A CASE STUDY ON BANDHAVGARH NATIONAL PARK
The Bandhagarh is one national park in central India that no one can deny its rich historical past. Long before it was declared a National Park, the forests around Bandhagarh were primarily used as a Shikargah, or in other words, a game reserve, for the use by Maharajas and their guests. In 1947, Rewa state was merged with Madhya Pradesh, an act which saw to it that Bandhagarh was put under Madhya Pradesh’s jurisdiction. However, Rewa’s Maharaja maintained his hunting rights despite Bandhagarh’s change of jurisdiction. It was not until 1968 when Bandhavgarh was officialy made a National Park. Since then, efforts have been made to make sure that Bandhavgarh remains a complete natural habitat, devoid of any human interference.
The most famous tourist part of the park, The Tala Range, is actually a small part of the entire park, about only 105 kilometers of jungle. The Tala range is the richest in terms of biodiversity and tigers. Tala range together with four other ranges namely, Kallwah, Khitauli, Magdhi and Panpatha form the core of the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, which covers a total area of 694 km. There is also a buffer which is spread across forest divisions of Umaria and Katni and covers a total area of 437 km.
THE INVALUABLE HERITAGE
Bandhavgarh enjoyed a lot of protection from the Rewa Maharaja’s in the era leading to independence. There was however, a price that the park had to pay for the protection, and this was according the Royal family exclusive hunting rights. The protection also meant that the forest would be handed over from one generation of the Rajahs to the next. After enjoying a lot of protection before the states of Rewa and Madhya Pradesh were joined, the state of Madhya Pradesh did not take long to realize the ecological importance of the park after it came into its jurisdiction.
The Bandhavgarh fort and surrounding hillocks have a total of 39 caves which cover a total of 5 km. The oldest cave has been dated to the 1st century. Several caves have Brahmi script inscriptions while others have embossed figures of tigers, pigs, elephants and horsemen. The largest cave is one known as Badi Gufa, has a total of 9 small rooms and several pillars. The cave has been dated back to the 10 century and is believed to be primitive since it lacks the elaborate statues and carvings that was common during the buddhist periods. No one knows the cave’s purpose.
Regardless of there not being any records to show when Bandhavgarh fort was constructed, it is thought to be about 2000 years old. Bandhavgarh fort has even been referenced in the ancient books of Narad-Panch Ratra and Shiva Purana. Various dynasties have ruled the fort. The Mauryans ruled it from the 3rd century BC while the Vakataka rulers ruled it from the 3rd century to the 5th century. The Sengers on the other hand ruled it from the 5th century and the Kalachuris ruled it from the 10th century. The Baghels ruled from the fort from the 13th century all the way to 1617 when Maharaja Vikramaditya Singh moved his ruling capital to Rewa. The fort was last inhabited in 1935.
Making of a Tiger Land
After moving out of Bandhavgarh, the Bhagels later realized that a jungle had sprung up around their former capital, the fort. They also realized that large fierce beasts roamed the jungle. Since chivalry was a core virtue for Rajput Kings, they thought it best and noble to demonstrate their chivalry by killing these beasts, these tigers. This saw to it that Bandhavgarh was fenced off and turned into a game reserve where only the royal family could hunt.
Birth of a protected area
1972 was the year the a majority of Indians started being aware of the need and resolve to save their wilderness and Habitat. This is the year that project tiger was initiated and the Wildlife Protection Act was made into law. In 1982, it was realized that only 105 km of habitat was not enough for preservation, so three more ranges, that is, Khitauli, Magdhi and Kallawah were added to Tala range, bringing its total area to 448km. Project Tiger kept on extending its territories and activities and in 1993, Bandhavgarh, was added to bring a total area of 694km under its protection. A total of 5 ranges including the Panpatha Sanctuary and a buffer area covering a total area of 437 km were declared as the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve.