Bhagwati Shri Karniji Maharaj – A Biography – Part-2

Chapter IV – Deshnok-Rao Ridmal and Mandore

Development of Deshnok and improvement of the surrounding pastures now engaged Her attention. The surrounding jungle mainly consisted of old Jal trees not very palatable to the cattle. Most trees were on the way to rapid decay because of age. Residents of the new fast-growing village used wood as fuel. Very often healthy branches and trees were damaged by women and children gathering fuel. The depletion of the forest had begun, and little imagination was needed for visualizing its fate. Apprehensive that the pasture, as also the forest, would become prey to human greed and mismanagement, Karniji considered measures for conservation. She decided, on the one hand, to replace dead Jal trees with the more useful and hardier Ber trees and on the other to declare the new plantation protected. The fuel requirements of the village were to be met from the fallen dead branches of Jal trees. Cutting or use of Ber for fuel was forbidden.

Determined and systematic efforts in implementing the decision, resulted in raising an extensive grove of Ber trees around Deshnok and Sri Nehriji temple. This grove is to this date, despite ravages of harsh weather in good shape and has saved the town over years from the widespread nuisance of the area-the ever-moving sand dunes, threatening and often engulfing habitations.

Nehriji Temple

We may here, though it will not be in proper chronological order, say something more about Shri Nehriji temple. The temple has been mentioned in one of the earlier chapters but assuming that the chapter dealing with its surroundings will be a more appropriate place for giving its short history this narrative was reserved for this chapter.

The migrants from Sathika on their arrival in Janglu Johad put up huts and cottages. Cowherds need facilities for extracting ghee and churning curds. While pots and other paraphernalia needed for the task had been brought, extraction of butter could not begin for want of a nehri (A Rajasthani name for one of the churning tools/aids). Karniji asked one of the servants named Guniya to fetch a piece of wood for the purpose. Guniya searched but what he did bring was not fit for making a proper nehri. Karniji thereupon planted the deadwood branch brought by him and sprinkled it with curds. The wood-a piece of dead Jal-took root and grew up as a tree-the only green Jal tree now to be seen in the protected village forest (Oran in Rajasthani) around Deshnok. A noteworthy feature of this tree is marks of sprinkled curds that have survived to this day. The marks appear on the new bark even if the old peels off.

Enlarging Family

Depa married, as already narrated, with Karniji’s permission a second time-the second spouse being no other than Karniji’s sister Gulab Bai. Three years after the marriage, the junior wife gave birth in Samvat 1477, to her first son Punya Raj-also called Poona. He was followed six years later by Nag Raj (Naga) and in Samvat 1489 by Sidh Raj (Sidha). Then followed in Samvat 1495 a daughter Redi Bai and in Samvat 1500 the last child a son Laxman Raj (Lakhan).

Redi Bai died in infancy. All the four sons married, and their descendants inhabit Deshnok to this day. The eldest Punya Raj, who had four sons, married at Sinla in the Sandu clan while the other three viz: Nag Raj, Sidh Raj, and Lakhan married respectively in the Lalas, Khiriya and Khiriya clans residing in their respective villages Judiya, Kanwalian, and again Kanwalian, all in the territory of the erstwhile Rathore Kingdom of Jodhpur and held by the clans mentioned above as sansan grants in perpetuity.

Rao Ridmal’s First Attempt on Mandore

On Chaitra Sudi 7th of Samvat 1487, Rao Ridmal, the new ruler of Janglu, while on bis periodic pilgrimages expressed his desire to take Mandore and sought her blessings.

“Mandore”, Karniji said, “shall be yours in a couple of months if not today. Collect horses, recruit soldiers, raise a cavalry, and prepare for the conquest. ”

The pleased warrior, failing to note the significance of the words a couple of months, hastily, on return to Janglu, collected his followers-and prepared for the assault. From the ruler of Chittor, his nephew Mokal who was indebted to Rao Ridmal sought and obtained help in the form of 5000 horses. Leaving 500 of his own horses for guarding Janglu and taking his other 500 horsemen and the 5000 from Chittor he marched on Mandore.

Rao Chunda’s favorite son Satta ruled Mandore, the destination of Ridmal’s army. Ever watchful of Ridmal’s moves the vigilant Satta received intelligence of the move.

Ere Ridmal marshaled resources, Satta’s emissary and brother Randhir who always stood by him had contacted Chakledar Mohammed Khan Khokher who then governed Nagaur on behalf of Sikander Lodi-King of Delhi. The Khan who was with ever-increasing apprehension watching the rise of Rathore power eagerly looked forward to opportunities of strengthening his position by encouraging family feuds amongst the sons of his predecessor, Phiroj Khokhar’s conqueror Rao Chunda (of which incident we will write in the next chapter) wasted no time in leading his 4000 horses to the help of Satta. Together with 3000 horses fielded on Satta’s behalf by his son Narbad, these 7000 strong forces met the invading force of Ridmal at the frontier. In a fierce encounter, Ridmal’s men engaged the Nogori, while the Mewar force contended with troops under Narbad. Pressed by the ferocity of Ridmal’s charge, Mohammed deserted the field. The battle could not however be won as the more numerous Chittor troops which formed the bulk of Ridmal’s force fared badly against the Rathores under Narbad fighting for the defense of their land. Efforts of Ridmal to infuse enthusiasm in his supporters were of little avail. He was left with no alternative except to retreat. To save his disheartened allies from the carnage and conserve his meager resources for more favorable times, Ridmal had to order a withdrawal.

The Chittor force was escorted in safety up to Rana’s frontier. Ridmal returned post-haste to Janglu apprehensive of its safety. He strengthened its defenses as best as he could and repaired to Deshnok for advice and blessings. Karniji heard the story of events and reminded him that as advised, he should have prepared well and been on the lookout for a favorable opportunity for at least a couple of months.

“Your haste”, she said, “has delayed matters. Do not, however, give way to despondency. You are fated to recover and rule Mandore. Soon the situation will take a turn for the better. Satta will fall out with Randhir, his chief supporter and the latter shall be the cause of the former’s downfall as he was the cause of his good fortune. ”

Karniji assured him that Satta cannot, despite success in the recent battle, dare march on Janglu and Ridmal need have no apprehension about the safety of his new capital.

