Tuesday 21 October 2014

The Rajputs
 The Rajputs are the warrior race, the Samurais, of India, and Rajasthan is renowned in Indian history as the land of the warriors.
 Rajputs are divided into several clans---Sisodias, Rathors, Chauhans, Parmars, Tanwars ( Tomars ), Pratihars, Solankis, Baghels, Chandels, Gahlots, Kachwahas, Bhatis, etc.
 Traditionally, Rajputs are both endogamous as well as exogamous. Endogamous means marrying within the community. Rajputs are traditionally endogamous because a Rajput boy only marries a Rajput girl. Exogamous means marrying outside the community. Rajputs are exogamous because a boy from one clan of Rajputs cannot not marry a girl from the same clan. Thus, a Rathor boy cannot not marry a Rathor girl, a Chauhan boy cannot not marry a Chauhan girl, etc.
 The highest among the Rajputs are the Sisodias of Udaipur ( the capital of Mewar ). Other Rajput princes were known as Maharajas or Rajas, but there was only one Maharana in India, and he was the Maharana of Udaipur, and he was regarded as the highest among the Rajputs. This was because of the fame and renown acquired by Maharana Pratap who never surrendered before the Mughals ( incidentally, both the Mughal Emperor Akbar and Maharana Pratap are my heroes, though they were enemies ).
  Udaipur, a lake city, is the capital of Mewar, which is in southern Rajasthan. Mewar is a hilly land, unlike western Rajasthan ( Marwar ) which is desert. So Mewar is ideal for guerilla war, which Maharana Pratap waged when the Mughal forces invaded Mewar, realizing that a head on collision with the Mughals would be disastrous. The Rajput soldiers  of Mewar went to the famous Ekalinga temple ( a few kms. from Udaipur, which I visited ), the family temple of the Maharana, and took a solemn oath that they will not sleep on a bed but on the open ground, and would eat chapatis made of grass until they liberated Mewar. For 25 years Maharana Pratap led his forces ( which included tribals, and even some Muslims ) but did not surrender. Ultimately, after the death of Maharana Pratap and Akbar, their sons Maharana Amar Singh and Emperor Jahangir entered into a treaty guaranteeing the independence of Mewar, and peace was restored.
 For this bravery the Maharanas of Mewar are regarded as the highest among the Rajputs.
  When I went to Udaipur a few years back, I met an old Rajput with a white beard and white whiskers at the Udaipur palace. I said to him " You Rajputs are brave people ". He replied " No, only the Rajputs of Mewar are brave ".
 A durbar was held in Delhi in 1911 attended by King George the Fifth and Queen Mary , on the occasion of the coronation of the King a few months earlier. It was the only one a King of England attended in person in India. All the Indian princes attended it. Maharana Fateh Singh of Mewar ( born 1849, and King from 1884-1930 ) was at first reluctant to attend, but after great persuasion agreed.
 While all the other princes of India were dressed in colourful clothes, golden, purple, red, blue, yellow, etc. Maharana Fateh Singh and his men were dressed in plain white. The Maharajas and Rajas wanted to meet him, but he refused, and met only King George the Fifth.
  It is said that if one wrote a letter to the Maharana of Udaipur it would be returned undelivered if it was addressed  to ' His Royal Highness the Maharana of Mewar, K.C.S.I. ' or with some other such words. But if one wrote ' Himself ' ( Svayam ), Udaipur, as the name of the addressee it would be delivered.
 Before concluding I wish to mention an interesting story.  It was told to me by a relative who was in the Indian Foreign Service, and was posted as Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan. This relative of mine had a Pakistani friend, a Muslim gentleman with the surname Chauhan ( some ancestor of his may have been a Hindu Chauhan who converted and became a Muslim ). This Pakistani friend had a son who was in love with a Muslim girl and wanted to marry her, but her parents, for some reason, refused. The father then told his son " We are Chauhans. We do not take the consent of a girl's father to marry her, but just carry her off. You do the same ".
 This was obviously a reference to the Chauhan King, Prithviraj Chauhan who fell in love with Sanyogita, the daughter of a Rathor king, Jaychand. Sanyogita was also in love with Prithviraj, but her father,Jaychand was an enemy of Prithviraj, and refused to marry her to Prithviraj.
 Jayachand held a swayamvar for his daughter's wedding. In a swayamvar many princes are invited, and the girl goes around a hall and selects her husband to be, and places a garland on his neck. Prithviraj was deliberately not invited, and only his statue, dressed as a doorman ( to insult him ), was kept in the swayamvar hall. However, dressed as a doorman he entered the hall and hid behind his statue. Sanyogita went around, and ultimately placed her garland on the neck of the statue. At this moment Prithviraj came out of his hiding place, grabbed Sanyogita, and carried her away on his horse. The story is recounted in the epic poem  'Prithviraj Raso '

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