10×14 watercolor enhanced colored pencil on Arches satin finish watercolor paper. Original unavailable.
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A double portrait of the white Bengal Tiger, which, at one time, was only on a preserve for the “king” in India. All white tigers that you see today, got their start from that one tiger.
Mohan is the founding father of the captive bred white tigers of Rewa. He was captured as a cub in 1951 when maharaja Shri Martand Singh of Rewa and his hunting party in Bandhavgarh found a tigress with four 9-month-old cubs, one of which was white. All except the white cub were shot. The white cub was captured and housed at the unused Govindgarh Palace. The maharaja named him Mohan, which roughly translates as “Enchanter”, one of the many forms of the God Krishna. The Maharaja shot a white tiger in 1948, and his father kept a male white tiger in captivity from 1915 to 1920. This white tiger, which was larger than average like most white tigers, was known to have a white male sibling, which continued to live in the wild. After the death of the captive animal it was mounted and presented to the Emperor King George V, as a token of loyalty. This specimen is now in the British Museum. This same Maharaja, the father of Shri Martand Singh, was once suspended by the British while he was under investigation for murder. There was a white tiger in the menagerie in Exeter Change in London in 1820, which was examined by the famous French anatomist Baron Cuvier, and described in his “Animal Kingdom” as having faint stripes only visible from certain angles of refraction.
In 1953, Mohan was bred to a normal-coloured wild tigress called Begum (“royal consort”), and they produced two male orange cubs on Sept. 7. In 1955 they had a litter of two males and two females on April 10 (which included a male named Sampson and a female named Radha). In 1956 they again had a litter of two males and two females on July 10, which included a male named Sultan who went to Ahmedabad Zoo, and a female named Vindhya who went to Delhi Zoo and was bred to an unrelated male named Suraj. These early breeding experiments failed to yield a single white cub. A maharaja who was a cousin of the Maharaja of Rewa observed “Rewa was frustrated. I told him the answer-incest of course!” Mohan was then bred to his daughter Radha (who carried the white gene inherited from him) and they produced a number of white cubs, including a litter of four on Oct. 30, 1958, which included a male named Raja, and three females named Rani, Mohini, and Sukishi. These four were the first white tigers born in captivity. Raja and Rani went to the New Delhi Zoo, and Mohini was bought by the German-American billionaire John W. Kluge (who is also known for the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress and the John W. Kluge Prize, and owns the rights to the MASH TV series) for $10,000, for the US National Zoo, as a gift to the children of America, in 1960. In 1989 Kluge was the richest man in the world. Sukeshi remained at Govindgarh Palace, where she was born, in a harem courtyard, as a mate for Mohan.
The Indian government made a deal with the Maharaja, under the terms of which Raja and Rani would go to the New Delhi Zoo for free. In exchange the Maharaja’s white tiger breeding would be subsidized and he would receive a share of their cubs. He wanted Rs 100,000 for them. The Indian Parliament used to hear reports on the progress of the white tigers, and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and U Nu of Burma participated in public christening ceremonies for white cubs at New Delhi Zoo. President Tito of Yugoslavia visited New Delhi Zoo and asked for white tigers for Belgrade Zoo, but was refused. A white tiger named Dalip from New Delhi Zoo represented India in two international expositions in Budapest and Osaka. The government of West Bengal bought two white males, named Niladari and Himadri, from the Maharaja for Calcutta Zoo, and an orange female named Malini, from the same litter of three born in 1960, accompanied them there. The Alipore Zoo in Calcutta, recovered the purchase price of the white tigers within six months by charging extra to see them. Calcutta Zoo had a fine specimen of a white tiger in 1920. Six zoos acquired white tigers from the Maharaja of Rewa including the Bristol Zoo in England (a brother and sister pair named Champak and Chameli on June 22, 1963) and the Crandon Park Zoo in Miami acquired a white tigress in 1968. Bristol Zoo’s pair, born in 1962, came from another litter of four, all white, but two (one female and one male) didn’t survive. It’s astounding that Mohan and Radha produced another litter of four white cubs, as they did in 1958. By 1966 the Bombay Zoo had a white tigress named Lakshmi, born in 1964, from the Maharaja. The Calcutta Zoo sold a white tigress named Sefali to Gauhati Zoo and sent a second white tiger there on loan. By 1976 Lucknow Zoo also had a white tiger which was a gift from New Delhi Zoo. A white tigress named Nandni, who was born in New Delhi Zoo in 1971, went to Hyderabad Zoo. This is how the white tiger diaspora progressed. Zoos with white tigers constituted a most exclusive club and the white tigers themselves represented a single extended family. The Maharaja was negotiating the sale of a white male, named Virat, as late as 1976, when he died of enteritis. Virat was a son of Mohan and Sukeshi and the maharaja put him on the market after attempting to breed him to Sukeshi, which would have raised the inbreeding coefficient.
India imposed an export ban on white tigers in 1960, in an effort to preserve a monopoly, probably because Anglo-Indian naturalist E.P. Gee recommended that Govindgarh Palace, and it’s white tiger inhabitants, be made a “national trust”, which didn’t happen. After the export ban was imposed the Maharaja threatened to release all of his white tigers into the Rewa forest, and so he was given dispensation to sell two more pairs abroad, to offset his costs. Mohini was only allowed to leave India because President Eisenhower intervened personally with Prime Minister Nehru, to ask for the release of the United States government’s white tiger. A white sister of Mohini’s was brought to New Delhi the year before to show the President, who was no stranger to white tigers. Circus owner Clyde Beatty also bought a white tiger from the Maharaja in 1960, for $10,000 in a deal facilitated by Washington Zoo director T.H. Reed, which had to be cancelled because of the export ban, which made Mohini even more valuable. She was estimated to be worth $28,000. Dr. Reed had travelled to India to escort Mohini to Washington. Years later the Bristol Zoo needed a new breeding male and traded a white female to New Delhi Zoo for a white tiger named Roop, who had been named by U Nu, the Prime Minister of Burma. He was the son of Raja by his own mother and half sister- Radha, born in New Delhi. Radha, and many other tigers from Govindgarh including Sukeshi, were later transferred to New Delhi. Begum went to live at Ahmedabad Zoo and was bred to her son Sultan. They produced twelve cubs in four litters between 1958 and 1961. Bristol Zoo later transferred two male white tigers to Dudley Zoo. In 1951 the Maharaja placed ads in The New York Times and The Times of London, and wrote to the director of the Manchester Zoo, and probably others, offering to sell his captured white tiger cub. He wanted the princely sum of $28,000 for Mohan. The Maharaja was prevented by law from converting rupees into American dollars, and wanted the money to buy a speed boat.
Mohan died in 1970, aged almost 20, and was laid to rest with Hindu rites as the palace staff observed official mourning. He was the last recorded white tiger born in the wild. The last white tiger reported in the wild was shot in 1958. Pushpraj Singh, the reigning Maharaja of Rewa, is asking students to sign a petition to ask the President of India to return at least two white tigers to Govindgarh Palace, as a tourist attraction. (information from Wikipedia)