Ridmal’s Success

Randhir accompanied the victorious Satta back to his capital, and told him that his recent success, as also his initial installation at Mandore, was attributable primarily to his help and demanded a half share in the revenues of the State, Satta whose presently depleted force did not permit him to join issues with Randhir, the close friend of the Nagore Khan, had no alternative, He agreed. Nevertheless, he nursed the desire of putting Randhir in his place. He consulted Narbad and secretly the father and son planned for the extermination of Randhir and his son Napa.

Narbad’s mother was a Sonigara Chouhan lady from Pali. Napa was married in the same family. Narbad conspired with his aunt (maternal uncle’s wife), who was aunt (on the paternal side) of Napa’s spouse, to administer poison to the unsuspecting Napa. A maidservant acted as an instrument for the execution of the nefarious design and Napa was the first prey of this rather deep conspiracy. Post haste, Narbad launched a surprise attack on his uncle Randhir. The latter, a chip of the same block, got an inkling of the doings of his brother and nephew. Putting two and two together, he could fix the responsibility for his son’s assassination. Anticipating a move against himself, he was well prepared for any such eventuality as a murderous assault by the conspirators. He had little difficulty in making good his escape and carrying his men and treasure. He made straight for Ridmal who was then at Chittor awaiting the predicted opportunity of occupying Mandore.

Randhir’s approach and the story of the conspiracy against him reassured Ridmal. Events were, he thought, taking a favorable turn, on the lines predicted by his patron deity Karniji. In consideration of Randhir’s promise of keeping back Mohammed Khan Khokhar from helping Satta, Ridmal promised to avenge the murder of Napa. Randhir on his part accepted Ridmal’s claim to Mandore.

With the possibility of his enemy obtaining help from Nagore eliminated, and after securing a strong force for his assistance from the Maharana, Ridmal invoked the blessings of Karniji and once again-this time with greater confidence-marched against Satta for regaining his legitimate patrimony. The occupants of Mandore, through whose veins flowed the same valiant blood, met the invaders halfway. A fierce battle between kinsmen ensued, and though the defenders in general and their commanders Chotha and Jeeya, both of the Inda clan, in particular, fought valiantly they lost the battle when the two Inda commanders fell. Grievously wounded, Narbad, a courageous warrior, was carried from the field of battle while his father Satta fled to Pipar where he was taken, prisoner. Ridmal appeared before the gates of Mandore and invaded it. In the absence of the masters, the fort contingent put up little resistance. Forcing entry into the citadel Ridmal declared himself ruler of Mandore.

Mandore’s new ruler Ridmal despatched his prisoners Satta and Narbad to Chittor with the Maharana’s army. Freed thus from the apprehension of a rallying point for the scattered men of the routed army and the possibility of the Chittor contingent getting ideas, Rao Ridmal proceeded to Deshnok for Karniji’s blessings.

Death of Kelu and Depaji

Karniji’s father-in-law died in Samvat 1500. Friends and relatives paid condolence visits. Among them was Jodha, the son of the Rathore Rao of Mandore. He arrived accompanied by his brothers. Condolence visit by the heir apparent was then and till recently a rare honor but there was nothing out of ordinary in this visit when we consider the close affinity between the two families.

Depa survived his father by 11 years. On his demise, Karniji had to change her normal dress for the traditional garments of a widow a lovadi (Chocolate colored rough cloth used by widows as Odhani) and lambi angarakhi of light chocolate color.

Jagdu Shah

Dropping the chronological order, it is proposed now to narrate the story relating to Jagdu Shah, The Shah a prosperous Maheshwari merchant of Chittor incurred the displeasure of Maharana Mokal, his sovereign, fled Mewar and settled at Khinvsar. Karniji’s fame had reached his ears while he was at Chittor, on coming to Khinvsar, and finding that Karniji’s camp was not far off, he approached for darshan and blessings for his safety. His devotion and pious life pleased Karniji, She told him that at Khinvsar he will be safe from the Maharana’s wrath. Professionally an expert bargainer, the Shah was not a person to be easily put off. He pleaded, “Life is uncertain. It is full of ups and downs. Calamities that the future may have in store for me and my family are not known. I would, therefore, pray you to kindly promise to protect us against future accidents and mishaps as long as I live. ”

Smiling Karniji replied, “God always comes to the rescue of His devotees. You can therefore always pray and count upon His great mercy. Rest assured, you will if you continue to lead a pious and good life, receive protection.”

Satisfied the Shah returned home. He prospered. His ships brought merchandise & caravans carried them to trade markets scattered over the length & breadth of the land. His business required a lot of traveling. While on one such journey in Samvat 1516, one of his ships, the one in which he was traveling with his merchandise, was caught in a perilous storm. Hopes of saving the ship or the lives in it faded. Ships those days were fragile and the passengers of this ill-fated ship had few illusions about it. They prayed for divine mercy. This reminded Jagdu Shah of the assurance given by his patron deity Karniji. He invoked the Goddess who was at that time milking cows, while her mother-in-law standing nearby. Continuing the milking with one hand, Karniji used the other for rescuing the floundering ship. Jagdu Shah, his people as also the ship were saved. Milking with both hands was resumed and after milking, Karniji rinsed Her dress which was to the utter astonishment of Her mother-in-law wet. When the letter insisted upon knowing the reason, Karniji informed her that she had to go to rescue Her devotee Jagdu Shah and his troubled ship and that in the process Her dress had been soaked with seawater. “I have”, She further said, “rinsed seawater from My wet dress and if at any time anyone in the village needs saline water for construction, etc, he has only to put up a thorn enclosure and dig a foot to strike water. “, To this day, saline water table at Deshnok is very high-only a few feet below ground level-and inhabitants use it for building-construction, etc.

As was to be expected, on reaching port Jagdu Shah made for Deshnok to pay homage. He narrated for the benefit of anxious listeners how his ship was caught in a storm and how when all hopes had been lost he invoked help remembering the assurance and how a lovadi covered Arm came to their rescue, steered the ship from out of the storm to safety and saved all aboard. This happened on Bhadwa Sudi 10, (Thursday) of Samvat 1516.

Gift of Life to Laxman

Laxman Raj, the youngest stepson was a colorful personality and like all healthy young men, fond of travel and picnics. In Samvat 1524, he went to Shri-Kolayat fair held on Sudi Chaturdashi of the month of Kartik. He was drowned in the tank while taking a bath. Bystanders and friends recovered his body with the help of nets and carried it in a cart to Deshnok. His mother Gulab Bai brought the dead body to Karniji who had the body put inside her cottage and sat down in meditation. For three days, it is said, the cottage remained closed and Karniji did not give Darshan to anyone. Anxious relatives and devotees kept a constant vigil outside. On the fourth day, at sunrise, Laxman opened the door and to the joy of everyone, walked out. Simultaneously, it was ordained for the satisfaction of Gulab Bai that, Goddess Awadji willing, none of her surviving children would predecease her. Karniji, in other words, promised to protect them during the period of Her life on earth.

