23.840124 N 85.291643 E
We begin with a story of love.
In the first half of the seventeenth century, the Raja of Ramgarh Hemat Singh commissioned the masons, probably from Magadh, to construct him a fort. After his death, his son Raja Dalel Singh married a beautiful princess and embarked upon a new life, one that promised happiness, belonging, and justice. The royal couple lived in the fort and ruled from there the kingdom surrounded on all sides with hills and forest. The king and the queen lived peacefully in the rugged fort perched on a large plateau and from the side of which flowed the pristine Badami River with its origins in the northern hills.
The queen was a pious woman, and on every full moon, she would walk from her royal chambers to a Shiva temple, located some five miles away. This temple was in fact a cave near a village called Isko. In this village, women painted their houses with earthen colours and drew motifs of wildlife and plants. Near the cave was a pool of water created by a wayward spring, the kind of which was plentiful in the kingdom. When the moon appeared in the sky, you could see the water change its colour, and often deer from the forest could be seen drinking from it.
On one such full moon night, the queen with her train walked to the temple to offer to the god her prayers and to receive from him a blissful life for her king. On these nights, her routine was simple: bathe in the pool, walk inside the cave, offer the prayers, and return.
Our grandmothers tell us that fate intervenes in curious ways. The queen, upon reaching the pool, unwrapped herself of her garment and took to the water. The moon saw it. Perhaps the deer also saw it. So did her maids, who not only saw their queen descend steadily into the depths but also the uneasy silence that followed soon upon the surface of the water. They knew something had gone wrong, but when they went to retrieve their mistress from the fluid hold of current, the cunning waters defeated them all. When the queen did surface, she was but a body, her soul missing.
The maids cried and wept, but nothing could bring the queen back to life. So they held her up together and started walking back to the fort, their eyes red and swollen, their tears no longer wet. The guard on the tower sensed from the silence of their arrival a tragedy approaching the gate. At the same time, the king saw from the window the quiet procession and rushed outside only to have his fearful heart broken. As he heard the unfolding of events, he was filled with rage for Shiva, who, despite his godly might, was unable to save the queen.
Angry at the failure of his god and crushed by the death of his wife, the king ordered his men the very next day to march to the cave and fill the entire cavity with sand. As he took to despair in the days that followed, the romantic emperor at Agra also died, holding from the fort the view of the Taj.
Our king of the hills and forest, on the other hand, could no longer bear to live in the fort that he had so passionately constructed. The memories dried him up, they drove him restless. Dejected by the sudden void in his life, he forsook the fort altogether, vowed never to return, and moved the capital beyond the south-eastern hills, in the sheltering valley of River Damodar.