Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Vidarbha: The Land of Tigers & More!


There is no denying that tigers in India are in trouble. Everyday there is news of a tiger death somewhere in the country, either by poachers, a highway accident or resultant death from human-animal conflict. Amidst all the grim news and the state of tiger habitats in the country, one region offers some hope - the forests of the Satpuda Range in Central India. Believed to be the largest continuous tiger habitat in the world, this area contains approximately one-third of India’s remaining tiger population. This landscape which covers a part of Maharashtra & Madhya Pradesh, contains six tiger reserves (Melghat, Pench & Tadoba-Andhari in Maharashtra and Pench, Kanha, and Bori-Satpuda in Madhya Predesh). In Maharashtra, the Satpudas pass through the Vidarbha region and these dry teak forests support some incredible biodiversity. Starting October to June every year, photographers, tiger lovers, nature enthusiasts throng these areas to get a glimpse of the big cat. But in this story, besides exploring Vidarbha’s tigers & wildlife we will discover more about its culture and some unknown history!

Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve

The Tadoba National Park was created in 1955 with an area of 116.55 sq km and the Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary was created in 1986 with an area of 508.85 sq km. Together they form the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve. As the name suggests, Tadoba gets its name from the local deity Taru, worshiped by the tribals in this region. The Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary gets its name from the Andhari River which meanders through the forests of the reserve.
The tribal population mainly consists of the Gonds, who are known to use the forest for its rich herbal and healthy natural resources for their daily needs. They have a strange ritual where they feed the newborn with nectar of the flowers of the Mahua tree (Madhuca longifolia), even before the child is fed the mother’s milk. This is to signify the eternal connection between the nature and the humans and also that the tree and the child will look after each other! Another interesting historic feature in Tadoba is the presence of stone pillars at regular intervals on the Mohurli-Tadoba road. There are many stories explaining these, but the most popular one is that the pillars are either antique lamp posts or were some sort of communication device for the Gond king of Chandrapur.

At the reserve, you can have a close encounter with the Tiger and witness other wildlife species in action. Visitors to the park report frequent tiger and wild dog sightings among mammals. Apart from these the reserve is also home to the Leopard, Sloth Bear, Gaur, Barking Deer, Spotted Deer, Sambar, Wild Boar, Four Horned Antelope and many more.
Bamboo & teak dominate most of the areas of Tadoba among other flora. Scattered through the forest are the lovely Kusum and Silk Cotton trees. Other tree species include Ain, Bija, Dhauda, Haldu, Salai and Tendu. The most striking floral feature of Tadoba is the numerous Ghost Trees, which derive their name from the colour of the bark and their ability to change colour as per season. During the summer months, the bark which is pale pink otherwise turns white, giving it a ‘ghostly’ look.

Photo: Jayesh Paranjape

How to get there
Air: Nagpur (approximately 150 km)
Rail: Chandrapur (45 km)
Road: Nearest bus stand is Chandrapur (45 km) and Chimur (30 km)
Best Time to Visit: The Park is open from October to June. The best time to visit is January to May. Tadoba is open to visitors on all days except Tuesdays and New Year's Day. 
Safari timings are 6:00 am – 11:00 am and 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm.

Extend your Tadoba trip!

Markanda Temple

Around 60 km from Chandrapur in the Gadchiroli district lies a cluster of 24 temples built in the ‘Hemandpanthi’ style of architecture called the Markanda Temple. The temple derives its name from sage Markandeya who according to the Hindu Holy Scriptures, worshipped Lord Shiva here and obtained immortality. One of the most famous temples of the cluster is the Shiva Temple which houses the Shivling which sage Markandeya is believed to have worshiped. Some of the temples are in complete ruins, but the overall effect of the cluster is extremely impressive. Sir Alexander Cunningham, the famous British archaeologist and the father of the Archaeological Survey of India, wrote extensively about the Markanda Temple. He wrote “…(The temple cluster) perhaps forms the most picturesque group of temples that I have seen. There are no inscriptions to tell their age, but their style is so similar to that of the Candle temples of Khajuraho and other places, that there can be little doubt, that they belong to the same period of 10th and 11th centuries.”


Photo: Jaideep Kanhere

The Pench Tiger Reserve is spread across two states, the Seoni and Chhinwara districts of Madhya Pradesh and Nagpur district of Maharashtra. Pench (M.P.) covers an area of 757 sq. km. and Pench (Maharashtra) covers around 257 sq. km. Pench was declared as a Tiger Reserve under Project Tiger in 1999 and became the 25th tiger reserve of the country. The Totladoh reservoir which is a result of the Totladoh Hydroelectric Project is situated in the heart of the tiger reserve and takes up almost 67 sq. km. of the forest land! 