There are numerous other stories that stand proved to the satisfaction of historians and some other miracles commonly attributed to the Goddess. It is not necessary to narrate all of them. Suffice it to say that the people of the era and the land were fortunate in having among them a person of such divine eminence whose blessings could be invoked by the good and pious for the protection of Dharma and the punishment of sinners.

Chapter V – Bhagwati & Kingdom of Jodhpur

The history of the founding of Jodhpur and Karniji’s contribution will now be narrated. Some of the developments leading to this have already been described in the earlier chapters.

The foundation of the first Rathore Kingdom of Rajputana in Marwar was well and truly laid by Rao Jodha with the building of his capital at Jodhpur around the citadel overlooking the plains to its south and east. The Rathores had already secured a foothold for themselves a long time ago, thanks to the courage and political sagacity of Rao Siha Setram the grandson of Jaichand of Kanauj. His successors were enterprising warriors who extending their domains carved a state for themselves. Opposition from established Rajput dynasties of the area, some inter-family rivalries-notably the one between Viramdeo and his brother Rao Mallinath’s son Jagmal-and the unsettled times quite often made the Rathore foothold precarious and were a hindrance to speedy expansion.

Viramdeo finding it inadvisable to stay in the domain of his brother proceeded to the Johiya land to bide time and muster his forces for new conquests. The Johiya chieftain Dalla was under his obligation, Viramdeo much to the chagrin of his hot-tempered nephew and heir apparent of the Khed kingdom-Jagmal provided protection to Dalla and his brothers who were being persecuted and pressed by a Muslim King notwithstanding the fact that under compulsion they had, forsaking their ancestral faith, gone over to Islam. Dalla’s brothers never shared his regard for Viramdeo. Always on the lookout for picking quarrels with Viram’s men, they soon succeeded. A quarrel that developed into a battle began. The proud Rajputs, unmindful of the difference in numbers disregarded Dalla’s entreaties to lie low. They accepted the challenge on the enemy’s own terrain and in the battle that ensued the hopelessly outnumbered Rajputs lost their lives. Viramdeo fought valiantly and ferociously, putting several opponents to the sword. Fearing the worst, the Johiyas resorted to stratagem and by underhand means got that which they had lost hope of getting namely Viram’s life.

Viram’s widow Mangaliyaniji and infant son Chunda were safely conducted by Dalla, who being a recent convert still honored the Rajput custom of respect for ladies and children, to Khed territory. Mangaliyaniji apprehensive of Jagmal’s wrath falling on the infant Chunda preferred to seek, as a common Rajput mother and child, the hospitality of Charan Alla of Kalau. Chunda’s uncommon character and marshal activities made the wise Charan suspicious and the lady could not keep their identity secret from Alla. While keeping the secret to himself for fear of Jagmal. Alla brought up Chunda as a Rajput warrior destined to raise the family’s name.

Chunda fulfilled the hopes and expectations of his mother and his benefactor. When in due course Chunda was presented at Khed to Rao Mallinath, the latter for once disregarded the whims and wishes of his son Jagmal and partly out of love and partly perhaps in the hope of making amends for the past neglect, appointed Chunda commandant of the Kingdom’s eastern outpost, Chanwada, bordering on the territory of Inda Rajputs.

The Indas are a branch of the Parihars who ruled portions of the desert. One of the better known Parihar kings of this area was Nagbhat or Nahar Rao who established his capital at Mandore, 5 miles from Jodhpur and built a fort in the 8th century. His descendants ruled Mandore rather ineffectively when Chunda took over at Chanwada. Not unexpectedly, the vigorous Rathores in their urge for expansion pressed on their neighbors. Border feuds were the order of the day. There were more of them on the eastern border of Khed because Mandore which touched the kingdom of Khed on the east was on the decline. In these border skirmishes, Chunda earned an impressive record for himself and considering his qualifications as a warrior, the weak chieftain of the Indas, ruling Mandore, decided to hand-over the Fort and Capital to Rao Chunda, who had tactfully secured entry and possession and had left no alternative, by making a gift of it to his daughter and marrying her with Rao Chunda. The marriage was celebrated in Vikram Samvat 1462. Rao Chunda thus became the master of Mandore. An old Rajasthani couplet thus records the incident:

ईदौं रो उपकार, कमधज कदे न बीसरे,
चूडै चंवरी चाङ, दी मंडोवर दायजै।
“The Rathore shall always remember the obligation of the Indas who gave a daughter in marriage and Mandowar in dowry to Rao Chunda.”

Rao Chunda who came to Suwap in Vikram Samvat 1463 for Karniji’s Darshan had 14 sons. Rao Ridmal, mentioned earlier, was the eldest. Chunda captured and occupied Nagaur in Vikram Samvat 1465 and decided to stay there leaving Mandore under the charge of one of his sons. All brothers bore the title of Rao and were great warriors. They wanted Ridmal to succeed their father. But the fourth brother Randhir was inclined towards Satta. Satta was born of Rani Mohil-the favored queen–and Randhir succeeded in depriving Ridmal of his patrimony. Satta was put at Mandore while Rao Chunda established his headquarters at Nagaur. Ridmal had to content himself with a promise of a Jagir to be granted in due course. He settled in Chundasar founded by his father and situated about 22 miles south-west of Deshnok.

Bhati-Rathore enmity & death of Rao Chunda

In Vikram Samvat 1470 Hamirot Bhati Rao Ranak Deo who then ruled Pugal, was set upon and together with his son Sadda killed by Rao Chunda’s third son Ardakmal at Kodamsar near Bikaner. Kelan a scion of another Bhati sub-clan in a message to Rao Ranak Deo’s widow Sodhiji volunteered to revenge her husband’s death on the condition of being nominated successor. The widow accepted the proposal and Kelan succeeded to the Gadi of Pugal. He approached Mohammed Phiroj, the Subedar of Multan, and reminded him of his duty of revenging the death of the Muslim Subedar of Nagaur, who was vanquished by Rao Chunda. Kelan promised to secure Nagaur and Chunda’s head for the Subedar if given help and assistance. Phiroj, who could not have wished for a more advantageous proposal, accepted the advice and deputed an army of 14, 000 under Salim Khan to attack Nagaur. Kelan joined with his thousand soldiers and the combined armies headed for Nagaur.

