Contented, I came out of the Padmini Palace. The serenity of the evening was resonating with the tranquility of my satisfied soul. There were several monuments that I wanted to explore further, but there was no rush. I had been to the famous monuments of the fort and still ninety minutes were left for the closure of fort.
On my way back from Padmini Palace, I crossed the Kalika Maa temple. This temple, built in the 8th century, was originally a Sun temple. Later, in the 14th century it was converted into a temple of Maa Kaali. Rulers of Mewar revered Maa Kaali and any battle expedition started only after taking her blessings in this temple.
After crossing the temple, I ventured out into the open grounds of the fort. There were shops selling handicrafts and the traditional dresses; colorful Rajasthan was at its best. Beautifully dressed and decorated camels and horses were patiently waiting for tourists. Their owners though were becoming impatient and were desperately looking for ways to earn whatever little money they could in the limited time left.
A horse owner called me. “Sir, come and get your photograph clicked on my horse in paltry ten rupees.”
I showed no interest.
He commented with sarcasm, “You might have given thousand rupees just for sitting on a mare (he was referring to my marriage procession) and now spending even ten rupees is a concern for you.”
A bystander joined the fun. He replied to that person, “Sir is still single. If you find any good looking girl, please inform him.”
I smiled at the desperation and the witticism.
At some distance a young guide was engrossed in playing ludo like game with two young kids. He offered his services to assist me. On my refusal, he was so quick in joining back the game that his sense of gratitude for declining his assistance was palpable 🙂
I was at the ruins of a once impressive Fatta haveli. There was no one around it, not even the all-pervading monkeys. A big symbol of a devi was painted on the entrance wall. I entered inside the haveli. The remoteness of the haveli, my solitude, the setting sun, and the tantrik association of the devi symbol at the entrance, created an unnerving atmosphere. Inside there was an idol of Bheruji and a deepak was burning in front of it. Someone was there just before me.
On one side of this roofless structure, were stairs to go up to nowhere. The only remaining structure on the first floor was a stone window. I walked up to have a view of the fort from the window. There was little space to stand. In retrospect, I feel that one should be careful while going up on such structures. Ruins are usually inhabited by bats. Any human activity around can scare them and the sudden movement of the bats or for that matter any other bird/animal which may be around can scare the person to lose his balance and fall off the stairs.
After having an eyeful of the Fatta haveli, I moved towards the Sammidheshwar temple. With the further descent of the sun, the tourists on the fort were getting outnumbered by the monkeys. The symbiotic and friendly relationship animals share was visible at a place where a monkey was eating the head lice from a pig’s body and relieving him of that menace. When I reached the temple, the sun was hiding behind it. The temple was glowing in the golden rays of the setting sun and the scene looked picturesque with a big barren tree in the background.
I was apprehensive of moving close to the temple as it was completely surrounded by the monkeys. Then I saw a family moving towards the temple, I too gathered courage and moved along. Apparently the monkeys were not aggressive.
Sammidheshwar Mahadev temple was built in the 11th century by Raja Bhoj of Malwa and was later rebuilt by Maharana Mokul in 1428. The carvings on the exterior of the temple were notable. At one place I noticed a Jain Teerthankar carved on the temple wall. Generally, I have seen the opposite. In Jain temples, the carvings of Hindu deities can be seen in abundance, but the reverse is not so common.
Mewar is among the regions where the Jain community not only prospered but also commanded respect from its Rajput rulers. It reminds me of one such incident that bring forth that special relationship.
A chance meeting between the tired and dispirited Maharana Pratap and the wealthy Jain merchant Bhamashah, after the battle of Haldighati, is well known in Mewar. In this battle, Maharana Pratap’s army fought a massive Mughal army led by Rajah Mannsingh. There were heavy casualties on both the sides and none of the two sides could claim victory. That battle was harsher for Maharana who had limited resources of revenue. He lost his beloved horse Chetak and was left with meager resources to carry on his fight further with mighty Akbar. The conditions were so harsh for him that he even considered conceding defeat and giving up his fight for independence. Below is the excerpt of “Peethal aur Paathal” a poem by “Kanhaiyalal Sethia” that describes the extreme difficult days Maharana Pratap went through at that time.
