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Bengal Tiger

Scientific NamePanthera tigris tigris
Common NameBengal tiger, Bagh (Hindi), Puli (Tamil), Vyaaghraha (Sanskrit)
DistributionThroughout India
Conservation StatusVulnerable (VU)
Lord Ayyappan riding a tiger

In religion and mythology

The tiger is associated with Lord Ayyappan of Sabarimala, who was born by the union of Lord Shiva with Mohini (incarnation of Lord Vishnu). According to legend, Ayyappan, was found by a king and queen on the banks of a river and brought him to their palace. When the queen had a child of her own, she became jealous of Ayyappan and planned to get him killed. She pretended to be ill and sent Ayyappan to fetch tiger's milk to cure her illness. She expected him to be killed by the tigers and was surprised to see Ayyappan return to the palace riding on a tiger, with the other tigers following him.

Lord Shiva clad in tiger skin

Lord Shiva is often depicted wearing or seated on a tiger skin. The Lord also bears the name ‘ Vyaghranatheshwara' ( Vyaghra means tiger + Natheswar means Lord), because he once had slain a demon, who had taken the form of a tiger. Goddess Durga is sometimes depicted riding a tiger.

In India, many tribal communities revere the tiger. The Warli tribe of Maharashtra worship ‘ Waghia' or the lord of tigers in the form of a shapeless stone. The Gonds of Madhya Pradesh worship 'Waghai Devi'; the Bhils worship 'Waghaika Kunwar' (tiger prince) to whom fruit, wine and sheep are offered. ‘ Dakshin Rai ' is the folk deity presiding over the tiger-cult in Sunderbans,West Bengal.

(Source: http://www.indianmuseumkolkata.org/ tigerexhibi.html)

Goddess Durga riding a tiger

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