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Orchha and Kundar- the two haunted towns of Central India

Orchha is not just about palaces and the river close by. It is also about Kundar , the haunt of the valiant Chandelas and Bundelas.

Don’t forget to include Kundar if you are planning a weekend trek to the ancient town of Orchha!

places in Orchha
The courtyard of Kundar
Kundar is very near to Orchha

Garh, in Hindi, means “fort” so, Garh Kundar means the Fort of Kundar. It is located approximately 30 miles from Jhansi, an important railway station on the Delhi-Chennai route. Direction-wise, it is roughly east of Jhansi and is an administrative part of Tikamgarh district of the state of Madhya Pradesh. Travelers need to get down from the train at Jhansi and take a car or bus ride to Kundar.

If you are traveling to Orchha, then you will find Kundar on the way.

Madhya Pradesh has other great places for travelers heading to India such as Khajuraho, Orchha,  tiger sanctuaries in Kanha and Bandhavgarh and the world famous Temple of The Lord of Death at Ujjain.

What makes Kundar so fascinating for this post is that it is a haunted place and no living being, not even bats or pigeons live here!

History of Kundar

Kundar used to be under the control of the Chandel rulers, the makers of the world famous Khajuraho temples when Prithviraj Chauhan, the last ruler of Delhi and Ajmer vanquished Parmardidev, the Chandel king.Post the defeat of the Chandels, the Chauhan put his vassal, Khet Singh Khangar as the governor and after a century, the baton  passed on to Hurmat Singh Khangar.

Prithviraj was defeated by the Turks in 1192 and the throne of Delhi passed on to the Muslims.

Since, Kundar is in an inaccessible place and surrounded by valleys, hills, ravines and thick forests, this fort could not be captured by the Muslim kings of Delhi.The Khangar kings, sensing the state of confusion in Delhi, declared themselves independent and later on enjoyed a trouble free reign of around 100 years in this part of India. One night,i n 1288 AD, the Khangars were massacred by their vassals, the Bundelas.

places near Orchha
Isn’t this a beautiful place?

Who were Chauhans, Chandels, Bundelas and Khangars?

They are the warrior class of India.Also called as kshatriyas, the Chauhans etc formed the fighting arm of India and ruled vast tracts of the country.There was intense rivalry among these groups, with each one of one of them trying to prove itself militarily stronger than the rest.There are some really hauntingly beautiful tales about these clans in India.

The events that led to the fateful night of the massacre

Hurmat Singh , the last Khangar king of Kundar was a brave , obstinate  but a liberal man.He had grown old and looked forward to installing his son, Nagdev as his successor.

Politically, while the Chandels, the previous lords of Kundar were weak, their decline had led to the emergence of new warrior classes like the Bundelas in the region.The Bundelas were a doughty lot but they had to accept the overlordship of the Khangars whom they considered inferior in the social hierarchy.The resentment was simmering but was hidden from the king.

The king wished to overcome his “socially inferior” status by marrying his son Nagdev to the daughter of one of his subordinates, Sohanpal, a Bundela.Her name was Manvati and was secretly dating a fellow Bundela, Agnidutt.

Sohanpal had his own problems to solve.He had been given a raw deal by one of his own brothers and was planning to approach the king for a solution.He never had an inkling about the king’s intention to ask for the hand of his daughter.

Sohanpal finally had a chance to meet the king and explain his predicament.Hurmat Singh readliy agreed to bail him out but then set down his condition, the betrothal of Manvati to Nagdev.T he diplomat that Sohanpal was, he kept his counsel and promised to get back to the king with his reply.

Sohan consulted his colleagues and fellow Bundelas and all of them agreed to play ball.

But, they had a secret plan..

The Bundelas readily agreed to the conditions laid down by Hurmat Singh and proposed a grand party of drunken revelry before the marriage ceremony.The revelry would take place within the confines of the Kundar fort and there would be no limits to merriment.The unsuspecting Khangar could’nt be happier- his moment had arrived and at last his clan would be on the same level as the Bundelas whom he ruled!

