Bandhavgarh forest have definite history. Here we study the history of Bandhavgarh which was also referred as Bandhogarh in some old books. It is a beautiful dense forest spread over Vindhya hills in Central India. As per old legends, Bandhavgarh was gifted by Lord Rama to his younger brother Lakshmana.The word "Bandhavgarh" is a combination of two Hindi language words: Bandhav + Garh, where 'Bandhav' means the brother and Garh means the fort, so the name of   Bandhavgarh means the brother's fort. The name of the reserve was due to the presence of ancient fort on the hill. Apart from legendry history, popular history of Bandhavgarh says that this region was ruled by Baghel rulers thus forest is part of old Baghelkhand. Their ruling period is popularly known to everyone as they ruled for long time, over this region due to their political diplomacy and hold control over this forest. It was their private hunting preserve used mainly for hunting trips, with their VIP guests or as an outing trips. They had control over this forest till 1968 and after this year, government took over the control and managing it as per their rules and regulations. Bandhavgarh is surrounded by 32 hills in which many natural and man-made caves are present which are rich source of Bandhavgarh history.

Post Baghela Period

Bandhavgarh fort is counted among oldest forts of India. As per ancient records of 2nd and 3rd century, this region was ruled by Magh rulers. They had control over the large region of Central India. Evidence derived from local caves between Ganesh mountain and Himgiri, indicates towards rules of Bhimsen (Vasithi Put). Another inscription indicates towards rule of Kochiput. This was period of 86 AD. These inscriptions indicates their rule from Ginja hills to Bandhavgarh hills. Another ruler from this dynasty was Shiva Magha. Their were many man-made and natural caves in those days, used by saints for their meditational practice in seclusion. Most of those saints are followers of Lord Shiva. Magha dynasty was followed by Bhar Shiva Nag. It was time of 150 AD. They ruled over Bandhavgarh region, Rewa till Koushambi in Uttar Pradesh. It was a considerably large area with fertile land. In those days, this region was know by names like Uchhakalp and Paribvajak. After Gupta rulers, this region was ruled by Sengar dynasty. It was period of 5th century. From 6-7th century, Haihay Kalchuri gained power in this region and took over the control of Bandhavgarh region. They made their capital in Tripuri, located at the ourskirt of Jabalpur city. During this period, large number of infrastructural work carried out like construction of huge temples, forts, statues etc. In those days, Rewa region was known by the name of Dahal desh. After downfall of Kalchuri rule, their was a vaccum of power which was later filled by Baghels, from Gujarat.

Baghela Dynasty

The name Baghela is derived from word Bagh which means Tiger in English. As Chandela word is derived from Chandra means moon and Bundela is derived from Boond means drop of blood so is Baghela. Maharaja Vyaghradev was the first Baghela ruler who entered into Central India from Gujarat state. He reached Chitrakoot region first. After fall of Kalchuri rule, their was power vaccume thus he took advantage of the circumstances and established his rule and started expanding this area by acquiring new kingdoms through marriage or power. Bandhavgarh came into their control through marriage of Baghela ruler to princess of Kalchuri ruler. It was Raja Ramchandra who shifted the kingdom capital from Gahora to Bandhavgarh in year 1562. Later this place was visited by famous musician Tansen and saint Kabir. The Baghels were believed to be ruled the Bandhavgarh fort for the long period. After being seized by Mughal forces, they decided for shift their capital to Rewah. In 1618 AD, they decided to shift their capital from Bandhavgarh to Rewa and thus human disturbance gradually reduced in Bandhavgarh and thus human establishments were replaced by nature in the form of forest. Despite of shift in power center, Bandhavgarh fort and Bandhavdheesh temple remain active. Later fort building collapsed due to maintenance problem but temple remain active in maintained condition. With the reduction in human disturbance and development of forest, wild animals population get increased in this forest and thus used by Baghela rulers for hunting purpose. They have tradition to kill at least 109 tiger in their life time. 

Hunting in Bandhavgarh

As per the available records, Baghela rulers conducts hunting expedition trips, time to time to put control over the population of predators and have adventure and fun. Such private hunting preserves were used for consolidating diplomatic relations with other rulers, British India officers and VIP guests. It is something like what we see today as various summits where leaders meet each other, do dinner diplomacy, sign agreements etc. The XXXII king Gulab Singh Ju Deo (1918-1946) shot 616 tigers in which 327 were male and 289 were females. In addition to this he shot 526 other animals also. Next king Martand Singh Ju Deo shot 131 tiger in which 86 were males and 45 were females. The largest tiger he shot was of 10 feet 9 inches long and was shot in Panghata forest. Current Maharaja Pushparaj Singh Ju Deo who caught the white tiger cub in 1951, from forest of Sanjay Dubri national park area and was kept in enclosure for breeding program. It was same King Pushparaj Singh who surrendered this fores to Indian Government to form national park for better wildlife conservation and effective management. Hunting continued in India till 1972. In those days, trophy hunting trips were organized by some travel companies thus finally hunting stopped from 1972 with introduction of Project Tiger in India.