Rao Chunda met them halfway at Gogelao with his 4000 Rajputs. The two forces joined the battle. The Muslims lost 800 horsemen while old Rao Chunda valiantly met death at the hands of Bhati Kelan on Vaisakh Badi 15 and Nagaur was lost to the Subedar of Multan.

Rao Chunda was succeeded on the throne of Mandore by his favorite son Satta who had been installed during the lifetime of the father. Rao Ridmal, denied his patrimony, sought the services of his sister’s son Maharana Mokal, the ruler of Chittor, and joined him with 500 horsemen.

At Chittor, Ridmal gave an exceptionally good account of himself. Maharana Mokal, son of Ridmal’s sister Hanskanwar who was married to Maharana Lakha, was assassinated by Chacha and Mehpa, the sons of his father’s mistress because they were outraged by an insulting remark of the Maharana. Chacha and Mehpa were warriors of no mean order. Efforts of the Maharana’s knights to bring them to book and revenge the Maharana’s death proved fruitless. The successor Kumbha was strafing under the insult. He readily accepted Ridmal’s offer to launch a punitive expedition. Rao Ridmal accompanied by a few trustworthy men made for the stronghold of his prey. The very news of his arrival shook the assassins though they were more than a match for others in the employ of the Maharana. Availing of an appropriate opportunity, Ridmal scaled the walls of the hill-fort stronghold, surprised the inmates, challenged the brothers, and could with his own hand put Chacha to death. But Mehpa escaped, took shelter with the Padshah of Mandu; and was the cause of a battle between the latter and the Maharana.

When at Mehpa’s behest the Mandu king attacked Chittor, Ridmal was once again in the vanguard. He put many an enemy to the sword. Succeeding in sufficiently thinning enemy ranks, he charged the Mandu king’s elephant. Anticipating the move the apprehensive king who did not consider his howdah sufficiently secure put his aide in it and himself moved to the back seat. The Rao’s spear pierced the howdah and fatally struck the inmate who called out, “Hajret, I am finished. ” Concluding that his target the king was somewhere else, Ridmal who had heard the last words of the aide searched for the latter’s master and found him hiding behind the howdah.

Rules of Ridmal’s code of chivalry did not permit him to strike an opponent in the back and as the Mandu king was sitting with his back towards the howdah, the Rao pulled his horse, spurned it to the elephant’s side, picked up the crouching king and dashed him on a nearby rock. Though the battle was won the prey Mehpa could not be secured. He again escaped. In due course, he sought and received a pardon from the Maharana and revenged his brother in the only way he could viz. by conspiracy and intrigue against Ridmal of which we shall speak later.

Ridmal put another feather in his cap and incidentally revenged his father by another exploit, this time against the Subedar of Nagaur, Mohammed Phiroj. Phiroj, it will be recalled, had marched from Multan at the instance of Kelan, killed Ridmal’s father Rao Chunda, and had annexed Nagaur. This Phiroj was born a Khokhar Rajput and was an apostate to Islam which he had adopted because it was the religion of the rulers of Delhi and had the promise of better prospects. Like all new converts, he was a great fanatic and frequently went on the rampage against innocent and law-abiding traders and agriculturists.

This particular characteristic of converts in general and Rajput apostates to Islam, in particular, has been noticed by Col. Tod in his “Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan”. The remarks are worthy of being quoted. Col. Tod has said, ‘Before we remark upon the habits of these tribes, we may state one prominent trait which characterizes the ‘Nyad’ or convert to Islam, who on parting with his original faith divested himself of its chief moral attribute, toleration and imbibed a double portion of the bigotry of the creed he adopted. Whether it is to the intrinsic quality of the Mahomedan faith that we are to trace this moral metamorphosis, or to a sense of degradation (which we can hardly suppose) consequent on his apostasy, there is not a more ferocious or intolerant being on the earth than the Rajpoot convert to Islam. In Sinde, and the desert, we find the same tribes, bearing the same name, one still Hindu, the other Mahomedan; the first retaining his primitive manners, while the convert is cruel, intolerant; cowardly, and inhospitable. Escape with life at least, perhaps a portion of the property is possible from the lands of the Maldote, the Larkhani, the Bhatti, or even the Tawuries, distinctively called the sons of the devil; but from the Khossas, the Sehraes, or Bhattis (Muslims), there would be no hope of salvation.”

Phiroj’s forages of rapine and plunder of the countryside had become a nuisance to Maharana Kumbha of Chittor. He was on the lookout for an opportunity to put an end to it and annex Nagaur. Ridmal on his part was also awaiting an opportunity of revenging his father. His prayers were answered, and he soon found an opportunity. It was usual with Phiroj to go on pilgrimages, to Muslim shrines, after every successful plundering operation. When he was on one such pilgrimage to Ajmer, Rao Ridmal with the help of Maharana’s troops, took him by surprise and killed him. While Ridmal was satisfied by the revenge, the Maharana was satisfied by the annexation of Nagaur to his dominions.

The subsequent history of Ridmal’s exploits and conquest of Mandore has been given at the appropriate place in an earlier chapter. Skipping over that period, we can pick up the threads of the narrative from where we left them and come to the period after Rao Ridmal had declared himself ruler of Mandore.

Assassination of Ridmal

Rao Ridmal did not live long to enjoy the fruits of his hard-won victory. The favor that he had gained by exploits on behalf of the Maharana incurred for him the envy of less successful nobles of the Maharana’s court. Intriguers for dislodging him were set afoot. The intriguers were, to a certain extent, helped by Rao Ridmal’s acts of omission and commission and were headed by none other than Mehpa, who had his personal axe to grind against the Rao. Such are the strange ways of diplomacy that the Maharana forgetting all the services of the Rao began lending an ear to one accused of his father’s assassination and an erstwhile sworn enemy.

The young Maharana because of implicit faith in the Rao, a close relation who had won confidence by heroic exploits on behalf of his Master, had delegated vast powers to him. Appropriating additional powers, Rao Ridmal had become haughty and given to loose talk while under intoxication. When reports from diverse sources some emanating from those intriguing against Ridmal and others from known well-wishers of the young Maharana reached the dowager Rajdadi and sister of Rao Ridmal, the lady’s suspicion was aroused. Ridmal had virtually assumed the role of a regent. A close watch on his regent confirmed the worse suspicion of the unsuspecting sister Hans Kanwar. She called her stepson Rao Chunda, who was on self-imposed exile with a neighboring king. A palace conspiracy for the assassination of Rao Ridmal and his powerful son Jodha and of simultaneously eliminating the rising Rathore power was hatched, and trustworthy Sisodias detailed for the purpose.

