The museum did attract a few tourists from neighbouring villages. The palace looked rather grand, but inside there was no light as we saw the sculptures, the weapons, and other exhibits in virtual darkness. A lot of broken furniture was lying around. We were told that photography was not allowed,
The dust rose from the floor of the mud road, almost blinding our path, as we took a detour from the highway. It was a mausoleum amidst the dry fields that had drawn my attention. I realized that I had stumbled upon a historic destination, one of the lesser-known places to visit near Khajuraho. Earlier in the day, as I was leaving the temple town, Mamaji, the erudite scholar and my guide had handed over a small piece of paper in my hands. “ You must see these places on the way to Orchha. Tell the driver, he will understand,” he said as I scanned the paper, scrawled with a mix of English and Hindi words with some directions. The list included quite a few historical places in Madhya Pradesh.
Now, Mamaji was unlike any other guide I had met. We had spoken on hours relating to almost every aspect of the temples in Khajuraho, be it history, legends, or tantrism. In impeccable English, he stuck to facts but his interpretations and pet theories would often be backed by historic claims as well. And as he walked with us, his 40 years of experience in tourism showed, but not his 67 years of age. So when Mamaji handed over the paper to me, I decided that I must stopover at the destinations he had mentioned, especially the places to visit near Khajuraho.
On the itinerary was a village called Mukarva or Mukarwa and Dhubela in Chhatarpur , one of the places to visit near Khajuraho at a distance of about 60 km. The villages were home to the memorials built for Maharaja Chhatrasal, the fierce Bundeli warrior and his queen. An hour of driving around and the driver shook his head and said he has never heard of the villages and refused to ask for directions. Finally, we stopped by an unknown mausoleum on the highway and asked a couple of locals for directions. A couple of minutes later, we saw another tomb, followed by a third, and then in the distance was a towering cenotaph. We parked the car and walked around the village, much to the amusement of the children who gathered around us. A couple of old women were sitting across each other outside their homes. The dogs seemed annoyed that we had interrupted their afternoon siesta. Then we saw a huge monument with a fort in the background.
The watchman showed us around but insisted that we visit the queen’s cenotaph too. “There are so many fresco paintings inside, come I will show you,” he said and got into the car with us as we drove a bit to Dhubela, which was about 5 kms away. And then we saw a lovely lake spread out in front of us circled by monuments – the cenotaphs, the ruins of a fort and a palace in the distance which is now the Dhubela Museum or Maharaja Chhatrasal Museum. Suddenly these obscure villages had turned into one of the historic places in Madhya Pradesh
Chhatarpur is one of the historic places in Madhya Pradesh with several monuments scattered around in different villages. The 17th-century chieftain who had established his own kingdom had once ruled over the entire kingdom, with his capital at Panna, one of the places near Khajuraho. The diamond mines in his capital had ensured that his reign was rather prosperous. His claim to fame was of course that he had thwarted the Mughal emperor, Aurangazeb’s attempts to establish supremacy and collect the tax. Apparently eight wars were fought between the Mughal forces and the Bundellas and the latter had been successful with their alliance with the Peshwa Baji Rao 11. We heard more stories and legends and history sings panegyric verses and rich tributes to the king, but on land, his legacy is literally collecting just a lot of dust. I do hope these lesser-known historic places in Madhya Pradesh get the attention they deserve.