Awagarh State was founded in the fourteenth century by Raja Sohan Pal of Biana and of Nasi. His descendant, Thakur Chhatarbhuj Singh was founder of the present jagir of Awargarh in 1701 and was the second biggest State in Uttar Pradesh. Traditionally Thakurs of Awagarh have been modest and magnanimous, without a show of pomp and pageantry. Religious inclinations of the population towards ‘Krishna Bhakti’ ensured that consuming meat and hunting were not too popular in Uttar Pradesh. Call it fate that one happenstance changed a tradition.
According to some Hindu scriptures, hunting was always considered as an acceptable occupation as well as a sport for Royals. But in a balancing way, where hunter and hunted would be part of nature’s ‘circle of life’, as it were. It was during British Raj that hunting, as a recreational sport, reached its zenith. Glamorous Shikar parties accompanied by champagne, exotic game recipes, silver & crystal, hunting hounds and the ever alert hunting party service staff. Add to it the A-list of global guests invited from global Royalty, celebrities, actors & businessmen. It was under Raja Balwant Singh’s grandson Raja Suraj Pal Singh, Raja Saheb of Awagarh and great-grandson Raja Yadvendra Pal Singh that Awagarh’s name flourished.
Raja Suraj Pal Singhji was the first Royal in the world, who in 1940’s started promoting his personal hunting reserve as a tourist hunting spot. Very soon he became world renowned in the hunting community for his lavish entertainment. He was single handedly instrumental in fashioning fellow Royals to open up their private reserves for tourists, not only for game hunting but also for fishing. Adventure sports and other activities soon joined the list. Awagarh extended beyond hunting into trapshooting and clay pigeon shooting. Raja Sahab Dharampal Singhji was a keen shot in his times and won several medal in in Agra. Raja Yadvendra Pal Singh conserved wildlife by promoting a strict code of conduct in hunting with ensured that wildlife variety on the verge of extinction was restored under the Royal guard. In his words Kunwar Chandra Pal Singhji, the great grandson of Raja Yadvendra Pal Sinhji says, “In my personal opinion a hunter is not a person who only kills for fun. On the contrary he protects his hunting grounds. I will give you an example. In the old days when Shikar was legal in India, one had to book a ‘block’ within the range. Once you had booked it no one else was allowed to hunt there. If some one was found roaming around in the area with a weapon it was considered an offense. By legalizing hunting the poacher was kept at bay. The result was that despite hunting wildlife flourished in a natural balance of sorts.”
After the Wildlife protection act was passed in 1972 , most Royal hunting reserves were handed over to the Government for or turned into Wildlife Sanctuaries, But the Love of Wildlife continued in the families. Raja Sahib Yadvendra Pal Singhji is considered an authority on wildlife, has in his personal collection a vast number of rare wildlife books which would be a wildlife lover’s delight and are coveted by museums worldwide. He loves regaling his guests with hard to believe stories about Royal Shikar Parties. His children Kunwar Chandra Pal Singhji and Kumari Padmini Devi have taken their passion for wildlife conservation ahead commendably. Kunwar Chandra Pal Singhji along with his brother Bhumendra Pal Singhji started designing delightful scarves and stoles with wildlife motifs, with 10% from the sale donated to various wildlife charities. His bespoke creations in limited editions have become a small rage in the wardrobe of the affluent wildlife lovers globally. Kumari Padmini Devi on the other hand is a highly praised wildlife artist who has exhibited around India and won high acclaim. Awagarh family is now known to be the commissures of Wildlife Tourism in India.
A delightful metamorphosis of the Royals Of Awagarh who never hunted. Forced into wild game hunting per chance, they made it a global rage for people to come hunt in their reserves. Then turning full circle, became Royal Guardians of wildlife. Awagarh - in one form or the other, remains ‘The Tiger Kingdom’.