Ridmal was in stature almost gigantic and was “the most athletic of the athletes of his nation. ‘ He got an inkling of the move but would take no warning or precaution other than putting his son in the talhati below the fort while himself continuing to stay in his old quarters. 17 persons were detained for executing the conspiracy. They secured the services of their prey’s mistress who, forgetting the responsibilities of a beloved and motivated by a sense of duty towards her land, administered more than the normal dose of wine and opium to her paramour. The unsuspecting Rao under intoxication fell asleep in the warm embrace of the favorite, who when fully reassured beckoned the conspirators. Such was the fear of Ridmal that the attackers did not dare risk a combat with the dead drunk Ridmal unless doubly reassured. Refusing to walk in when invited by the mistress, they asked her to tie the warrior to the bed. Entering the bed-chamber only when this had been done to their satisfaction and once again acting like cowards contrary to their proud tradition, they attacked the Rao without even waking him. Roused by sword cuts and turmoil Ridmal jumped to his legs carrying the bed with him. Despite the handicap, the Rao fought with his usual nerve and before falling killed sixteen of his opponents. The seventeenth, Mehpa, again escaped. Ridmal’s eldest son, Rao Jodha who was camping in the plan below the fort of Chittor would have been the next target of the Maharana’s men. He was fortunate enough to get a timely warning from a well-wishing musician’s song:

जोधा भाज सके तो भाज, थारो रिडमल मारीयों
Jodha, escape if you can; your Ridmal has been killed.

Accompanied by a mere 50 horsemen, Rao Jodha hurriedly left camp. The escape was indeed narrow. He made for Mandore with the Maharana’s men in hot pursuit close on his heels. He could not, naturally, stay long at his capital. Picking as much treasure as he could, he left Mandore, in haste, to seek, as his father and grandfather had done in times of adversity, the blessings and advice of the patron deity of the Rathores-Shri Karniji Reaching Deshnok, he narrated how Rao Ridmal had incurred the suspicion and displeasure of the Maharana and his own sister by interfering with impunity in their affairs and by loose boastful talk of making his mistress the first lady of Chittor, how he was killed and how warned by a musician Jodha secured an escape.

Shri Karniji condemned Ridmal’s conduct and observed that death was a fitting punishment for one who stooped down to covet the kingdom of his own sister’s minor grandson. Enjoining Jodha to shun the path of Adharma and impressing upon him the advantages of moral rectitude, she assured him that by a pious and good life in the service of Dharma, he would reconquer Mandore.

“For the time being, ” she said, “you should repair to Janglu, which shall always be beyond the pale of the Sisodia’s swords. ”

Thus, reassured about his future and safety, Rao Jodha repaired to Janglu, strengthened its defenses, and began preparations for the fulfillment of his dream of revenging his father’s death, evicting the Sisodias from Mandore, and expanding his domains.

Raj Tilak of Jodha

The gigantic Ridmal had a large progeny. He was survived by 24 sons of whom Jodha was the eldest. On him therefore befell the duty of performing post-death rites in memory of his father and leading the Rathores. Once again, the Rathores forgot family feuds, buried the hatchet as it were, and agreed to rally under Jodha’s banner against the danger to their security and indeed to their very continuance on their new homeland. With one Lai-a rich brahman lady of Chiveri, Rao Jodha, who was camping at Kavani (कवाणी), negotiated a loan of Rs 50, 000. This loan was applied to meet expenditure on the customary dinners in connection with his father’s death and the upkeep of followers. Brothers and clansmen collectively decided here at Kavani to declare Jodha, Rao, and successor to Rao Ridmal, and the succeeding day was fixed for the Raj-Tilak.

Rao Jodha sent emissaries to nearby Deshnok to request Karniji to grace the occasion and Herself apply the Tilak. She was unable to come and sent Pugree Dastoor to Kavani with her sons and Jaggu Doshi.

On Kartik Vadi 5th of Samvat 1496, Jodha was put by the assembled Rathores on the Rathore Gadi and declared their Rao. On the request of the assemblage, Karniji’s son Punya Raj, on Her behalf, performed the ceremony and applied Tilak. He gave five leaves of Jhadberi as Karniji’s gift which the new Rao respectfully put in the Pugree that he had received from the Holy Lady. As soon as he was free from the ceremonies, he proceeded to Deshnok, paid respects to Karniji, and obtained Her blessings.

Jodha captures Mandore

On Maharana’s behalf, in the meanwhile, Rawat Sahasmal Sisodia, Rawat Raghavdeo Sisodia, Hingol Ahada and Raman Mehta had under the command of Rao Chunda Sisodia occupied Mandore. Under Narbad, son of Rao Satta and first cousin of Rao Jodha, the Sisodias left a strong garrison at Mandore with orders to pursue and destroy Jodha. Relentlessly Narbad, for twelve years, pursued his efforts to discharge this mission. The resort was made to deceit and stratagem for drawing Rao Jodha in the open. Narbad often deliberately left his flanks exposed and even the route to Mandore invitingly ill-defended in the hope of touching Jodha’s pride and greed and attracting him to the battlefield of Narbad’s choice below the ramparts of Mandore. Karniji had warned Rao Jodha. She had told him not to risk a major battle until she gave all clear. Thus forewarned, Rao Jodha for full twelve years avoided all the traps set for him. He abided time at Kavani.

One day in Samvat 1510 Shri Karniji sent a message to Rao Jodha asking him to promptly reach Deshnok with as many Rathores as he could muster. Accordingly, he reached Deshnok and appearing before Bhagwati sought advice and directions. He was told that the opportune time for invading Mandore had arrived and that for securing his goal he must forthwith march his men towards Mandore.

Accompanied by the 700 Rathores he had; Rao Jodha embarked on the invasion. For the night he camped at the hamlet of Modhi Moolani within the boundary of village Sirdan. The mistress of the hamlet true to Rajasthan’s hospitality pressed them to partake of her fare. The shortage of maida required for halwa was made good by using costlier but readily available majith. Rao Jodha, finding the red of majith on his hand as also on his mustache which he had twirled with it, faced the hostess with an enquiring look. Modhi told him, “Don’t worry. I put some majith to make up for the shortage of maida. This auspicious hue on your mustache is a sure sign of Karniji’s blessings. Your victory is certain. Proceed at once to Mandore.

