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Mangesh Shirke

Classics Drama Thriller


2.5  

Mangesh Shirke

Classics Drama Thriller


The Blacksmith Dacoits

The Blacksmith Dacoits

21 mins 25K 21 mins 25K

After signing the petition with the British Governor, India received Independence on 15th August 1947. However, with the celebrations, came the partition, and with it, the riots. Hindus and Muslims fought amongst them, blaming each other for the partition. The partition also gave rise to a huge number of thefts. Many dacoits were looting people all around, and since both the countries had no law and order established, no one was there to control them. Later on, with the formation of the Indian Democracy in 1950, the newly formed police departments started hunting down and arresting such gangs of dacoits.

 

23rd November 1951 

The Old Police Station

Somewhere in a town in Rajasthan 


"Get all of the dacoits here...!" Inspector Harish gave orders to his guards.

"Here they are, Darogaaji...!" his assistant, Maganlal replied. All the 12 dacoits, dressed in white dhotis and dirty white and black shirts, carrying blankets, with big turbans on their heads, started lining up in front of the inspector. The police had already confiscated their weapons and had arrested them from their own hideout, deep inside the jungle of Sawai Madhopur Game Sanctuary. Named as the Lohaari Lootere, they were wanted by the police in many of the crimes that they had committed.

"Stand in line... Keep your heads down... No one speaks...!" Maganlal ordered.

“Where is your leader? " the inspector questioned. All the dacoits just looked down. 

"She…she has escaped, Saahib...!" one of the dacoits replied. 


"The dacoits are not saying anything, sir...!" Inspector Harish gave information to his senior. “Till now they have only told me that they came here in search of some treasure. I tried questioning them many times, but they are not answering anything. When I raided their camp deep inside the Sawai Madhopur Sanctuary, the only suspicious thing that I found was this yellow piece of paper.” He then displayed the evidence on the table.

It was a crumpled sheet of paper, about 8”x 6” in size. Something was scribbled on it, in some ancient language.

“It's not Sanskrit nor is it Prakrit language, sir. I got it confirmed by the local language experts. The dacoits don’t know anything that is written on this. They say only their leader knows about it and she has fled.” Harish confirmed, “Moreover, I feel that this is just a piece of paper that belongs to some other larger segment…probably a painting or something.” Harish said, pointing to one side where the words were half sliced, which itself confirmed what he had said.

“Sir, based on the info that I received from the local gaderia (shepherds) when I invaded these dacoit’s camp, I captured all 12 of them, except their leader, who they say is a lady. When I observed all the loot that they had got, I found that most of the utensils and jewelry were from the Mewad and the Kutch area, which meant they had looted all these areas, before migrating to the jungles.” Inspector Harish elaborated on all the data. “Dacoits always form a cycle of looting. According to my informants, they stayed in the Rann of Kutch for some time before starting their loots. They say their origin is in the Barmer region, where the native language is Marwaari.”

He then took the piece of paper in his hand and said, “Now, if we want to understand what is written on this, we need to understand the culture of that area. This region has a very good culture of singing, as two major tribes, the Bishnoi and the Bhigavar originate from that province. We have to somehow attend an event and understand how the Bhigavar tribe performs because I’ve heard that the tribe is in our town.”

“You are on the right track...” the senior inspector said, “I’ve received an invite form Maharaja Mansingh to attend the ceremony on the eve of the Maand festival on Sharad Poornima night. But I need to visit the Central Office for discussing the security on Republic Day. Therefore, I would request you to attend it.”


25th November 1951

The Royal Palace, Udaipur 


"Waah Waah... Amazing... Just loved it..!" Maharaja Mansingh Khanddelwal said. 

The Bhigavar tribe, one of the oldest tribes in the state, had just finished their performance. They were followers of Lord Someshwara. They also used to perform in front of many royal families, and their performance was always wildly appreciated.

“I was always used to your older style of performing. But I liked your new style…!” The Maharaja appreciated.

“Dhanyawad, hukum…” the tribal leader, Bhaldeb Singh Binjola said, folding his hands.

The Maharaja had also invited Kumari Sunidhi, the royal princess of the neighboring family. She had completed most of her education abroad and was now back in India. Following the performance, the Maharaja served royal dinner to all the people present.


“Who’s that guy?” Sunidhi asked Bhaldeb Singh as she saw a crippled man sitting in one corner, being given food by an old lady.

