Finding Heaven – India’s Monsoon Fireflies

From Param and Shikha Singh, via The Untourists

At the onset of the monsoons in early June, we traveled to a small village near Sangamner in rural Maharashtra. We went to Purushwadi, a tiny village 1000 m above mean sea level, based only on some promises we’d heard. During this season, this valley was said to transform into a heaven of fireflies at night. As it turned out, these promises and more  were delivered!

Our trip was arranged by Grassroutes (more info below). The journey to Purushwadi was beautiful, though at one point we had to cross a river via a narrow, rusty bridge. I was scared that our car would get scratched, but luckily it was just wide enough. In the village, Grassroutes runs small tent accommodations with clean toilets. We shared meals with a village family in their hut, and tasting the pure village food was wonderful: dal, farm fresh sabzi, (vegetable) , and rotis made of pearl millet (bajra) flour.

When the sky began to turn dark, we saw just one firefly at first. It hovered around us, leaving behind a disappearing trail of light that was so beautiful to watch. Yet we had no idea of what was coming next!

As we followed our guide into the valley, it was absolutely dark with no artificial light. Only a half moon shone above us. Soon we found ourselves amidst a carnival of fireflies, with hundreds decorating our path.

Was this real, or were we imagining these surroundings? It felt like a scene straight out of James Cameron’s Avatar, only  better. Their magical soft blinks and fast flights left us speechless. We kept walking and finally reached the narrow bridge.

As we stood at the center of the valley, we saw something that will stay etched in our minds for as long as we live.

Across hundreds of trees, a million fireflies dotted each tree. They were blinking together but in a choreographed rhythm. Like disco lights that would go up one tree, then the next, and then another. This was music. This was magic! Before our eyes, these monsoon firefly swarms painted an unforgettable image that no photograph can ever capture. We stood there dazed and amazed while time stood still.

(Grassroutes, a travel agency with a social mission, is committed to preserving traditional lifestyles and biodiversity in rural India. Running trips to rural ecotourist destinations like Purushwadi, they provide economic support to local villagers.)

Update January 2020: India’s fireflies have become an increasingly popular tourist destination in several places, described here.