After the orgy, the knives come out

It was a full moon night and  was awash with the monsoon laden winds.There was relaxation and enjoyment all around.The beautiful maidens of the royal household were singing folk tunes of romance and marriage, of longing and pining of the beloveds , and finally of the union of the two engaged souls.It was indeed a beautiful moment for the inhabitants there.

The men , reclining on their opulent settees, were half asleep after a marathon session of drinking some of the choicest wine and liquor that their country had.Food had already been devoured and now it was just the time for endless pegs of liquor.

The kids, excited at the prospect of a grand marriage and good fun, scurried around with their playmates.Nobody cared a damn about what was to happen in the next one hour.

The Bundelas were armed from head to toe but had hidden their arms under their cloaks.They were waiting for the right opportunity.

The reverie of Hurmat Singh was broken abruptly by a violent, impudent kick by Sohanpal. Get up O fake king, Sohan bellowed!

The king was befuddled by this change in events but tried to reason out with the transgressor.Sohanpal was’nt amused. He kicked his king once again and ordered him to get up.By now the Khangars had been surrounded by their would be relatives and could see that each Bundela held a glistening sword.

Tragedy…

With surgical precision, the attackers got down to work- each Khangar was put down to death without making any discrimination between men, women and children.The skies were rent with cries of terror and pain.And within minutes, the Khangars had all been finished, to the last child.

The Bundelas assumed control of the fort of Kundar but later abandoned it and formed a new capital. in Orchha.

places near Orchha
The Haunted Fort of Kundar, near Orchha

Even today, Kundar remains an uninhabited , haunted , dreadful place since then.

How to reach Kundar

You will have to take the Bhopal Shatabdi from New Delhi Railway Station.Get down at Jhansi and from there take a cab for Orchha and Kundar.

Alternately, book your hotel and cab through the Madhya Pradesh Tourism site www.mptourism.com

For train bookings, visit the website www.irctc.com

You can also visit Jhansi and Khajuraho alongside.

 

Ragamala- A garland of hauntingly beautiful melodies

It has been a wonderful morning here in Delhi today. There was a dusty wind earlier in the day followed by mild to heavy rains and now the rain washed city looks absolutely fresh and clean.

The months of May and June are extremely hot for us citizens of Delhi ,so a mild to heavy shower is most welcome though it doesn’t help the farmers of North India who are busy tilling their fields around this time of the year.India’s economy is still quite dependent on agriculture, you see.

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The rains have set me thinking- what next to write? And then I get my answer-why not something that instils hope and joy in us? There is a positive correlation between the external environment and the inner soul, isn’t  it,something  about the hauntingly beautiful musical legacy of India!

So, imagine ,if by some magic ,a story is created that brings together music, painting, seasons and divinity ! Sheer magic, isn’t it?It is like creating a 4 dimensional Hollywood blockbuster!Okay okay, I might have gone overboard but then you got the idea, right?

This “blockbuster beautiful epic series of paintings” got going in India somewhere in the 16th and 17th centuries when painters and vocal /non vocal artistes realised it was possible to fuse the elements of painting, seasons, poetry etc into one single theme.This series of paintings is called Ragamala.

There are four main seasons in India- monsoons, winter,spring and summer.Likewise, Indian classical music is represented by 6 main Ragas- Bhairava, Malkaunsa, Deepak, Sri, Hindola and Malhar. Each of these Ragas used to be associated with a specific season e.g. during monsoons, the songs based on Malhar were in vogue.Ragas were also meant to be sung according to specific day parts e.g. a particular raga could be sung only during early morning, another one was specifically associated with say, late afternoon or night and so on. These Ragas you could also say, were associated with the mood and temperament of the listener.

What is a raga; A Raga is basically a combination of musical notes set to a pattern.The Ragas form one of the basic foundations of Indian classical music.They are capable of altering the human mood from one level to another, in a positive way.It is said that Ragas also affect the moods of  animals like cows, deer etc.

Sometime in the later 17th century, the Indian musicologists personified the Ragas into verse or poetry!Music had embraced poetry and there was no looking back! Ragas were now kind of “heroes” and were now courting maidens or “Raginis”! The artistes of the brush took the cue and depicted this “love affair ” in a series of Ragamala paintings. There was a frenzied activity all over the country to explore the chemistry between sound and sentiment.

