Ramnagar was once one of the most prosperous villages in Central India, bordering Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh states. It falls in an area near the Chambal ravines, a region which almost 50 years ago was the dominion of the dreaded dacoit gangs. For decades these outlaws evaded the police, fearlessly invading villages, looting and killing the select targets. Often kidnapping women and children, for ransom or worse.
The social change brought over the decades has altered the scenario, but as any old timer will tell you, Ramnagar village was a soft target of these bandits in the 1960s and 70s, primarily because of its prosperity. The village, named after Lord Rama (Ram-nagar meaning city of Rama), has an ancient temple, which according to local lores, has been a witness to many miraculous happenings. Presently, the custodian of all these tales is the septuagenarian Radhabai, and if you speak to her, one of the first stories she would recount is her own experience.
Belonging to a rich landowning family, Radhabai was a young girl of 17 when the incident happened. The girls in her village were mostly married off young, for fear of abduction by the dacoits. Some were even sent off to live with their relatives in cities or distant villages. For many years Radhabai was sent by her parents to live with her maternal uncle in Bhopal city.
That year, during the summer vacations, before starting college, she was visiting her family at her ancestral home in Ramnagar. After many years Radhabai was attending the evening aarti at the temple. She had tears in eyes during the ritual, as she spoke to Lord Rama in her heart, asking him why he could not ensure her protection. She had to forcibly stay away from her parents and three younger brothers. “I always thought that you come forward to protect the vulnerable. A bunch of dacoits cannot certainly be stronger than a God. Then why can’t you take care of me. It seems my faith in you is stronger than your love for me,” she complained.
Later, as she stepped out of the temple and started walking home, she heard some noises in the distant. Darkness had already set in and she quickly started walking through the grove near the temple, taking the shortcut to the village.
Suddenly, she heard screams, it was coming from the direction of the temple. She stood stunned on the narrow pathway that ran through the grove.
Before Radhabai realised what was happening, she heard the loud sound of hooves, and then she saw two dark forms on horses, thundering down the path. Terrified at the sight of the dacoits, she felt immobilised, and kept muttering, “Rama, Rama, Rama, ….”
The dacoits had almost reached her, when suddenly they stopped. Then they quickly turned around and fled.
She looked around, but saw no one, just the dark trees and a narrow path. She could also see the towering spire of the temple at a distant. What was it that had so terrified the two men and had made them flee in fear ?
Radhabai says that even today, more than half a century after the incident, she still cannot forget the look of absolute terror on their faces.
For many months after the incident, the gang of dacoits kept away from the village. Meanwhile, the new police chief in the area was able to nab a few of them. There were others who laid down their arms, and surrendered.
Two among them had a very strange story to tell their interrogators. They recounted that a few months ago when they had entered Ramnagar, they saw a beautiful young girl in the grove near the temple. And with her, they saw an army of very tall warriors, carrying bows and arrows. Among them was a tall, unusually blue coloured man, standing right beside her. The dacoits confessed that they would have abducted her, had it not been for the large number of armed warriors, protecting her from all sides.
Both the men were sure that the grove was haunted so they warned the others in their gang and they did not venture near Ramnagar for a few months.
The police chief dismissed their account, thinking that they were high on hemp to have visualised all this. However, when the story reached the village, everyone was elated. They believed that Lord Rama’s army had protected Radhabai.
In the last five decades Ramnagar has grown into a little town, but Radhabai remains its most famous resident. Till this day, she would recount her experience again and again to anyone who would listen. Not to boast or to feel important, but to increase their faith. “If you truly believe, divine protection is never too far away,” she always says, concluding her little tale.