“His name is Devilal. At one time, he was the real charm of our entire tribe. He used to play the sarangi very nicely and was a very good singer. However, unfortunately, one day while traveling, he got beaten up by the mob during the riots. Someone hit him hard on his head, and since that day, he has lost control of his body….” Bhaldeb Singh answered with a sad look in his face. “Republic day celebrations are coming near. Being one of the oldest tribes, we want to participate in it. But no one can play the sarangi so wonderfully as Devilal does.”

Sunidhi was a very kind-hearted girl. When she saw the condition of Devilal, somehow, she felt that she should help him recover.

The next day, Sunidhi called upon Bhaldeb Singh and said, “I’ve decided that I’ll help you people participate in the competition. I’ll help Devilal recover from all his ailments.” Looking at Devilal, she said, “Let’s start the preparations today itself…!”


That morning, on duty, Inspector Harish was continuously thinking about the piece of paper. To understand what was written on it, he had attended the tribal program. The Bhigavar tribe. Their play was mostly in Prakrit language. He had heard that these people always state their origins in every performance.


“We are professionals, Darogaaji...!” Bhaldeb Singh had told him, “We know every line by heart. We can recite a whole play in reverse order and also can act in reverse order…! Most importantly, we are masters of disguise...! You won’t even know the woman dancing in front of you is actually a man…!”

He had then questioned Bhaldeb Singh about the Lohaari Lootere, the gang that he had caught in the forests.

“They are quite dangerous, Darogaaji...” Bhaldeb Singh had told him, “They are too selfish and not to be trusted. They are very quiet, they don’t speak too much, but they are lethal. Even though they belong to our village, no one knows who their leader is. She has always stayed in the covers. No one has seen her. They are called Lohaari because their ancestors were blacksmiths. After the iron supply in our state ran out, they became dacoits. Since then, they have robbed many innocent people.”

“But sir, Bhaldeb Singh had said he has no idea where the loot is or what treasure is it,” Maganlal replied.

“Maganlal, somehow I feel this piece of yellow paper must give us the path to the treasure,” Harish said as he observed the paper in his hands. “When I scanned the older records, I came to know that these tribal people were blacksmiths, same as what the tribal leader said. They had made a lot of fortune, in fact their ancestors were traders, trading in many things. They had a lot of treasure which they carried along with themselves. When the Britishers started their rule, they came to know about this tribe’s income and all the fortune that they had. Therefore, they looted all of it, a huge amount, and kept it hidden in a secret location. At first, the tribal people chased and fought with the Britishers for it, but then one man named Prabhu Naresh got enlightened and told them to stop doing it. In his sense, he advised them to stop running behind money and focus on inner happiness. That’s when they gave up fighting and started focussing more on music, they started expressing their culture, heritage in the form of songs.”

“But I think, not everyone was ready to follow this,” Maganlal said, pointing to the dacoit gang in the jail.

“Right, some people wanted to have their treasure back, and that’s the reason they became dacoits. They fought with the Britishers for their own rights, but couldn’t succeed in what they wanted.” Harish answered.

He knew their leader was still missing. We’ll catch her eventually, he thought.

“Yesterday, I got information that the Maharaja is conducting secret meetings with the High Command and the Government Officers.” Harish said, “Let’s try and find out.”


Sunidhi had dedicated herself to helping the tribal people, especially Devilal. With almost 2 months to go for the celebrations, she started inspiring him to slowly learn the Sarangi. Devilal had almost forgotten the use of that instrument. But slowly, with his past experiences, he started learning it, step by step.


30th November 1951

The Royal Palace, Udaipur 


“Darogaaji, when I was a kid, I had spent my childhood in Paanch Gumbad ki Haveli next to Sutlej River in Kasoor district, which is now in Pakistan,” the Maharaja replied. Harish had come to enquire why was he having secret meetings with the higher officials and whether this in any way related to his case. “After the independence, the partition happened and we had to shift to this Mahal. The secret meetings that I am conducting are because I want the possession of that Havel, which has now turned into an antique museum. Even though it’s in another country and it will be difficult for me, I’m still trying my best to have it…”

Harish had heard about this palace of 5 domes. Right now it was under Pakistan’s rule.


Back in his office, he focused on the piece of paper. He then recollected that he had gone there to understand their culture, their customs. All of it was always depicted in the song that they kept singing frequently:

 

“O dear Lord, for you protect us always,

For we all bow down before you.

The holy book guides and shows us ways,

Just like it flows below the sky which is blue.


“Maganlal, the tribe always worships Lord Someshwar. They also mentioned about a Holy book. What book were they talking about?”

“Sir, this tribe is a nature-loving tribe. They consider the tree as a form of god. This is because their Guru Baba Prabhu Naresh got enlightened below a tree.”

Harish then got a wonderful idea.

“He wrote a book called Prabhu ki batris boli meaning 32 sayings by Prabhuji,” Harish recollected. “Get me a copy of that book. Let’s see if we can get up on something..”

“I think we have it here...” saying this, Maganlal went to the old bookshelf in the neighboring closed room and got the book.


It was a small book, with not more than 40-45 pages. It was printed on a normal paper and the original hand-written version was placed hidden in a museum. However, Harish still felt something was missing. How can it be so easy? Even if I found the verse, how could I possibly build a map? There has to be a pattern.

Suddenly, he remembered what Bhaldeb Singh had told him, “We follow a definite pattern, Darogaaji…! We always perform only 4 days a week: Sundays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays…” 4 days. 1-4-5-7. He then recounted that there were 32 verses in the holy book. Then he got the idea. “Maganlal, there are 4 verses per page, meaning that’s an 8-page book. Check out verse no. 1,4,5 and 7. Write them down. Let’s see what we have got…!”


Inspector Harish then looked at the finished poem with rhyming 20 lines :


O dear Lord, for you protect us always,

For we all bow down before you.

The holy book guides and shows us ways,

Just like it flows below the sky which is blue.


With flowing arms, the females dance,

Adding elegance in 5 directions of the structure.

The Voice reverberates inside and folks go in a trance,

The entire scenario creating a perfect picture.

 

Brightly, the star shines in the sky,

At night, the rays also lit up the dwelling.

Fascinating the view is, at dawn, to the eye,

And the sight at dusk is equally compelling.

 

Behold the sight, and it be observed,

As you should be right to measure.

For years it’s been kept hidden and preserved,

No one knows where is the real treasure.

 

“It’s written in Sanskrit language, guruji,” Maganlal said, as he finished reading the whole verse, “but what exactly is written on the piece of paper?”

“We got the poem, but I still don’t know what exactly is written on this paper...,” Harish said as he again observed the paper.


Was it some ancient language? Code in some different language? As he was thinking, suddenly he remembered what Bhaldeb Singh had told him, “We can recite a whole play in reverse order and also can act in reverse order…!” Reverse Order. And then it struck him. He took the piece of paper, turned the backside to the front and held it in the sun. He smiled as he read it. The last 4 stanzas of the poem were clearly visible on the paper.


“Maganlal, the road to the treasure is not a map, but this poem itself…!”


01st December 1951

The Old Police Station


Harish now knew that the poem will lead him to the treasure. However, he was not greedy. His main aim was to hand over this to the Government of India and avoid it from falling in the wrong hands. But he couldn’t crack the poem clearly.


The last line of the 1st stanza meant there was a river. Considering the above lines, it said the holy book guided them. Holy books are generally kept in a temple. A temple, next to a river. But he couldn’t recollect any temple which was next to a river. The next lines indicated a huge structure where voice echoed. The 1st line of 2nd stanza said female dancing hall, with 5 directions. The 3rd stanza also said the view of this place was fascinating at day and night. What could this place be?


He then went to the storage and got a book that showed all the Architectural Marvels of North India. It was not the Taj mahal, nor any other existing palace as the description in the poem was not fitting to any of the geometries of the structures. As he was about to close the book, he saw the last structure. Before Independence, it was used by the royal kings. It had a big central hall, with corridors spanning in 5 different directions. It was famous for the echoes heard and also the acoustics were well planned. It had fascinating views day and night and most importantly, it was on the banks of the river with a small temple. The name of the river was Sutlej. The Palace of 5 Domes. Paanch Gumbad ki Haveli. And now he understood the whole picture.


03rd December 1951

The Old Police Station


“But understand, Harish, he is a Maharaja. We can’t just go and raid his house….!” His senior inspector was questioning Harish.

“But I know the treasure is in that haveli, and that’s the reason he needs it under his possession...!” Harish clarified the things.

“I know, but there may be some other reason…. try and find that out. Meanwhile, the Maharaja is out of the country for a while and he will be back for the royal ceremony on 26th January. So you will have to wait till that time.”

But Harish wanted to know more things. He then deployed his detectives across the entire state to know more about the Maharaja. He even questioned the dacoits under his custody, but they were not aware of anything.


Sunidhi was helping the tribal people in their preparations. Devilal finally had started playing the sarangi, but still he had to learn a lot. Bhaldeb Singh and his entire tribe were helping him learn the instrument. Sunidhi was quite impressed at his never give up attitude.

Later on, the detectives got the news about the maharaja.

“He’s a big fraudster...! he has looted this money from many poor peasants and tribes. He has also taken fingerprints of all the uneducated people on court papers and grabbed their lands. His forefathers were equally cunning. They had exchanged their lands with the Britishers for these gold coins. This is not some royal treasure, it’s a looted money that the Maharaja wants…! And some people say that it is stored somewhere deep inside the basements of that palace…!”

Harish now knew about the royal king and what he exactly was. However, he had to wait till the Republic Day to arrest him. Moreover, he also had to collect evidence supporting his complaint.


05th January,1952

The Old Police Station


“We need to arrest him…!” Harish said, “He did not inform the Government about the treasure. He is trying to access it illegally…!”

“He has contacts till the higher level. We can’t even touch his hair…!” His senior replied.


Harish never wanted to have the Maharaj access the treasure, but he couldn’t do anything. He then went and told the entire story to Sunidhi. At first she didn’t believe, but then he showed her all the papers where the Maharaja had taken the fingerprints of all the peasants. Sunidhi was absolutely shocked to hear this. She had respected the Maharaja, but now he had not only betrayed her trust, but also had betrayed many other innocent people. She assured that the Maharaja won’t get the treasure. She made a promise to Inspector Harish.


26th January 1952

The Day of Celebrations

Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan


Today, it was a festive celebration everywhere. The entire nation was celebrating its 3rd Republic day. Sri Ganganagar, known as the “Food Basket of Rajasthan”, was filled with all the happy people. This city was named after one of the Maharajas of Bikaner. The India Pakistan Border, passing through a village Hindumalkot, was just 25 km from this city. Even towards the end of January, it was quite cold here.


The National Event was organised in one of the open grounds in the evening, starting at 6:00 pm. Maharaja Mansingh had already reached the venue in the afternoon itself. Since the border was quite near, owing to the enmity between the two nations, police and the army was called as a part of the extra security.

Inspector Harish and Maganlal were a part of the security that the Maharaja had taken with him. Harish had known from his sources that the Maharaja had organised this event here so that he can spend the night here and the next day drop a visit to his older palace in Kasoor, Pakistan, 145 km from this city. He clearly knew the maharaja’s intentions, but he couldn’t do anything to stop him.


Many people from all the surrounding villages had gathered there to witness the grand event. At around 6:00 pm in the evening, in a cold foggy environment, after the felicitation of all the dignitaries, the event started. Every tribe’s performance was appreciated by loud cheers and claps. Finally, the Bhigavar tribe came on the stage. All the audience knew that Devilal, who wasn’t able to play anything, will be playing Sarangi. As the tribe people entered, they were welcomed with loud cheers and claps. Devilal took the front position, placing the instrument in his hand.


“Sir, the Jasoos wants to meet you...its urgent…!” Maganlal suddenly spoke from behind. Harish had sent detectives called Jasoos all over the state to gather information about the gang as well as the Maharaja. 

“I have an important information…!” panting, the Jasoos spoke, “Sunidhi…she’s not a real princess. She belongs to some other tribe. But which tribe, I couldn’t find out…!”

At once Harish remembered that he had not seen Sunidhi at the event.

“Maganlal, search for Sunidhi right now…!” he immediately ordered, “Find out where is she...! We need to catch her before she escapes…!” Harish now concluded that she may be the leader of the Lohaari Lootere, who was still absconding. Worst thing was she must’ve found out the location of the treasure inside that palace. And since Kasur was almost 145 km from here, she could easily reach there through any vehicle.

“Call up our police station and tell them to remain alert…!” Harish ordered Maganlal as he sat in his vehicle. He wanted to reach Hindumalkot, the village which was exactly on the Indo-Pak border. As he crossed the ground, he heard applauds and loud cheers as the Bhigavar tribe finished it’s performance.

“Seal the border, right now…!” the army officer ordered his troops. Harish had told them what happened, and also about the dacoit gang. Nevertheless, he also had to inform him about the secret treasure in the Palace of 5 domes. The entire Rajasthan knew how dangerous this tribe was, plus they had escaped from almost every prison in the state.

“I have deployed rangers in all the neighbouring forests..!” the army officer said. This village was surrounded by vast greeneries on all sides. It was almost 9:00 pm in the night. There was no electricity in this area. Harish wondered how will he ever stop the dacoits from escaping, as even though forest rangers were guarding the surrounding area, there were still many unguarded narrow pathways along the entire stretch, and Harish was sure that the dacoits knew many of those hidden passages.


Harish stayed with the Army official the whole night, guarding the border in the chilly nighttime. Every incoming and outgoing road was sealed. Harish had also informed all the police headquarters in other districts of Rajasthan, and all of them were equally alert in searching all the dacoits. The army officials had a tent set up nearby, where their communication devices had been placed.


“All the dacoits are still in jail, sir,” At 5:00 am in the morning, Maganlal informed Harish, “No one has escaped…!”

This was totally unexpected. How come –

“Sirji…!” one of the soldiers came running towards the tent. “There’s news from the neighbouring territory…! A major theft has taken place in the Palace of 5 domes…! Being converted into a museum, all the other antiques and many valuables were robbed off by some thieves. Most importantly, the thieves have broken in the basement and no one knew that there is a basement in that building…!”

Harish still couldn’t believe what was happening. If the dacoits were in jail, who looted the palace? Where is Sunidhi? Did the Maharaja do something?

“Sir….!” His thoughts were broken, a few of his men came running towards him, “We’ve found Sunidhi..!”


27th January,1952

Village Police Station

Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan


Sunidhi was sitting on a chair, with bruises on her hands and legs. She was looking exhausted and tired.


“What you found out, is right.” Sunidhi finally started speaking. “I don’t belong to any royal family. I am a descendant of the family of Baba Prabhu Naresh. Our tribe considers him as a holy figure. Since the British started ruling India, they had constantly looted all our lands and agriculture. Selling all of it to various landlords, they had earned a lot of money and gold. All of this clearly belonged to us. We wanted it, but the evil Maharaja always turned his back towards us. It was then that I decided I’ll help the Bhigavar tribe get their treasure, their money back. That’s why I pretended to be the Royal Princess. One of the Maharaja’s close associate helped me in it. Once inside, I started to hear his conversations secretly with the higher officials. It is then that I came to know about this location in Kasur, near Sutlej River. I then passed on the message to the tribal people, who never knew where the treasure was hidden.”

Now the whole scenario was clear in Harish’s mind.

“So you mean…..”

“Yes.” Sunidhi understood what he wanted to say, “The tribal people, who were singing, they were the real dacoits. At first, I never even knew that I was trying to help them. But yesterday, while they were preparing for the program, I accidentally saw their tattoo. All of them had the same one on their wrists.”

Harish then remembered that every member of the singing troop had their wrists covered.

“Seeing that tattoo, I immediately realised who they were. I tried stopping them, but they blindfolded me and tied me to a tree in the forests. I don’t know what road they took to reach the palace, but they clearly knew the path through the forests.”

“Their network in the forests is really strong.” The Army Officer said. “Once they came to know the location, they plotted out a clear hidden way to reach there, without leaving any traces behind.”

“And their leader is not any lady.” Sunidhi further clarified, “Their leader was Devilal, the crippled guy whom I taught everything. Remember what Bhaldeb Singh had told us?”

"We are masters of disguise...! You won’t even know the woman dancing in front of you is actually a man…!”

“So that means Devilal used to disguise himself as a woman and loot people?” Harish questioned.

“Yes…just to mislead them. In the same way he misled us by showing himself as a handicapped guy…!” Sunidhi further clarified.


It was revealed that the gang which was caught by Harish was the real tribal gang, the real Bhigavar tribe. The dacoit gang had adopted their singing abilities and used to perform, just to fool people by hiding their true intentions. Through their inside sources, they had already known that Sunidhi was presenting herself as a princess, but she wanted to help the tribe. Therefore, the dacoits had deliberately poised themselves as tribal people, so that they’ll come to know about the real location of the treasure through Sunidhi. They purposely made the real Bhigavar tribe to be caught by the police. However, due to a small piece of paper left accidentally behind, Inspector Harish got to know the location of the treasure.


The Army officials and the police tried a lot to trace the path of the dacoits, but no one knew where they went, or how they looted the Palace. Maharaja Mansingh Khanddelwal was later on arrested and detained by the police for forgery and for helping the British to loot people.


28th March, 1952.

In a small Village

Firozpur, Punjab


“Just loved your performance…!” The Nawaab said.

“We are professionals, Nawaab saahib...!” the guy who called himself Natwar Choudhary told him, “We know every line by heart. We can recite a whole play in reverse order and also can act in reverse order…! Most importantly, we are masters of disguise...! You won’t even know the woman dancing in front of you is actually a man…!”


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