Archive for September 14th, 2009

September 14, 2009

mAna siMha the rAShTrakUTa

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

While mAna siMha is no hero, nor is he pretending to be, his character still represents the collective contemporary Hindu psyche, with all their aspirations and consciousness as well as weaknesses and helplessness, of that sAndhya period when on one hand the Moon of the Hindu Resurgence was on the rise, and on the other the grahaNa wrought upon it by the mlechcHa-ketu was also imminent, an eclipse from which the Hindu fate never seems to have fully recovered.

In the tumultuous struggle of centuries fought by the mahArANA-s of mewADa, from saMgrAma siMha to pratApa siMha, against the hordes upon hordes of Islamites, none had joined them for longer, and watered the desert battlefields with their blood more plentifully, than the ‘hara-hara-mahAdeva’ shouting fierce hADA-s of koTA-bUndI and the rAThora-s of mArawADa, the western extraction of the legendary rAShTrakUTa-s from South.

Since the days when their contingents had fought under the Generalissimo of bhojadeva the pramAra in annihilating the Moslem barbaranins from ghazanA, to the era when they had sent their princes and generals to serve under the columns of mahArANA sAMgA against bAbUr, where they valiantly dyed kAlindI with their blood on the fateful day in biyAnA, to the era when they preferred to get slain in the samara rather than yield to the suzerainty of the moghul tyrant Akbar, to the time when now although yoked under the overlordship of shAhajahAn they perpetually remained in rebellion until gaining a virtual independence: their blood appears to have never seemed too costly a merchandise to them, for the honour of their five-coloured pacharaMgA mast. (There is only one aberration in the long valiant tradition, a comparativelysmall black spot in their history which they recall as an eternal disgrace and curse upon themselves)

Then later, emerging from the dark pall of the moghal sway, it was theirs that was the first rAjapUta sword, represented in legendary General durgA dAsa rAThora, the first amongst all the rAjapUta-s of his time, that rose to strike down at the writ of awrangzib and reclaim a complete swarAja for mArawADa, as was being done at the same time in their ancestral country in South by the son of cHatrapati, to whom he had personally met to hand over the custody of the rebellious son of awrangzib, and giving a taste of his own medicine to the Islami maniac, had kept a Moghal princess, a grand-daughter of awrangzib, in a respectful detention in mAravADa until awrangzib himself begged for the demand of whatever ransom and terms of release. Their connection to cHatrapati goes further back to those days when it was through the intelligence sharing and guidance of the Lord of maru-s, jasawanta siMha rAThora, still counted in the first row of all time great rAjapUta warriors, who had secretly sought a meeting with shivAjI on the dense outskirts of pUnA and not only guided him about the designs which awrangzib had laid for the Rising Sun of hinduvAnA, to use the term bhUShaNa uses, but also tacitly helped him get the better of shAistA khAn by silently withdrawing the rAjapUta-s troops from the fort on the night of the operation. (Incidentally, both shivAjI and jasawanta siMha shared a lot in common: the similarity of the cunning they had independently employed in their early careers; both of their sons were sent to torturous death by awrangzib; even the year when both of them breathed their last is the same, but this interesting subject we shall broach on some other occasion.)

In short, of rAThora-s is a saga of those qualities of valour, cunning and loyalty to motherland, which every rAjapUtAnI of marriageable age seeks to find in her future husband, and when married, prays to bhavAnI for the fruit of her womb to be endowed with.

Such is the valiant clan whose leader the subject of these lines became at a time when the Hindu History was staring at a major crossroad. The epoch of the time of his birth was such that the maharaTTA power was still holding considerable sway generally from coast to coast in dakShiNa and while much mismanaged and neither as united nor spirited as they used to be under the early peshavA-s, their writ was still running in the Gangetic plains from dillI to va~Nga. A flowering Hindu kingdom erected a little earlier in the himAlaya by the blessed pR^ithvI nArAyaNa shAha was already flourishing in nepAla. In North-West, the followers of gobinda siMha had effectively subjugated the Islamites to create a powerful kingdom that sprawled from the plains of pa~nchanada to as far west as knocking gAndhAra and as far North as enveloping the entire kashmIra; the fierce and rustic jATa-s had all but completely ejected afghAn savages from the central northern regions; and the remaining centers of Moslem power were now limited to being pale patches upon the map of Hindu Nation. The year was 1804 when the destiny of young mAna siMha saw him take the mettle of jodhapura, which he attributed to the blessings of his guru, a miraculous nAtha yogI.

His ascension, like his many counterparts of contemporary landscape was not smooth, indeed it happened against all odds. We shall do injustice to the colourfulness of events if we omit some of those interesting backgrounds.

His grandfather, rAjA vijaya siMha rAThora, had several wives and children and grand children, and although well past the prime of his youth he fell in amour with a beautiful damsel from a rich oswAla family of his capital. The whole matter caused much scandal across mAravADa, but the antidote of the prospect of losing repute was not strong enough to subdue the affliction caused by the arrows of rati’s husband! Marriage, although vijaya siMha desired so, was disallowed to him by his priests and nobles, so the elderly rAThora simply took the lady of his infatuation as a concubine. Soon it seems his heart sank in the passion for this rUpasI from one depth to the other and infatuation turned to devotion. The young object of his dote, on the other hand, was not so selfless and demanded equal rights as his other wives, and treated the old king with no dignity; on one occasion she is reported to have thrown her sandals at him. The royal lover, ripe in body but teenager at heart, finally decided to install upon her all the legal rights that his other legally wedded rAjapUtAnI queens had, including giving her a real heir of his own vIrya. To this effect, and biologically being too old to put a child in her lap, he decided to adopt a young grandson of his own, with the lady of his love as the adopting mother, and declared the child, this grandson turned son, our mAna siMha, the yuvarAjan.

