In the now dilapidated structure that was once the fort at Dhar, Mandu in Madhya Pradesh, one of the entrances is called Bandi-Chor Dwar. It opens out a winding entry into what must once have been a small but grand structure of a local king. Today it is nearly run over by wild grass and weeds with plastic packets and broken glass strewn all over. The fort is also home to one of the greatest architectural marvels of the time, a step well. But that too is in a state of complete disrepair.

What is still alive and told with great pride is the story of the Gate. Of the strange name and how it acquired it and of the tale of heroism and sacrifice that underpins many of our local legends. The story goes that a king or the general of an emperor once came to rule the city. Faced with some crisis, either an agrarian one or one inflicted by a rival king, the king was advised by his ministers and the royal priests that the kingdom needed the sacrifice of some young couples. Some put the number at a dozen and some at a few hundred. Anyway, the royal courtiers were soon set to the task of gathering young newly-weds for the sacrifice and once the requisite number had been procured, they were all confined within the fort of Dhar.

A local boy was a soldier in the king’s army and he was entrusted with the task of ensuring that none escaped the night before the sacrifice was to take place. However, the boy was uneasy and he could not bear the impending burden of such a large sin upon his soul. So he spoke to his mother and she was aghast at what the king was asking of him; release the poor young couples, she told him, even if it means risking your life for it.

So late that night, before the first rays of light had broken through, the soldier opened the gate and took on an entire army to ensure that the prisoners escaped. In the midst of the battle, he was beheaded and still, the legend goes, the soldier kept fighting. Until one of the people remarked at the strange sight of a headless fighter. Only when these words were uttered did the soldier noticed that his head had rolled off and he fell to his death. But only after all the couples had been freed.

Story collected by: Arundhuti Dasgupta

Story told by: Museum guides at the fort

Text Source: Dhar-Mandu, A sketch for the sight-seer, Major C E Luard

Location: Mandu, Madhya Pradesh

Image Source: Wikipedia