THE TIGER KING
This story is about ‘the Tiger King’, the Maharaja of Pratibandapuram, who was known for his “indomitable courage”.
A prophesy and “a great miracle”
The crown prince of the kingdom of Pratibandapuram was rumored to have miraculously spoken his first words when he was just ten days old. His words proved his intelligence, inquisitiveness and bravery to the astrologers.
The astrologers’ prophesized that though the young prince will grow up to be the mightiest of kings, a tiger will cause his death.
The education and coronation of Jung Jung Bahadur
British dominance and its effect on the royalty of India had a huge impact on the kind of education given to princes across the country. Even the prince of Pratibandapuram “drank the milk of an English cow, was brought up by an English nanny, tutored in English by an Englishman, saw nothing but English films.” He was crowned king at the age of twenty.
The killing of the first tiger and acceptance of the challenge
The prince grew up to become arrogant but brave Maharaja of Pratibandapuram. As the stories of his foretold but long forgotten end resurfaced, he searched and killed his first tiger to show his superiority and rebellion against fate.
Considering this to be his victory over his destined future, he called upon the state astrologer. The latter informed him that he had no life threat from the first ninety-nine of his hunted tigers but it was the hundredth one that he needed to protect himself from. Nevertheless, the Maharaja decided to kill at least hundred tigers as a challenge against this foretold destiny.
Maharaja’s obsession with tigers
The Maharaja’s sole aim of life became the hunt of tigers. This obsession led him to restrict to himself the right to kill all the tigers in the tiger-rich forests of Pratibandapuram. He even issued a proclamation that anybody who dared even to think evil of any of the tigers in the state would be liable to confiscation of wealth and property. To achieve the aim of killing hundred tigers, he neglected all his duties as a king.
A gift of fifty rings to duraisani
In keeping with this vow, the Maharaja out rightly denied even a British official, “durai,” who desired to hunt down a tiger. The durai’s sole aim was to get his photograph clicked with a tiger 's corpse and a gun over his shoulders. However, fearing the British wrath and to safeguard his kingdom, he readily sent fifty diamond rings to the British official 's wife. But since she kept all the fifty rings instead of one as intended, he had to bear an expense of three lakh rupees.
Tigers extinct in Pratibandapuram
Ten years saw the corpses of seventy tigers in the forests of Pratibandapuram. Gradually, the forests became bereft of tigers.
The maharaja decided to get married
So, he married a princess of the state that had the maximum number of tigers. Through this alliance, he acquired access to his father-in-law’s forests. Soon his score of tiger killing rose to ninety-nine but stagnated thereafter, as the tigers became extinct there too.
The search for the hundredth tiger & Maharaja’s fury
Though all the forests were searched exhaustively, the hundredth tiger could not be found. This wait made the maharaja gloomy, haughty and impatient. Soon a village reported frequent incidences of sheep disappearance. It was supposed that a wild tiger was the reason. The Maharaja was delighted with the news and exempted the village from all taxes for three years.
Soon an expedition was set out to kill this tiger. However, the tiger could not be found. In his rage, Maharaja fired many of his officials from their jobs and doubled the land tax of the villagers. When the dewan tried to reason it out with the Maharaja, he was asked to resign.
Dewan’s plan - the hundredth tiger!
Scared of losing his job, the dewan devised a plan. He got a tiger brought from Madras and, secretly yet intelligently, left it in the forest where the Maharaja’s expedition was going on.
On spotting this tiger, the Maharaja shot directly at the pale and fragile tiger, which “fell in a crumpled heap.”
Maharaja, elated with his victory, left for his state. However, as the hunters took a closer look at the tiger, they found that the tiger had collapsed merely at the sound of the bullet. Distressed with the thought of losing their jobs, the hunters killed the tiger themselves and, as ordered by the Maharaja, took the dead tiger in a grand procession through the town and buried it. A tomb was a