Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve
The Bandhavgarh National Park is located in the district of Umaria & Sahdol in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. This reserve came into existence in 1968 when the Maharaja of Rewa handed over the area to the government. Cradled between the picturesque Vindhya and Satpura mountain ranges, Bandhavagrh consists an area of 448 square kilometers. It boasts a breathtaking mixture of dense green valleys and rocky hills. Mixed deciduous forests and woodlands are interspersed with flat grasslands and serene waterholes. A network of spring-fed streams provides a water source for the park’s wildlife.
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 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.
The faunal assemblage of Bandhavgarh is of typical Central Indian species. Herds of chital (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 stripped hyena are seen occasionally, as well as jungle cats and jackal, plus a healthy sloth bear population.
There are 250 bird species belonging to 53 families in Bandhavgarh National Park. Among them 138 are resident, 26 are local migrants and 86 are migrants. 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.
It is the density of it's big cat population that has made Bandhavgarh really famous across the globe. Many of it's tigers have played pivot roles of numerous films made on wildlife.
The gift of fort
The story behind the name ‘Bandhavgarh’ has mythological roots. 'Bandhav' in English means brother and ‘Garh’ means fort, so the name of Bandhavgarh means the Brother Fort. It is believed that Lord Rama visited Bandhavgarh and gave this fort to his younger brother Lakshmana after having defeated Ravana. He also asked him to keep watch over Lanka.
Bandhavgarh has a history of being the abode of white tigers. All the sightings have been recorded only here. Although no white tigers have been reported from the wild in the last 50 years, as many as 8 sightings were recorded in the first half of the 20th century.
In 1951, Maharaja Martand Singh of Rewa captured an orphaned white tiger cub in Bandhavgarh. He domesticated this male white tiger and named him Mohan. The Maharaja was also able to successfully breed white tigers in Rewa and export the cubs to other countries. As a result, all white tigers in captivity today are Mohan’s descendants. The species has thrived in captivity, with a number of specimens related to Mohan finding homes in zoos and circuses all over the world. ‘Mohan’ has been kept for display, stuffed and mounted, at the Baghel Museum. Mohan was the last white tiger spotted in the wild.
The Bandhavgarh National Park has a good network of motorable tracks. The park authorities allow two game drives everyday on these tracks. The morning drive starts at dawn and usually lasts for about 4 hours. The evening drive is shorter of about 3 hours. On prior intimation, exclusive drives and full day drives can also be arranged. All vehicles have to be out of the park boundaries before dark. The park is closed on Wednesday evenings.
Only vehicles registered with the park authorities are allowed to enter the park. Each vehicle seats 4 or 6 people. In addition to a local tracker and a driver.
There are 39 historical caves in the Bandhavgarh National Park hills. Among them some of the caves are natural and some are man-made. While doing the park safari, especially during Bandhavgarh Fort Safari, one can notice such caves made on sand-stone hillocks. Caves are of varying sizes. Natural caves are narrow & small used by tigers & other wild animals for shelter. If we see the man-made caves, we can notice that they are broad & large enough to make room for human beings to stand. The oldest caves appear to be as ancient as the first century A.D.
Some of the caves carry inscriptions in Brahmi script (prevails in ancient India). Some caves also have embossed figures such as those of tiger, wild boar, elephant and horsemen. Presence of Elephant figures proves that this forest was natural habitat of wild elephants. Badi gufa, the largest of the caves with a broad entrance, has nine small rooms and several pillars. It has been dated back to the 10th century AD. it is spacious and has adequate vertical room for a person of average height to stand and walk. It is visible from the fort, which probably signifies its strategic location. The cave appears to be primitive, lacking the elaborate statues and carvings seen in the caves of the Buddhist period. Its purpose remains a mystery, although initially it could have been used by monks for spiritual pursuits and later by the army for strategic purposes. On the way to fort, we can notice small caves which are not so deep, such caves are used for lightening the way to fort during darkness. As hills in the tiger reserves are of sand-stone, they are cool from inside and offers comfortable stay during summers with plenty of water sources around it. At present, most of the caves are being used by wildlife - from bats to tigers.
Shesh Shaiya is a fairy tale spectacle of miniature water falls, vertically hanging ferns and an ancient pool besides which rests Lord Vishnu in reclining pose on the seven-hooded serpent called Shesh-Nag. The statue has been carved out of a single 20ft rock. This statue is believe to be of 10th century. It is also the origin point of Charan-ganga river which is a lifeline of Bandhavgarh. It is the same river that we come across while moving from Tala village to Tala entrance gate.
There are about 32 hills and hillocks of Vindhyachal ranges in Bandhavgarh. Among them highest one is about 811mtr. high. At this height, on a plateau of 4 sq. km. you find the fort, made in 10th century, on the top, called Bandhavgarh. Once it was a formidable stronghold of Bahela Rajputs and known by the name of Moti Mahal. At present only remnants of the past can be seen. At this height, one can have tantalizing view of Bandhavgarh National Park.
As of now, Bandhavgarh fort is closed for tourist due to recent changes in rules. To visit the fort, special permission is required from the park authority.
Full day photographer’s safari
A full day 'photographer's' permit allows easier access to different areas of the reserve and can be organised at a premium rate. Special permission is granted for up to 3 people per jeep. Safaris commence 30 minutes before sunrise up till 30 minutes after sundown. A full day permit can be combined with a three-hour elephant safari. Please contact us for full day rates and more details.
Best time to visit
October – April