Bandhavgarh

Why To Go

Located in the Umaria district in the state of Madhya Pradesh, Bandhavgarh National Park and Sanctuary is one of the biggest wildlife sanctuaries in the country, covering an area of over 500 sq km., with the core area being 105 sq. km and the rest is the buffer zone. The place gets its name from the Bandhavgarh Fort that rests majestically on top of a hillock rising amid the forest. The Bandhavarh fort, which lies in the center of the reserve, was the seat of power of the Chandela Dynasty. Later, it came under the rule of Baghels, and then under the Rewa rulers.

The Bandhavgarh National Park was initially a gaming preserve or Shikaragaha for the Maharajas of Rewa. Each Rewa king was supposed to shoot at least 100 tigers as a ritual believed to bring him good luck. The entry to the reserve was restricted to everyone else, except members of the royalty. The number of tigers in reserve did not get diminished.

In 1993 the Bandhavgarh national park became Tiger Reserve and is considered as one place where you can be almost certain of seeing a tiger in its natural habitat. It is rich in other forms of wildlife like deer, leopard, sambar, cheetal, Indian bison (gaur), Indian wolves, striped hyenas and wild boar. It is equally rich in birdlife, home to over 200 species including myenas, Indian hornbills, egrets, woodepeckers, flycatchers, barbet, crested eagle, owl, peafowl, Indian roller and many more.

Dominating Bandhavgarh national park area is the Bandhavgarh fort scattered throughout the Park and particularly around the fort, are numerous caves containing shrines and ancient Sanskrit inscriptions.

Originally home to all the white tigers in India, the Bandhavgarh sanctuary is now home to a variety of wild animals and boasts of one of the most extensive collection of tigers in the country. However, white tigers for which they were initially famed for, have now disappeared.

Bandhavgarh is a land flanked by flat-topped hills on the sides, and the high ridge of Bandhavgarh Fort in the center, dominating the landscape. Vast meadows such as Chakradhara and Sehra, and wet ground like the Sidhababa Meadow, lie below. The Park is bounded by the Son river in the east, the Johilla river in the south, and drained by the Umrer river in the west. The forest changes from Sal and bamboo to grasslands in swamps and sandy patches.

Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve is a popular destination for tourists because of comprising highest number of these big cats, which can be spotted easily and persistently.

Travel Tips

The Bandhavgarh National Park is open only from October to March, every year. The Park is closed throughout the rest of the year, so if your sole purpose of going to the area is to see the wildlife park, then plan your trip within this period. The rest of the year, though the sanctuary is closed, Bandhavgarh remains a popular spot for a weekend off. With many beautiful hotels and luxury resorts, and a variety of nearby attractions, it is a perfect place for a fun, quiet weekend, away from the humdrum of city life. If you opt for a wildlife safari, it is always wiser to go for the morning safaris because more animals can be spotted at dawn. Try to go for the very first safari of the day. Jeep Safaris with a maximum of 6 people, while an hour-long elephant ride which one can avail. Wildlife photography should be done with care since loud noises or movements often confuse and scare away the animals. If you are going to Bandhavgarh during winters, carry ample warm clothes as it gets freezing during the night. The morning safari can leave you almost frozen if you are not adequately insulated. Do carry still camera or movie cameras but avoid using flashlights. Carry a pair of binocular for bird watching. Do not throw garbages within the forest area.

