Little did people know in 1968 when a national park was being formed in an unknown district, adjoining a small village as to what will be the fate of this park. Over the years the efforts of the forest department alongwith the local community bore fruit. The park was Bandhavgarh and the village, Tala. Today exactly 50 years later doing a Tiger safari in Bandhavgarh National Park is the first pick of all Tiger lovers. If anyone at all is planning a Tiger Trip to India then this is a must park in the itinerary.
Bandhavgarh National Park was made a Tiger reserve in 1993. This was perhaps the rub of the green that Bandhavgarh needed. A male Tiger suddenly appeared from unknown areas and started to get sighted in the Tala range of this park. Being from a non tourism zone he wasn’t familiar with the safari vehicles. Infact the vehicles around that time were minimal, 3-4 max during a safari. Those numbers were also not tolerable to him. He would see the vehicles and run towards them growling. This attitude of his earned him a reputation and a name of ‘Charger’.
The drivers were literally scared to go anywhere in his territory. They would warn the tourists in advance about his ferocious attitude. Some tourists would not believe the same, and on a sudden encounter with Charger running after their vehicle, came out crying hysterically. Their speech choked, bodies trembling, and belongings all over in the vehicle. Such was the power of Charger. But as he aged he became more tolerant of the tourists. The image below is of the times when he was almost at fag end of a glorious career in Bandhavgarh.
It was in mid 90s that a beautiful Tigress was sighted in Tala range, she was named Sita. One of the most beautiful Tigresses i have seen in my close to 30 years of doing safaris. My only regret today is that i no longer have the images i clicked of her’s. The DSLR cameras were not around, only the prints. But, when i close my eyes, i can still see her sitting with her cubs near Shesh Shaiyya. I was on Elephant top, and the Mahout was the legendary Kuttappan. Such was his valor in searching Tigers, that his name was taken in same breath as Charger, Sita, B2, and Kuttapan.
He was fond of photography, and always carried his Nikon kit on the Elephant. He would only click if the tourists were not clicking. I consider myself extremely fortunate that not once, or twice but on several occasions in 90s we tracked Tigers together in the Chakradhara meadows. Such was his fame that, BBC, National Geographic, or Discovery always utilised his expertise in film making. Even the Tigers came out when they heard Kuttappan in the vicinity. His baritone voice controlled the Elephants and Tigers felt assured listening to him.
This image was clicked in April 2018 during the function when Bandhavgarh was celebrating 50 years of it’s being. He is now retired but not tired. the Forest department is still utilising his experience in certain areas.
An occasion that many of us were looking forward for. Born in 1968, and in 2018 it becomes 50 year old. The Madhya Pradesh Forest department celebrated the occasion and felicitated the people who have worked relentlessly in bringing Bandhavgarh to where it is today. Whenever there will be discussions on the top conservationists of India, one name that will be always be taken amongst the top will be Shri M K Ranjitsinhji. The architect of The Wildlife Protection Act (1972), the man behind saving the Barasingha in Kanha. Establishing 14 new sanctuaries, 8 national parks, Project Snow Leopard and much more to his credit and still contributing.
Shri A S Parihar, Shri H S Pabla, Shri Jitendra Agarwal, Shri Mridul Pathak, and many other past Directors of different parks of Madhya Pradesh. It was a joy to be in their august company. A wonderful film was also released on the occasion. It was a pleasure to contribute in a small way in making of this film.
After Sita, and Charger, the responsibility of pleasing the visitors who come to do Tiger Safaris in Bandhavgarh National Park has changed over the decades. Many Tigers came, and went. But one that stood out head and shoulders above the rest is B2. While his father brought attention to Bandhavgarh, it was B2 who developed the Tiger economy. It is not wrong to think that the Tigers are being conserved by the forest department, and the local community. But i would like to say that Tigers are also supporting mankind in a big way.