Jodha next camped at Bengati where Sankhla Harbu, one of the five well-known holy men of Rajasthan, played host. Rao Jodha and his men partook of the moong bajra khichri (porridge) offered by the saint. While bidding bon voyage Harbu told Jodha he will suffer no defeat so long as he has Sri Karniji’s blessings and that because of it he shall reconquer his heritage.

Chiefs of estates and villages falling on the Rao’s route gladly, with their levies, joined him. Accepting cooperation from those who willingly extended it and punishing those who like Loona Devraj of Setarawa refused it, the Rao accompanied by a contingent of 700 horses and 10, 000 foot in fine mettle and excellent spirits arrived in the vicinity of Mandore. Obtaining help from Kalu Mangalia who was Jodha’s confidant though, in the employ of his enemy, the Rao introduced a thousand picked men in the citadel. The remainder stormed the fort from without in the dark of the night, secured entry with little difficulty with the help of comrades within, took the Sisodias and their Rathore supporters by surprise, and engaged themselves in a pitched battle with the defenders. The latter fought fiercely but lost the battle and in the process 500 warriors including stalwarts like Akka, Hingol, and Renayer and the fort as also the surrounding country.

Chokri, the nearest important Sisodia outpost in the Rathore land commanded by Raghav Sisodia was the next target. On the day following, a part of the victorious army led by the Rao and his brother Kandhal marched on this post and stormed the defenses. Raghavdeo and his men put up stiff resistance but the determined Rathores were more than a match for them. The defenders, who knew they were fighting a lost battle, lost their nerve when Bhati Banbir and several others fell; Raghavdeo with Jhala Sodha and to her survivors fled the outpost. Chokri was occupied. Rao Kandhal then marched an army on Merta and Ajmer which he conquered and in the course of year, Samvat 1510, Rao Jodha not only conquered his patrimony and strengthened its defenses, but raised and organized a force capable of meeting threats from enemy quarters.

Founding of Jodhpur

Mandore and its fort were not adequate for the needs of the ambitious new ruler. He had plans for a larger capital commanded by a stronger fort. Having fully secured his position and in the process carried his sword right up to Pichola near present-day Udaipur in the Maharana’s territory, the Rao directed his attention to the selection of a suitable site for the capital.

A site five miles from Mandore protected on three sides by low hills and commanded by a feature rising above the adjoining hills and terrain was chosen. He decided to build his fort on this commanding position. An ascetic, Jogi Chidyanath, had made the place his hermitage. Hot-tempered as ascetics are he resented the request to move to another place to enable the construction of the fort, and while reluctantly departing cast a curse that the clear cool mountain spring, which was the cause of the Rao’s covetousness, was doomed to go dry and the populace shall suffer water shortage and distress. The curse dampened the enthusiasm of Rao’s men, but the site was too advantageous to be abandoned without an effort.

The Rao as also his men, simultaneously, as it were, thought of Karniji. She had been their friend, philosopher, and benefactor and alone could come to their rescue in the face of this curse. Kandhal suggested inviting Karniji for laying the foundation stone of the fort and blessing the project. All present acclaimed the suggestion. Barhath Amara, a steadfast follower of Jodha in thick and thin, was chosen for personally carrying the invitation. The Rao chose him in particular because of the importance of the mission, his high status, and the fact that he belonged to the clan in which Karniji was married.

Accompanied by the Rajpurohit of the Rathores-the estate holder of Tinwari descended from the Purohits of Kanauj who came with Siha Sitaram to Marwar-the Barhath set out on his mission at an auspicious hour. Proceeding post haste, they soon reached the destination and duly communicated the Rao’s message. To their joy, this invitation, coming as it did from Her protege was immediately accepted.

Foundation Stone of Jodhpur Fort

A royal reception befitting the dignity of the venerable Goddess awaited Karniji and the party. The red carpet was unrolled from the site of the fort to village Chopasani next door to the Barhath’s estate Mathania. The beholden Ruler advanced up to Chopasani to receive the guests and escort his virtual tutelary deity to the site where on Jeth Sud 11th of Samvat 1515, a Thursday, Karniji laid the foundation of the fort and the city of Jodhpur at an auspicious hour.

The very fact of Karniji’s presence made them forget the ascetic and his curse. They had more ambitious requests to make. The Rathore brotherhood while paying respectful homage to their divine guest with one voice solicited blessings for their dynasty to rule till eternity.

“I am sorry, ” Karniji replied, “but the grant of such a boon is impossible. It is against the natural sequence of destiny. Neither incarnations like Lord Rama and Krishna, nor great souls like Yudhishthira and Ikshvaku got such a boon. All had to bow to the inevitable. Kingdoms change hands according to the theory of Karma and those who misuse power are replaced by those who earned virtue in their previous lives. He who is born shall die and that which is established shall fall. Even the Almighty himself would not grant the boon prayed for. ”

“Since what we want cannot be granted could you, ” the Rao enquired, “kindly foresee and tell the fate of our dynasty. ”

The Goddess thereupon, reportedly, prophesied, “This fort and Jodhpur shall be ruled for 28 generations by your descendants. The generations that follow shall live as Bhomias. ”

Karniji stayed a few more days at Mandore and then commenced Her return journey en route to Deshnok. She accepted Barhath Amara’s pressing invitation to visit his estate Mathania, about 12 miles from Mandore. To commemorate the visit the host raised a temple and dedicated it to his honored Guest. Thanks to blessings from Karniji, Amara had numerous progeny who inhabits Mathania to this day and prospers like Rathores of Marwar under the shadow of Deshnok Mandh.

Chapter VI – Karniji and Bikaner

Rao Jodha had twenty sons, all fearless warriors. Of them, Rao Bika is the best known. He made a name for himself rather than shine merely in the reflected glory of his father. He was born of Rani Naurang De Sankhali on Srawan Sudi 15th of Samvat 1495. As the progress of Bika towards fame and glory is intimately connected with Karniji, we propose to narrate it in this chapter.

The Rathores, proud of their new capital Jodhpur, and a chain of victories, incessantly planned and talked of further conquests. Bika was 27. His father finding him closeted, one day, with uncle Rao Kandhal, enquired if Kandhal was secretly planning to conquer new territory and put his favorite nephew on the throne. Even if the remark was made in jest-which is unlikely as Rao Jodha hatched his own schemes of depriving his valiant brothers and sons of a share in his new kingdom-it piqued the tradition proud Kandhal who holding the nephew’s hand took upon himself the responsibility of carving a kingdom for him. Bidding good-bye to his brother, Kandhal proclaimed, “I shall not appear before you till Bika has a Kingdom. ”

Accompanied by uncles Kandhal and Mandala and 400 horses, the determined Bika left Jodhpur in search of glory, on Dussehra day of Samvat 1522.

