Once upon a time, armed dacoits – or baghis as they are known locally – spelt terror in Chambal. After serving jail terms, they now lead quiet lives as farmers and respected village elders, dispelling myths about their violent past.
Driving from Agra to Gwalior, the beehad or ravines of Chambal become visible even before one approaches Morena, a district town in Madhya Pradesh.
The undulating landscape, dotted with mud hillocks and thorny shrubs, spreads on both sides of the highway, the jungle cover thickening in the distance.
From the highway, few signs of human settlement can be spotted in the ravines – a scattering of huts here and there and some temples along the road.
“At one time the ravines of Chambal were home to many dacoit gangs. We were told stories about them as children. Today there are no dacoits in Chambal,” says the priest of one such temple along the Agra-Gwalior highway