The Tiger Circle, a landmark at the centre of Manipal near the bus stand in the town, has been taken down due to the development of the national highway connecting Udupi to Thirthahalli in Shivamogga district.
The circle falls on National Highway 169A, which is being developed into a 30-metre wide concrete road. The national highway is being developed from the Malpe Fishing Harbour to Thirthahalli in Shivamogga and covers Udupi, Manipal and Agumbe along the way.
A fountain which stood at the centre of the circle in the student town has also been taken down. It is unclear whether the circle and the fountain will be restored once the road widening work is completed. “I am in discussion with the National Highways Authority about this. It is not part of their initial estimate to reinstate the circle. They have not said anything conclusively, but we are pressing them to get the circle reinstalled because many roads join there. It can lead to traffic chaos. There is also historical importance attached to it since it has been around for many years," Udupi Deputy Commissioner Priyanka Mary Francis told TNM.
Tiger Circle in 1990-91 | Photograph by Ranjeev Singh, MIT Photography Club
Long-time residents of Manipal remember the landmark area of the town fondly, and recall that tigers were seen in the area in the 1960s, hence giving the circle its infamous name. “What they have removed is a small circle that was recently built. There was an older and bigger circle where the bus stop and auto-rickshaw stand is located now. The students of the first few batches of medical and engineering students in Manipal spotted tigers near the circle,” said Ravindranath Shanbagh, a resident of Manipal for the last 52 years.
Tiger Circle | Photograph by Ranjeev Singh, MIT Photography Club
He added that Manipal was surrounded by forests then and that many animals were commonly seen in the centre of the town. "The stretch of land between the Manipal University building all the way to End Point were all forests until a few years ago. In fact, tigers, leopards and deers were all common sights at the circle until as recently as the 1960s,” he said.
Tiger Circle before the fountain was built
Manipal, a small hamlet in Udupi district of Karnataka, has transformed into an educational hub with around 28,000 students from 57 countries currently studying in the town. While no tigers have been spotted for years, a leopard was spotted in the town on April 9, 2014, prompting forest department officials to trap it and release the animal into the forests nearby.
Tiger Circle fountain
Students and alumni of Manipal University shared their dismay about the news of the removal of the circle and the iconic fountain, with the Manipal University logo emblazoned on it.
Growing up in Udupi, I was brought up on stories from my Ajja of the tiger that was killed at Manipal. The spot was known to us as Tiger Circle. Stories of encounters with leopards, jackals from the forest abounded, but none came close to that tiger storyhttps://t.co/7JcGACQCcr— Nakul Shenoy (@NakulShenoy) February 2, 2019
All photographs courtesy: Manipal Blog