Banda district in Bundelkhand region has carved a unique identity for itself synonymous with great wars, patriotism and rich heritage. Mighty rulers like the Chandelas of Jejakabhukti, Bundelas, Marathas and others have contributed significantly to its history, culture and tradition. One of the most picturesque forts built in this region which is the resting place of many war heroes is the Bhuragarh Fort at Banda.
The foundation for the centuries-old Bhuragarh Fort across the Ken river atop a hillock was laid by Maharaja Chhatrasal’s sons Raja Hriday Shah and Raja Jagat Rai in the 17th century. This was later extended and repaired by Raja Jagat Rai’s son Kirit Sinh in the early 18th century. Raja Guman Singh of the princely state of Ajaigarh used bhura patthar (brown stones) in the fort and it soon came to be called as Bhuragarh. This fort was later placed under the care of Arjun Singh.
Very few are aware of a great love story that lies buried in its history that draws thousands of lovers to seek blessings and help to win over their beloved. Legend has it that it was during the time of killedar (governor of the fort) Shah also referred to as Arjun Singh by the locals that a beautiful love story blossomed between his daughter and a young man of 21 years who was of the Nat caste from Sarvaee village. The relationship appeared to be doomed from the very beginning with severe opposition from Arjun Singh. Arjun Singh did not relent to his daughter’s pleas and instead laid down a condition to her loved one. The young man was to walk from Bambeswar hill that lay across the river to the fort on a rope yarn and should he be successful in entering the fort, will receive his daughter’s hand in marriage. The young man accepted the challenge and declared immediately that he will walk across the river on the auspicious day of Makara Sankranti on a rope yarn and enter the fort.
On Makara Sankranti, the young man began the dangerous walk from Bambeswar to the fort across the river with hope and love in his heart. As he was nearing the fort, killedar Arjun Singh mercilessly cut the rope that was tied to the door of the fort. The young man plunged to his death finally resting on the rocks of the fort. Much to her horror, the young lady witnessed the treachery of her father and saw her beloved fall to his death. Anguished, she jumped from her window to be united with her loved one in death. A samadhi (resting place) has been built in honour of their love which has now taken a form of a temple. Even today, a festival called Nat–Bali is organized on Makara Sankranti and lovers from far-flung places come here to offer their prayers.
One may recall that Maharaja Chhatrasal had bequeathed Banda to Peshwa Baji Rao I for the timely help that he extended when he was besieged by Mohammad Khan Bangash. It was during the reign of Ali Bahadur II, the great-grandson of Peshwa Baji Rao I that the spark of a revolution erupted in 1857.
On 14th June, 1857, Nawab Ali Bahadur II led his fellow Indians to fight against the tyranny of the British. A fierce war broke out with over 3,000 revolutionaries butchered by the British but only 800 find mention in the Government Gazette. Those caught were either sentenced to death or sent to Kālā Pānī. Names of 28 brave warriors who were hanged here are seen in the memorial dedicated to them.
An army commander along with his eighty soldiers were hanged to death here. The Nat community also gave their lives in this great war and are remembered for their valour on Makara Sankranti.
There are lovely structures like the Satkhanda Bhavan, a large well, Rang Mahal and others but sadly in a dilapidated condition. The memories of martyrs loom large in this historical place and it would be fitting if the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) steps in to restore it.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)