Ranthambhore National Park
Standing out in stark contrast to the biological desert that Rajasthan has become, the Ranthambhore forest is like a balm, its soothing effect palpable the moment one enters the portals of the massive stone ramparts of the fabled Ranthambhore Fort. Constructed to protect kings… the battlements now defend another threatened monarch - the tiger.
History And Culture
The Ranthambhore Fort, occupied for years by Raja Hamir, has lent its name to the Tiger Reserve. A Hindu battlement, it has seen a series of Muslim rulers try unsuccessfully to lay siege to it, including Allaudin Khilji in 1301. The army of the Moghul Emperor Akbar camped here (1558-1569) and the Akbar Namah records the menu that the generals were served when they had a meal under the famous banyan tree that visitors can still see at the base of the ramparts.
A walk up to the fort reveals legends in stone of brave warriors and tales of johar (ritual suicide) committed by more than a thousand women who mistakenly presumed their men folk had been vanquished by Khilji’s forces. Pilgrims still visit a Ganesh temple here with the same fervour as did their ancestors. The famous battis kambha chhattri (32-pillar canopy) was built by Raja Hamir to mark the 32nd year of his father’s reign, and stands as an example of fi lial devotion.
The Ranthambhore Park earned Sanctuary status in 1958 and when Project Tiger was launched in 1973, it really began to receive the protection it deserved. Placed under the care of the now-famous Fateh Singh Rathore, by the 80s the park had earned itself the distinction of being one of the world’s best-known tiger forests. The first real signs of ecological renewal were the scores of once-dry pools, streams and rivulets that began running full of water all year long. This helped native plants to re-establish themselves. A major side-benefit of Ranthambhore’s return to health was the ground water recharge service performed by the forest, which helped restock wells in surrounding villages.
Vegetation / Flora
It is exactly because of the activities of the creatures of the park that Ranthambhore is so rich in natural wealth. Wild fruit seeds dropped by bats, sloth bear and birds and grass seeds caught on the coats of foraging mammals only to be deposited elsewhere, in different parts of the forest, have resulted in a profusion of plant life.
Wild animals are the finest gardeners of such Edens. At the eastern limits of the Aravalli the rolling hills are covered with forest flora typical of dry deciduous habitat, with dhok trees dominating the landscape. Ber, sal, pipal and banyan, the odd mango groves and scattered palm trees are among the other species that support Ranthambhore’s impressive insect and birdlife.