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The Biggest Tiger Of Central India – The Umarpani Male Of Kanha National Park

Umarpani Male

An old Chinese proverb “one hill cannot shelter two tigers’ is quite apt for the Tigers of Kanha. The tigers of Kanha are exceptionally big in size. Having observed Tigers for close to 30 years in many nationals parks (especially in the Central India highlands) I think Umarpani male (the biggest tiger of Kanha) has it all going for him as far as size, strength, and stealth is concerned. He certainly can be crowned as the biggest tiger of central India. Umarpani male (the biggest tiger of Kanha), slightly premature to crown him as the future King of Kanha as there is some serious competition on the cards from Chotta Munna who is taking his father’s legacy very seriously.

A lot of this has to be dedicated to his genes. His forefathers have been dominating Tigers in Kanha for past generations. Let us see which lineage does he come from.

The lineage of Umarpani male, the biggest tiger of Kanha:

 

Father is Munna, the legendary Tiger who has CAT spelled on his forehead. At 15 years of age, Munna is still controlling the main tourism zone of Kanha. The world knows him, and he needs o further introduction. Munna’s father also known as the Limping male was one of the dominating and a huge Tiger before Munna.

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Limping male, father of Munna, and grandfather of Umarpani male:

 

Mother is Umarpani female, the daughter of Banda, the dominant male Tiger of Kanha before Munna, and Sonapani female, who in turn is the sister of legendary Laxmi (not the same litter). This is the reason for her size. Her size confused people with a male Tiger quote often. So her genes come from dominating male and popular Tigresses of Kanha.

 

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Umarpnai female, daughter of Banda and mother of Umarpani male,. Photo by a past guest of ours

 

Umarpani male,  the biggest tiger of Kanha:

 

He was born around Nov 2009, they were two brothers and sisters in the litter. The other male cub was even bigger than him. He was shaping up well until about 2 years old when tragedy struck. When and where he disappeared along with his sister none know. Umarpani male (the biggest tiger of Kanha) is the smaller of the two brothers. At times I wonder if his brother was around what would have been his size.

 

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Umarpani male in 2014 (5 years old) , looking like the biggest tiger of Kanha:

 

My first sighting of Umarpani male was in December 2014. I mostly followed him from behind, and only for a few seconds, I was able to take some of his side flanks. He was about 5 years at that age. His muscular build was very obvious.

Then I saw him again in June 2015. Behold, I was in a state of shock when he turned to look at me. I skipped a heartbeat or two. Never before any Tiger seemed so big to me. From close-quarters, a lot of Tigers look big. But this fellow’s largeness was evident even from a distance. It was not only his size that stole my heart, but his looks and presentation are of a killing machine. I am not sure how many people have had the opportunity of photographing Umarpani male(the biggest tiger of Kanha) for 30 minutes or more. But after that sighting, I thought if I do not see Tigers for the next 2 years I am fine, as I thought I had seen the best.

Who is bigger Munna or Umarpani male?

Today when I sit back and compare both these big Tigers, Umarpani male (the biggest tiger of Kanha) outshines Munna very comfortably in size and semblance. And this I am comparing Munna in his prime. The skull of Munna is big, but the Umarpani male’s skull is bigger, wider, and with a larger circumference. Though the height and length of both would be similar, the sheer compactness and crassitude of Umarpani put him in a class of his own. His overall bone structure, bigger limb bones, and wider skeleton put him on a pedestal where his huge father starts to look minor in size compared to him. After all Umarpani male has the advantage of his mother’s genes as well. She was one of the largest Tigress of Kanha ever.

 

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Umarpani (the biggest tiger of Kanha) vs Bheema

 

Bheema is thinner, in fact much thinner compared to Umarpani male (the biggest tiger of Kanha). They might seem to be of the same height and length but in girth Umarpani male outclasses him. Bheema’s bone structure is a lean, smaller frame compared to Umarpani. And his skull lacks the monstrosity of Umarpani. Bheema weighed 225kgs when he was just 2.5yrs old  (vs Jai 220kgs full grown). Bheema with his winter coat would be 250kgs plus, and yet Umarpani male outmatches him in summer. Now again for a moment think about Umarpani’s brother who was even bigger than him. What a loss to Kanha by his mystifying disappearance.

 

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Bheema, June 2015

Umarpani (the biggest tiger of Kanha) vs Rajaram (Kingfisher)

 

I have been a fan of Kingfisher too as he was a peaceful Tiger who in terms of size looked similar from a distance. He like Chotta Munna gave ample opportunities to tourists to see him from close quarters. But as one would look at him closely he seemed like a Tiger on steroids. He was shorter in height compared to Uma male. Maybe hence he lacked the core muscles and his belly literally touched the ground. Length-wise also he was smaller than Bheema and Uma male. When someone saw him with a full belly he looked like a big Tiger, while he was actually a big belly Tiger. Also from the Tiger point of view, he did not have the cuts and contour of a competitive cat. He seemed to be a lot of fat and lacked a muscular manifest.

