The Legends of Mewar

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What do Panna Dhai, Krishna Kumari, Rani Padmini, Chetak and Maharana Pratap have in common? After all, Panna Dhai was but a nursemaid, Krishna Kumari a princess, Padmini a queen, Chetak the horse of the great king Maharana Pratap?

They all belonged to the soil of valiant Mewar (Today’s Udaipur / Chittorgarh) that is said to have remained unconquered through centuries, whether it was the Mughals or the British, making for some of the greatest stories every told, of honour, pride and sacrifice.

How many mothers in all of history do we know, who would get her own son cut into pieces to save another ? Panna Dhai, did exactly that. A 16th century Rajput woman of the Kheechee tribe, nursemaid to Prince Udai Singh, the fourth son of Maharana Sanga, she had been given charge of young Udai, along with her own son Chandan, who was of similar age and Udai’s playmate.

When Maharana Sanga died of wounds sustained at the Battle of Khanwa against Mughal emperor Babur, Banbir, a distant cousin of Udai Singh, made a plan to kill the latter, so he could be the new king instead. The fierce protector that she was, Panna Dhai got to know of it and with no defense on her side, instructed a servant to put the sleeping prince Udai into a large basket and smuggle him out of the fort to a safe spot. Then she summoned an amazing strength of will, lifted her sleeping son, Chandan, from his bed and placed him on the prince’s bed, covering him with a blanket. Within moments, Banbir burst into the room, sword in hand. When asked the whereabouts of the young Maharana, Panna Dhai pointed to the occupied bed … and watched in horror as the murderer slew her son. Maharana Udai Singh grew up to become the founder of Udaipur(named after him), one of the most beautiful lake cities of today.

Panna-Dai-1

 

Krishna Kumari, princess and daughter of Rana Bhim Singh of Mewar, in early 19th century, had a different predicament. Being a renowned beauty, her hand had been sought in marriage by the two most powerful kings of Rajasthan, that of Jaipur and Marwar (Today’s Jodhpur).  Whoever Rana Bhim Singh would turn down, was sure to wage a bloody war on the kingdom of Mewar. In her 16th year, Krishna Kumari, decided to end her life, to save her countrymen from an impending bloodshed, by drinking poison. “We are marked out for sacrifice from our birth ; let me thank my father that I have lived so long.” were her last words to her mother, before she slept, never to rise again.

 

Rani Padmini’s story (Wife of Rawal Ratan Singh) is much more well known, the extra ordinarily beautiful queen of Chittor, who performed Jauhar ( a huge pyre was lit and she jumped into it with thousands of other women of the Mewar clan) to save her the dishonor of landing in the hands of the lustful Allah-ud-din Khilji. She has been immortalized in the epic poem ‘Padmavat’, written by Malik Mohammad Jayasi in 1540.

 

Ranbeech chaukadi bhar-bhar kar Chetak ban gaya nirala tha

Ranapratap ke ghode se Pad gaya hawa ko pala tha

Shyamnarayan Pandey in his poem ‘Maharana Pratap ki Talwar’ gives a fitting ode to Chetak, the blue blooded (pun intended) horse of the Maharana who saved his master but sacrificed his life in the famous battle of Haldighati. Nothing unusual for a horse, and yet Chetak is probably the only horse who has poems and folklores devoted to him for his swiftness, speed, agility and the almost instinctive communication he had with his master. Maharana himself, arguably the greatest of Mewar rulers, is a legend and pages after pages can be written on his valour, strength and grit.

 

Its not a coincidence that Mewar has given birth to these and many more such moving, inspiring tales of honour and sacrifice for its people have always known to value those tenets over a lot else. And as one wanders through the forts, palaces and lanes of present day Mewar, do a horse safari in Bijaipur, laze around the tranquil waters at Bhainsrorgarh fort, or savour the beauty of hills around the Lake Pichola in Udaipur, one cant miss the smell of the earth and the music in the air that keeps taking us back in time to a world that once was..

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