In search of the Rudraprayag man-eating leopard’s memorial
While at Roorkee for my master’s study somewhere between 2012 and 2014, I happened to read the tale of Rudraprayag’s man-eater leopard told by Jim Corbett in his book titled, ‘The man-eating leopard of Rudraprayag.’ This savage man-eater terrified the people of Rudraprayag to their death that no one dared to move alone at night on roads connecting the shrines of Badrinath and Kedarnath which lied in the leopard’s territory.
Quoting Corbett from his book, “ No curfew order has ever been so strictly enforced, and more implicitly obeyed, than the curfew imposed by the man-eating leopard of Rudraprayag.”
According to Jim Corbett, this leopard, an established man-eater is one of the famous man-eaters in the world about which the stories travelled to be published from Australia to as far as Canada. This leopard operated for eight long years in the jungles of Rudraprayag in Garhwal Himalayas. There also exists a documentary film bankrolled by BBC based on the book. The documentary can be easily found by a simple YouTube search. But I suggest you to not watch the documentary without reading the book. I personally found the documentary to have diluted the story to it’s simplest form omitting the minuscule details and failed to bring out the intensity with which the pages of the book were inked by Corbett. Also, the dimming and dull romantic track between Jim Corbett and the British lady looked out of place making the documentary a routine ordeal.
This famous man-eater leopard with 125 recorded kills is described by Corbett as an exceptionally intelligent and tough sport. The desperately hungry big cat can reportedly dig through mud and thatch walls of the huts and break open the latch of the door in the night to hunt down its human prey. The stalking predator could kill and walk away with its prey in his sleep without waking anyone in the house. Not much of a surprise, There was also a huge bounty on its head for those marksmen who tried to secure it but in vain until Jim Corbett was called in to get the job done. Jim Corbett, the most celebrated sportsman known for hunting numerous man-eaters in India admitted having spent his longest time of six months in the forests of Garhwal Himalayas hunting this leopard. This solitary, elusive big cat outplayed Corbett on numerous occasions in unimaginable ways. The tales of his hunting are beautifully described in his book, “The man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag.” The leopard, on its fateful day, in a village called Golabrai, over two miles from Rudraprayag, was shot down by Corbett ending the eight-year gruesome rampage of the famous man-eater. A memorial has been since built on the spot in Golabrai where the leopard was shot exists to this day and also a fair is reportedly held every year commemorating the killing of the leopard
Fascinated by reading these tales by Corbett, I have longed to visit this place for the past two years. Finally, on the day of Holi(13th March) in 2017, I decided to go in search of the spot near Rudraprayag where the leopard was killed in the year 1926. Renting a bike in Rishikesh, the Royal Enfield Himalayan, I set out on a first solo ride to Rudraprayag. To reach Golabrai, ride along the road towards Rudraprayag and keep in mind to not take the bypass which cuts out just before you enter the village. Enquiring the locals along the way, I located the place with not much of a difficulty. As you ride 500 meters into the village towards Rudraprayag under the shade of high grown trees, you find the ITO office on the right side of the road. On the opposite side of the office on the left, you find a small enclosure with compound walls built around with benches and the memorial inside.
You could also spot the tree on which Jim Corbett sat waiting for the leopard. To my surprise, a few people in the village were completely unaware of any such thing around. I spent a good half an hour of time photographing the place and finished my lunch. A good resident of the village who I asked for water in my bottle invited me for a cup of hot chai and a chat before I started back to Rishikesh. It was a pleasant ride of 280 km to and fro from Rishikesh to Rudraprayag which I covered in 7.5 hours. I wish you too would be as fascinated as me reading the tales and visiting the memorial. Read a lot and ride safely.