|Almost all visitors to Ranthambhore come to see tigers, but sadly, many are ignorant of the great historical wealth of the place. Ranthambore National Park is in southeastern Rajasthan, about 130 km from Jaipur surrounded by the Vindhya Hills and the Aravali Hills at the border of the Thar. This world famous Tiger Reserve is one of the most tried and tested sanctuaries of India. Some joke that the tigers here are tame. Used to being observed, these beasts are not scared of the passing jeeps instead it arouses their curiosity. Sadly, despite best efforts their population is on decline. So spotting one might just require luck and patience. There are about 42 tigers here today.
Apart from tigers, the forest is worth visiting even just for the scenery plus winged and other legged creatures abound here. There are over 300-odd species of birds in this 400 sq km park along with animals such as leopards, striped hyenas, sambar deer, chital, nilgai, common or hanuman langurs, macaques, jackals, jungle cats, caracals, sloth bears, black bucks, Indian wild boar, chinkara, common palm civets or toddy cat, etc. At the edge of the biggest lake, Padam Talao, there is a beautiful red sandstone Jogi Mahal, and another wonder is a gigantic banyan tree, considered to be India’s second largest.
Ignorant of the historical legacy of Ranthambore, few pause to wonder at the history behind the majestic 10th-century Fort perched at the centre of the Park. What many do not know is that this same Fort was the focal point of the historical developments of the state and many wars were fought over it. Some of India’s most powerful emperors Qutub-ud-din, Allaudin Khilji, Feroz Tughlaq and Bahadur Shah of Gujarat had fought wars to capture it. The Fort was built in 944 AD by a Chauhan ruler, Tatu Meenas. After exchanging many hands, in the later half of the 19th century, it was gifted to the ruler of Jaipur, Sawai Madho Singh by a Mughal Emperor. From then on it remained with the Rajputs who used it as their hunting ground. Maharaja Sawai Singh developed a city, Sawai Madhopur, around the fort in 1727. The Fort is named after two hills - Thambore on which the fort is located and nearby hill Ran.
The best way to explore the Sanctuary is by a jeep safari. And apart from wildlife it also entails a cultural and traditional experience with the Meena tribes especially during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. There is a temple of Lord Ganesha inside the Fort considered one of the most eminent Ganesha temples of Rajasthan. In August thousands of devotees visit the temple singing 'bhajans' to the God and outside the temple is lined with shops selling general merchandise and small trinkets.