The cousins of Sher Khan and Richard Parker are waiting for you. If you can’t find them, they will find you. Come. Explore Madhya Pradesh…. writes Kaliph Anaz
Panna National Park is one of the best wildlife attractions in the state. Situated at a distance of within 50 km from Khajuraho, Panna accommodates one of the most famous tiger reserves in the country. The region is also famous for its diamond industry. Panna is home to some of the best wildlife species in India. The park is known worldwide for its wild cats, including tigers as well as deer and antelope. Due to its closeness to one of the best-known Indian tourist attraction in India, Khajuraho, the park is recognised as an exciting stop-over destination.
When the tiger population is dwindling across the world, Panna is thriving. Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated field director and his team, and daily wage labourers who learned to care enough about the animals to protect them, it’s proudly home to 24 striped cats. And while it’s an everyday challenge, to keep them all alive and thriving, it’s become a model for tiger conservation efforts as far away as Russia and Cambodia.
Rangaiah Sreenivasa Murthy, the present field director of Panna Tiger Reserve, came to Panna in May 2009 with a sole aim to increase the tiger count. With the support of Dr Raghu Chundawat, a conservation biologist, he changed the scenario.
Created in 1981, the reserve is spread over the Panna and Chhatarpur districts, covering an area of 547 sq km. It is one of the six tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh and is located in the northern part of the state. The huge reserve, known for its table-top topography, provides a conducive environment for the tiger to survive.
From a place that was looked down upon after it lost all its tigers, Panna is now considered an excellent example as far as providing security and the perfect habitat for tigers, its co-predators and prey base, is concerned.
* * The ‘buffer’ area of the reserve, also known as the tiger corridor, extends up to 1,002 sq km.
* The dry-deciduous, Savannah-type grasslands make up the forest cover.
* The Ken river runs through the forest and is known Tao be one of the purest sources of water in the district.
* There are natural rock formations in the forest, known as Seha. It is here that tigers mate and rear their cubs.
* Apart from the majestic tiger, the reserve is home to leopards, hyenas, wolves and sloth bear too.
* Their prey, the sambhar (the tiger’s favourite meal), chital, nilgai and chausingha are in abundance in the forest.
The Khajuraho temples are one of the top historical destinations in India. There are over 20 temples abounding in erotic sculptures. However, more than that, they show a celebration of love, life and worship besides Indian spirituality
Kanha National Park has the honour of providing the setting for Rudyard Kipling’s classic novel, The Jungle Book. It’s rich in lush saal and bamboo forests, lakes, streams and open grasslands. As well as tigers, the park abounds with barasingha (swamp deer) and an extensive variety of other animals and birds. Rather than offering one particular kind of animal, it provides an all-round nature experience. The park is well regarded for its research and conservation programs, and many endangered species have been saved there.
The great thing about Gwalior is that it’s so accessible — only two hours drive from Agra and the Taj Mahal in Uttar Pradesh. The main attraction the massive hilltop fort that towers over the city. Reputed to be one of the most invincible forts in India, its history stretches back over 1,000 years. Inside the fort walls are a number of palaces and temples, the highlight being the Man Mandir Palace. At the bottom of the fort is the Old Town of Gwalior, brimming with history and fine examples of Mughal architecture such as the Tomb of Tansen. The Tansen Music Festival is held at the tomb every December.
Orchha is located on the banks of the Betwa River, a comfortable hour and a half south of Gwalior. It’s another relatively peaceful place, full of well preserved palaces and temples, with a distinctly medieval charm. Three main palaces are enclosed in Orccha’s fortified walls. The Jahangir Mahal is the largest and most impressive, and its upper levels offer some arresting panoramic views. A stay inside the Jahangir Mahal, at the Hotel Sheesh Mahal, completes the experience. Being a government run hotel, it’s not luxurious but it is full of character.
Some of India’s oldest Buddhist relics can be found at Sanchi, northeast of Bhopal. Most notable is the Great Stupa, built by Emperor Ashoka in 262 BC after he embraced Buddhism, as penance for the atrocities he inflicted on the state of Kalinga (in Orissa). You’ll find a number of other stupas, temples, and monasteries there, along with an archeological museum. Sanchi can be visited on a day trip from Bhopal, but it’s worth staying there its a convenient base for numerous other side trips.
Bandhavgarh National Park
Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Parks are among the top national parks in India. Bandhavgarh, while being relatively difficult to reach and costly to visit, is the best place to see tigers in the wild in India. The park features dense green valleys and rocky hill terrain, with an ancient fort. In addition to tigers, the park has a large array of wildlife including sloth bears, deer, leopards, jackals, and birds.