Each raga represented a particular god in the Hindu pantheon and his wife was the ragini.Their offspring was the Ragaputra or son of the Raga a unique synthesis of music, divinity, painting and season!The Raga also represented a particular colour to be used in the painting and of course, it was mandated that it be rendered during a particular season and at a particular part of the day.

a_painting_from_a_ragamala_kedara_ragini_india_rajasthan_sirohi_circa_d5538939h
Ragmala- Ragini Kedar painting- Mewar school

Okay, what are Raginis and Ragputras

Each Raga has several wives or Raginis.You can say that is a Raga is a great river, then Raginis are its tributaries. Ragaputras are their children or offshoots.

For e.g. Bhairava Raga has

Raginis;: Bhairavi, Bilawali, Punyaki, Bangli, Aslekhi.

Ragputras: Pancham, Harakh, Disakh, Bangal, Madhu, Madhava, Lalit, Bilaval.

So, there are 6 Ragas, thirty Raginis and forty eight Ragaputras, in all.

a_painting_from_a_ragamala_kamod_ragini_india_rajasthan_mewar_circa_16_d5538943h
Ragini Kamod- Mewar School

Schools of Ragamala

It is said that Kshemkarna, a priest of Rewa region of Madhya Pradesh state of India had first compiled all these ragas and Raginis with their Ragaputras.Broadly, it is considered that there are two main schools of Ragamala- Deccan and Chawand (Mewar).Deccan is the southern part of India comprising mainly the state of Telangana while Chawand was the capital of Mewar during the tumultous times of Maharana Pratap in the late 16th century.

In an earlier post, I have listed Pratap’s contribution to Ragamala which has largely been unnoticed by historians.Here is the link;

https://swayamt.wordpress.com/2015/05/19/the-warrior-and-artist-maharana-pratap/

Acknowledgements- a)Shri Krishan Jugnu b) Wiki

A mannequin bings life to a saree

The Indian Monalisa |Painting |Fashion

A gripping tale of an Indian queen who launched a thousand ships of fashion conscious Indian women!

 

Dear readers, I would like to thank Mr Dayal Singh Silari for inspiring me to write this post. Thank you , Mr Singh!

Coming to the subject directly, the state of Rajasthan of India has not just contributed towards the rich history of the country in terms of heroic and hauntingly beautiful tales of valour and romance. It has had a rich heritage of cultural past too in terms of art, music and dance.

This post is about our own Indian Monalisa who has inspired a line of jewellery and sarees.

The kings of Rajasthan were Rajputs and like many other kings of India had several maids as well. Most of these maids were girlfriends or concubines, actually. Called dasees or golees, these  ladies had a significant influence over the affairs of the state and they have left behind some really hauntingly beautiful, often tragic , tales of their lives. One such take has been shared in my earlier post on the Mughal emperor Jahandar Shah and his girlfriend, Lal Kunwar.

Today, we will talk about Bani Thani. She was the mistress of Raja Savant Singh of Kishangarh, a small kingdom in Rajasthan sandwiched between Ajmer and Jaipur. We are talking about the mid 18th century.

Let us understand the historical context of this period to appreciate this context.

After a relentless struggle spanning 7 centuries against the Turk and other Muslim invaders, the Rajputs had exhausted their physical vigour and one Raja after the other was constructing some extremely luxurious palaces like in Jaipur and Udaipur. Their principal foes, the Mughals were also decaying. It was a period to celebrate life for the well off Rajput Rajas.

It was in this context that Satwant Singh picked up the paint brush and made Bani Thani as his muse. As is evident from the picture, the lady had sharp facial features and prominent  and expressive eyes. The Raja went on to paint extensively on his subject Bani Thani.

Bani Thani means in Hindi bejewelled and bedecked.

The subjects of Kishangarh started to see the Raja and his muse as Lord Krishna and Radha ji. Lord Krishna is one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu.

The Raja became known by various names like Nagari Das and his muse by Kalawanti.

