narmadensis model at front yard of Museum @Rafiq Somani

Meeting with the Princess

Princess Aaliya rushes out to welcome us as we wait to purchase entry tickets. Dressed in blue jeans, a black shirt, a colourful scarf, she introduces herself and takes us in. Her sparkling eyes, long black tresses and broad smile are her ornaments, not flashy jewellery. She tells us to ignore if the guides have told us anything at the fossil park. They often rattle out details that are far from correct, and she is at the receiving end when experts complain about the goofs made. We politely told her we had none and explored the park independently.

Princess Aaliya @Rafiq Somani

Galleries

The museum is buzzing with families making the most of the Diwali break. The central pavilion has dinosaur models, and families are clicking pictures and selfies with them. Surrounding the pavilion are two circular floors with galleries. Babi informs us that there are two families already with her, and we should join along. We are stunned as we visit one gallery after another at the museum. The galleries showcase earth’s inception, world dinosaurs, dinosaurs of India, dinosaurs of Gujarat, dinosaur fossils, bones and eggs, extinction theory, dino games, fun facts for children and lots more.

Rajasaurus Narmandensis dinosaur model

Dinosaur Skeleton Model exhibit at Museum @Rafiq Somani
Dinosaur Model Exhibit at Museum @Rafiq Somani
Evolution of Man Exhibit in Museum Gallery @Rafiq Somani
Brachiosaurus Skeleton model at Museum Gallery @Rafiq Somani
Exhibit of Asteroid theory of extinction of dinosaur at Museum gallery @Rafiq Somani

Nests of Theropod and Sauropod

Fossilized Rib bone and other body parts of Dinosaur.

Fun Facts for Children at Museum @Rafiq Somani

5D Theatre, 360-degree VR experience, Hologram, 3D Animations

There are interactive panels, films, exhibits, and photo galleries; the list is endless. We enter a room which provides a 360-degree virtual reality experience with dinosaurs in all shapes and sizes walking around us. We next rush to the 5D theatre to grab special glasses to watch a dinosaur movie. A laboratory with statues of palaeontologists busy researching has been set up followed by Hologram room. A gallery has a 3-D animation of various species of dinosaurs chasing, fighting and competing with each other. The entire experience was a sensory overload.

360-degree virtual reality is a big hit with kids.

Hologram room.

Experiment laboratory: Models of Paleontologists at work in a museum gallery @Rafiq Somani

Princess Aaliya aka Dr Dinosaur

In all of this, Babi keeps sharing facts and exciting titbits and details. She has a degree in English Literature and was once immersed in reading Shakespeare’s works like Merchant of Venice and Rome and Juliet. But then, when she realised that this hidden dinosaur gem needed to be protected and showcased to the world, there was a shift. Today she is no less than a dinosaur expert who, over 27 years, has passionately and with complete devotion nurtured the park and museum. So much so that people call her Dr Dinosaur! 

History

But how did it all begin? When were dinosaur fossils discovered? Babi explains that her grandfather who was the Nawab of Balasinor owned the lands which came under the Nawabi state of Balasinor.  During mining of the quarries in Balasinor, the workers unearthed balls which they thought were cannon balls and brought them to Nawab Saheb. When he told them they were not, they took them to decorate the garden pathway of the quarry manager’s office. Some locals even worshipped them as they thought they resembled shivlings.

The Search of Dinosaur Fossils

In 1981 geologists from the Geological Society of India, during the course of geological mapping visited Rahioli. They visited the quarries and noticed that the pathway to the mine manager’s office was lined with these decorative balls. One of the balls was taken and shown to a well-known palaeontologist, who identified it as a dinosaur egg. Then there was no looking back, a report was sent to the GSI, and the place was established as a fossil site! More geologists and palaeontologists from as many as fourteen countries soon arrived, and excavations began. Excavation and carbon dating of the fossils was done over the years.

Sanajeh Indicus: A one of a kind fossil

Babi points to an exhibit and recalls the story behind it. In 1984 palaeontologists unearthed a unique one-of-a-kind fossil. A fossilised egg and a 50 cm dinosaur hatchling with a 3-metre snake coiled around them. The snake was a predator on the verge of eating its prey, the dinosaur hatchling. But just at that very moment, some natural catastrophe caused them to freeze in this position. The fossil was unearthed millions of years later with this exact alignment. Palaeontologists called this fossil Sanajeh Indicus meaning “ancient gaped one from the Indus River.”