Arrival at Deshnok

Since childhood Bika was a devotee of Bhairava and an ardent believer in Karniji’s blessings. Carrying the sacred idol of Bhairava with them they made straight for Deshnok to pay homage and obtain the blessing of the Goddess. Arriving at their destination, they approached their worshipped in proper humility, apprised Her of their aim and determination, and requested her to give them success in their ventures.

Rao Kandhal submitted, “Bhuvaji (aunt), we left Jodhpur on the strength of our faith in Your protection. Your sanctuary was our destination. We are at Your command ready to fight for the establishment of Dharma. Kindly direct us to the destiny of Rajputs. We abide by your directions.”

Placing Her hand on the supplicating Bika’s head and thus conferring divine benediction on him, Karniji assured, “Of Jodha’s sons who are all dear to me, I like thee most. A brilliant future awaits yon. In these lands, thy name and glory shall be greater than that of thy father. Thou shall abide thy time at Chundasar in the worship of the Bhairava idol which thou carries. Do not be hasty or covetous like thy grandfather Ridmal and await instructions for the next venture.”[5]

[5]:दयालदास री ख्यात
सं० १५२६ आसोज सुद १० कंवरजी बीकोजी जोधपुर सूं विदा हुआ. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . घोडा १०० सू, प्यादल माणस ५०० सूं श्री बीकोजी गाँव देसणोक आया। श्री करणीजी रो दरसरण कियो। तद श्री करणीजी कयो “बीका अठे थारो प्रताप जोधे सूं सवाई बाजी हुसी, अरू घणा ग्रासिया थारा पायनामी हुसी. ”
[5]: Powlett’s Gazetteer of Bikaner State Page-2.

Bika and Kandhal obeyed. They proceeded to Chundasar which had more than once acted as the Rathore dynasty’s stepping stone to greater glory. For three years, they remained at Chundasar utilizing time in organizing and arming their contingents. When during this sojourn Bika’s rani conceived; uncle and nephew considering it advisable to have the delivery at Deshnok temporarily moved to Karniji’s abode. Leaving their contingents at Chundasar they repaired to Deshnok with their families and utilized the period of their stay in the worship and service of Karniji. Here on Magh Shukla 10th of Samvat 1526, Bika’s rani gave birth to a son.

A few more years were spent at Deshnok. They got tired of waiting and once again submitted their ambition to the Goddess. Their patience had been put to test. Satisfied by their forbearance and pleased by their pious lives, Karniji, in Samvat 1537, directed them to proceed to Kodamdesar and install their Bhairava idol. “This installation, ” She stated, “would be the planting of the seeds of a kingdom and thou can launch thy campaign of conquest from that auspicious moment as if the first foundation of thy kingdom has been laid. ”

The uncle-nephew team with their families and soldiers reached Kodamdesar, installed, as advised, the Bhairava idol on the banks of the beautiful lake constructed in historic circumstances only a few years earlier, and settled down. With their activities and forays, the apprehensions of the neighboring Bhatis of Pugal increased. The rising Rathore power was once again, the Bhatis thought, endangering the territorial integrity of Pugal domains. They felt the need for marshaling their resources once again to check the expanding Rathore influence and negotiated with the Baghodas, another clan in jeopardy of being overwhelmed by the Rathores.

Political situation in the Area

The open area which formed the erstwhile Bikaner State was at that time divided into a number of petty principalities ruled by Rajput, Jat, and Muslim clans. Sankhlas, Mohils, and Bhatis were the more important Rajput clans holding sway over substantial principalities. The north-east portion was divided among Jat tribes of which the better known were the Godaras of Ladhdiya and Shekhsar, the Sarans of Bhadang, and the Kasavas of Sidhmukh. Further to the east, Hissar was ruled by Rungad Bhati Muslims while Johiya Muslims controlled most of the area that now forms District Ganganagar and some lands beyond.

It will be presumptuous to call these principalities sovereign powers. They depended for protection on powerful proximate kingdoms and frequently shifted allegiance from one power to another. During periods of power vacuum when the authority of their overlords weakened, they indulged in internecine warfare picking quarrels with those of their own status. The administration did not interest them because some of them were the children of disorder and strife and well-realized that their survival like their beginning, depended upon the continuation of turmoil and unsettled conditions. Wholeheartedly they contributed, therefore, to the prevailing chaos-the more important ones by indulging in short-lived alliances and consequent battles and the less important by organizing plundering expeditions in neighboring areas.

While the Hindu kingdoms and principalities were disunited and striving for their very existence, the Muslims to the east and the west have not yet come in direct conflict with each other, strived towards the common goal of subjugating the remnants of Hindu kingdoms. Taking advantage of the failure of Hindus to consolidate their religious organization so as to cope with the challenge of Islam, the Muslim rulers strived to spread the sway of their faith.

The Muslim had, it may be recalled, by now over-run entire northern India except Rajasthan, Defeated dynasties from other parts of the country had received security in the inhospitable desert tracts of Rajasthan. The sons of the soil were fighting last-ditch battles. The very survival of the Hindu faith, way of life, and civilization depended upon the outcome.

Hindu society of the day needed a guide to marshal Hindu power to a rallying point, to see the danger in perspective, and to select a person fit to receive divine encouragement and blessings for achieving the objective. Such a person was Karniji, the first to realize the need and the opportunity. It was, as if, in an era of adversity, She appeared for saving Hindu faith and kingdoms. On the one hand, She felt the need for uniting the Hindus under one banner by sinking their differences and on the other found in the determined Rathores the means of achieving this very desirable objective.

The reign of plunder and loot and the prevalent insecurity had put the social and economic life of the populace in jeopardy. The harassed masses did not know what to do and where to go? When they came to know of Karniji and Her miraculous powers, they approached Her with their tales of woe and travail. She consoled them as best She could and advised Rao Shekha and others to abandon their ways. The chieftains readily gave promises but did not keep them. The only solution was the establishment of a powerful administration and Karniji was more and more convinced that the only power which could, with blessings, do the needful, were the Rathores under Rao Bika.

