Royal Bengal Tiger
All about Royal Bengal Tiger
Constituting more than half of the tiger population in the wild, the Royal Bengal Tiger is found almost throughout the Indian subcontinent including Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Panthera tigris tigris can thrive in many types of forests or grasslands, and the Bengal is the only subspecies that also inhabits mangrove forests, in the Sundarbans in Eastern India and Bangladesh.
Royal Bengal Tiger: A symbol embedded in Indian Culture
The Royal Bengal tiger has been a national symbol of India since about the 25th century BCE when it was displayed on the Pasupati seal of the Indus Valley Civilization. Over many centuries they have become an important part of Indian tradition and lore. The tiger was later the symbol of the Chola Empire from 300 CE to 1279 CE and is now designated as the official animal of India. In traditional Indian lore, the tiger is revered as the protector of the forest.Indian mythology has several stories where the tiger is believed to have powers to do everything from fighting dragons to create rain, keeping children safe from nightmares, and having healing properties.
Owing to this love-hate relationship with the tiger, it had been elated to the status of Animal-God by many tribal people that reside deep within the forest. This seems to be a nature-fearing worship, a belief that reinforces that by worshiping an element of nature, it will cease to inflict harm to the worshiper and rather act as the protector.
In Western India, the Warli tribe worships the Tiger God, Vaghdeva (Tiger God). They believe that the tiger is the greatest of all gods and donate part of their harvest every season to the tiger, as a symbol of life and regeneration. A unique belief bestows the tiger with the bringer of fertility; Warli couples are dressed in tiger colours – red and yellow shawls – when they visit the temple of the Goddess of Marriage, Palaghata. According to legend, if the goddess is angry, the shawls would turn into tigers and devour the couple. If she is pleased, the couple is blessed with a child
In Eastern India, the Goddess Durga is shown riding a tiger. Goddess Durga is worshiped as the ‘Destroyer of Evil’ and the tiger was probably chosen as a symbol of power and immortality
Down South, the power and beauty of the tiger is celebrated through community festivals that involve Tiger Dances. These typically occur during the carnival celebrations of Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna.
From these depictions throughout the length and breadth of India, it is evident that tigers have been regarded as life-givers, guardians and protectors.
Might and Power of Royal Bengal Tiger
Male Bengal tigers measure 8 to 10 ft (2 to 3m) in length, and can weigh from 440-650 lb (200-300 Kg). Female Bengal tigers measure from around 8 to almost 9 ft (2.5 to 2.6 m) and weigh in around 220 to 400 lb (100 to 181 kg). They are known for their power and in one incident a Bengal tiger was reported dragging away a dead Gaur which 13 men were not able to move. As a Gaur can weigh 1 ton or more, it would mean the tiger had to be able to drag something 5 times its own weight. The Royal Bengal Tiger is gifted with a great vision and strong sense of smell which enables it to hunt large prey.
Variants by observation
While not different sub-species, adaptability to different climates over time have endowed region specific tigers with peculiar characteristics. These differences can be observed if one visits the national parks of India across various regions.
- White Tiger: The white tiger is a recessive mutant of the Bengal tiger, which is reported in the wild from time to time in Assam, Bengal, Bihar and especially from the former State of Rewa ( now Bandhavgarh National Park). Categorically weaker than their normal counterparts, more often than not these struggle to survive in the wild.
- Sunderbans Tiger: Significantly smaller than their other royal Bengal counterparts to enable them to swim large distances, these tigers of the mangroves have significantly adapted to life in the marshes. With scant large prey and difficult and uncertain terrains, they have developed to be excellent swimmers and fishers. Due to the unavailability of easy prey, many have turned to attacking humans as a source of food.
- Corbett Tigers: These dwellers of the dense Kumaon forests have a denser coat than their brothers and sisters from the South. A more orange tinge to the coat and more muscular frame to enable them to traverse hilly terrains make these a delight for the eyes.
As per the latest tiger census, the population of this majestic species has increased by over 30 % , to a count of 2226. The leading states with the highest count of tigers are Karnataka (406), Uttarakhand (340), Madhya Pradesh (308), Tamil Nadu (229) and Maharashtra (190). With these figures, India is now home to 70 % of the world’s tigers.