Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bandhavgarh National Park

Land of the White Tiger

Have you ever wondered where white tigers come from?

Almost all of them, the world over, owe their origin to the forests around Bandhavgarh.
And they are the progeny of a single male white tiger - Mohan who was captured there in 1951.

Bandhavgarh Forests and National Park

The forests around Bandhavgarh (in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh in central India) were the Shikargah, or private game preserve, of the Maharajahs of Rewa.
Only the Maharajahs and their guests could hunt there.
Poachers were severely punished.

The forests contained unbelievably large number of animals.
Just to visualize the enormity - it was considered auspicious for a Maharajah to shoot at least 109 Tigers.
His Highness Maharajah Venkat Raman Singh shot 111 tigers by 1914.

After independence and abolition of the Maharaja’s rule, there was too much uncontrolled poaching in the forest.
In 1968, the Maharaja of Rewa handed over the forest to the Government of India for creation of the Bhandavgarh National Park.
In 1968, Bandhavgarh was declared a National Park.
Originally, it had an area of only 105.40 sq. kms. with 25 tigers.
In, 1986, the area was increased to 437 sq. kms.
Bandhavgarh was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1993.

White tigers

White tigers have been found in the old state of Rewa (and other parts of India) from time to time.
These white tigers are not albinos.
They are ordinary tigers (Panthera tigris) with a genetic condition that eliminates most of the pigment in the normally orange fur - although the tigers still retain the dark stripes.
Compared to the normal orange tigers, white tigers are larger in size, both at birth and when they become adults.


Mohan is the father of the progeny of white tigers of Rewa.
(Another breed of white tigers has originated in Orissa.
A few other white tigers have been born in some other places of India.)

Mohan was captured as a cub in 1951 by Maharaja Shri Martand Singh of Rewa, whose hunting party found a tigress in Bandhavgarh with four 9 month old cubs, one of which was white.
They shot all the tigers, except the white cub.
After shooting a white tiger in 1948, Maharaja Martand Singh had resolved to capture a live one, as his father had done in 1915, at the next opportunity.
The previous Maharaja had kept the white tiger, an unusually large male, in captivity from 1915 to 1920.
After its death in 1920, the Maharaja had it mounted and presented it to King George V.
The mounted white tiger is now on display in the British Museum.

Maharaja Martand Singh named the white cub Mohan (meaning enchanter), one of the many names of the Hindu God Krishna.
Successive selective breeding produced a progeny of white tigers.White tigers are considered a celebrity and Prime Ministers have often christened them.
Mohan is dead.
His stuffed body is on display in the palace of the Maharajah of Rewa.

Animals in the Sanctuary

Bandhavgarh National Park is like a bowl surrounded by the Vindhya Mountains.
A series of ridges run through it.
Its plains have a number of grass and reed covered wetlands where you can see plenty of resident and migratory birds.

The Park has 32 picturesque, wooded hills, where you can see plenty of animals.
The principal animal is the majestic tiger.
The chances of sighting one are quite good because the density of the tiger population here is the highest in India.

There are more than 25 species of other animals, including leopard, gaur, sambar, chausingha, nilgai, chinkara, spotted deer, sloth bear, wild pig, striped hyena, jackal, fox, dhole, ratel, small Indian civet, jungle cat, palm squirrel, grey mongoose, lesser bandicoot rat, langurs and rhesus macaque.

Jungle Safaris

There are two ways of travelling inside the park - in a motor vehicle or on elephant back. Although most of the animals are accustomed to both - while inside the forest, speak softly and do not make rapid, jerky, movements.

Jeep safaris should be taken either in the morning from dawn to about 10 am or from about 4 pm till dusk, because the animals are most active during these periods.
A forest Department guide will always accompany you to direct you towards wildlife.

Elephants belonging to the Forest Department take visitors every morning for tiger tracking.If a tiger is sighted, the elephant will take you directly to the tiger.

Birds and Reptiles

There are more than 250 species of birds including little grebe, egret, lesser adjutant, sarus crane, black ibis, lesser whistling teal, white-eyed buzzard, black kite, crested serpent eagle, black vulture, Egyptian vulture, common peafowl, red jungle fowl, dove, parakeet, kingfishers and Indian roller.

There are a variety of snakes - cobra, krait, viper, rat snake and python, There are also a number of species of lizards and turtles.


The vegetation consists of Sal forests and Bamboo.
Stretches of grasslands stretch to the north.
Mixed forests are found in the higher slopes of the hills.
There are patches of wet lands, too.

Places to see

Bandhavgarh Fort

The historic Bandhavgarh Fort commands a bird’s eye view of the entire National Park.
There are no authentic records to show when it was built.
There are references to it in ancient texts, like the Siva Puran.

The Fort is believed to be over 2000 years old.
Various dynasties have ruled from the fort.
For example, the Mauryans ruled from 3rd century B.C., Vakataka rulers from 3rd to 5th century, the Sengars from 5th century and the Kalachuris from the 10th century.
In the 13th century, the Baghels took over, ruling from Bandhavgarh until 1617, when Maharaja Vikramditya Singh moved his capital to Rewa. T
he last inhabitants of the Fort left it in1935.

The Caves

There are 39 caves in the Bandhavgarh Fort and in the surrounding hillocks in a radius of about 5 kms.
The oldest cave dates back to about 1st century.
Several caves carry inscriptions in Brahmi script.
Badi Gufa, the largest cave, has a broad entrance, nine small rooms and several pillars.
It has been dated back to the 10th century.
The cave appears to be primitive, lacking the usual elaborate statues and carvings seen in other Buddhist caves of the period.
Its purpose remains a mystery.

You could also visit Khajurao, Agra and Varanasi.

Fact File


The nearest airport is Jabalpur 164 kms.
Another convenient airport is Khajurao 230 kms.
From both these places, you can go by car or public transport.

Railway Stations

The nearest railway station is:
Umaria - 32 kms.
Other stations are:
Jabalpur - 164 kms.
Katni - 102 kms.
Satna - 120 kms.


Khajuraho (via Satna) 230 kms.
Varanasi (via Rewa) 340 kms.
Katni 75 kms.
Rewa 115 kms.
Umaria 30 kms.
Kanha 250 kms.

Public transport is available from all these places.


Bhandavgarh National Park park is a wildlife enthusiast’s dream.
There are excellent accommodation and internal transport facilities to suit all budgets.

Best time to Visit

The climate at Bandhavgarh varies from 0 to 20 degree centigrade in winter and hots up to 46 degrees centigrade in summer.
The monsoon (rainy) season mostly begins mid June till October.

The best time to visit Bhandavgarh National Park is between December and February.
But the months of April to June, when the vegetation is sparse, are really the best for tiger sighting.

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