Things To Do

Bandhavgarh is noted for its high density of tigers. An elephant or open jeep ride through the reserve is a favourite tourist activity of the region as you are sure to see a tiger or two in one of these exploits. The sanctuary is said to be like a breathing organism itself, with a self-sustaining system. The main attractions of the place include the Bandhavgarh fort, on top of the Bandhavgarh hill, a good 811 meters high. The Bandhavgarh hill is surrounded by the Vindhyan range that consists of several smaller hills, providing a beautiful nest to the sanctuary. It is said that the fort is about 2,000 years old and holds a special place in Indian mythology. According to Hindu mythology, in the Ramayanas it was built by Ram for his brother Lakshman during their exile – Bandhavgarh means brother’s fort. Ruled by several rulers over the years, the fort is rich in historical and cultural heritage. The fort was used as a place of residence by remnants of royalty from the Rewa court till as late as 1935. In the surrounding areas of the fort, there are many small and ancient caves and glistening streams – a joy to those who like to go on little expeditions. The entire forest is densely populated with Sal and bamboo trees. It is home to animals like the Chinkara, Chausingha, Jackal, Fox, Chitol, Nilgai, striped Hyena, Leopard and Sloth Bear along with the tigers. One of the must-do things at Bandhavgarhis to take an open-back elephant ride through the expanse of the forest. Open jeep safaris are also very popular among tourists. Both elephant safaris and jeep safaris are conducted by the reserve officials on a daily basis. The tiger spotting safaris are held in the morning and are meant primarily for spotting tigers. Make sure that an attendant/official of the forest reserve accompanies you on these trips as a guide. The tour covers most of the 32 picturesque hillocks that form the core of the sanctuary and contain most of the wildlife. Bandhavgarh’s new pride, the gaur. There are around 80 gaurs here. The number is growing despite regular predation by tigers, which is a good sign for eco balance. More than 30 sandstone caves in the northern region of the park contains Brahmi engravings and drawings dating from the 1st century BCE. Badhavgarh Fort sits atop the sheer cliffs and escarpments of the Bandhavgarh Hill, from which he park gets its name. The fort is shrouded in mythology; it is said to have been built by the same architects who constructed the bridge to Lanka for Lord Rama. The Bagehel Museum, located near Tala village, is home to Mohan, the white tiger cub captured by Maharaja Martand Singh in 1951, stuffed and mounted, besides royal artifacts of maharaja’s family.

Getting Around

Being aforest area, you cannot walk or stroll around. To feel the ambience of the jungle and witness the big cats and other beasts in close proximity, elephant ride or a jeep safari ride is the best option. And here, you would certainly spot one of the majestic cats, either strolling around carelessly or rubbing his body against the trunk of a tree or simply sitting in agrand way and observing you.

How To Reach

FLIGHT

Bandhavgarh can also be reached by air, the nearest airports being that of Jabalpur and Khajuraho. There are no registered bus services, so taxis and cabs are the most recommended form of travel to and from the airports. The airport at Jabalpur is connected to major cities of India and is about 200 km from the park and takes almost 4 and ½ hours to reach the spot; Khajuraho airport being almost 240 km from the sanctuary.

TRAIN

For those who prefer a train journey, the nearest railway station is that of Umaria (35 kms), which is a 45 mins drive from Bandhavgarh. Another railway station that is close to the forest is that of Katni, at a distance of 100 km from the Park. Taxi or private car can be hired from the sation to reach thesanctuary at ease.

ROAD

One of the most popular ways to reach Bandhavgarh is by road from Khajuraho (Reach Khajuraho Airport from Delhi), which is about 240 km from the reserve. That way, travellers not only get to visit the sanctuary but also get to see the famous carved temples at Khajuraho. The drive down the forest is exciting since, on the way, travellers cross the Ken River, which is a known sanctuary for the Indian Ghariyaal or the alligator. Also, the small mining town of Panna, famous for its diamonds, falls en route.

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Surrounding Attractions

The Baghel Museum, located about 100 meters from the Park, is a famous tourist spot as it houses relics from the time of the Maharajas of Rewa. The Mahaman Pond is also a popular spot and is renowned for sightings of wild animals that come to have a drink of water at the pond. The Tala Village is a must-visit if you go to Bandhavgarh- it is one of the only remaining entirely ethnic villages in India. The Cheshpur Water fall situated at a distance of 50 km from Bandhavgarh, is a natural waterfall in River Johila and an ideal picnic spot. Bandhavgarh, and the adjoining Pantpath sanctuary came under the Project Tiger in 1993. Despite the conservation efforts, Bandhavgarh still has its share of problems, including industrial pollution in the Son river and bauxite mining nearby. There is also the endlessly varied terrain of the forest itself; also an everchanging ambience due to light, weather, and temperature. There are many more things to explore here: the orchestra of the birds, the dance of the trees, ravishing beauty of the flowers, calm and serene water bodies, ear-piercing sound of the cricket, and beetles. The forest is an enchanting symphony of life. It is always a good idea to go on every possible safari because no sighting is guaranteed, and no sighting is the same. Options abound, from jeep to elephant rides.
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