Model of Sanajeh Indicus at Museum Gallery @Rafiq Somani

Rajasaurus narmadadensis

In 2003 palaeontologists discovered more than 400 bones from a single skeleton and assembled a new species of dinosaur found nowhere else in the world except India. A carnivore 9 metres long, 2.5 metres tall and weighed 4 tons. It had a structure on its head like a king or raja’s crown hence it was christened Rajasaurus, and because its bones were found near the Narmada River, it was given the surname narmadadenis. Rajasaurus narmadadenis is India’s own dinosaur that lived in the late Cretaceous period. It is believed to be more dangerous than Trex and ate even the long-necked Titanosaurus.

Rajasaurus narmadadenis

Rahiolisaurus gujaratensis

If India could have a dinosaur unique to it, could the state of Gujarat be far behind? No prizes for guessing. A few years later, another team made up of GSI members, the Indian Statistical Institute and Texas Tech University found remains of an entire herd belonging to a single family. Just like Rajasaurus, they were carnivores but smaller. In 2010 Rahioli and Gujarat got its very own dinosaur which was named Rahiolisaurus gujaratensis. Babi informs us there is even a dinosaur named after the Indian Statistical Institute called Isisaurus.

Rahiolisaurus gujaratensis @Rafiq Somani

Isisaurus dinosaur named after the Indian Statistical Institute (ISIS)

Virtual Reality

Princess Babi is so passionate about her labour of love that one gets a feeling she lives, sleeps and breathes dinosaurs. I look at her deep black eyes and exclaim that I wouldn’t be surprised if a dinosaur would be named after her one day. She smiles and says many have told her that. We then head to the virtual reality section, where we are provided with an ocular lens. Soon we are transported back 65 million years with dinosaurs chasing us, jumping and moving around us.

Children enjoying Virtual Reality at Museum @Rafiq Somani

Babi: A woman on a mission

This visit has been an immersive experience, and we are awed and have gathered so much information about dinosaurs. Had we been younger, we would have surely wanted to be palaeontologists. Babi says that some young minds have reached out to help them chalk their paths in the field of palaeontology. Babi also conducts educational workshops and presentations in schools and universities across India igniting young minds by providing a glimpse into the prehistoric wonders. 

Masala Egg

It is time for us to leave, but Babi wants to show us something. She takes us to her car and removes a dinosaur bone that is a part of her personal collection. We touch and feel it. She then opens a red jewellery box with no jewels but a priceless dinosaur egg. Babi explains that it has been christened the Masala egg and narrates the story behind it. When Babi was moving around the village, she happened to chance upon a village woman who was grinding masalas using the dinosaur egg. With great difficulty, Babi convinced the village woman to part with the egg in exchange for a new grinding stone. We touched the priceless masala egg, which has acquired a reddish hue.

Famous Masala Egg

Princess Aaliya showing dinosaur bone @Rafiq Somani

If you are in Ahmedabad or Vadodara, the next time, do set aside half a day for a trip to Balasinor, The Jurassic Park of India. It is worth travelling and spending half a day as you will see these priceless gems.

GETTING THERE: Distances: Ahmedabad to Balasinor – 85 km, around 2 hrs. Vadodara to Balasinor – 100 km, around 2+ hrs. Timings: 10 am to 5 pm. The museum is closed on Mondays. Entry Fees: Children- Rs. 30/-, Adult- Rs. 70/-, Foreigners- Rs. 400/- Professional Camera: Rs- 700/-, 5D Theatre Rs.50/- Virtual Reality: Rs. 50/- Travel Tip: Do wear a hat and carry water bottles when you visit the dinosaur fossil park as the sun will be blazing over your heads. Gujarat Trails helped us with planning for this guided tour with Princess Aliya of Balasinor the Jurassic Park of India.

2 thoughts on “<strong>Balasinor The Jurassic Park of India</strong>”

  1. GAURAV PARIKH

    Balasinor Fossil Park, Its just amazing place to have some understanding the history of our Earth. I have visited once and had a wonderful experience under the guidance of HH Aaliya Madam. I am planning to visit the place once again but want to spend more time there. IN my first trip to the Park, I missed the actual fossil location. I and my family thank HH Aaliya Madam from bottom of our hearts for a wonderful day at INDIA’s JURASSIC PARK.
    All the best HH Aaliya Madam and team for the future and may you come up with more Fossil sitings in India and also in Gujarat

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