Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself bath said,
This is my own, my native land
—SCOTT: Lay of the Last Minstrel.
LOVE of one’s own country is inborn in all civilized men. Matra .Bhunti—Motherland--was the constant refrain of the Hindus’ song. The intensity of the feeling may be gauged from the fact that when during his fall, political foresight became a waning substance in the mental horizon of the Hindu, he ruled that no one should go out of the sacred limits of this holyland, that life here and death here alone shall be the necessary conditions of gaining Heaven. hereafter. It is of course universally known that the creed of the Rabat or the warrior caste of India even now is, that dying sword in hand in the cause of the country is the surest and the nearest way to Indra’s abode. Colonel Tod says: “The name of `country’ carried with it a magical power in the mind of the Raj put. The name of his wife or his mistress must never be mentioned at all, nor that of his country but with respect, or his sword is instantly unsheathed.”‘
Patriotism! In vain you ransack the annals of Greece and Rome, of Modern or Mediaaval Europe to find such noble patriots as Rana Pratap and Thakur Durga Das. Patriotism, chivalry and honour found their ideal embodiment in these two heroes. Pratap fought single-handed, with a handful of his Rajputs, against the
1Tod’s Rajasthan, Volume II, p, 429,
mighty hosts of Akbar, “the greatest monarch that ever sat on an Asiatic throne,” aided by the arms and counsels of his own countrymen, the Kutchwahas, Rahtores, Haras, Deoras of Abu and others, whose kingdoms lay round Mewar. He fought for a quarter of a century and died, leaving a name, unrivalled in the history of patriotism and chivalry. Colonel Tod says: “Pratap succeeded to the title and renown of an ancient house, but without a capital, without resources, his kindred and clans disspirited by reverses; yet possessed by the noble spirit of his race, he meditated the recovery of Chitor, the vindication of the honour of his house and the restoration of its power. The wily Moghal (Akbar) arrayed against Pratap, his kindred in faith as well as blood. The princes of Marwar, Amber, Bikaner and even Boondi, late his firm ally, took part with Akbar and upheld despotism. Nay, even his own brother, Sagarji, deserted him. But the magnitude of the peril confirmed the fortitude of Pratap, who vowed in the words of the bard, to make his mother’s milk resplendent; ‘ and he amply redeemed his pledge. Single-handed for a quarter of a century did he withstand the combined efforts of the empire, at one time carrying destruction into the plains, at another flying from rock to rock, feeding his family from the fruits of his native hills, and rearing the nursling hero, Amra, amidst savage beasts and scarce less savage men, a fit heir to his prowess and revenge. The bare idea that the son of Bappa Rawal should bow the head to mortal man’ was insupportable, and he spurned every overture, which had submission for its basis, or the degradation of uniting his family by marriage with the Tartar, though lord of countless multitudes.”
Colonel Tod adds1: “It is worthy the attention of those who influence the destinies of States in more favoured climes to estimate the intensity of feeling which could arm the prince to oppose the resources of a small principality against the then most powerful empire in the world, whose armies were more numerous and far more efficient than any ever led by the Persians against the liberties of Greece. Had Mewar possessed her Thucydides or her Zenophon, neither the war of the Peleponnesus, nor the Retreat of the Ten Thousand would have yielded more diversified incidents for the historic muse than the deeds of this brilliant reign amid the many vicissitudes of Mewar. Undaunted heroism, inflexible fortitude, that which keeps honour bright,’ perseverance with fidelity such as no nation can boast were the materials opposed to a soaring ambition, commanding talents, unlimited means and the fervour of religious zeal; all, however, insufficient to contend with one unconquerable mind. There is not a pass in the alpine Aravalli that is not sanctified by some deed of Pratapsome brilliant victory or often more glorious defeat. Eluldighat is the -Thermopylce of Mewar, the field of Deweir her Marathon.”
