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Bandhavgarh, The Land of Kabir Tansen

National Parks of India

One of the enlightened saints of the 16th century was Kabir. He chose the Bandhavgarh fort ancient caves to meditate and dwell in it. No one knows why but everyone feels that there must be something magical there and in its forests. These caves carry inscription in Pali language, which was written and spoken around 2000 years back. 

At the fort, there is a Kabir temple where the saint spent most of his time and meditated more often and took discourses for some of his very close disciples. Dharam Das Naam Sahib was one of his first disciples who was initiated at the Bandhavgarh fort. There is also an interesting story as to how Kabir gave his salutation to the whole central India. When Kabir arrived in Bandhavgarh, Majaraja of Rewa did not know how to greet him as Kabir was not a Brahmin by birth and the Maharaja could not have touched his feet. Kabir greeted him by “Salaam Sahib” and solved the problem instantly. This salutation became the most famous and most common salutation in central India thereafter.

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There is no record of the construction of Bandhavgarh fort but it is believed to be 2000 years old and also has references in the ancient books. The Shiva Puran and Narad-Panch Ratra have mentioned the fort along with its references during the Mughals rule in 1AD. It also has references during the 3rd century in Vakatakas, 5th Century Sengars, and the 10th-century Kalachuris. The Bagels ruled the Bandhavgarh in the 13th century until 1617 when eventually Raja Vikramaditya Singh shifted his capital to Rewa. The Fort witnessed its last inhabitants in 1935. The caves depict the oldest signs of habitation dug in sandstone. Most of these carry Brahmi inscriptions that date back as long as 1st century BC. Maharaja of Rewa maintained the forest range as the Shikargah or the game preserve. Later the area has been declared as a National Park.

Tansen joined Raja Ramachandra Baghela’s court in Bandhavgarh. Later when he became famous, the great emperor Akbar form the Mughal court asked him to come to Delhi and he joined Akbar’s court in 1552. During 1552-58, Tansen again came in touch with Maharaja of Bandhavgarh Ramchandra Judev of Rewa Estate. Tansen’s glory once again spread when the king accepted him dressed as Fakir and Tansen’s intimate friend.

It is also widely believed that when the Afghan ruler Sher Shah Suri invaded India, his mother hid along with him in the Bandhavgarh fort as Humayun sent his pregnant wife to this fort for hiding as it was very secure and located in central India. Ultimately, Akbar was born in the Kalinjar Fort that lies to the north of Bandhavgarh. 

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This was one of the reasons that Akbar was very fond of this fort and kept a close watch on the development in this area. Thus, when Akbar heard of Tansen’s glory he sent Birbal himself to fetch Tansen as one of his 9 Gems or the “Navratnas”. Birbal was greeted by the Maharaja and he liked the fort so much that he ultimately spent some good days at the fort. Till date one of the inner palaces in the fort is named as the Birbal Bhawan. When Akbar sent his army to Rewa state, Tansen negotiated and eased off the tension and relocated to Agra. His glory multiplied at Agra stated Abul Fazal, where Tansen sang at Akbar’s Fatehpur court. AIn-E-Akbari reveals that Tansen breathed his last at the Fatehpur Sikri and thereafter his body was taken to Gwalior and buried next to his religious guide Mohammed Gaus which is the present day Tansen Tomb in Gwalior.

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