Over a period of time, this style of painting came to be called as Kishangarh style of painting.
The name Bani Thani today is much popular among the North Indian ladies. Shops selling wedding trousseau call their products Bani Thani.  Today, this noun has become an adjective! So much so for the popularity of the Kishangarh school of painting!

This Bani Thani is our own Indian Monalisa and has inspired a line of Bani Thani sarees and jewellery, over the years.

 

Is’nt it a hauntingly beautiful tale of romance?

Meandering in Delhi-Mr. Jain and his 150 year old tea stall

Mr Jain runs a tea shop that he claims is more than 150 years old. 

This shop is tucked away in a corner on the main thoroughfare of Chandni Chowk, Delhi.

He also dispenses medicines , free of cost, to diabetics. They are home remedies actually.

    

When he is a bit free from his business, he regales his customers with stories of the past of Delhi.

You can even note down his telephone number on the photograph.

He is a good soul.When I visited him last month, he answered my questions with supreme patience.

Mr. Jain told me that there was a canal that ran right in the middle of the main avenue of Chandni Chowk.And yes, there were trams too for transport till the beginning of the 20th century.

Mr. Jain belongs to one of the most affluent communities of India and is an adherent to Jainism. This is a sect that is contemporary to Buddhism.

Delhi is home to a lot of Jains and Dariyaganj suburb has a good number of Jain residents.

Jains have lived in Delhi for more than 1000 years and are the greatest champions of non violence, also known as ahimsa.

It is people like Mr. Jain that have maintained the ancient character of Delhi.

My Liebster Award

My Liebster Award!

They say that there is no compliment like a recommendation. So thank you Prerna for nominating me for this prestigious award, the Liebster Award.  Prerna’s blog, www.maofallblogs.com is a delightfully wonderful account of a young momma and her journey as a  mother, wife, but very importantly, as an individual.

After being nominated for the award I am sharing the rules of the award;

Thank the nominating blogger

Display the award in a blog entry

List the award guidelines so your nominees will know what to do

Answer questions from the nominating blogger

Nominate your blogger friends for the award

Give your nominees questions to answer

The award is intended to help new bloggers with fewer than 200 followers to get the attention they deserve.

My answers to Prerna’s questions:

1. What do you consider as your happy place? A mountainside with a rivulet and a not so dense jungle!Me, my family and my books for company.

2. 5 Words that describe you the best. Motivated, hardworking, fun-loving, loyal and quirky at times. I usually am all the mentioned qualities but then tend to oscillate once in a while to become quirky and lose my composure.

3. A dream that you would like to see tonight? A perfect getaway with my familyon a beautiful beach house.

4. Your fav song/book/movie and why? Parichay, the Hindi adaptation of the Sound of Music.

5. One secret of being a successful blogger… Be consistent and have good content and networking skills. Networking is very important, otherwise you are a lone fish in a big pond.

I nominate the following bloggers. Best of luck guys !

Shilpa Gandotra

Sowmya Tiwari

Nidhi Kapur Malhotra

Anil Badlani

Ajuli    Tulsyan

Sowmya Tiwari

Motu Ganguly

Vikram Kamboj

My questions for the nominees:
1. Who or What are your three favourite blogs or bloggers?

2. What inspired you to start blogging?

3. One thing about you which you absolutely love and one that you can change?

4. One tip that you would like to share with fellow bloggers that has helped you the most.

5. Who is your favourite person?

 

Magna Carta- The fountain of freedom and justice

We vote, we express ourselves, we bring the governments down, elect new ones, enact laws , criticise our society and the people who rule us.In short, a large percentage of the people living on this earth live under democratic regimes.There are some notable exceptions though, where democracy in its traditional sense id not practiced , like China, much of West Asia, Pakistan,and large parts of Africa.

We should be grateful to an event that happened sometime in England in the year 1215 AD.That event was the signing of the Magna Carta.

What is Magna Carta? Well, it was a document that promised justice to all the “free men” in England.This document was signed as an agreement between King John and the English public.

Why was Magna Carta signed? Well, it so happened that the English King John, considered one of the worst rulers of England , had imposed heavy taxes and levies on his subjects to finance his war against foreign countries.He was a ruthless man, having imprisoned his former wife, was suspected of murdering his nephew, starved his opponents to death and even pulled his Irish noblemen’s beards.

