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Shere Khan and the Mowgli Pench Sanctuary

Shere Khan (Source: Wordpress)

The Pench Tiger Reserve, situated on the slopes of the Satpuras in Madhya Pradesh, will be familiar to those who have had the pleasure of watching the David Attenborough narrated documentary, Tiger: Spy in the Jungle. What is curious is that the reserve includes the larger Indira Priyadarshini Pench National Park and another, smaller, park called the Mowgli Pench Sanctuary. The latter is, as one might guess, named after Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book character.

The setting for Kipling's collection of stories was largely inspired by Robert Armitage Sterndale's Seonee, or Camp Life on the Satpura Range. The Seonee in the title is also the name of the pack of wolves who adopt Mowgli in Kipling's stories, albeit, their name is spelt Seeonee. The modern day equivalent is Seoni, a town not too far away from Nagpur and the headquarters of the Seoni district. Another source of inspiration for Mowgli's tale was William Henry Sleeman's An Account of Wolves Nurturing Children in Their Dens which was about a boy found in 1831 who was said to have been raised by wolves, again in the district of Seoni. The Pench Tiger Reserve is partly located in the same area and is in close proximity to the town of Seoni.

Other places in the area also find mention in the Jungle Book. Shere Khan's domicile was Waingunga, which was incidentally where he also met his end, was based on the Wainganga river. The Khanhiwara village is similarly based on Kanhiwara.

Rudyard Kipling did not visit the area himself.