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The fatal fight, October 2016: Umarpani male vs Rajaram

 

Umarpani (the biggest tiger of Kanha) had a close skirmish with Rajaram in January 2015, wherein he got Rajaram to retreat. Though both seemed to have some injuries, Rajaram left his area and stayed away. So Uma male had a measure of him from the past fights while Chotta Munna did not. So had it been Chotta Munna in the territorial fight even he would have sustained injuries. But Uma male had the knowledge of the mass and might of Rajaram so it was most likely him, and only him who could have given the fateful bite.

Another point that would point towards this direction is that the fight most likely did not last long. Uma male nailed him fast and furious, cause had it lasted long even Umarpani male (the biggest tiger of Kanha) would have sustained injuries, which he did not. He was sighted a couple of days later moving quite briskly by the forest department.

 

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Rajaram and Umarpani male (the biggest tiger of Kanha) in a territorial fight. Photo by Naren Malik

The above fight between the two was in January 2015.

No one has any evidence of the fight of October 2016, as it was seen by none. But the past records, and strength of Umarpani male (the biggest tiger of Kanha) tilt indication towards him. He usually avoids the limelight and prefers giving the tourist vehicles a skip. Uma male is mostly sighted crossing the tracks, even if he follows a vehicle it is not for a great distance. But this behavior might undergo some change now and people might start seeing him more. As killing Rajaram has given him extra expanse in the territory, and confidence for sure.

 

Umarpani (the biggest tiger of Kanha) vs Chotta Munna (Link 7)

 

This will be the comparison for the future or fight for the No 1 slot. Chotta Munna has the attitude of his father. He has gained in size over the last 4-5 months. But being younger to Umarpani ( the biggest tiger of Kanha) male would most likely be a tad deficient in strength as on date. But Chotta Munna seems to be catching the eyeballs of everyone as he is one tourist-friendly Tiger. On the contrary Umarpani male is shy.

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Link 7 (aka Chota Munna)

 

With Rajaram out of the equation, it is but natural that Umarpani (the biggest tiger of Kanha) and Chotta Munna will expand their territory. It cannot now be ruled out that Kanha might witness another superiority sparring between these two males in the near future. It is unlikely that anyone will lose easily without giving the other some serious agony. I would pray that they both survive in case such a situation arises, as both are very strong contenders to be the next Legend of Kanha after Munna. May the strong genes of Tigers of Kanha prosper far and wide.


Umarpani male, the biggest tiger of Kanha

 

I would like to thank Minh Ha and Naren Malik for providing some crucial information on lineage, and Naren for some images as well. A special mention here for Minh Ha whose knowledge on Tigers of India is nothing short than encyclopedic. He is an inspiration to many.

 

Updates on the males in Mukki zone, Kanha (updated in October 2020)

 

I am updating this post after almost 4 years. And I am not surprised that Umarpani male, the biggest tiger of Kanha, (now 11 years plus) is still ruling Mukki. Despite being well over his prime, he is still standing ground firmly. The last two years have seen several new adult male tigers come and go.

It was Chota Munna (Link 7) who vanished from the scene almost a year back. Some said he moved out into another adjoining forest, some said he would have died. No one knows where he is, but we hope that someday he will make an entry back into the tourism zone. People just loved to see him.

December 2019

It was in late December 2019 and early 2020 that another male had some serious skirmishes with Umarpani ( the biggest tiger of Kanha). This time it was the Jamuntola male (T24). Some people who saw the duel between the stalwarts over Dhawajhandi female said, it was quite an even faceoff in which both the males were injured.

Their roars resounded afar and for long into the forest. Finally, it was T24, who had to leave the area with his tail tucked in. Despite being younger to Umarpani male he could not stand his ground and had to depart. The battleground left behind was drenched with blood. And there were several bloody pictures of Umarpani male floating around social media, but it was Umarpani male who was seen in the area again rather soon, and not T24. This clearly showed that the rank order between the two was established. Such fights normally do not end up in the death of a tiger, but

Progress to February 2020

On 1st February 2020, Garhi male (T50) also tried his luck in displacing the ruler of Mukki. But to no serious avail. He had to let go of the area. It is interesting to note that all these males were in the prime, while Umarpani (the biggest tiger of Kanha)  is well past his prime, but still, he not only survived but thrived the battles.

Balaghat male, and Baisanghat male have been transient in the territory of Uma male, but he seems to have accepted them as he knows that they do not stay there for long, and move on.

Lately, it is Neela Nallah male (T-121) that has been sighted courting the Dhawajhandi tigress, so that means another male tiger skirmish could be accepted. Though very young, the male cubs of Dhawajhandi will soon want to establish their territory.

Kope Dabri male has also been sighted in Mukki. It seems in the coming months when the mercury goes up, and the waterholes shrink, we can anticipate some serious roaring, exchange of powerful blows, and some blood on the trails in the battle-ground of Mukki, seems the stage is set for Battle Royale.

