The ferocious battle between the jungle giants was captured on film by a tour guide in Maharashtra who had a ringside seat to the 15-minute brawl as the mother fought off the predator.
Her instincts kicked into gear as the male tiger stalked her cub in Tadoba National Park, igniting a rarely seen flare of aggression from the shaggy black bears not known for being territorial.
Akshay Kumar, who filmed the clash as he guided tourists through the reserve last week, said the tiger attacked the bear for a full five minutes before the mother slowly got the upper hand.
“It went after the sloth bear, but she kept charging in order to protect her cub,” he said.
“It went on for 15 minutes. The tiger was roaring. It was a severe fight.”
The mother bear at one stage was pinned down in the tiger’s jaws, seemingly overpowered by her superior opponent, before managing to throw off her assailant.
Standing at full height on hind legs, the mother bear plunged back into the contest, relentlessly charging the big cat until it slunk away to cool off in a nearby pond, cowed and defeated.
The bears, including the cub which could do little but watch from the sidelines, disappeared into the scrub.
Kumar said both the animals were clearly injured during the fight.
India is home to more than half of the world’s tiger population with some 2,226 of the animals roaming its reserves, according to the last count in 2014.
Indian sloth bears — long kept as dancing pets for entertainment until the practise was outlawed — have distinctive long snouts and a white V pattern on their chest, and are still hunted by poachers.