The park gets its name from the Pench River, which meanders through the forests. It is the panoramic beauty of this region that has been described as early as the beginning of the 20th century by naturalists like Captain J. Forsyth in 'Highlands of Central India' and by Rudyard Kipling in the 'Jungle Book'. The poet Kalidas also wrote about the scenic charm of this place in his epics Meghdootam and Sakuntalam.
Photo: Jayesh Paranjape

The Pench Tiger Reserve of Maharashtra is relatively unknown and not visited by many tourists as compared to Pench (M.P.) and Tadoba. But it is one of the finest and most biodiverse forest in Maharashtra. The best wildlife sightings happen between March & June, when the forest thins, smaller streams and rivers run dry and animals congregate at waterholes (locally known as doh) to seek respite from the heat. The Nagdeo pahadi, the Ambakhori waterfall and Gawli ghat are probably the best areas in Pench to see wildlife including tigers, leopards and sloth bears. Pench is a birder’s paradise with more than 170 recorded bird species. Water birds are often found around the artificial wetlands created by the submergence of the Pench reservoir. The area is on the migratory route of waterfowl during winter.

A trip to Pench (Maharashtra) and an extended 2 days in Pench (M.P.) is highly recommended for those who are always on a lookout for newer wildlife reserves as the more popular or famous ones are becoming too crowded and mismanaged!

How to get there
Air: Nagpur (70 km)
Rail: Nagpur (70 km)
Road: Buses can be boarded at Nagpur till Pauni on the Nagpur-Jabalpur highway. The park gate at Sillari is 10 km from Pauni.
Best Time to Visit: January to June. The park is open to tourists from October to June. Park is open on all days of the week. Safari timings are 6:00 am – 11:00 am and 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm.  Personal vehicles, light vehicles and 15-seater buses are allowed inside the park with speed restrictions.


Mansar Excavation Site

Photo: Jayesh Paranjape

In 1972, an image of Shiva Vamana was found on a hillock, locally known as Hidimba Tekdi in Mansar, on the Nagpur-Jabalpur highway. Important excavations have been carried out at Mansar since 1997-98, under the aegis of Archaeological Survey of India (Delhi) and the Buddhist organization of the Nagarjuna Smaraka Sanstha (Nagpur) and so far five sites have been excavated. A huge temple complex recognized as Pravaresvara and a three-meter tall lime model of a male figurine in crouching position, were unearthed. Sculptures of Hindu deities, artifacts, and some coins of 5th century have also been discovered in these excavations. Detection of ancient tools and water reservoirs indicate the presence of large inhabitants in this area around 1600 years ago. The site still remains unknown to most of the people living in Mansar, Nagpur or Maharashtra, but is definitely worth a visit on the way to Pench or Ramtek.

Ramtek Temple

Photo: Siddhesh Dhupe

It is believed that Ramtek was the place where Rama, the Hindu god, rested while he was in exile. Legend has it that the aashram of great Hindu sage Agastya was situated close to Ramtek. While the sages performed religious rites, the demons used to disrupt their activities and slayed a great number of holy men. Lord Rama was distressed to hear about this, and took a vow to relieve the world from the demons. ‘Tek’ means vow in local language, hence the word Ramtek comes from ‘Vow of Ram’. Thus it is believed locally that whoever takes a vow at Ramtek is blessed by the gods for its fulfillment. The present temple at Ramtek is believed to have been built by the King of Nagpur Raghuji Bhonsale, after his victory over fort of Deogarh in Chindwara. This place is also famous for its relation with Great poet Kalidasa who wrote his epic Meghdootum in hills of Ramtek.


A haven for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts, Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary lies in Gondia district of Maharashtra and covers an area of 152 sq. km. This sanctuary and the adjoining Navegaon National Park have been calling out for additional protection and management of its forests and wildlife. The Government of Maharashtra finally declared that the Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary and the Navegaon National Park will soon be notified as the Nagzira-Navegaon Tiger Reserve. Additionally, around 152 sq. km. of forest have been added to Nagzira and 122 sq. km. have been added to Navegaon.

The Nagzira Lake which is located right in the core of the sanctuary is probably one of the best places to observe wildlife. The lake guarantees a source of water to wildlife throughout the year and also greatly heightens the beauty of the landscape. Locals believe that Kolu Patel Kohli created the lake at the beginning of the 18th century with the help of the Gods! On the lake fringe there is an idol of Hanuman whose feet are said to go below the embankment. Nagzira exhibits an amazing diversity of terrain. The seven peaks (altitude ranging between 400 and 750 m) surrounding the lake are known as the Saat Bahini or Seven Sisters. There are times in Nagzira when you can see several species of large mammals in just one safari ride. This can range from a tigress and her cubs resting in an artificial waterhole, a leopard on a tree, wild dog packs to an occasional sloth bear crossing the road!

How to get there
Air: Nagpur (122 km)
Rail: Gondia (45 km) and Bhandara (75 km)
Road: Sakoli (22 km) has a bus stand which is well connected to Gondia, Bhandara & Nagpur
Best time to visit: Januar to May. The park is open to tourists from October to June. Park is open on all days of the week. Safari timings are 6:00 am – 11:00 am and 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm.  Personal vehicles, light vehicles and 15-seater buses are allowed inside the park with speed restrictions.

If you want to make a trip to these tiger havens and explore the unknown history and culture of Vidarbha, do write to us on or visit 

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