“ The last moments of Pratap,” says Colonel Tod, were an appropriate commentary on his life, which he terminated, like the Carthaginian, swearing his successor to eternal conflict against the foes of his country’s inde- pendence. But the Rajput prince had not the same ‘rod’s Rajasthan, Vol. I, p. 349.
2” What says the Thormopylfe of India, Corygaum? Five hundred firelooks against 20 thousand men! Do the annals of Napoleon record a more brilliant exploit.”--Rajasthan, -Vol. I, p. 80.
joyful assurance that inspired the Numidian Hamilcar; for his end was clouded with the presentiment that his son, Ainra, would abandon his fame for inglorious repose. A powerful sympathy is excited by the picture which is drawn of this final scene. The dying hero is represented in a lowly dwelling; his chiefs, the faithful companions of many a glorious day, awaiting round his pallet the dissolution of their prince, when a groan of mental anguish made Saloombra inquire what afflicted his soul that it would not depart in peace? ‘ He railed: it lingered,’ he said, for some consolatory pledge that his country should not be abandoned to the Toorks ;’ and with the death pang upon him, he related an incident which had guided his estimate of his son’s disposition, and now tortured him with the reflection, that for personal ease he would forego the remembrance of his own and his country’s wrongs.
“On the banks of the Peshola, Pratap and his chiefs had constructed a few huts (the site of the future palace of 4.Tdaipur) to protect them during the inclemency of the rains in the day of their distress. Prince Amra, forgetting the lowliness of the dwelling, a projecting bamboo of the roof caught the folds of his turban and dragged it off as he retired. A hasty emotion, which disclosed a varied feeling, was observed with pain by Pratap, who thence adopted the opinion that his son would never withstand the hardships necessary to be endured in such a cause: These sheds’ said the dying prince,
will give way to sumptuous dwellings, thus generating the love of ease, and luxury with its concomitants will ensue, to which the independence of Mewar, which we have bled to maintain, will be sacrified; and you, my chiefs, will follow the pernicious example: They pledg ed themselves, and became guarantees for the prince, by the throne of Bappa Rawal,’ that they would not permit mansions to be raised till Mewar had recovered her independence. The soil of Pratap was satisfied, and with joy he expired.”‘
As regards Durga Das and the Rahtores, the noble historian of Raj putana says: “Let us take a retrospective glance of the transactions of the Rahtores from the year 1737, the period of Raja Jaswunt’s death at Cabul, to the restoration of Ajit, presenting a continuous conflict of 30 years’ duration. In vain might we search the annals of any other nation f9r such inflexible devotion as marked the Rahtore character through this period of strife, during which, to use their own phrase, hardly a Chieftain died on his pallet.’ Let those who deem the Hindu warrior void of patriotism read the rude chronicle of this thirty years’ war; let them compare it with that of any other country, and do justice to the magnanimous Rajpoot. This narrative, the simplicity of which is the best voucher for its authenticity, presents an uninterrupted record of patriotism and disinterested loyalty. It was a period when the sacrifice of these principles was rewarded by the tyrant king with the highest honours of the State; nor are we without instances of the temptation being too strong to be withstood: but they are rare, and serve only to exhibit in more pleasing colours the virtues of the tribe which spurned the attempts at seduction. What a splendid example is the heroic Durga Das
I Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol, I, pp, 348, 49.
