Archive for December, 2010

myth of mithila


Videha, often erroneously referred as Mithila, which was actually the capital city, is one of the oldest kingdoms of India. It has been in the collective conscience of Indians mostly due to its most popular king Seeradhwaja, the 21st Janak of Videha, whose daughter Sita married Prince Rama of Kosala.

janaki mandir, janakpur, nepal

According to Vishnupurana, Nimi was the first king of Videha whose capital was Jayantapura (modern Janakpur, Nepal). He was cursed by sage Vasistha to take an incorporeal form but owing to the resultant anarchy that engulfed Videha henceforth several sages had to gather and implore the bodiless Nimi to take a human form and this was how Mithi was born (mithi means soil) who after much wandering settled across river Sadanira (Gandak) and established his capital at Mithilapuri (modern Janakpur, Nepal). Since Mithi was born of his father’s body he (and the later kings) was also called Janak and the region varyingly came to be known as Janakpur or Mithilapuri or just Mithila. It was a dynasty that ruled the area between the foothills of the Himalayas and the river Ganges till about 7th century BC when the last Janak (52nd) Kriti was dethroned by the public for his atrocities. Henceforth, the area came under various rulers and formed a part of various kingdoms including those of the Licchavi, Magadha, Shishunaga, Nanda, Maurya, Shung, Gupta, Pal, Sena, Karnat, etc who had different capitals for their kingdoms.

mithila, bihar

In 1326, Firoz Shah Tughlaq attacked Mithila and the last king of the Karnat dynasty, Hari Singh Dev fled to Nepal. In 1353, Firoz appointed Kameshwar Thakur from Oini village (Samastipur, Bihar) as karad raja (tax paying king) but since he was of scholarly nature he was inefficient in maintaining an army and collecting taxes for the emperor and was thus replaced by his son Bhogishwar Thakur. They were a line of 14 kings and 1 queen who ruled Mithila till 1526 under the tutelage of the Tughlaks and as the Oinwar dynasty (named after the village Kameshwar hailed from).

bela palace, darbhanga (postal training centre)

Sikander Lodhi made his son-in-law Alauddin the ruler of Mithila in 1526 who ruled incompetently over the land till 1577 until Akbar established his control and firmly rooted his position as the Mughal Emperor of India. Akbar knew that only a Brahmin could rule over Mithila and thus he summoned rajpandit Chandrapati Thakur of Garha-Mandla and made his son, Mahesh Thakur, the caretaker of Mithila.

nargona palace, darbhanga (lalit narayan mithila university)

The family and descendants of Mahesh Thakur gradually consolidated their power in social, agrarian, and political matters and came to be regarded as kings with their capital at Rajgram (Madhubani district) which was later moved to Darbhanga by Nirpat Thakur. They bought land from local people and became known as a Khandavala family (the richest landlord). The family was not regarded as kings by the British Raj but they were allowed to use the prefix Maharaja, and later Maharajadhiraj, by the British. There is no documentation for this as it was a verbal commitment. Although the British never granted them formal status as a ruling princely state, they had all the trappings of a princely state with an area of 6200 sq km.

maharaja lakshmeshwar singh

List of Kings of Khandavala Dynasty (1577 – 1947)

Raja Mahesh Thakur (1577 to 1558)

Raja Gopal Thakur

Raja Parmanand Thakur

Raja Subhankar Thakur

Raja Purushottam Thakur (1607 to 1623)

Raja Narayan Thakur (1623 to 1642)

Raja Sundar Thakur (1642 to 1662)

Raja Mahinath Thakur (1662 to 1684)

Raja Nirpat Thakur (1684 to 1700

Raja Raghu Singh (1700 to 1736)

Raja Bishnu Singh (1736 to 1740)

Raja Narendra Singh (1740 to 1760)

Raja Pratap Singh (1760 to 1776)

Raja Madho Singh (1776 to 1808)

Maharaja Chhatra Singh Bahadur (1808 to 1839)

Maharaja Rudra Singh Bahadur (1839 to 1850)

Maharaja Maheshwar Singh Bahadur (1850 to 1860)

Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur (1860 to 1898)

