Udaipur- City of Lakes, Palaces and Sacrifice
‘Bhangarh ke Bhoot ho ya
Agarwal ki Chaas ki ek ghoot.
Bikaner ki Bhujiyan ho ya
Jaipur ki saariyan.
Sabse Chokha lage
Lalaji ki hi storyia’.
(‘Be it the ghosts of Bhangarh or One sip of Agarwal’s Chaas. Be it the Bikaneri Bhujia or Jaipur’s sarees. Best of all shall always be only Lalaji’s stories’.)
This sestet made all of us break into a spree of laughter. The weary but curious group of we tourists were seated around the bon fire which our hotel manager had arranged for us. Lalaji, our bus driver was our story teller for that night.
Earlier that morning, Lalaji had taken us around Udaipur in Rajasthan. This former capital of the Rajput kingdom of Mewar is often called the most romantic cities of India owing to its beautiful palaces and the lakes. But most of all it boasts about the romanticism of maternal love, patriotism and sacrifice of Panna Dai.
Infact hadn’t it been for Panna Dai great sacrifice, Udai Singh (the Maharana of Mewar) would have never been able to give birth to the city of Udaipur.
Throught out our tour of Udaipur, we kept on pestering Lalaji to tell us the story about Panna Dai but he said that such great legends are best told by the bon fire only. It took a toll on our patience but the ancient palaces helped us to keep our mind off the legend.
The 100 ft. high gargantuan City Palace which took 400 years to complete was a marvellous blend of Rajasthani, Mughal, Medieval, European and Chinese Architecture. While the exterior of the palace was made of granite and marble the interior is a work of delicate mirror-work, marble-work, murals, wall paintings, silver-work and coloured glass. Walking through the beautiful compound of the Palace overlooking the Lake Pichola had ferried me to that century of grandeur and regal splendour which were long gone.
What fascinated me the most was the Lake Palace which I had seen only in movies like Yaadein, Ye Jawaani Hai Deewani and Octopussy. But witnessing the Palace with my own eyes was unutterable. The magnificence and aura of this place was beyond my vocabulary of adjectives.
By the time we had finished touring the other places like Fateh Palace and Jag Mandir Palace twilight had hit the skies and the tropical winds had shed their temperature by many degrees. Our quota of patience was also depleted. So as soon as we reached our hotel we huddled around Lalaji impatiently waiting for him to begin his story.
According to the legend, Panna Dai was the nurse maid of Udai Singh, the son of Rani Karnavati and Rana Sanga. Panna Dai used to look after him as her own son, Chandan who was a playmate of the then infant Udai Singh. When the Palace was attacked by Banbir (the illegitimate son of Udai Singh’s uncle, Prithviraj), Vikramaditya, the older brother of Udai Singh was killed. The usurper then proceeded to kill the young Udai. At that time Panna was putting the prince to sleep on the royal bed while her son lay in her lap. A maid heard about the nearing assassination and rushed in to warn Panna. The nurse in a desperate attempt to save the prince asked the maid to hide Udai in a basket and whisk him away to a nearby river where she would meet him later.
She then placed her sleepy son, Chandan on the royal bed and told him in a feeble voice that today she was fulfilling his dream of sleeping on the royal bed.
As Banbir raided the Palace and proceeded towards the prince’s room, Panna sang a lullaby for her son to put him to sleep. As Banbir’s footsteps neared the room Panna’s lullaby turned into a dirge and she waited with a heavy heart to face the worst.
Lalaji suddenly paused for a second to look at us. His voice rose like the wind which was blowing in the desert as if to contrast the silence which had fallen upon the small group.
Then Lalaji continued…
As Banbir rushed into the room of the Prince and called out for the young Udai Singh, Panna could only helplessly point at Chandan peacefully sleeping on the bed.
As Banbir’s sword fell upon the boy’s throat, Panna’s heart also broke as she saw her son bleed to death.
With a heavy heart, the nurse ran towards river from where she started her journey to find shelter and protection for Udai Singh. After being refused to be given shelter by the chieftains, a governor in Maheshwari called Asha Depura Shah gave them shelter. Under the motherly figure of Panna Dai, Udai Singh grew into a fine warrior who later killed Banbir and regained his control over his lost kingdom. He then laid the foundation of Udaipur.
When the story ended I could but only silently stare at the blisters on my feet (from walking on the desert sand) and wonder how Panna Dai and Udai Singh managed to trek through these sands for days before finding shelter.