You could not miss her for anybody else. Crouching purposefully in the grassland near the lake one morning, breaking into a cat-walk in front of 100 odd mesmerized tourists the next afternoon, and in the evening bringing down a sambar deer to feed her cubs, the oddly named Machli—which means fish in Hindi—ruled Ranthambore in a way no tiger had before her.
Machli’s fame crossed national boundaries, regularly attracting shutterbugs from every corner of the globe. The world-wide popularity brought her another sobriquet: `Queen of Ranthambore’. And when she died in August 2016, the Rajasthan government issued a postage stamp in her honour—the only time a tiger received such an uncommon salute.
At around the time Machli was expanding her territory and popularity in Ranthambore, another tiger was busy making a reputation for himself some 750 kilometres away, in the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve of Madhya Pradesh. And what a fearsome and blood-curdling image he conjured among his countless admirers. Even the name he carried fitted his personality to a T: Charger!
Machli and Charger were privileged tigers indeed. But there have been many striped felines as popular as the two: Khali of Corbett Park, Maya the current reigning queen of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve of Maharashtra, Prince of Karnataka’s Bandipur National Park, Munna of Kanha Tiger Reserve. The list of India’s celebrity tigers is quite long and it continues to grow, matching pace with the arrival of fresh heartthrobs in Bollywood, Kollywood and Tollywood.
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