After my last post about the decline of tigers in which I came across the bit of trivia that the Maharaja of Surguja had personally hunted and shot over 1,000 tigers in his life, I started searching his name and came across a couple fascinating stories about the history of tiger hunting in India.
The hunt was “nothing short of pageantry of organised animal slaughter,” wrote Roshni Johar in the Tribune India in 2003. Named shikar, it involved sometimes hundreds, even thousands, of “beaters,” who would use drums and flutes and elephants to drive tigers directly to so-called hunters, who were comfortably ensconced in tents or treehouses waiting to pull a trigger. Glamping-meets-species genocide.
As a writer named Dave adds on the blog Madame Pickwick, “Tigers also represented for the British all that was wild and untamed in the Indian natural world. Thus, the curious late Victorian and Edwardian spectacle of British royals and other dignitaries being photographed standing aside dead tiger carcasses depicted the staging of the successful conquest of Indian nature by ‘virile imperialists.’”
Below is a photo of Lord Reading, viceroy and governor general of India in the 1920s with the spoils at his feet.