Maharaja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur (1898 to 1929)

Maharaja Kameshwar Singh Bahadur (1929 to 1947)

one of the two royal insignia of raj darbhanga

Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur was a very prominent figure among the last of rulers of Mithila. He and the forthcoming rulers were benevolent donors to many socially important changes in India and diligently worked for the betterment of the society in and around their area of influence. They donated much of their palaces for starting up universities and medical colleges (in pictures). Though they maintained their loyalty to the British Raj they were instrumental in financing the Congress party at critical junctions.

anand bagh palace (lakshmivilas palace), darbhanga (kameshwar singh darbhanga sanskrit university)

Present History

Mithila as of now is a part of the Indian state of Bihar and the surrounding terai area of Nepal and comprises the areas of Janakpur, Sirha, Rajbiraj, Biratnagar in Nepal and Bettiah, Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi, Samastipur, Madhepura, Darbhanga, Madhubani, Supaul, Saharsa and parts of Purnia and Tirhut division of Bihar in India. The economy is mostly agrarian and the area is prone to floods and is one of the poorest regions in India. The region is though native to one of India’s foremost forms of painting, Madhubani, which is said to have emerged from the time of Sita’s marriage to Rama. The government, of late, has been promoting it as an important artwork of Indian heritage. The art form recruits heavily from Hindu motifs besides courtly symbols, marriages and nature. No space is left empty and it is highly colorful. One of Hindu marriage’s most important rituals, mostly in the Gangetic plains, the drawing of a Kohbar, that usually has images of sexual pleasure and procreation is a product of Madhubani painting.

kohbar, madhubani painting

The people of Mithila are mostly Brahmins and deeply rooted in rich rituals and traditions. They are peace loving people who live in large families and highly respectful towards their parents. Most of the Hindu festivals are celebrated with much pomp and show with the mundan ceremony being very prominent compared to other parts of Hindu India. They mostly speak Maithili (included in the 8th Schedule of Indian Constitution in 2003 as one of the Official Languages of India) as their native language with Angika, Bhojpuri, and Hindi also understood and spoken by many. Sanskrit and English is also quite popular but used by a niches section of the population. Maithili is often considered to be one of the sweetest languages in India besides Bengali and Calcutta University was one of the first institutes to recognize Maithili as early as 1917. The Sahitya Academy, an organization dedicated to the promotion of Indian literature, officially accepted Maithili in 1965.

gurkhas: as indian as should be


Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw once famously said of the Gurkhas, “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha.”

The identity of Gurkhas is often marred in controversy and their nationality frequently questioned. This post is a tribute to all the Gurkhas who fought for their nation, helped in her growth and despite the ignorance of a huge section of people about their origin and nature continue to love their motherland with utmost dignity and selfless service.

Etymology and Origin:

A popular saint of North India, Baba Gorakshanath roamed across the country spreading his ideologies of brotherhood and his encounter with Bappa Rawal, a Guhilot Rajput prince in Rajasthan is of specific importance. Baba Gorakshanath called his disciples “go rakkha” (which translates to cow protector in Prakrit language) and thus Bappa was the first Gurkha and this is how the name came into existence. Bappa went on to lay the foundation of the Mewar Dynasty and his later descendants migrated to east of Rajasthan and spread to various areas including modern Nepal and modern North East India (mostly Sikkim and Darjeeling). They formed their own kingdoms and though the original Gurkhas were Rajputs from west India with passing time many Indo-Tibetan and Mongoloid groups also joined them including Gurungs, Rais, Magars, Limbus, Tamangs, Kirantis etc. The modern kingdom of Nepal has for most of its history being ruled by Gurkhas and the Gorkha district is named after them. The Indian town of Gorakhpur, located in eastern Uttar Pradesh is also named after Baba Gorakshanath.

baba gorakshnath

Martial Race:

