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Bandhavgarh History & Travel Information

Bandhavgarh is one of the smaller National Parks of India but it is very popular with wildlife seekers because of its large Tiger population. It is only 448 square kilometers or 278 square miles in area.

The Tiger population in Bandhavgarh National Park is most dense among all Tiger Parks of India. The name of the Tiger Sanctuary is derived from the majestic fort of Bandhavgarh that dominates its surrounding areas. Bandhavgarh is in Shahdol district in the outlying hills of the Vindhyachal Range of mountains. The highest peak is 811 meters or 2499 feet above the surrounding areas and is located almost in the center of the Sanctuary. The Bandhavgarh Fort is located on this peak. It is surrounded by other lower hills that are all separated by gently sloping valleys and swampy meadows, known locally as Bohera. The main vegetation in the park is Sal tree forests on higher elevations and mixed deciduous forests in lower hills and drier areas of the park. Bamboo is also widespread all over the park.

There are no historical records to establish the date of construction of Bandhavgarh Fort. Most scholars believe it to be about 2000 years old because there are references to it in the Hindu ancient religious literature like the Narad Panch Ratra and the Shiv Purana. The earliest dynasty to rule it in historical period was the Magha Dynasty in the first century CE, they were followed by Vakataka Dynasty rulers who occupied the fort from the third century CE. In the fifth century CE the Sengars ruled from this fort until in tenth century CE when the Kalachuris took it. From the thirteen century Baghels ruled from this fort until 1617 when Maharaja Vikramaditya Singh moved his capital to Rewa. They remained occupants of the fort until 1935 when it was finally deserted. Scattered throughout the park, and particularly around the fort, are numerous caves containing Hindu religious shrines. Many of these shrines have ancient Sanskrit inscriptions.

The main attraction in this sanctuary surrounding the historical Bandhavgarh Fort is the Tiger. Before it was declared the National Park it was the Shikargah or private game preserve of the Maharaja of Rewa. Although the Maharajas and their guests shot tigers rather excessively the wildlife was preserved because the entire forest was private property of the Maharaja. Common folk other than the royal family members were not allowed entry to the Shikargah. Many Maharajas shot hundreds of tigers. Maharaja Venkat Raman Singh shot 111 tigers before 1914. The area is also the territory where the famous but very rare white tigers are found. Maharaja Martand Singh captured the first white tiger in 1951 and named him Mohan. It is now stuffed and exhibited in the palace of Maharaja of Rewa. After independence of India the territory of Rewa State merged in to Madhya Pradesh State. The Maharaja of Rewa retained hunting rights until 1968. There was no effort undertaken to preserve the tigers before this period. After it was declared the National Park this sanctuary became a real haven for tigers and they have flourished and grown in population since then. Today the wildlife viewers have the best chance to see a tiger in its wild habitat in this sanctuary.

The forests of Bandhavgarh are moist deciduous and are ideal habitat for all those wild animal species that are typical of this region in Central India. Certain areas of the park (particularly the south and the west) are drier in character, and hold such species as the Nilgai and the Chinkara. The great Gaur, or Indian Bison, can be seen with ease, as they come onto the meadows to graze at dusk; Sambar and Barking Deer are a common sight, and Nilgai are to be seen in the more open areas of the park. There are more than 22 species of mammals and 250 species of birds inside this national park. Common Langurs and Rhesus Macaque represent the primate group in this area. Carnivores include the Asiatic Jackal, Bengal Fox, Sloth Bear, Ratel, Gray Mongoose, Striped Hyena, Jungle Cat, Leopard and Tiger. Wild Pigs, Spotted Deer and Chausingha are quite frequently sighted. Mammals such as Dhole, the small Indian Civet, Palm Squirrel and Lesser Bandicoot Rat are seen occasionally. Among the herbivores, Gaur is the only coarse feeder.

The vegetation along streams and marshes is rich in bird life. The common ones are 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, Parakeets, Kingfishers and Indian Rollers. Reptilian Fauna include Cobra, Krait, Viper, Rat-snake, Python, Turtle and a number of lizard varieties, including Varanus.

Wildlife Viewing

There are two main ways of getting about in the park- in a motor vehicle or on elephant back. The wild animals are accustomed to both. It is recommended to talk quietly and not make rapid movements. Jeep safaris are best undertaken from 6.30 AM until about 10 AM and from about 4 PM until dusk, as the animals are most active during these periods. The park is open to visitors from October 1 to June 15. The rest of the year it is closed to tourists. The best time to visit the nature park is from February to June. Average temperatures during this time is as follows: February: max. 28 degree centigrade, min. 13 degree centigrade. March: max. 33 degree cent., min. 18 degree cent. April: max. 38 degree cent., min. 23 degree cent. May: max. 41 degree cent., min. 27 degree cent., June: max. 37 degree cent., min. 27 degree cent. The Bandhavgarh National Park is closed from July 1 to October 15. From July to September is also the monsoon time in this part of India.

The forest sanctuary jeep vehicles can carry six persons plus driver and guide. Light cotton clothes with woolen pullovers and jackets are recommended during the winter months from November to February. From March onwards it starts getting quite hot. Please do not wear any bright colored garments when visiting the Sanctuary. A Forest Department guide must always accompany you. This guide will be able to direct you and point out wildlife. Elephants are used every morning by the Forest Department for Tiger-tracking. If a Tiger is found, then the elephant will take you directly to the Tiger either from the lodge or from a nearby point reached by jeep/car. There is only limited number of safari elephants and must be booked in advance.

The tiger sanctuary is accessible from Khajuraho. The Khajuraho airport has scheduled flights from Delhi, Varanasi and Mumbai. The drive from Khajuraho passes the Ken River which is home to the Indian Ghariyal crocodile. The area near the River is declared a crocodile sanctuary. This road also passes by Panna and Satna. Panna is famous for its diamond mines and Satna is an important city for connections by road and train to nearby areas. Apart from Satna there is a train station in Jabalpur. Both these cities are on the train route of Central Railways. Umaria and Katni train stations are on the South-Eastern Railways. Driving from Khajuraho, Satna is the mid-way point from where it branches off on a subsidiary road across ridges of the Vindhyachal to Bandhavgarh.

5-star hotel:

Taj Mahua Kothi - 12 luxurious cottages furnished using local materials

3-star hotel

Wildflower Resort - 12 exclusively furnished air-conditioned rooms
Nature Heritage Resort - 22 elegantly furnished air-conditioned cottages with private verandahs

Distance from Bandhavgarh in Kilometers and Miles:

Umaria: 35 kilometers or 22 miles
Khajuraho: 237 kilometers or 147 miles
Jabalpur: 164 kilometers or 102 miles (new road)
Satna: 120 kilometers or 75 miles
Katni: 102 kilometers or 63 miles
Kanha: 240 kilometer or 149 miles
Allahabad: 345 kilometers or 214 miles

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