How Pench National Park Inspired Rudyard Kiplings Jungle Book

Truth is stranger than fiction – Well, this turned out to be more than a maxim in Pench National Park when in 1831 Lieutenant Moor witnessed a human child nurtured by the wolves in the forests. The tale of this incident by Sleeman in a booklet titled ‘An Account of Wolves Nurturing Children in Their Dens’ together with Strendale’s story in Seonee inspired the fictional genius Sir Rudyard Kipling to pen down ‘The Jungle Book’ and the wolf child was commemorated as Mowgli.

For a lot of us city folks, a man-cub named Mowgli delivered our first interaction with the wild. In The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling’s realistic characters walk free in the jungles of Seonee—an imaginary forest displayed on the jungle adjoining the Seoni district; a forest we now hear as Pench National Park. 

These jungles are a part of Pench in MP and were acknowledged as a national park in 1983 and then tiger reserve in 1993. One just has to stare at the serene Wainganga river, the breathtaking Seoni Hills and gasp in wonder at the striking gorge where Mowgli killed Sher Khan – the villain character tiger of Jungle Book – to be convinced of the mixture of reality and fiction.

Kipling had functioned in old Madhya Pradesh. It is rather likely that he went to the Seoni forest, experienced the natural beauty and saw the wildlife of that area. The jungles of Seoni so fascinated Rudyard Kipling that Pench Tiger Reserve replaced Rajasthan as the muse for the location of story ‘The Jungle Book’.

It is not hard to see how Rudyard Kipling couldn’t help being captivated by the Satpura ranges, the numerous streams and rivulets – most of them leaping from the Pench river, massive tracts enclosed by teak and assorted forests. The wildlife, most well-known of which is the Royal Tiger, also comprises Indian leopard, Sloth bear, numerous kinds of deer and certainly Rudyard’s adoptive family for Mowgli – the wolves.

The royal tiger dominates this forest, seizing the imaginations of each visitor who travels through its teak and mahua forests. At last count, 57 tigers wandered Pench—a number that has been gradually increasing over the last few years.

There is no signal of the big cat, but you will begin to classify birds, learn about various trees, and hear interesting tales of the jungle. The best piece of advice for you is to “always enter the jungle with an open mind.”  Without the load of your own expectations, the forest proves to be an exciting place, where even the tiniest of creatures has a character to play. 

Pench National Park is also home to more than 250 species of birds that comprises a number of migratory birds – the crimson breasted barbet, red vented bulbul, magpie robin, teal and blue kingfisher are some of the prime attractions. Sitaghat on the banks of the river Pench delivers a peaceful spot for bird watching.

Nature indeed meets fantasy – and all of it in reality – right here in the land of Mowgli. Do we hear Sher Khan roar in consent?