of all that constitutes the glory of the Rajput! valour, loyalty, integrity, combined with prudence in all the difficulties which surrounded him, are qualities which entitle him to the admiration which his memory conti- nues to enjoy. The temptations held out to him were almost irresistible; not merely the gold, which he and thousands of his brethren would alike have spurned, but the splendid offer of power in the proffered munsub of five thousand,’ which would at once have lifted him from his vassal condition to an equality with the princes and chief nobles of the land. Durga had, indeed, but to name his reward; but, as the bard justly says, he was Anzolac’ beyond all price, Unoko’ unique. Not even revenge, so dear to the Rajput, turned him aside from the dictates of true honour. The foul assassination of his brother, the brave Soning, effected through his enemies, made no alteration in his humanity whenever the chance of war placed his foe in his power; and in this his policy seconded his virtue. His chivalrous conduct in the extrication of prince Akbar from inevitable destruction had he fallen into his father’s hands, was only surpassed by his generous and delicate behaviour towards the prince’s family which was left in his care, forming a marked contrast to that of the enemies of his faith on similar occasions.. The virtue of the grand-daughter of Aurangzeb, in the sanctuary of Droonara, was in far better keeping than in the trebly-walled harem of Agra. Of his energetic mind and the control he exerted over those of his confiding brethren what a proof is given, in his preserving the secret of the abode of his prince throughout the first six years of his infancy! But, to conclude our eulogy in the words of their bard: he has reaped the immortality destined for good deeds; his memory is cherished, his actions are the theme of constant praise, and his picture on his white horse, old, yet in vigour, is familiar amongst the collections of the portraits of Rajputana.”‘
“ In the history of mankind, “ adds Colonel Tod, “ there is nothing to be found presenting a more brilliant picture of fidelity than that afforded by the Rahtore clans in their devotion to their prince from his birth until he worked out his own and his country’s deliverance.”2
Colonel Tod says: “Many anecdotes are extant record-. ing the dread, Aurangzeb had of this leader of the Rahtores, one of which is amusing. The tyrant had commanded pictures to be drawn of two of the most mortal foes to his repose, Sevaji and Durga: Sevaji was drawn seated on a couch; Durga in his ordinary position, on horseback, toasting bhawties or barley-cakes with the point of his lance, on a fire of maize-stalks. Aurangzeb at the first glance, exclaimed, ‘ I may entrap that fellow (meaning Sevaji), but this dog is born to be my bane.”
Patriotism, honour of his race, anxiety to maintain the good name of his country are inherent traits in the character of a true Hindu. A simple incident of no great political importance shows the living faith of the Rajput in his country and his race, for whose honour he is prepared at all times and in all circumstances to lay down his life unhesitatingly.
‘Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol. II, pp. 81, 82, 2Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol. II, p. 94. 3Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol. II, p, 66.
Humiliated by a night attack on his forces by a handful of men under Hamoo, the Chief of Bundi, when his army was put to flight, in the course of a compaign against Haraoti, the Nlaharana of Chitor re-formed his troops under the walls of his celebrated fortress, and swore that he would not eat until he was master of Bundi.
The rash vow went round; but Bundi was sixty miles distant, and defended by brave hearts. His chiefs expostulated with the Rana on the absolute impossibility of redeeming his vow; but the words of kings are sacred: Boondi must fall ere the King of the Gehlotes could dine. In this exigence a childish expedient was proposed to release him from hunger and his oath ;
to erect a mock Boondi, and take it by storm.’ Instantly the mimic town arose under the walls of Chitor; and, that the deception might be complete, the local nomenclature was attended to, and each quarter had its appropriate appellation. A band of Haras of the Pathar were in the service of Chitor, whose leader, Koombo Bairsi, was returning with his kin from hunting the deer, when their attention was attracted by this strange bustle. The story was soon told, that Boondi!must fall ere the Rana could dine. Koombo assembled his brethren of the Pathar, declaring that even the mock Boondi must be defended. All felt the indignity to the clan, and each bosom burning with indignation, they prepared to protect the mud walls of the pseudo Boondi from insult. It was reported to the Rana that Boondi was finished. He advanced to the storm; but what was his surprise when, instead of the blank cartridge he heard a volley of balls whiz amongst them I A messenger was despatched and was received by Bairsi at the gate, who explained the cause of the unexpected salutation, desiring him to tell the Rana that ‘ not even the mock capital of a Hara should be dishonoured.’ Spreading a sheet at the little gateway, Pairsi and the Kaawunts invited the assault, and at the threshold of Gcir-ca-Booncli (the Boondi of clay) they gave up their lives for the honour of the race.”‘
Where can you find a more inspiring and ennobling example of a patriotic Hindu doing his duty than that of the eldest son of the Mehtri Chief during the Civil War between Bakht Singh and Ram Singh in Marwar? Colonel Tod says: “There is nothing more chivalrous in the days of Edward and Cressy than the death of the heir of Mehtri, who, with his father and brothers sealed his fealty with his blood on this fatal field. He had long engaged the hand of a daughter of a chief of the Nirookas, and was occupied with the marriage rites when tidings reached him of the approach of the rebels to Mairta. The knot had just been tied, their hands had been joined—but he was a Mairtea—he unlocked his hand from that of the fair Nirooki, to court the Apsara in the field of battle. In the bridal vestments, with the nuptial coronet (Mor) encircling his forehead, he took his station with his clan in the second day’s fight, and obtained a bride in Indra’s abode.’ The bards of Maroo dwell with delight on the romantic glory of the youthful heir of Mehtri, as they repeat in their Doric verse,
Kan a mooti bulbulla Gulla soni a walla Asi Cos kurro ho aya
Kunwar Mehtri walla.’