The barons were up and against him, they besieged him in his castle and ultimately King John had to sue for peace.The two sides met in June 1215 AD and an agreement was signed that listed the duties and privileges of the aristocracy.

But, the most important clause that stood out was that no “free man” will be denied justice and free trial.The term “free men” was not an all encompassing term, it referred to only those Englishmen who were free and not under duress.The majority of Englishmen in those times were peasants who were ruled by the feudal lords.

This agreement, Magna Carta, went on to become the guiding light for most of the liberty and freedom movements whether they emanated in the United States,France or even in India.

It must be noted that Magna Carta came into existence not as a reaction to King John ‘s tyrannical ways , but, as a response to the manner of the functioning of the successive royal governments.

The Origins of Magna Carta

King John ascended the throne in 1199 and continued on the throne till 1216 AD.He had succeeded his father King Henry who himself had got the throne in the year 1154 AD and continued till 1189. He had gained a lot of territory in both England as well as France by way of inheritance and his kingdom included the territories in France between the Channel and the Pyrenees.He had married Eleanor of the Aquitaines and thus , received this territory as inheritance.King Henry was an ambitious soul too, having conquered Brittany and Wales in England.This exercise naturally demanded money which is why the English subjects came to be heavily taxed.

King Henry belonged to Plantagenets , who had strategically married into the Norman rulers of England in early 11th century to get a foothold in the English kingdom.

Henry was succeeded by Richard,The Lionheart, the famous king who had led his armies to the crusades in The Holy Land.He too squandered vast amounts of money first on the crusades and later on the ransom money to buy him out of captivity in Germany.Richard died in 1199 AD and his death led to a

fratricidal war between his younger brothers Arthur and our King John. The latter won this bitter struggle

and it is rumoured that he had strangled Arthur to death.

Rebellion of the barons against the royalty was not new, this had happened during the reign of King Henry too.But, then the King had a lot of resources and ultimately the barons had to back down.The resentment stayed on, it was simmering.

The barons revolted again during King John’s reign and this time the French barons under the leadership of King Augustus took up arms.Augustus ordered John to stand trial in France to which the latter refused.Augustus then declared that John had forfeited all the territories in France and the Capetians assumed control of Normandy and all the territories south of Loire.

John had to retreat to England.

Meanwhile, the barons had come to know of the assassination of Arthur, the younger brother of King John.The king , however, started his preparations for an all out assault on France to regain control over his lost dominions.Naturally, he levied fresh taxes on his nobles and this led to a series of conflicts that  ultimately led to the enactment of Magna Carta.

Relations with the Church

The Plantagenets , over the years, had been making the Church their enemies.King Henry was widely blamed by many to have murdered Thomas Becket, a declared saint, in the Cathedral of Canterbury. He had heavily taxed the members of the Church too!

King John followed Henry in his persecution of the Church and demanded that a particular favourite of his be elevated in the Church.It was refused by the Pope Innocent who along with his faithful elected a man, Langton to the same post.John opposed this appointment and in response, Innocent stopped all operations of the Church.The dead were denied the final rites and the faithful, the sacraments.This continued for six months.

The French were scanning the events in England and preparing to invade.John was terrified of the impending doom but then did a masterstroke.He made friends with the Pope, accepted his overlordship and then attacked France.

Yet again, John was defeated in the battlefield and was forced to return to England.The barons, tired of his excesses besieged him and thus came Magna Carta!

Genealogy of the Kings of England

How Green Was My Dwarka

I live in Dwarka, a suburb of Delhi.

Years ago, anticipating a massive rise in Delhi’s population, Delhi’s planners had earmarked a large tract of land south-west of Delhi as a residential suburb.It was supposed to be just a residential area with pockets of commercial space. Dwarka is actually built on the site of farmlands of several villages.The farmers were given due compensation by the government after the acquisition of their farmlands.Flush with easy money, some youngsters turned to crime and robbery!