The Gurkhas were assigned as a martial race by the British and were known for their courage, loyalty, self-sufficiency, physical strength, resilience, orderliness, the ability to work hard for long periods of time, fighting tenacity and military strategy and the British Indian army heavily recruited from amongst them. There were altogether ten regiments of the Gurkhas serving the British army but after India’s independence six of them were given to India and the rest were to serve United Kingdom. India added one more Gurkha regiment post independence taking the count to seven. The regiments that presently serve Indian Army (1 Gorkha Rifles, 3 Gorkha Rifles, 4 Gorkha Rifles, 5 Gorkha Rifles, 8 Gorkha Rifles, 9 Gorkha Rifles and 11 Gorkha Rifles) heavily recruits Gurkhas from both India and Nepal and one of them, Major Dhan Singh Thapa, has also won India’s highest wartime award, Param Veer Chakra for his exemplary courage and duty during the 1962 Sino-Indian war.

PVC major dhan singh thapa

Present status in India:

There are close to ten millions Gurkhas in India living mostly in Sikkim, Darjeeling, Shillong, Dehradun and other pockets of India but primarily in the North East. They are mostly Hindus and exclusively speak Nepali as their mother tongue. With their continuous effort, Nepali was included as one of the 23 official languages of India. The Gurkhas of Darjeeling in particular have been very vociferous of their demands of a separate state, Gorkhaland, so that they too can consolidate their identity and help in nation building and contribute to the growth of India as her true son of soil.

It is now known that Gurkhas trace their ancestry to India and they are a group of people found in India and Nepal both. The ones who are in India (whether they migrated from Nepal during British times or are aboriginal inhabitants of India post the Suagauli Sandhi of 1815 shouldn’t be of any concern). Post independence, all the Gurkhas who made India their homeland are as much her citizens as we all are and we have no right whatsoever to ensue in any discrimination whatsoever. They are peace loving people who love their motherland and are ready to become martyrs anytime.

9 gorkha rifles, india

Their contribution to other fields including arts, politics etc is also significant and with all due respect I reiterate their war cry, “Jai Mahakali! Ayo Gorkhali.”

rani durgavati (1524 – 1564)


India is a land steeped in history and mysticism and many a great men and women have lived and died here. They are much revered for their courage and integrity and one such legendary person was Rani Durgavati. She was a Rajput princess born on 5th October, 1524 to Keerat Pal Singh of Bundelkhand at Kalinjar Fort (Banda district, Uttar Pradesh). Her father was the ruler of Chandela Dynasty whose greatest king, Vidyadhar, was famous for primarily a few things – he was one of the few Indian rulers to have successfully repulsed the Mahmud of Ghazni and was the builder of the world-famous temples at Khajuraho (Chhatarpur district, Madhya Pradesh) which are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

kandariya mahadeo temple, khajuraho

Durgavati was married to the Gondi King Dalpati Shah in 1542 who was the eldest son of Sangram Shah, the ruler of Garha Mandla (as of today it would comprise the districts of Jabalpur, Damoh, Narsinghpur, Mandla, Hoshangabad). After the marriage of Dalpati Shah and Durgavati, the Gonds got into an alliance with the Chandelas of Bundelkhand and gave stiff resistance to Sher Shah Suri when he had attacked Kalinjar in 1545. Sher Shah was much successful in his effort despite the coalition of the kingdoms from central India but he died of an accidental gunpowder explosion. The same year Rani Durgavati gave birth to Vir Narayan, her only son. Dalpati Shah died in 1550 and since Vir was too young, Rani Durgavati had to take the reigns of the kingdom.

garha mandla (approx area)

Diwan Beohar Adhar Simha (his successor Beohar Rajendra Simha is famous for being the person who had immersed the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi in river Narmada at Tilwara Ghat, Jabalpur) and a minister Man Thakur helped the Rani in looking after the administration successfully and effectively. The Rani shifted her capital from Singaurgarh fort (present day Damoh district near the town of Singrampur) to Chauragarh fort (present day Narsinghpur district near the town of Gadarwara) and got many small forts built all across her estate nestled strategically amidst the lofty and heavily forested Satpuras.

malwa

After the death of Sher Shah, Sujat Khan captured Malwa and was succeeded by his son Baz Bahadur in 1556. Baz Bahadur was a great patron of art and paid little attention to his territory. The kingdom of Rani Durgavati laid to his immediate east and considering it was ruled by a woman he attacked her but was driven out. After this win Rani Durgavati was greatly revered by her countrymen and her popularity increased.

