Nestled at the base of a spur of the Aravalli Hills is the tiny village of Ghumna, close to a larger village of the Meena tribe, called Kalakho. Its green and serene surrounds are perfect for rest and recuperation. Across golden fields, on the banks of a monsoon lake, is a perfect little retreat blending the ambience of a village with luxury. A kilometre before Dera Lakeview Retreat, easy driving on a tarmac road ends and then begins the adventure — a zig-zag drive through mustard fields. Not only is it a great hideaway, but, for those with even the mildest streak of interest in rural India, also a great place to explore.
But this is not a tale of Kalakho alone. For this village sits just a few kilometres off the least-explored stretch of the Golden Triangle that connects the historic capitals of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. Apart from over-explored Fatehpur Sikri and Keoladeo, this axis holds the ruins of a forgotten history. You’ll rarely find names like Abhaneri, Madhogarh, Bhangarh and Bhandarej in travel guides, or even on most maps. In an attempt to correct this historical wrong, this story offers you three destinations-in-one — Kalakho, Madhogarh and Bhandarej — all spread along NH11 between Bharatpur and Dausa.
The famed Mehendipur Balaji Mandir is known for, believe it or not, ridding one of evil spirits and curing madness. Staunch believers claim that Balaji can cure any evil: all it takes is a wish and a donation, and Balaji dutifully obliges. We visited him, as advised, on a Saturday evening for the weekly aarti, after which experience it is my earnest advice that you go on any other day but Saturday. At least 1,000 devotees were packed in like sardines, many of them in a state of frenzied ecstasy. We witnesed the cure only through a window as stepping in did not seem possible. In a quadrangle behind the temple, there were eight people lying about with their various appendages pinioned beneath huge boulders. The belief is that the shakti (flowing from Balaji via the boulder) would cure each limb. The hilly area around was dotted with little shrines — home to the ‘spirits’, we were told. My gaze strayed to some old trees draped in massive chains. Fortunately, they did not hold a victim for the day, for people suffering mental ailments are shackled here to await a miraculous recovery. Visit if you must, but this is no place for the squeamish. Drive back to Sikandra, turn left on NH11 towards Agra and left again at Balaji Modh, 25 km on.
How to reach Kalakho
Nearest railhead: Bandikui Junction (36 km/45 mins)
TO Jammu AII Express (dep: Old Delhi 4.25 am; arr: Bandikui 8.09 am)
FROM AII-JAT Express (dep: Bandikui 5.44 pm; arr: Old Delhi 9.55 pm)
Ask your hotel to arrange a pick-up because local transportation is limited to shared jeeps
Driving down from Delhi is the best option, leaving one the flexibility of squeezing in as many excursions as desired. It’s good going till Sikandra. Thereafter, it’s narrow tarmac with a few rough patches in the monsoons. The route from Sikandra goes past Gijgarh, Kadikoti and the Madhosagar Bandh. The last stretch after the bandh, less than a kilometre from Kalakho, is a dirt path through mustard fields.