Apartments sprung up on each other , much like matchboxes piled up on one another and lo and behold ,by the year 2000, Dwarka had taken shape.The roads were still dirt tracks as concrete had still not been laid upon them.There was dust all around and electricity connections to the recently constructed condominiums were still scarce.An odd lamp told the traveller the direction to his destination.

Reaching Dwarka was from the main body of the city of Delhi was a nightmare and a lot of people wanting to visit their friends and relatives there wanted to avoid that situation.The connecting roads were extremely narrow and bustling with slow traffic spilling over from the adjoining villages like Palam! Readers would be extremely surprised to know that Delhi encloses a lot of villages, some of them dating back to 1000 years.

In short,  going to Dwarka meant going to Greenland!

Crime was commonplace and there were so many instances of chain snatching and robbing of people right at the entrance gates of the various condominiums.

But, there was a bright side to it ,too!

You could see in the evenings nilgais cross the roads (dirt tracks actually). They simply jumped in fron of your vehicle, appearing from nowhere, and simply melting in the vegetation nearby.An unsuspecting driver usually collided with those beasts and ended up having a dented fender.

Nilgais are members of the deer family and generally are beasts of the wild.In northern India, village folks consider these animals as sacred and do not kill them for food.

There were hare , mongoose and occasionally one could spot jackals too.Dwarka was a forlorn territory then.

Life was slow, unpredictable and enjoyable.

Now, as I sit back in 2015 AD and ruminate, I can not but wonder at the rapid transformation the suburb has gone under.The Delhi Metro has embraced the township like the arms of a loving mother, numerous cars and motorcycles swarm the roads and humanity it seems has reposed trust in this place by putting quite a few of its members here.

The once dense vegetation has retreated and with it the sounds and sights of the wild life too have become feeble.

The metalled tracks, the multitudes of window panes and ubiquitous air conditioner have all together conspired into making Dwarka a veritable oven in the summers. Temperatures at times cross 46 degrees celsius.Bit, much more than the weather becoming hotter, people are becoming hotter under their collars!

While access to Dwarka is still an issue, the problem has largely been resolved.Traffic jams are now an essential part of the character of the suburb.

Attitude wise, while Dwarka was more of a conservative community earlier, today, lifestyles have changed-live in relationships are becoming more common.

What next Dwarka?

India Travel-Aurangzeb Super Star

How would you react if you were told that one of the most refined English poets of 17th century Britain wrote a moving drama on one of the most hated despots of India?Incredulous!What is the story?

Both these men lived in the same period but were separated by thousands of miles and never even, communicated with each other !

We are talking about John Dryden and Aurangzeb;the former was a celebrated poet while Aurangzeb became the emperor of Mughal India after a bitter fratricidal war that left two of his brothers murdered and the third one dying of illness while escaping from India.

John Dryden portrait.jpg
John Dryden-Poet Laureate

Who was John Dryden?

Dryden, poet laureate, was born in Northamptonshire, Britain in the year 1630 and by his dint of talent and industry is regarded as dominating the literary life of Restoration England.Walter Scott called him Glorious John.

At age 14, Dryden was sent to Westminster School as King’s Scholar.This school had been re founded by Elizabeth 1 and it was so that he was influenced heavily by all things royal and Anglicism.

After the execution of Charles 1 and the fall of monarchy, Dryden found favour with the Protectorate and got a job with one of the trusted men of Oliver Cromwell.It seems, our Poet Laureate had strong survival instincts! He worked with John Milton and after the death of Cromwell, wrote a eulogy,Heroic Stanzas.

Post the restoration of monarchy,quickly established himself as the leading poet and critic of the day and wrote a panegyric, Astraea Redux, celebrating the ascension of Charles 11 as the new king.

Dryden passed away in 1700, seven years before the demise of Aurangzeb.

When, Bernier, the doctor-traveller from University of Montpellier returned to Europe and published is travelogue of Mughal India, Dryden was much impressed and influenced from it.So, much so that, the poet wrote a drama on the tragedy of Aurangzeb.

But, my dear readers, who was Aurangzeb? He was the third youngest son of Shahjahan, the maker of Taj Mahal and Old Delhi-also known as Shahjahanabad. Shahjahan was one of the strongest Mughal emperors that India has seen.

