Noor: The Queen of Ranthambore

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Noor sleeps in a watering hole at the Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan (Photo: Mrityunjoy Kumar Jha)

Most people who have visited Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan will have a Machli story. I too have mine. On a hot morning of May 2019, me and my photographer friends had a rather casual but long encounter with the other celebrity tigress, Noor.

During a hot summer day in May, our Maruti Gypsy jolted along a narrow jungle track. We had signed up for a full day tiger safari in the Ranthambore tiger reserve of Rajasthan. The previous day safari went without sighting a tiger. We were hoping that it would be our lucky day. We were now curious to see the Queen - Noor.

Noor beats the heat (Photo: Mrityunjoy Kumar Jha)

Tiger is a mysterious and majestic beast that is elusive and much sought after. One is always hoping and praying to come face to face with one. Words like movement, alarm calls, footprint become buzzwords. We drive on for about 40 minutes, spotting birds, deer and large monitor lizards. Suddenly, Himmat stops the jeep and kills the engine. Expectations soar. The jungle is so still that you can hear your heartbeat.

The silence was broken. First, an alarm call - the loud shriek of a langur, a leaf-eating monkey sitting high up in a banyan tree, followed by a wild cacophony. Panic breaks through the jungle. Sambar and chital deer together with peacocks, chorus further alarms - intense, repeated frantic calls.

If eyes could kill (Photo: Mrityunjoy Kumar Jha)

Shortly afterwards, our  guide signalled to his colleague, travelling in another gypsey to rush towards a nearby meadow, where a tigress was resting at a watering hole. Within seconds T-39 came into full view. That is how Noor, the tigress, is officially known in Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan. But nobody calls the tigress by the number. She has many names that endear her to foresters and visitors alike. Noor is also known as Mala (garland) because the wavy bead-like pattern on her bright skin is unique, and it glows (noor). Noor was so close that even my zoom lens was finding it difficult to focus on her. She was sleeping on a rock near the small water hole.

A dominant tigress of Ranthambore National Park. She is the “Second Family” of Ranthambore, having descended from the sister of the great Machli, born to T-13.

Meet Sultana, Noor's daughter (Photo: Mrityunjoy Kumar Jha)

There was a sudden commotion... so many gypsies had arrived on the spot.  Noor got up and changed her position but still in the full view of the camera.  She immerses herself partially  in water. Tigers are the only cats who love water, and she luxuriates as we watch, transfixed. Again she dozed off.

“She has a full stomach, in this hot weather she would  not go anywhere “ said my guide and suddenly he said, let's go there is another one. Our vehicle lunged forward and after 10 minutes we saw another tigress, on the bank of a pond.

”She is Sultana, Noor’s daughter. For the last few days she was sighting with a male tiger T101. He should be here somewhere, he is quite shy and elusive.” One can make out she was not happy with our intrusion.

I was told that tigress Sultana and tiger Sultan were  from Noor’s first litter. Noor  is usually with her majestic son Sultan the most commonly sighted tiger in Ranthambore. Her dominance over a large territory makes Noor the queen of Ranthambore National Park.

Sultana's mate - Tiger T101 (Photo: Mrityunjoy Kumar Jha)

Our guide told interesting stories about Noor. Recently, the two tigers who struggled over Noor are both brothers. T57 is a tiger named Singhsth, while T58 is a tiger named Rocky are the children of Sharmili. This is not the first time that two tigers have clashed for Noor. Earlier, there was a clash between tiger-34 (Kumbha) & T-57 over tigress Noor. T-34 was injured in it & later tranquilized and treated by the Forest Department.

Once upon a time,  Noor’s famous and most loved aunt, T-16, better known as Machli, roamed over the largest part of the 392-square kilometre national park. Like Machli, who died in August 2016 at the ripe age of 19, Noor is very adaptive to human presence in the form of photographers and wildlife enthusiasts in her habitat.

A dominant tigress of Ranthambore National Park. She is the “Second Family” of Ranthambore, having descended from the sister of the great Machli, born to T-13.

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