The paraphernalia here enumerated are very foreign to the
1Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol. II, pp. 163, 64.
cavalier of the West With pearls shining in his ears, and a golden chaplet round his neck, a space of eighty toss came the heir of Mehtri.’
“ The virgin bride Followed her lord from Jaipur, but instead of being met with the tabor and lute, and other signs of festivity, wail and lamentation awaited her within the lands of Mehtri, where tidings came of the calamity which at once deprived this branch of the Mairteas of all its supporters. Her part was soon taken; she commanded the pyre to be erected; and with the turban and toorah, which adorned her lord on this fatal day, she followed his shade to the mansions of the sun.”1
Owing to certain reasons, Rai Singh, the heir-appa’ rent of Jaisalmer, daring the reign of Mul Raj (who became king in A.D. 1762), was persuaded to put the minister to death. This was effected by the prince’s own hand, in his father’s presence; and as the Mehta, in falling, clung to Mul Raj for protection, it was proposed to take of Mul Raj at the same time. The proposition, however, was rejected with horror by the prince, whose vengeance was satisfied. The Rawal was allowed to escape to the female apartments; but the chieftains, well knowing they could not expect pardon from the Rawal, insisted on investing Rai Singh, and if he refused, on placing his brother on the gadi. The An’ of Rai Singh was proclaimed; but no entreaty or threat would induce him to listen to the proposal of occupying the throne; in lieu of which he used a pallet (khat). Three mouths and five days had passed since lhe deposal and bondage of Mul Raj, when a female resolved to emancipate him; this female was the wife of the chief conspirator, and confidential adviser
1Torl’s Rajasthan, Voi. I, pp. 749,50.
of the regent prince. This noble dame, a Rah tore Rajpootni, of the Mahecha clan, was the wife of Anop Singh of Jinjiniali, the premier noble of Jaisalmer, and who, wearied with the tyranny of the minister and the weakness of his prince, had proposed the death of the one and the deposal pf the other. We are not made acquainted with any reason, save that of swad’herma, or fealty,’ which prompted the Rahtorni to rescue her prince even at the risk of her husband’s life; but her appeal to her son, Zoorawar, to perform his duty, is preserved, and we give it verbatim: Should your father oppose you, sacrifice him to your duty, and I will mount the pyre with his corpse.’ The son yielded obedience to the injunction of his magnanimous parent, who had sufficient influence to gain over Arjoon, the brother of her husband, as well as Megh Sing, Chief of Baroo. The three chieftains forced an entrance into the prison where their prince was confined, who refused to be released from his manacles, until he was told that the Mahechi had promoted the plot for his liberty. The sound of the grand nakarra, proclaiming Mul Raj’s re-possession of the gadi, awoke his son from sleep; and on the herald depositing at the side of his pallet the sable siropdva, and all the insignia of exile— the black steed and black vestments—the prince, obeying the command of the emancipated Rawal, clad himself therein, and, accompanied by his party, bade adieu to Jaisalmer, and took the road to Kottoroh. When he arrived at this town, on the southern frontier of the State, the chiefs proposed to “ run the country”; but he replied that the country was his mother and every Rajpoot his foe who injured it.’