Tiger Reserve

In year 1968, when Bandhavgarh forest was handed over to central government, it was declared as national park. Later with introduction of Project Tiger in year 1972, it was selected for this project. Later in year 1993, Bandhavgarh national park was selected for status of Tiger Reserve. Since then its fate changed and tourism started growing in this forest. 

National Park

Bandhavgarh was declared as national park in year 1968. Till this time, it was continues as a private hunting preserve of Baghela ruler thus remain away from normal public. Due to private preserve, here tiger hunting was not allowed to outsiders and only royal family members were allowed for hunting practice. Considering its vast area and poor management practices, Maharaja decided to handover it to central government for effective management of national park and since then it came into access of normal tourists.

Bandhavgarh Fort Area

Bandhavgarh fort is now a days closed for general tourists thus we can't access this region. But till year 2012. it was accessible to all tourists under dedicated Fort Safari title in which tourists can visit hill-top to visit this flat-top hill and witness the ancient caves, statues, temples, ponds etc.As if now, fort is almost invisible but some signs are still visible. During Kabir darshan yatra on December month, we can visit this place to see the Kabir temple and other monuments.

Popular Tigers of Past

It is a popular fact that Bandhavgarh national park is the best place in the world for good tiger sighting. Here tourists increased with the end of 20th century thus its past popular tiger record is available from year 2000. Here Sita tigress and Charger tiger are all tiger most popular tiger pair of Bandhavgarh. Their contribution to Bandhavgarh tiger population is unmatched. Here they were treated as celebrities of the park. Later some other popular tigers came into lime light like B1, B2, B3, Bokha, Mahaman Male, Baghdalakha female, Mangu Male, Jhurjhura Tigress, Kankati tigress, Kankati Junior tigress, Banbehi female, Solo tigress, Jobhi male etc.  

Kabir Panth

Bandhavgarh introduction is incomplete without describing about Kabir temple in Bandhavgarh fort hill. It is a holy place for Kabir Panth followers. During Baghela dynasty rule, saint Kabir visited Bandhavgarh and spend some time in Bandhavgarh for meditational practice. In memory of his visit, here Kabir temple is present where we can find small statue of saint Kabir. His local ardent follower was Seth Dharam Das ji. He was rich local merchant thus we can also find Dharamdas temple in same region. Here holy journey called Kabir Darshan Yatra is organized every year in month of December in which Kabir devotees were allowed to visit hill tip Kabir temple. It is a two days fair in which thousands of devotees from various parts of India, pay their visit to Kabir temple. Whole journey is done by walking, without any vehicle. Those who have not seen the Bandhavgarh fort area, may participate in this yatra to visit this beautiful location, inside core zone area. 

Jungle Safari in Past

Due to high tiger density and high probability of tiger sighting, Bandhavgarh is very popular tiger reserve among wildlife lovers. Tourists from different countries, pay visit to Bandhavgarh. Tiger safari trip or tiger photography trip is considered incomplete without doing jungle safaris in this national park. Here ways of jungle safari changed with passage of time. In early days i.e period of 90's, when tourism is low in this place, their was fixed safari timing but no restriction on number of safari vehicles count. Even tourists are allowed to do jungle safari on their personal petrol vehicle. Till year 1980, baiting was used to arrange good tiger sighting for tourists. Bait system was cruel for used widely in national parks of India. In this process, bait was purchased from local villages, tied in tiger territory in evening hours so that tiger can kill him till night and spend next day near kill. Thus elephant rides were organized to show the tiger near its kill and thus tourists can easily enjoy the tiger sighting. But considering the curelty involved in this system, opposition of local villagers for using their cattle as bait and intervention of our Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi, this system was closed in year 1982 and new system i.e. Tiger Show was offered.  Till this time, tiger population increased in national park thus no need for dependency on bait system. Here first tiger was located, if away from safari road, elephant ride was offered to tourists to see the tiger for 5-10 minutes only and drop back to safari vehicle. Tiger show continued till year 2012 and then closed permanently. Till year 2012 some new restrictions were imposed like vehicle count was fixed for jungle safari, new safari zones were opened for tourists to explore some new areas of national park, Wednesday evening safari was closed for tourists. They also introduced the concept of Premium and Non-Premium zones with difference in safari permit fee. In those days, safari permit fee of foreigner visitor is almost double to Indian tourists permit fee. Later both permium zone system and difference is safari permit fee was abolished. Thus jungle safari experience journey has passed through many phases and will pass through some more phases in future also.