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Posted at: Feb 12, 2018, 12:42 AM; last updated: Feb 12, 2018, 12:42 AM (IST)

Rani & the bigger picture

Rani & the bigger picture

Kamal Jit Singh

AS I read reports of rowdyism and avoidable violence over a film, I was confused and distressed. Memories took me to childhood in kasabas (mini towns) of Rajasthan and Hindi-medium schools, where I did my primary education. I got selected at a Sainik School in Chittaur. Our constant screen saver in those pre-mobile days was the legendary garh (fort) commemorating the valour of Mewar kings. 

We were inspired by the folk ditty, ‘Garh toh Chittaur, baki garhiya. Rani toh Padmini, baki ranaiya’(If there is a fort, it is Chittaur; if there is a queen, she is Padmini; the rest are lesser ones). Visitors to the fort were shown Padmini’s palace, jauhar kund, and depending on the ingenuity of the guide, Padmini tales were spiced with add-ons like her reflection in a pond or the mica mirror; but we were awed by defiance and a sense of honour of these brave women. 

School was my connect to ‘Bharat’ and the rustic simplicity of the Rajputs, Jats, Gujjars, Meenas, Kayasthas, Brahmins, Banias; and like the Panj Piaras, we were just five Sikhs. It was fascinating to live and experience the diversity of Rajasthani Rajputs — Mewaris (Chittaur and Udaipur), Hadautis (Kota and Bundi), Marwaris (Jaipur and Jodhpur) and Shekhawati (Sikar and Jhunjhunu). It is like peeling layers of onion. You realise that the Mewaris despise others like Marwaris for the compromises they effected with Mughals, exemplified in the marriage of Jodha Bai and Jai Singh accepting employment in Mughal forces. If you go deeper, you figure out that Jaipur, Bikaner, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer have their own customs. One thing is certain though, battles of yore like Chittaur and Haldi Ghati were fought between invaders and principalities often at war with each other. The idea of ‘Rajasthan’, or even ‘Rajputana’, came about much later. 

Later, I served with and commanded a Rajput squadron, where we had troops from MP, UP, Bihar, Haryana, Gujarat, HP and other states. I also learnt that in large numbers the Rajputs had converted to Islam and Sikhism. My Bhati Rajput ancestors from Chakwal, Pakistani Punjab, worked in the revenue services of Bikaner state. The obvious question is;   which strand of the Rajput community do these lumpen elements represent, and who gave them this right?

As a child, I had the privilege to tag along with my mother to the zanana (ladies) part of havelis of Thakurs. It was a discovery to see women relaxing with hukkah and discreet swigs of the local brew, kesar kasturi. My poor mother was always scandalised!

Why make such a big issue about women enjoying a couple of graceful steps of ghoomar? After all, it is a refined dance. My screen saver will always say, ‘Rani to Padmini’.


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