singaurgarh fort, damoh - rani durgavati shifted her capital from here to chauragarh

singaurgarh fort, damoh – rani durgavati shifted her capital from here to chauragarh! source – damoh.nic.in

Baz Bahadur had fallen in love with a Hindu shepherdess, Roopmati, and married her. They lived at the historic city of Mandu but theirs was a short love story. Adham Khan, a Mughal general (younger son of Akbar’s foster-mother Maham Anga) under Akbar, attacked Malwa and captured it. Baz Bahadur fled to Khandesh (modern north-west Maharashtra) and Rani Roopmati killed herself sensing danger. The tragic story of the rise and fall of Mandu isn’t the point of concern here and would be dealt separately.

Asaf Khan, another Mughal general under Akbar, fresh from his conquest of Rewa in 1562 now laid his eyes on Rani Durgavati’s Kingdom.

Rani Durgavati’s kingdom now touched the boundaries of both Rewa and Malwa and both were now under the suzerainty of the Mughals – Rewa under Asaf Khan and Malwa under Adham Khan. An attack from either of them was imminent.

rani durgavati on her elephant sarman

Asaf Khan decided to capture Manlda in 1562 but when the Rani heard about his plans she decided to defend her kingdom with all her might. The diwan pointed out that the strength of Mughal forces was no match to theirs but the rani maintained that it was better to die respectfully than to live a disgraceful life.

rani durgavati stamp

To fight a defensive battle, she went to Narai Nala (Jabalpur district) situated between a hilly range on one side and two rivers – Gaur and Narmada, on the other. It was an unequal battle with trained soldiers and modern weapons in multitude on one side and a few untrained soldiers with old weapons on the other side. Her faujdar, Arjun Das, was killed in the battle and Rani decided to lead the defense herself. As the enemy entered the valley, soldiers of Rani attacked them. Both sides lost some men but Rani was victorious in this battle. She chased the Mughal army and came out of the valley.

an artist's rendition of the battle of narrai

an artist’s rendition of the battle of narrai

Two years hence, in 1564, Asaf Khan decided to attack Rani Durgavati’s kingdom yet again at Narai Nala. Rani reviewed her strategy with her counselors. She wanted to attack the enemy in the night to enfeeble them but her lieutenants did not accept her suggestion. By morning Asaf Khan had summoned big guns. Rani rode on her elephant Sarman and came for the battle. Her son Vir Narayan also took part in this battle. He forced the Mughal army to move back three times but at last he got wounded and had to retire to a safe place (possibly sent back to Chauragarh, Narsinghpur district where he was later executed in cold blood). In the course of the battle Rani also got injured near her ear with an arrow. Another arrow pierced her neck and she lost consciousness. On regaining awareness she perceived that defeat was imminent. Her mahout advised her to leave the battlefield but she refused and took out her dagger and killed herself on June 24, 1564. Thus was the end of a valiant queen who not once thought of submitting to the might of the Mughals and fought against them to her last breath.

Some sources say that this last battle of 1564 took place at Singrampur in present day Damoh district of MP (much near Rani Durgavati’s former capital).

a screenshot taken from the history tab of damoh.nic.in

a screenshot taken from the history tab of damoh.nic.in

After Rani Durgavati’s death, the fortune of the Gondi Kingdom fell into oblivion but she is always remembered for her courage and her abilities as a general who upheld her dignity till her last breath. Her death is celebrated in India as a “martyrdom day” on June 24. In the year 1983, the Government of Madhya Pradesh renamed the University of Jabalpur as Rani Durgavati Vishwavidyalaya in her memory. The Government of India paid a fitting tribute to her by issuing a postal stamp commemorating her death, on 24 June 1988.

There might still be various inconsistencies in this blog but I have taken great pain in collecting pictures and information from various sources and tried linking them together to form a somewhat seamless and comprehensive outline of Rani Durgavati’s life! If you find mistakes kindly point them out and I would be happy to research more and make corrections! Thanks!