It is indeed surprising that a poet so refined as Dryden should be writing about a coarse personality as Aurangzeb!The drama takes poetic licence and is often inaccurate in facts and circumstances.

The dramatis personae;

  • Shahjahan (in love with Indamora)
  • Indamora- a captive queen from Kashmir
  • Aurangzeb- his younger son , in love with Indamora;the love is reciprocated from her!
  • Murad- his elder son and son of Noormahal
  • Noormahal- the Mughal Empress
  • Arimant- Governor of Agra and in love with Indamora
  • Oomrahs or Knights- Dianet, Asaf Khan, Suleyman Agha, Mir Baba etc
  • Melsinda- wife of Murad.
  • Zayda, favourite slave of the Empress

The drama depicts Aurangzeb as the loyal son of the Emperor and after defeating his three brothers, enters Agra and visits Shahjahan, who is 70 years old.The Emperor requests Aurangzeb to let go of Indamora but the latter refuses.The senile Emperor then invites Murad to the palace and gets Aurangzeb arrested.Agra was the Mughal capital then.

Noormahal, the mother of Murad, seduces Aurangzeb but the prisoner refuses the Empress’ affections, a bowl of poison is then presented to him and just as Aurangzeb puts it to to his lips, in comes Murad ebters and snatches the cup away.

Later, the Emperor and Murad fall out of each other, the king reaches out to Aurangzeb who then defeats Murad.The vanquished prince dies of wounds and his wife, Melisinda decides to commit sati.

Noormahal goes crazy, she tries to stab Indamora but loses the plot and dies a broken person.Indamora is reunited with Aurangzeb, who then goes on to become the Emperor of Mughal India.

This is then the content of Dryden and most of it is factually incorrect.

Sati was a Hindu custom wherein a Hindu widow used to immolate herself upon the funeral pyre of her dead husband.The Mughals were Muslims and devout at that so there was no question of them following this Hindu custom.

Secondly and most importantly, Aurangzeb had killed Murad on his way to achieving his ambition and was never a loyal son of the Emperor.

There is no mention of Indamora either, in Bernier’s records!

Lastly, Noormahal was the queen of Jehangir , the father of Shahjahan and not of the latter!

But, it is all poetic licence all the way for our Poet Laureate.

So impressed was the English King Charles 11, that he termed this drama as one of the best tragedies of Dryden!

Hauntings-Echoes in Hindi Movies

               Hauntings-Echoes in Hindi Movies

Over the past few days, my friends here, would be wondering why this fixation with the word “haunting”?

Stepwells are haunted, they say!

I have no answers to it as to why I am so chained up to all things of the past and cherishing or romanticising the past.It is a natural past of me and will probably go up in smoke once I finish my journey on the earth.

But, I enjoy this streak of mine and suffer no guilt pangs about it.

I guess, us Indians are largely not enamoured of their past.For the millions of us, the daily challenge of keeping up the momentum of our lives overcomes the luxury of brooding over the past.

On the contrary, people from the West take great interest in most things linked to ghosts,hauntings and other weird phenomena.I get a lot of readership from such people living in the US, UK and othe western countries.

Reflections in the Hindi Cinema

Several years ago, in the early fifties, the subject of “haunting” was well captured in a Hindi movie “Mahal”The movie, that went on to become a blockbuster, did not dwell upon the subject of ghosts per se, but. drew heavily on the haunting lyrics and music of the lead number.This song was excellently rendered by Lata Mangeshkar. The lyrics went as; Aye Ga, Aye Ga , Aye Ga Aaney Wala!Translated into Hindi, it means, “The one I am pining for will come one day!”


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PceIRa17vwI



The lead female protagonist was Madhubala, that great ethereal beauty who sprung a million desires in the hearts of the average Hindi cinema goer, recovering from the miseries and angst of Partition of India. Mahal was produced in the year 1949.

What made this movie so much an ethereally haunting film?

First, the screenplay that captured the elusive character of the heroine so subtly.One moment, she is here, the next moment she is gone-vanished!

Two, the bewildered and harried role that Ashok Kumar played – his arched eyebrows effectively conveyed his sense of bewilderment and at times.horror on seeing images in the least unexpected places and at unexpected times.

