Hindu Temple And Tiger
Robert Bateman Hand Signed Artist Proof 16.25″ x 32.5″
Edition Size: 76
“The tiger, the great cat of Asia, is a symbol of life and strength. Unlike the gregarious lion, the tiger lives a solitary and secretive life. Yet, because he can be so dangerous, this elusive quality only adds to his air of mystery and seems to give him mystical powers. Tragically, this attribute has proved to be his undoing. Certain Asian cultures believe that the tiger’s body parts will instill a variety of benefits in human beings . . . the most sought after being virility. This belief, when put into practice, has always meant the slaughter of tigers. In recent years, the practice has grown from local folk medicine to modern marketing, modern weapons and international trade. The result: tiger populations are in a tailspin to oblivion.
Seeing a tiger in the wild is still a possibility in a handful of nature reserves, especially in India. Even here, tigers are poached, and the environment is being destroyed by human population pressures. Tigers are never easy to see.
My wife, Birgit, and I set out to find tigers in the wild in Rhanthambhore, a spectacular park in Rajasthan (formerly “Rajputana”) in northwest India. Great mountainous plateaus sliced by rugged ravines make a perfect habitat for the Bengal tiger. For the people of this forest, the tiger was once the most powerful representation of nature that walked the earth, symbolizing its forces as both the giver and taker of life.
This area was also the ideal sanctuary of one of the Hindu kingdoms that were being systematically snuffed out by the spreading Mughal Empire from 1526 until 1761. An ancient city of temples and palaces on top of a high massif managed to keep the Hindu culture alive there for many years. The name Rajasthan, meaning ‘the abode of the rajas’ is the site of a vast fort that stands as a citadel in the middle of the forest. The fort was already in existence in the 11th century and was considered impenetrable. Concealed and fortified by the high mountain ridges, only canons could blast through its walls. Rajasthan was critical to Akbar the Great’s scheme of conquest; without it he would not have sovereignty over northern India. He besieged the formidable fortress until it finally surrendered in March of 1569.
We spent several days looking for tigers there in vain. As I said, they are not like lions. While exploring the ruins of the Hindu kingdom, we came upon a little lake with a small temple perched perfectly on a peninsula. We were there at midday, but in my mind’s eye, I saw it at dawn, or by moonlight, or perhaps twilight. There could be a tiger, emerging from the shelter of the temple, looking out over the lake. There must have been a tiger there, at that spot, at some time through the centuries, but not when we were there to see it.” Robert Bateman
(From the original painting Hindu Temple and Tiger – 1999 – 24″ x 42″ Acrylic on Canvas)