For a long time I have been pondering on how to present to my readers the story of the fort of Kundargarh or Garh Kundar.It has a haunted past spread over several years .Kundar has a history that that has multiple layers of romance,chivalry,treachery and finally a blood curdling gory end.
Garh, in Hindi, means “fort” so , Garh Kundar means the Fort of Kundar. It is located approximately 30 miles from Jhansi, an important railway station on the Delhi-Chennai route. Directionwise, it is roughly east of Jhansi and is an administrative part of Tikamgarh district of the state of Madhya Pradesh. Travellers need to get down from the train at Jhansi and take a car or bus ride to Kundar.
Madhya Pradesh has other great places for travellers heading to India such as Khajuraho, Orchha,the tiger sanctuaries in Kanha and Bandhavgarh and the world famous Temple of The Lord of Death at Ujjain.
What makes Kundar so fascinating for this post is that it is a haunted place and no living being, not even bats or pigeons live here!
Kundar used to be under the control of the Chandel rulers, the makers of the world famous Khajuraho temples when Prithviraj Chauhan, the last ruler of Delhi and Ajmer vanquished Parmardidev, the Chandel king.Post the defeat of the Chandels, the Chauhan put his vassal, Khet Singh Khangar as the governor of Kundar and after a century, the baton passed on to Hurmat Singh Khangar.
Prithviraj was defeated by the Turks in 1192 and the throne of Delhi passed on to the Muslims.
Since, Kundar is in an inaccessible place and surrounded by valleys, hills, ravines and thick forests, this fort could not be captured by the Muslim kings of Delhi.The Khangar kings, sensing the state of confusion in Delhi, declared themselves independent and later on enjoyed a trouble free reign of around 100 years in this part of India. One night,in 1288 AD, the Khangars were massacred by their vassals, the Bundelas.
Who were Chauhans, Chandels, Bundelas and Khangars?
They are the warrior class of India.Also called as kshatriyas, the Chauhans etc formed the fighting arm of India and ruled vast tracts of the country.There was intense rivalry among these groups, with each one of one of them trying to prove itself militarily stronger than the rest.There are some really hauntingly beautiful tales about these clans in India.
The events that led to the fateful night of the massacre
Hurmat Singh , the last Khangar king of Kundar was a brave , obstinate but a liberal man.He had grown old and looked forward to installing his son, Nagdev as his successor.
Politically, while the Chandels, the previous lords of Kundar ,were weak, their decline had led to the emergence of new warrior classes like the Bundelas in the region.The Bundelas were a doughty lot but they had to accept the overlordship of the Khangars whom they considered inferior in the social hierarchy.The resentment was simmering but was hidden from the king.
The king wished to overcome his “socially inferior” status by marrying his son Nagdev to the daughter of one of his subordinates, Sohanpal, a Bundela.Her name was Manvati and was secretly dating a fellow Bundela, Agnidutt.
Sohanpal had his own problems to solve.He had been given a raw deal by one of his own brothers and was planning to approach the king for a solution.He never had an inkling about the king’s intention to ask for the hand of his daughter.
Sohanpal finally had a chance to meet the king and explain his predicament.Hurmat Singh readliy agreed to bail him out but then set down his condition, the betrothal of Manvati to Nagdev.The diplomat that Sohanpal was, he kept his counsel and promised to get back to the king with his reply.
Sohan consulted his colleagues and fellow Bundelas and all of them agreed to play ball.
But, they had a secret plan..
The Bundelas readily agreed to the conditions laid down by Hurmat Singh and proposed a grand party of drunken revelry before the marriage ceremony.The revelry would take place within the confines of the Kundar fort and there would be no limits to merriment.The unsuspecting Khangar could’nt be happier- his moment had arrived and at last his clan would be on the same level as the Bundelas whom he ruled!
After the orgy, the knives come out
It was a full moon night and was awash with the monsoon laden winds.There was relaxation and enjoyment all around.The beautiful maidens of the royal household were singing folk tunes of romance and marriage, of longing and pining of the beloveds , and finally of the union of the two engaged souls.It was indeed a beautiful moment for the inhabitants there.
The men , reclining on their opulent settees, were half asleep after a marathon session of drinking some of the choicest wine and liquor that their country had.Food had already been devoured and now it was just the time for endless pegs of liquor.
The kids, excited at the prospect of a grand marriage and good fun, scurried around with their playmates.Nobody cared a damn about what was to happen in the next one hour.
The Bundelas were armed from head to toe but had hidden their arms under their cloaks.They were waiting for the right opportunity.
The reverie of Hurmat Singh was broken abruptly by a violent, impudent kick by Sohanpal. Get up O fake king, Sohan bellowed!
The king was befuddled by this change in events but tried to reason out with the transgressor.Sohanpal was’nt amused. He kicked his king once again and ordered him to get up.By now the Khangars had been surrounded by their would be relatives and could see that each Bundela held a glistening sword.
With surgical precision, the attackers got down to work- each Khangar was put down to death without making any discrimination between men, women and children.The skies were rent with cries of terror and pain.And within minutes, the Khangars had all been finished, to the last child.
The Bundelas assumed control of the fort of Kundar but later abandoned it and formed a new capital. in Orchha.
Kundar remains an uninhabited , haunted , dreadful place since then.