rAjA bhojadeva and rAma setu

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

This interesting reference to rAma setu comes from one of those trifling and forgotten episodes, which although insignificant in detail, change the course of history.

One dark night a contingent of armed men, under a crimson flag decorated with golden garuDa, the royal insignia of mAlava country, was swiftly riding on the wild banks of vetrAvatI (betavA) along with a prisoner and an execution-warrant.

Despite being a mighty ruler of mAlava, with boundaries stretching between chambal in north to godAvarI in south, paramAra mu~njadeva was living with a sense of insecurity from a young prince, a nephew of his own and hardly a teenager. This prince, bhoja his name, was quickly gaining many admirers among paNDita-s and Generals alike. Despite being inflicted with a terrible brain tumor, he was proving himself to be a rare talent of both shastra and shAstra, hard to say which his better forte was. All the influentials of the kingdom were foreseeing the promise of the chakravartin-crown kissing his brows. Envy and alarm having taken possession of the king’s better judgment, he at last decided to liquidate this potential danger to his throne, and ordered his trusted guards for a secret execution, for which the prince was now stealthily being taken into the woods on the banks of betavA in thick of that night.

The young victim of royal envy was composed to bravely meet his end, and after his prayers to vAgdevI and mahAkAla of ujjayinI, the youth had only one last wish. Once the executioners return back to the capital, they should pass on a message to his king-uncle, which he scribbled upon a cloth in form of a chhanda, his last, and apocryphally, in his own blood:

mAndhAtA sa mahIpatiH kR^ita-yugAla~NkAra-bhUto gataH
seturyena mahodadhau virachitaH kvAsau dashAsyaAntakaH
anyechApi yudhiShThira prabhR^itayo yAtA divaM bhUpate
naikenApi samaM gatA vasumatI manye tvayA yAsyati

{An emperor like mAndhAtA passed who came to grace satya-yuga. Next yuga saw another great who constructed even a setu over ocean to destroy the ten-headed devil, and he too passed. Yet in the next age came yudhiShThira of mighty fame. While all those great monarchs departed in their respective eras, the earth did not accompany any of them. It seems likely O Emperor that she might finally go with you when your own time comes.}

Having scribbled these last lines of his life, bhoja was now ready to meet his death.

But little did he know that destiny had other plans for him.

Seeing an unnecessary and wasteful end to such a talented prince, a ray of mercy arose in the heart of the commanding officer. At his risk, and in his hope against hope, he decided to put off the execution by a day and leaving bhoja in custody of his men, he rushed to the capital and delivered the message to the King. The King, reading the lines, was so moved that all his envy was washed away now by guilt. When the commander informed him that prince was still safe, he was overjoyed and not only did he himself bring bhoja back, but also declared him the heir in preference over his own sons.

And indeed it would seem destiny had other utility of bhoja when it inspired him to scribble that chhanda on the banks of betavA that night and saved his life. For, it was then that hundreds of miles away on the shores of the Oxus and Syr-Dariya, barbaric hordes of turuShka-s and Usbecs, having recently equipped themselves with the zeal of Islam, were gathering storm to pour down upon the Hindus, for the first time inside India-proper to the east of Indus.

It was bhoja, who had now become the mighty ruler of mAlava when the savage marauders from west and now followers of Quran, marching under the banner of mahamuda of gazna, invaded gujarAta which was on bhoja’s south-western neighborhood and ruled by an enemy prince. When bhoja heard of the sack and desecration of somanAtha, even in the domain of his enemy, he immediately marched with his army and that of his neighbours to punish Mahmud. And chroniclers, both Hindu and Muslim, record that bhoja meted out such harsh retaliation on the returning army of turuShka-s and Usbecs, marching in pursuit of Mahmud all the way upto Indus, destroying entire Muslim enemy that was met on the way and crushing invaders so completely, that never again in his life Mahmud dared to set his eyes to the east of Indus. The complete annihilation befell the branch of forces of Quran that had wandered northwards beyond the banks of Ganga, and this ensured that India was safe from Islamic invasions for almost 150 years to come. No wonder bhaviShya purANa remembers bhoja as the slayer of muhammad, and alludes to prophet appearing to bhoja in dream and giving him his confessions of creating a corrupt dharma.

And that chhanda which bhoja wrote that night mentioning rAma setu, was not to be his last after all. During the long fifty-five years of his reign, despite being always on the battlefield he did compose numerous works varying greatly in nature, spanning across the subjects of philosophy to politics, poetry to civil architecture, and much more.

(The basic story as well as the said chhanda is recored by biographer merutu~Nga in his prabandha-chintAmaNi)

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3 Comments to “rAjA bhojadeva and rAma setu”

  1. Dear Sri Sarvesh Tiwari

    Interesting article. Can you kindly tell me where I can find this ‘Prabandha chintamani’. Has anyone published this book? If possible kindly mail me where I can find this book and the name of the publisher. thanks in advance,

    humbly
    Ravilochanan

  2. Ravilochan Ji,

    prabandha-chintAmaNi of jaina AchArya merutu~Nga has been translated in English by C. H. Tawney and published by Royal Asiatic Society of Calcutta (1899 & 1901) under the title “The Prabandhacintamani or Wishingstone of Narratives”.

    Regards

  3. please check my response on sandeeps web. and sorry if i might have said something impolite. will try not to if we continue. but i am interested in talking about these things. hopefully we will help each other grow as wannabe historians.

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