This way, while mAna siMha legally superseded his several uncles and biological father, who incensed at being deprived of their birth rights and supported by the nobles disgusted by the behaviour of their king, plotted and eventually dethroned the old king and had the lady murdered. A wily uncle of his, bhIma siMha took the throne, followed by a bloody liquidation of all other competitors except one, the young mAna siMha, who survived because he was at the time away in the fort of Jhalore, which was not in the immediate reach of the arms of jodhapura, and although the assassin bhIma siMha later laid many sieges to Jhalore, he did not succeed in liquidating mAna.

Growing up in seclusion, away from his country and without care of any parents, mAna siMha once chanced upon meeting a nAtha siddha while wandering in the araNya, and the rest of the story is in the template of what we have heard on many instances, now in relation to bappA rAvala and now in the rise of pR^ithvI nArAyaNa of nepAla. Although having no hopes for future, living a life of deprivation, and being captured and executed appearing a matter of time, his fate took a surprise turn, which he attributed to the blessings of the yogI, when suddenly in mid of a siege usurper-assassin bhIma siMha died without any apparent cause, allowing mAna siMha to swiftly claim, with a small band of his armed followers, his legal right to the throne founded by his illustrious ancestor jodhA siMha rAThora.

When he assumed office, he was faced with two challenges: one, the sindhiyA-s of Gwalior refused to recognize the sovereignty of mAravADa and threatened a war. Second, some of the nobles loyal to bhIma siMha pretended that a wife of bhIma siMha was pregnant at the time of his death, and the posthumous child born in secrecy was the legal heir to throne, not mAna.

But it was another event which might seem trivial and unnecessary to an uninitiated but will be immediately understood and felt, by those familiar with the rAjapUta psyche, which caused a long-drawn war and resulted in much bloodletting for which rAjapUta-s were always ready.

As we know, mewADa is the most sacred seat of rAjapUta pride, indeed the pride of India. Up until the late times, no Hindu king at least of North India would be legitimized until he receives the approval of this house. It was no wonder that shivAjI always aspired to declare his lineage to be from this house, and the brAhmaNa-s of kAshI were presented written letter of approval from the then rANA before shivAjI’s rAjyAbhiSheka would be performed. Even Sardar Patel had first approached mewADa before any other state for the accession to the Republic of India, and the signature of the rANA of mewADa was the first on the instrument, before any other, and likewise after the Consitution was accepted, the first President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad rode on the first republic day from Rashtrapati Bhavan to Red Fort on the royal elephant sent by the rANA, as a symbolic gesture of mewADa’s goodwill towards the democracy.

So, even if physically weakened at times, the house of bappA rAvala had always reserved the universal claim on being the first of all the rAjapUta clans. Marrying one’s daughter into the mewADa house, in bloodline of the rANA-s, was and is a matter of much prestige for any rAjapUta clan, what to say of receiving the hand of a sisodiyA daughter in matrimony!

A certain princess of mewADa named kR^iShNA kumArI was the daughter of bhIma siMha, the then rANA, and she was reputed as much for the qualities becoming of a good rAjapUtAnI as for her looks. Before his death, bhIma siMha of jodhapura had approached the eponymous rANA with matrimonial proposal for himself with this princess. This was natural as the rAThora-s were always considered more preferable matrimonial allies by the house of mewADa, examples of which include such names as mIrAbAI, a rAThora princess by birth and sisodiyan queen by marriage, or the mother of jasawanta siMha rAThore, a mewADian chief princess. But before rANA could have responded, the matter simply ended with the untimely death of bhIma siMha rAThore, and allowed another prince, jagata siMha kacHavAhA, the prince of jaipur, to approach rANA for the fair hand of kR^iShNA.

The marriage was very important for the house of ambar, who with all their fat purse gained from the centuries of alliance with moghals, were suffering due to the same cause, from a low prestige. They were considered next to an outcast by the other 36 clans of rAjapUta-s, since that day when mahArANA had refused to see the face of and dine with the kacHavAhA prince and envoy of turuShka because not only had the house of ambar accepted the suzerainty of the Moslem but also given them their daughter in marriage. But now, with the changed landscape, the glory of jaipur can be instantly restored in the eyes of other houses, if the present rANA would agree to the matrimonial alliance, that too of the famed princess kR^iShNA.

But this was not acceptable to rAThora pride. With young mAna on the cushion of jodhapura being available to replace bhIma siMha in the previous proposal, rANA’s even considering to give the coveted hand of the sisodiyA princess to the lowly kacHavAhA-s was not any less than a sacrilege!

It should be noted here that lately the rAThora face was not altogether clean of the same blot too, and they had on more than one occasion married their daughters with moghals; indeed jodhAbAI was a rAThorian, and even the last recorded marriage of any rAjapUtAnI to a moghal, was also of a rAThorian princess, the daughter of ajita siMha rAThora. It is possible that it was from the same motivation as that of the kacHavAhA-s that the hand of kR^iShNa became such a matter of prestige for rAThora-s too.

They declared a war upon jaipur and its allies.

Continues to second part:


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