Ranthambore was a battlefield. In early medieval times, Ranthambore was a powerful independent kingdom that controlled trade routes to the rich Malwa plateau. At the heart of this kingdom was the massive and “impregnable” Ranthambore fort that had a thriving community living around it — a community that built amazing buildings. In the middle of the 15th century, Mughal emperor Akbar annexed Ranthambore. Over the next few centuries all the beautiful monuments of Ranthambore fell into ruins and gradually the forest took over. However, it was not till the 1980s that a dozen of the biggest villages inside the park were relocated under Project Tiger and tigers began to make a comeback and reclaim the forest and the monuments.
There are very few places in the world where one can see wild tigers grooming themselves in ancient monuments built centuries ago. Where else do you hear phrases like “Mahal ke jharokhe mein Arrowhead baithi hai” (Arrowhead, the tigress is sitting in the balcony of the palace). It is this mix of history and natural history that makes Ranthambore really special. This is what attracted me to Ranthambore in 1984 when I came here for the first time as an 18-year-old and this is what kept getting me back here till 1998, when I permanently relocated to Ranthambore. In the last 23 years, I have spent nearly 50,000 hours inside the Ranthambore national park and I am still as fascinated with it.