Bandhavgarh, Madhya Pradesh
Standing on Vulture Point at the top of the Bandhavgrah Fort, a heady brew of raw nature and bloody history lies beneath you. Wildlife abounds from the steep crags that make up the many flat-topped Vindhyan Hill sandstone plateaus, down to the thick dark sal forests, winding nullahs (streams) and tall golden meadows. Once home to ancient kings, fervent believers and more recently to farmers, it's now the fiefdom of India’s jungle inhabitants.
Bandavgarh also boasts one of the highest densities of tigers in India - up to twenty exist in the 100 square miles of the Tala tourism zone alone. They share this rich land with a multitude of other creatures, from the tiniest of felines (the rusty-spotted cat) to packs of red dhole or wild dogs, from the black and shambling sloth bear to the regal Malabar pied hornbill.
Bandhavgarh has seen a transformation over the last forty years, from low tiger populations to a very healthy density, especially within the tourism zones of Tala, Khitauli and Magdhi. Lower numbers exist in other ranges, such as Panpatta and Kalwah, which still contain a number of villages. The original white tiger famously came from this area.
From the steep sandstone of the Vindhyan Hills, to the tall and forebodingly-canopied sal forests, Bandhavgarh provides a wealth of habitats. Bamboo thickets provide good cover for prey such as spotted and sambhar deer, who favour it.
Mixed deciduous forests, with trees such as the 'crocodile bark tree' (saj), the harvested tendu trees, and the pale and medicinally-barked arjun, and forests of jamun trees overlook the many riverbanks, their combined canopy offering an autumnal cloud of olive greens, yellows and browns during the cooler winter months. The odd massive banyan fig, with pillared roots holding up its huge branches, provides juicy fruits for a myriad of bird, insect and mammals species, acting as home, food - and source of many of the forest's cacophonous sound.
Golden grassy meadows, topped by the bottle-brush heads of tall elephant grasses concealing herds of spotted deer, predominate in much of Bandhavgarh. They also provide great viewing for visitors, often with the high craggy cliffs of the parks incredible fort in the background. These are the remains of old agricultural lands of villages that have now moved to the edges of the park.
Bandhavgarh is well watered by clear whispering streams, many with their sources in the permeable sandstone hills. The most well-known, the Charanganga, springs from hilltop fort plateau, and comes out at the sacred statue of a reclining Vishnu, carved in the 10th century AD. Others wander through the reserve, and combine with many artificial waterholes. It makes the park one of India's best habitats for wildlife.
With over 35 kinds of mammals, 250 species of birds, more than 100 known species of butterfly, 16 snakes and 500+ species of plants and trees, Bandhavgrah has a wealth of biodiversity.
Herds of cheetal (spotted deer) and handsome sambhar deer make up a large proportion of tiger’s food source, but wild pig, barking deer, Indian gazelle and the odd nilgai (blue bull) also feature, and can often be seen in the park. Langur monkeys are the most vocal, alerting the world to any predator’s presence and often seen feeding alongside spotted deer. Recently the magnificent gaur (Indian bison) were reintroduced to the park.
Other predators are also prevalent. Leopard, wild dogs, and the usually nocturnal Indian wolf and spotted hyena are seen occasionally, as well as jungle cats and jackal, plus a healthy sloth bear population.
The forests support a profusion of birds, with many being endemic. Crested serpent eagles, Malabar and grey hornbills, lesser-adjutant storks, peafowl and red jungle fowl are commonly sighted. Long-billed, red-headed and Egyptian vultures nest in the cliff faces, as well as the now endangered white-rumped vulture. Rarer visitors include the blue-bearded bee-eater, golden-fronted leafbird and black-and-range and Tickell’s blue flycatchers.
The area has seen countless settlements and civilisations come and go for millennia. It has been the seat of authority to many powerful kings, residing in the extensive fort. Brahmi inscriptions date back to 100BC, showing their worship of the tiger, which an imposing 10-metre long statue of Lord Vishnu, carved in the 10th century, reclines at the source of an important park spring. It still remains a place of devotion today.
The name 'bandhav-garh' means 'brother-fort', because the Hindi Lord Ram’s brother is said to have been gifted the fort by his brother. The ancient Kalchuris dynasty gave the fort to the Baghela dynasty in the 12th century and today the Maharaja of Rewa can still trace direct lineage.
The area was a hunting reserve during the English Raj and Gulab Singh of Rewa was said to have shot 480 tigers across his kingdom. But it was the present Maharaja's late father Maharaja Martand Singh who, in 1968 and against much opposition, petitioned to stop the hunting and convince the government to declare Bandhavgarh a National Park. The park was extended in 1986.
The Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve now extends to a total of 1161.47 sq kms including both core tiger habitats and buffer areas, in which villages and their agricultural communities also exist.
• Tall golden grass meadows and the dark sal forests
• The ever-changing 'flame of the forest' covered ridges
• The imposing flat-topped plateau and ancient fortifications
• The 10-metre statue of Vishnu, and ancient stone-carved caves
• An impressive density of wild tigers, often seen with cubs
• Beautiful and diverse deer and antelope species
• Leopard, wild dogs, wolves, sloth bears and striped hyenas
• Fabulous birdlife: raptors, martins and blue rock thrushes
Sighted tigers in reserve learn more
- Blue Eyes
- Collar ...