1Todis Rajasthan, Vol. II, pp, 264, 5,
“ This Rajputni,” adds Colonel Tod, “ with an elevation of mind equal to whatever is recorded of Greek and Roman heroines, devoted herself and a husband whom she loved, to the one predominant sentiment of the Rajput—swadharma (duty).
The reply of the E):orah prince of Sirohi when instructed to perform that profound obeisance from which none were exempt at Delhi, where he had been carried by Mokundas, one of Jaswant Singh’s generals after having been secretly captured whilst asleep in his palace, and his subsequent conduct, shows the high spirit and the independence of character of a true Rajput and his intense love for his country. He said that “his life was in the king’s hands, his honour in his own; he had never bowed the head to mortal man, and never would.” As Jaswant had pledged himself for his honourable treatment, the officers of the ceremonies endeavoured by stratagem to obtain a constrained obeisance, and instead of introducing him as usual, they showed him a wicket, knee high, and very low overhead, by which to enter, but putting his feet foremost, his head was the last part to appear. This stubborn ingenuity, his noble bearing, and his long-protracted resistance, added to Jaswant’s pledge, won the king’s favour; and he not only proffered him pardon, but whatever lands he might desire. “ Though the king did not name the return, Soortan was well aware of the terms, but he boldly and quickly replied, what can your Majesty bestow equal to Achilgurh? let me return to it is all I ask.’ The king had the magnanimity to comply with his request; Soortan was allowed to retire to the castle of Abu, nor did he or any of the Deoras ever rank themselves amongst the vassals of
the empire; but they have continued to the present hour a life of almost savage independence.”‘
Colonel Tod says: “These men of the soil, as they emphatically designate themselves, cling to it and their ancient and well-defined privileges, with an unconquerable pertinacity; in their endeavours to preserve them, whole generations have been swept away, yet has their strength increased in the very ratio of oppression. Where are now the oppressors? the dynasties of Ghazni, of G-hor, the Ghiljis, the Lodis, the Pathans, the Timoors, and the demoralising Mahratta? The native Rajpoot has flourished amidst these revolutions, and survived their fall; and but for the vices of their internal sway, chiefly contracted from such association, would have risen to power upon the ruin of their tyrants.”2
How far will this high character of the Rajputs be influenced by the new condition of things remains to be seen. Colonel Tod says: “When so many nations are called upon, in a period of great calamity and danger, to make over to a foreigner, their opposite in everything, their superior in most, the control of their forces in time of war, the adjudication of their disputes in time of peace, and a share in the fruits of their renovating prosperity, what must be the result, when each Rajpoot may hang up his lance in the hall, convert his sword to a ploughshare, and make a basket-of his buckler? What but the prostration of every virtue? To be great, to be independent, its martial spirit must be cherished; happy if within the bounds of moderation.”3 It is to be hoped
1Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol. 1I, pp. 56,57. Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol. II, p. 160. 3Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol. I, p, 127.
that education, travel and contact with enlightened Europeans will succeed in counteracting the baneful influences dreaded by the gallant Colonel.
“ The Rajput, with all his turbulence, possesses in an eminent degree both loyalty and patriotism.”‘
What can be a more eloquent testimony to the patriotic fervour and the heroic valour of the Rajputs, than the following extract from the Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan by Colonel Tod :-
“ There is not a petty State in Rajputana that has not had its own Thermopylm and scarcely a city that has not produced its Leonidas. But the mantle of ages has shrouded from view what the magic pen of the historian miszht have consecrated to endless admiration: Somnath might have rivalled Delphos; the spoils of Hind might have vied with the wealth of the Lybian King; and, compared with the army of the Pandavas, the army of Zerxes would have dwindled into insignificance.”‘
Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol, I, p. 194.2Tod’s Rajasthan, Introduction, p. 16.