“अरे घास री रोटी ही, जद बन बिलावडो ले भाग्यो |
नान्हों सो अमरयो चीख पड्यो, राणा रो सोयो दुःख जाग्यो ||
हूं लड्यो घणो, हूं सह्यो घणो, मेवाडी मान बचावण नै |
में पाछ नहीं राखी रण में, बैरया रो खून बहावण नै ||
जब याद करूं हल्दीघाटी, नैणा में रगत उतर आवै |
सुख दुख रो साथी चेतकडो, सूती सी हूक जगा जावै ||
पण आज बिलखतो देखूं हूं, जद राजकंवर नै रोटी नै |
तो क्षात्र धर्म नें भूलूं हूं, भूलूं हिन्वाणी चोटौ नै ||”
One day Maharana met Bhamashah in the forest. Maharana’s dejected condition was noticeable. Bhamashah realized Maharana’s need for resources and gladly donated his enormous wealth accumulated over several generations. It is believed that these possessions were enough to maintain an army of 12000 soldiers for 12 years. This contribution invigorated Maharana. He re-gathered his army and by the end of his life, he recovered all the forts he lost to Akbar, except Mandalgarh and Chittor.
I was circumambulating the temple, appreciating the carvings on its external walls. A septuagenarian priest sitting just outside the temple noticed me and remarked callously, “Will you be interested only in the external carvings and leave the temple without visiting the divine, Jatashankar (another name of Lord Shiva)?” He harshly reminded me, “The real thing is inside and not outside”.
I was embarrassed as I was behaving more like a tourist at a place of worship. His remark acted as a curt reminder and conscious me entered in. No one was there except for an aura of peace. The black wall of the temple had a huge three-face idol of Mahadev. It was for the first time that I saw a three-faced idol of Him. My eyes remained fixed looking at that beautiful and ‘just as-ferocious’ form. It was a perfect depiction of Mahadev who is considered to be kind yet capable of doing the dance of destruction when angered. Both of these emotions were simultaneously, and skillfully crafted in the carving of that idol.
I sat there for a small prayer. After wandering in the fort for such a long time, my body needed rest and the calm and soulful surroundings of the temple refreshed me. After the prayers I bowed before the almighty and came out.
The priest was sitting outside on the stairs. I had a brief conversation with him. He abused Rajah Man Singh with choicest of abusive words and expletives, adding that if it was not for him, and his association with Akbar, the history of Hindustan would have been different. Rajah ManSingh was highly respected for his bravery in Akbar’s court. In-fact Akbar considered him as one of his nine jewels, but for the locals of Mewar, he was a coward and is remembered for his treachery towards the greater cause of Rajput unity. What really surprised me was that even after centuries these feelings are still strong.
A way from here leads to the Goumukh Kund, a reservoir of fresh water formed from the continuous flow of underground spring water from a sculpted cow’s mouth (Goumukh means cow’s mouth) at the very edge of the Fort’s cliff.
By then, I had visited most of the fort except for the Kirti Stambh. Kirti Stambh was built before Vijay Stambh by a Jain devotee in the14th century. The two towers are so similar in their architecture that Kirti Stambh must be an architectural inspiration for Vijay Stambh. This six storied pillar is around 24 meter high. I wanted to visit Kirti Stambh on my first trip but I was unable to visit it even in my second trip, so I guess a third trip to the fort is in the offing 🙂
On my way back, I noticed several small stones piled over each other. It was in Sikkim that I first noticed this way of making a wish and I thought it to be a tradition that
Sikkimese follow, without realizing it is such a common practice and so widely followed.
The sky was clear in the day and I was not expecting anything special at sun-set, but from somewhere a wandering small cloud arrived and engulfed the sun in its soft embrace and I was blessed with the sight of a soothing sun-set from the fort. The setting sun was also blessing the abandoned palaces, havelis and the ramparts with its empathetic golden rays; who else can understand and feel the pain of these desolate majestic ruins that were once the epicenter of buzzing activities of a powerful reign, than the sun who itself was so mighty and ferocious only a couple of hours ago. Once these ruins basked in the glory of its legendary inhabitants and that evening, and possibly every evening, they glow in the golden color of the benign sun.
Bonus for keeping with me for so long 🙂