India is a land of rich cultural diversity. The history of the nation holds evidence to the lifestyle of the rulers, their interests and their indulgence in different sports . Even during the British Rule, hunting was vividly prevalent among the society. An enormous stretch of land with a wide variety of animals were preserved or marked only for the purpose of hunting. However with time, the changes in the way of living resulted in converting these hunting grounds to a protected area for the preservation of those rare wild species of animals. To name a few, here are top 10 private hunting grounds turned into a National Park in India.
1/. Ranthambore National Park:
Earlier Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II of Jaipur’s hunting ground, Ranthambore National Park is one of the largest national park in the northern India. With the Project Tiger Reserve in 1973, Ranthambore earned its name and was declared as a National Park in 1980. Famous as a tiger reserve, it also houses other animals such as leopard, nilgai, wild boar, sambar, hyena, sloth bear, southern plains gray langur, rhesus macaque and chital.
2/. Gir National Park:
Out of an area of 1412 square kms, 258 square kms of the Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is dedicated to the National Park. Earlier a private hunting area of the Nawab of Junagadh, it was declared a protected area in 1900 as the asiatic lion, found only in this area, was endangered due to trophy hunting.
3/. Dachigam National Park:
Covering an area of 141 square kms, Dachigam National Park was a private hunting preserve of Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir. It was in the year of 1981 that the park was declared as a National park housing a wide variety of flora and fauna such as musk deer, yellow-throated marten, Himalayan weasel, hill fox, leopard and many more.
4/. Manas National Park:
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, a tiger reserve, an elephant reserve and also a biosphere reserve; Manas National Park derives its name from the River Manas. Earlier it served as a hunting ground of the Maharaja of Cooch Behar and the Raja of Gauripur. It was declared a sanctuary in 1928 yet the hunting rights of the kings were acknowledged until 1973 when it became a tiger reserve.
5/. Keoladeo National Park:
In the early 1900s, the Keoladeo National Park was the private hunting grounds of Maharaja Brijendra Singh of Bharatpur. Once a year, bird shooting sport was organized to honour the British Government. The Maharajas however enjoyed the hunting privileges up until 1971, when it was declared a bird sanctuary and later a national park in 1982.
6/. Rajiv Gandhi National Park:
Yet another hunting ground for the Maharajas of Mysore, Rajiv Gandhi National Park; also known as Nagarhole National Park was declared as a National Park in 1988. This hunting reserve was exclusively for the Wodeyar kings. It is also under the consideration of the UNESCO World Heritage committee for it to be a World Heritage Site.
7/. Bandhavgarh National Park:
Located at Madhya Pradesh with an area of 105 square kms, Bandhavagarh National Park was once a hunting ground for the Maharaja of Reva until 1968. Surrounded around the Bandhavgarh Fort, it has the highest number of Bengal Tiger in the world.
8/. Periyar National Park:
Famous for its elephant reserve and tiger reserve, the initiative towards the conservation of wildlife and biodiversity was first taken by Maharaja of Travancore, Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma. He declared the forest area as a private game reserve to stop the spread of tea plantation over this area. However it was declared a National Park in 1982.
9/. Bandipur National Park :
Earlier a private hunting ground for the Maharajas of Mysore, Bandipur National Park was declared a tiger reserve in 1974 under Project Tiger. It was earlier known as the Venugopal Wildlife park and is majorly famous for the dry decidious forest.
10/. Madhav National Park:
Ever since time immemorial, it has been the hunting grounds of the Mughals and later the Scindia. With a total area of 354 square kms, the Madhav National Park is a home to a wide variety of flora and fauna and is equally rich in avifauna. George castle is also found within the premise of the national park, built for the purpose of tiger shooting.