November 01, 2014

AJMER RAILWAY STATION

PRITHVIRAJ RASO ON TERRACOTTA

It is evident that in Rajasthan, there is a conscious attempt to display the state's rich past and cultural heritage in as many ways as possible. Take the example of the railway stations. From Jaipur to Jaisalmer and Udaipur, the stations are modeled on the state's magnificent palaces, though on a much smaller scale. Some of them even have paintings displaying scenes from mythology and Rajput history. We traveled extensively by rail during our trip while travelling from one city to another. Perhaps, the one station that impressed me the most was Ajmer which is filled with terracotta wall frames on its front side. The holy city of Ajmer was the twin capital of the Chauhan dynasty prior to the twelfth century. Prithviraj - the last Hindu ruler of Delhi who was defeated by Ghori in the Second Battle of Tarain (AD 1192) is a celebrated figure here.

The station has lots of scenes from Prithviraj Raso - the epic ballad written by Chand Bardai who served as the royal poet at the court of the Chauhan Kings. It 'romanticizes' the life of Prithviraj, giving us exaggerated tales of his bravery, both on the battlefield and in love. There is one figure of the king Prthivraj III Chauhan and his queen Sanyogita, the princess of Kannauj whom he is said to have eloped with during the latter's Sayamwara. An then there is the image of a blind Chauhan ruler killing his adversary. Chand writes that after being beaten in Tarain, the King of Delhi was blinded and taken to the court of the Sultan Mohammed of Ghori in Afghanistan along with his friend, the royal poet. Ghori is believed to have expressed his desire to witness the Shabdbhedi Baan Vidya (Sonic Archery) wherein an archer with blindfold relies on the source of sound to shoot arrows at his foe, an art form which Chauhan is suppose to have mastered. As he got ready to shoot the arrow, Chand is believed to have uttered his famous lines, helping his master to strike the enemy in his own court:

Char Baas, Chaubees Gaj
Angul Ashta Praman,
Ta Upaar Sultan Hain
Mat Chuko Chauhan.

With these clues, Prithvi is supposed to have killed the Sultan and thus avenged his defeat. As the guards closed in on them, Chauhan and Chand are said to have killed themselves. Luckily, Persian and other contemporary Indian records help us unearth the real history the unfolded after the Chauhans were beaten at Tarain in 1192. It is generally believed that the Prithviraj was captured after the battle, brought before the Sultan and then executed. It is highly likely that he was given an option to convert to Islam which he would have rejected. Ghori then went on to capture Delhi and other parts in northern and central India. He nominated his slave Qutub-ud-din Aibak as his Viceroy, bringing an end to the Rajput dominance of North Indian that began with the death of King Harshavardhan. Ghori was assassinated by local tribals in western Punjab while offering prayers about 15 years later. In 1210, Aibak would crown himself the Sultan of Delhi, thereby laying the foundation of Islamic rule in the country.

Meanwhile, even episodes from mythology and rural life are also portrayed here. What I did not like was the conspicuous absence of any reference to the shrine of Gahrib Nawaz. Probably, eight out of every ten people who come to Ajmer pay their obeisance to the great Sufi saint who has been buried here. From great emperors like Akbar to politicians and film personalities, people descend to this city in thousands to seek the blessings of Moinuddin Chishti. As such, a terracotta depiction of Emperor Akbar walking towards the Dargah or something of this sort would have been fantastic. In many ways, it along with the story of Chauhan would have truly reflected the social harmony of the historic city of Ajmer.

Prithviraj Chauhan takes aim at Sultan Ghori with Chand by his side
Scenes from Rural Rajasthan



Radhe-Krishna (Left) and Shrinathji (Right)

Even the sparrows seem to love the Terracotta work