The Ghosts of Hawa Mahal
New college. New friends. New stories.
Well! This has always been the same story for me. But it is not everyday that you make friends with somebody who says that he hails from the Rajput Warrior dynasty of the Mewars.
It was evident from the beginning itself that this Rajasthani friend of ours had a keen interest in Indian history and also had a devotion for the army.
Each day when our classes would end, the weariness of the long day would force our ways to ‘Chaiwala’, a small café neatly tucked away into a peaceful corner of our locality.
While the ceramic cups of Chai jogged us into attentiveness, we would dwell on Shraman to tell us more stories and legends about Rajasthan. As he belonged to the Sisodia dynasty and was a descendant of Maharana Pratap Singh his tales about his city never seemed to end.
As he had already relayed to us the valour of the Rajputanas, we wanted to hear something different. We often laughed at the fact at how Rajasthan had many tales about ghosts and hauntings we wanted to know his share of ghost stories.
He then started recounting the story of the spirits in Hawa Maahal, the gem of the Pink City. As I had been to Jaipur, I could clearly remember the colossal five storeyed monument which looked like the crown of lord Krishna. Built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, the Hawa Mahal’s miniature windows with its lattice work appealed to me the most.
The thought of the beautiful pink and red structure being haunted by the spirits of the Ranis and her maids was really eerie. Amused at the jumpy look on our face he disclosed the rarely known to story to us.
Back during the rule of the Mewars, when the kings of Jaipur were attacked and killed, their Ranis and her maids would perform Jauhar (self-immolation) in order to preserve their sanctity from the vulgar intentions of the Mughals and Afghans. The spirits of all these Ranis and maids who burnt themselves to death still dwelled in the Hawa Mahal. Every now and then when the Hawa Mahal’s visiting hours are over, one can hear voices, whisperings and laughter inside the Mahal. These voices are of the dead Ranis and the maids who meet, laugh and talk with each other. Often the jingling of anklets are heard in the corridors as if the Ranis and her maids are running inside this Palace of winds.
It is believed that on the day of Teej (a hindu festival), the spirits become more active. During the ancient days, all the Ranis would gather at the Hawa Mahal to celebrate Teej and pray for the well-being of their spouses. Therefore, till date the spirits gather in the Mahal on the nights of Teej.
Even today they say that often one can see faces of women looking down at them through the lattice windows.
Saying so, Shraman ended the story. He then looked up at me and said something which made my hair stand on its end. He asked me to go back home and see through my photographs of the Hawa Mahal in case I might have captured the face of some dead Rani staring down at me.
Saying so he burst into laughter, as my face was as cold as the unfinished tea in my hand.
As we gathered our bags and huddled out of the café I promised to myself – I would never dare to look at the photographs of the Hawa Mahal – in case a spirit had decide to get herself photographed by me.