The Jewel in the Crown of Central India's tiger habitats

Bandhavgarh National Park

Bandhavgarh is an essential stop in any self-respecting tiger seeking itinerary. Along with Ranthambhore, it is perhaps the most visited, talked about and photographed tiger habitat in the world.

The Jewel in the Crown of Central India's tiger habitats

The rugged terrain lies against the stunning backdrop of the sheer sandstone cliffs of the ancient Vindhya range, and is dominated by a high plateau punctuated by grassy sprawls, originally marshlands designed to protect the fort, some of which still exist.

The reserve’s long history goes back to a time when this area was originally home to powerful kings residing in the large hilltop fort; its meadows were rich agricultural lands; and sadhus occupied an extensive cave system in 100 BC. In the 12th century, the fort was passed down to the Baghela clan as dowry, of which the present Maharaja of Rewa is a direct descendent.

Shockingly, by 1968, years of royal plunder by the bloodthirsty Maharajas of Rewa had emptied this forest. On the day the forest was presented by the Maharaja to the State, there were no quadrupeds left in the park. Today, it is a successful rags-to-riches recovery, after years of villagers, tribes and forest officials working together.

White Tigers of Rewa

It was in these forests near Rewa that the last wild white tiger was seen and captured in 1957. Contrary to popular belief, white tigers are not a separate species, but a result of a genetic mutation called leucism. White coats are a hindrance in the wild, providing no camouflage and greatly reducing survival rates. No wonder that white tigers in the wild occur very rarely.

Since white tigers are not a separate species, they do not need any ‘conservation’. Yet sadly, white tigers continue to be bred in captivity solely for profit, by using two tigers who have the recessive genes needed to produce offspring with a white coat. In the US, all white tigers originate from a single male white tiger which was imported to the country decades ago. Such inbred animals suffer from significant health problems throughout their lives.

Experiences

In order to get a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape, a visit to the historic fort of Bandhavgarh is an unforgettable experience. The fort sits atop an 800m plateau and is studded with ancient monuments, including temples that still draw worshippers.

The massive sandstone statue of Lord Vishnu reclining on a seven hooded serpent over a perennial water tank is believed to have been constructed in the 10th century AD at the origin of the Charanganga, a perennial rive that flows down to the meadows below. This moist evergreen corner of the jungle is a haven for birds.

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