And three, of course, the timeless music composed by Ghulam Mohammed and the great lyrics of the song.Was it Shakeel Badayuni?

Since, then, there have been a slew of movies on ghosts and hauntings in the Hindi cinema like Bees Saal Bad and Madhumati.I have yet to see these two epochal movies.

Touching upon this subject, again, in the early eighties-I think it was 1980, there was  this greatly successful movie, Jalmahal starring Jeetendra-often called Jumping Jack – and Rekha.

The movie set in the ancient palace of Amer, Jaipur was a modern day adaptation of Mahal, except that this time the music composer was RD Burman. Oh man, what a great composition it was the song- Main Hoon Diya, Sooni Raat Ka.(I am the lamp that glows in a forlorn night!).

The combination of the haunting song with images of the abandoned fort lent an element of authenticity to the entire story, which otherwise was about afterlife!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYh19dgVokM

Finding Inspiration from abandoned historical sites

Scattered throughout India are some very well known places,forts and palaces that convey that sense of eeriness and foreboding.These sites have become a part of the Hindi movie stories.

Take the case of Bhangarh fort in Alwar, India or the Garh Kundar near Orchha, Jhansi.At Kundar, a bloody battle between two warring Rajput clans led to the annihilation of one of them in one single night!Today, not even the pigeons make the castle their homes.

Bhangarh, a few hundred kilometres from Delhi is reputed to be a cursed fort where one finds unsettling to enter even during the daytimes.

And, of course, right in the middle of Delhi, you have an ancient fort that is inhabited by djinns or ghosts and are revered by the believers.

More on the haunting side of India and Delhi in the days to come.

Stay tuned!

The Mystery of the Basil Forest

             The Magic of the Flute and Other Stories

                                               Tales of India, Untold 

 
What if I told you that just 110 miles from the capital of India, Delhi, is a garden that turns you into a tree if you stay back in it after dusk!
Horrified, no!
Welcome to Mathura, the city of the birthplace of Lord Krishna. He is the super hero of the world’s largest epic, Mahabharata and also the author of Bhagwad Gita (Gospel of the Lord).
Millions of people the world over whether they are from the United States, Great Britain, Japan, South East Asia, continental Europe, the Middle East follow him, love him, dissect him and adore him as  God, lover,philosopher or a statesman. Offcourse, his following in India knows no bounds.
Krishna was born in Mathura more than 6000 years ago on the banks of Yamuna, one of the most important rivers of the Indian subcontinent.His childhood was quite an eventful one as he had to battle the tyrant of the day, Kansa, to free his parents from their prison.
Even as a small child, his innocence attracted all and sundry to him- his flute being a magnet of sorts.
Enchanted by the lilting tunes from his flute, young maidens of his age and even older, used to sway in a manner that cannot be described in this blog. It was not a dance, it was not waltz, it was simply harmonising one’s body and soul to the tunes emanating from the flute. These movements are calledRaasa.
The flute is called a bansuri in North India and is made of bamboo.

So, what is this mystery about the garden that I mentioned earlier? This garden is located in Vrindavan, a quaint little place just 16 miles north of Mathura.

It is said in popular folklore that even in this day and age, there are certain days in an year when Lord Krishna along with the maidens , called gopis ,appears in the garden and then, begins a night long sequence of dances.
But, it is also said that if any outsider happens to watch this mystical dance, he/she turns into a stone or a tree! There is no conclusive proof behind this legend but it has stuck on for countless of centuries and the first thing that the travellers ask upon coming to Vrindavan is the location of this garden,
The trees that you see in the image are curious visitors ,actually-so the legend says.
The word, Vrindavan is composed of two parts- Vrinda, meaning Tulsi or Basil and Van or Forest.
Perhaps, Vrindavan in the ancient times was densely populated by basil shrubs. Basil or Tulsi in India is considered to be auspicious and spiritual in significance and almost every Indian household has a Tulsi shrub planted within it.
The name of the garden is Nidhi Van.
Why do you think this legend persists? Please write back to me.
Tomorrow’s postThe City of the Djinns
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