Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve – Udimalla, India - Atlas Obscura
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Udimalla, India

Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve

The largest tiger reserve in India is a vast expanse dotted with ancient ruins of Nagarjuna Viswa Vidyalayam. 

 Over 3,500 acres of roaring reservoirs, ancient temples, rocky cliffs and monsoon-swept plains make up the magnificent Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve, largest tiger reserve in India.

Spread over five districts, Nalgonda, Mahaboobnagar, Kurnool, Prakasam and Guntur, Nagarjunasagar is much more than a big cat sanctuary. Krishna River, the oldest river in the country, flows through 130 km of the reserve and its impressive reservoirs are vital sources of irrigation and energy for much of its state of residence. Practical uses aside, the river provides stunning views and waterfalls, kept constantly raging by two monsoon seasons that are active the majority of the year. 

Long before the site became a safe space for the animals, it stood as the ancient Buddhist town of Nagarjuna Viswa Vidyalayam, watched over by Buddhist scholar Nāgārjuna in 150 A.D. Ruins of the long-dead place of learning still scatter a section of the landscape, mixed in with 3rd century forts of the Kakatiya dynasty that line the banks of the Krishna. 

Renamed as Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary in 1992, the sanctuary was was notified in 1978, becoming a ward of Project Tiger in 1983. At that time, the reserve had been being used as an exclusive hunting ground for royalty, and had been ravaged by poaching, fires, and general lack of conservation practices, leaving the tiger count at a meager 80 cats. Fire lines, salt licks, and several other improvements allowed that number to grow to 94 within 6 years, and while extremist activity in the area has made present numbers impossible to pin down, the sanctuary currently houses (among other animals) Bengal tigers, sloth Bears, Indian Pangolins, mugger crocodiles, Indian pythons, and Indian peafowl.