Concluding it…

But one thing for sure is that this season one would surely see more of Umarpani male (the biggest tiger of Kanha) compared to yesteryears as he is determined to retain his stronghold of his beloved Mukki.

Best Wishes

– Sharad Vats

29 thoughts on “The Biggest Tiger Of Central India – The Umarpani Male Of Kanha National Park”

    1. Good to know that Dr Neeta. Glad you saw him. He is special, the size, and demeanor in a class of his own.

    2. Had a great sighting of Umarpani today !! What an absolute king he is. He showed himself after quite some time. Have clicked some great photos of him wondering where can I share them for a productive use.

  1. Saw Him on 18th February…….. He was wounded yet poised his persona……. Must admit he is still very Shy of crowds.

  2. What an interesting write up. Wish to see uma male soon. Had sighted chota munna, sad to know that he is missing. Hope he is safe wherever he is.

      1. Neela Nallah looks really big . How much heavy it really is ? And what about weight and age of jamuntola male ?

  3. My one and only visit to Kanha at end December 2019 and we were blessed to see Umarpani nearly 9 times. He was on a marking spree and we were able to anticipate his path thanks to a very good guide. He is absolutely huge, the biggest tiger I have seen till date!!

        1. Hi Vishal,

          This indeed is sad news. It is believed that the King has indeed departed. But I know that Kanha will continue to resonate his aura and the King will forever be in our hearts. RIP Umarpani.

  4. Harshvardhan Jain

    Sir, what’s you comment on neela nallah size?? Is he in the line-up of big 4 of mukki??
    And one last question don’t you think that government should declare forest of and around balaghat a tiger reserve because there are a good no of resident tigers present.

    1. Hello Harshvardhan,

      I am yet to see Neela Nallah male, hence cannot give you an idea of the same. People who are seeing him are saying that he is huge. If I happen to see on my next visit, I will most certainly get back to you.

      You are right there are a lot of tigers around the Balaghat forest, but there are huge implications for locals, villages inside etc when a forest is declared as a tiger reserve. A balanced approach is important going forward.

  5. Harshvardhan Jain

    Sir,

    I have heard that neela nallah and Umarpani has had a fight and Umarpani was injured bad and forced to flee. After the fight that umarpani had with M1 he has not been sighted so is he died? And is neela nallah a new dominant male of mukki ?
    Hoping that you will update the blog soon

    1. Yes, Umarpani has not been sighted since 12th January 2022. Uma and M1 were amidst a duel and seen by the forest department on 12th Jan. Apparently Uma was already injured, and he did not seem to have eaten for some time. So he looked weak. M1 is practically half the age of Uma so he definitely had an advantage over an injured and a famished Uma who was not fit enough to fight. But who injured Uma is not known. It is a mystery, and Uma has not been sighted. There is no closure to Uma, so the legend of Uma lives on.

      1. Very happy to note that. ????????
        Do you confine your blogs to Kanha or do you also write as well as do safari trips to other places as well ??
        Please let me know.
        Thanks & Rgds
        Shashank

  6. Great information you have provided. I’ve been asking around for any info on Umarpani but could not ascertain any. He is a legendary Tiger and I sincerely hope he is ok.

    1. You are right Umarpani is a legend. He is definitely past his prime but he has survived the last two fights with two tigers half his age. His chapter is not over yet. He has been sighted by forest officials on the outskirts of the forest. Let us hope that the King returns to his kingdom (Mukki) soon.

  7. Hello Harshvardhan and Charger,

    It gives me immense joy to announce that Umarpani was sighted today in Mukki zones after a gap of 65 days. He looked in decent health and seems that his injuries are healed.

    Await my second blog on Umarpani soon.

  8. Harshvardhan Jain

    Recently I read your new blog on umarpani, and I just fell in love with your writing. I wish one day i could write like you.

    I visited kanha in December 2021, and got the opportunity to saw neela nallah and junior bajrang. Neela nallah’s size completely amazed me that’s when our naturalist told us his size is nothing in front of king Umarpani from that day, i am still thinking what could be the size of Uma. May be on my next visit I will find the answer on my own.

    Thankyou for updating and providing precious knowledge about the wilderness of india through you blogs ????.

    1. Dear Harshvardhan,

      Thank you for your kind words about the blog. I am glad you liked it. Like someone said, every stone has a statue inside, similarly, everyone has a write inside. You need to take it out by regular writing, and a lot of reading.
      Neela Nallah male is quite big I believe; I am yet to see him. On my next visit, I will try and focus on him.
      Yes, Uma male is special, his size in his heydays was unrivaled.

      Warm regards

      Sharad

  9. Harshvardhan Jain

    Hello sir, In the 1 week of February, I’ll be visiting bandhavgarh. Just wanted to ask, Do you know any experienced naturalist and driver that can make our visit worthy and memorable.

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