Leaving the bus at Kamla Park, I am reminded of Bhopals Tribal heritage.
The indigenous peoples of the Malwa were the Dravidian Ghonds and Bhils. The Gonds were mainly peasants while the Bhils were hunters and the Aryan Rajputs and Marhattas had dominated the region before the arrival of Islam.
With their own language the Gonds had their own idols and eventually assimilated into Hinduism. A gond-raja warlord ruled over both Gonds and Bhils.
The meat eating Gond’s preferred to remain distinct from Aryan Hindus, particularly Brahmanism. Ethnically Dravidian they remained separate from the succeeding layers of Hindu and Muslim settlers who had forced them to south and central India.
So, a history of Bhopal though is incomplete without recognising the contribution of the Gond people, who were recognized by the Begums.
The famous forts of Ginnor and Chowkigarh were initially built by Gonds.
Nawab Hayat Mohommad Khan adopted two Gond boys, the future Dewans Faulad Khan and the more infamous Chottey Khan.
To this day senior Gond families till retain land rights to larger properties or jagirs granted them by the Begums.
But as I walk around Kamala Park, there is a more haunting legend.
The famous Gond, Rani Kamlapati built the seven storey palace overlooking the lower lake. Legend even claims that the 16th century queen spent moonlit nights floating on the lower lake in a lotus shaped barge. Kamala is Hindi for lotus.
She hired the Afghan mercenary Dost Mohammed Khan, to avenge the murder of her husband, Nizam Shah Gond. Dost deposed her, founding his own dynasty, but the exquisitely beautiful queen declined life in his harem, and jumped into the upper lake rather than lose her honour.
So as I walk around Kamala (lotus) Park, by the palace ruins, I am reminded of the scary tales that keep children awake from the parks southern shore.