When the opportune time came, She directed Rao Bika and his associates to go ahead with the objective of carving a strong and united kingdom for the Rathores out of the scattered principalities of the Jangal Pradesh and lands to the north and east of it. For Her devotee Bika, She predicted greater glory and larger domain than that won by his illustrious father Rao Jodha.

Fortified by Karniji’s blessings and advice and relying upon continuing divine patronage, Rao Bika, and his associates, who were waiting for just such direction, launched upon an ambitious campaign of conquest and consolidation. The people and even some chieftains tired of insecurity and lawlessness welcomed the peace and protection promised and secured by the Rathores in their domain.

Kodamdesar Fort

Karniji, it would be recalled, had advised Rao Bika to install the family’s idol of Bhairava at Kodamdesar and consider such installation as laying the foundations of his kingdom. Bika concluded erroneously, as will be presently shown, that he had to build his fort around or near the newly established shrine. Construction of the fort was begun on the exhortations of all followers in general and Rao Kandhal and Sankhla Napa in particular. Napa, a loyal and trusted servant well versed in omens had gone to the extent of urging that as the omens were favorable, construction could be taken up without fear of opposition.

The Bhatis under Rao Shekha of Pugal considered the fort a threat to their land. They opposed the move. The Baghodas joined them.

Preparations for preventing the construction by war were begun by the Bhatis and the Baghodas the combined opposition was a power to be reckoned with. Bika proceeded to Deshnok to consult Karniji and narrated the designs of his more numerous opponents and requested Karniji to accompany him to Kodamdesar as, he believed, Her presence would act as a deterrent to aggression by the opponents and if, notwithstanding Her presence, they attacked the victory will be with the Rathores.

Bika’s request put the Goddess in a dilemma. She had selected him for establishing law and order for the benefit of the people. She wished him all success. She never, however, wanted him to commit aggression against Rao Shekha and the Bhatis. The Bhatis were justified in considering the construction of a fort at Kodamdesar, a threat to their kingdom. She never wanted Bika to build a fort there. She also knew that Bika could not abandon a project, though ill-advised, out of apprehension of opposition by a more numerous alliance. As a Rajput charged with a divine mission, he had to face the enemy and bear the consequences of his decision. Some way consistent with the Rajput code of honor had to be found to save the situation. And the only way out was to persuade him at the opportune moment in his hour of victory to abandon the project. Therefore, while predicting his success, Karniji advised him in the following words to drop the project:

“Wars are the inevitable lot of those who set out to establish dynasties. Domains cannot be acquired cheaply. Lands can be ruled only by those prepared to shed blood. A sacrifice must precede conquest. Face, therefore, your opponent resolutely. Victory shall be yours as your ultimate goal is good and proper. I cannot, however, take sides in the immediate dispute because the Bhatis are justified in opposing the construction of a fort threatening the security of their kingdom. Win the battle and then magnanimously abandon the project. Let Bhairava alone have his fort at Kodamdesar. For your fort, I shall direct you to a much better and more secure site. ”

Bika returned. A couple of days later came Rao Shekha. He told Karniji that fighting appeared inevitable and prayed for blessings.

“Your apprehensions may be well-founded, ” replied Karniji, “but let me tell you that ultimate victory shall be with Bika. He is fighting for a noble cause that of giving peace and prosperity to a populace harassed by plunder and loot. All opposition will crumble.

Boon to Kalikaran

Shekha took the hint. When the call for battle came from Bhati Kalikaran and the Baghodas, he excused himself feigning illness. His dropping out was a great set back to old Kalikaran and meant a substantial reduction in the strength of the attacking force. Undaunted, however, by this last-minute letting down by Shekha, Kalikaran continued preparations for the attack. When these were complete, he decided to call at Karniji’s shrine and pay his homage. Reaching Deshnok he paid respects and sought blessings.

Karniji replied “Thou shalt have the thing most coveted by a valiant Rajput-a heroic and glorious death on the field of battle. ”

The valiant Kalikaran, who was 80 years old considered this a blessing, as indeed every Rajput would. Returning to his camp, he told his followers. “Regardless of the outcome of the battle, I will go ahead. I do not want to miss this opportunity. With Karniji’s blessing, I hope to have a Rajput hero’s death on the field of battle. Those of like mind and belief alone need follow me. ”

Accompanied by 2000 Bhatis and Baghodas, the old Bhati warrior marched on Kodamdesar. Bika met them with 500 chosen warriors of whom the more important were uncle Kandhal and Mandla, brother Bida and Sankhla Napa. For nearly one prahar, a fierce battle raged. With determination and courage such as only Rajputs can exhibit, the opponents tried to overpower each other. Kalikaran, the 80 years old leader of the Bhatis, fought till the last losing limb after limb. Every witness, friends as also foe, praised this inspired performance on the battlefield. Against the better equipped and trained Rathores, he gave a praiseworthy account of the capacity of the Bhatis. Undaunted by the numerous wounds inflicted upon him he wielded his sword till the mortal blow was dealt and Karniji’s prediction of a valiant death for the devotee was fulfilled.

The Bhatis lost 300. Bika won the field. Despite the defeat, the loss of Kalikaran, and the letting down by Rao Shekha, the Bhatis did not lose heart. They began harassing the Rathores by guerrilla wars and the Rathore leader Rao Bika was compelled to approach Karniji at Deshnok. He described his predicament in detail and sought Her intervention.

Consoling him Karniji advised, “You cannot expect the Bhatis to take their defeat lying down. The guerrilla war they have begun will be intensified. You have an important mission to fulfill and cannot afford to tie down a sizable part of your army to Kodamdesar or neglect preparations for more important battles. You should, therefore, drop the idea of building a fort at Kodamdesar and thus make a victor’s gesture for conciliating the Bhatis who justly object to it. I will bring about reconciliation as this is necessary for peace and prosperity in the land and meeting the threat from Multan and Delhi. ”

Rao Bika agreed. The fort project was abandoned. This mollified the Bhatis. Bika withdrew the bulk of his army to Janglu and began strengthening and equipping it for more ambitious goals.

Achievement of Rathore-Bhati alliance

Karniji well realized the importance of a Rathore-Bhati alliance. The peace and prosperity of the land depended on a strong Government which in turn depended upon the united efforts of Her Rathore and Bhati devotees. They had to make it a common cause. Bika’s gesture in the hour of success, of abandoning a project which was dear to his heart, deserved befitting gesture from the Bhatis. One of the Rajput’s customary ways of discharging obligation or repaying a favor from another Rajput of a different clan, from times immemorial, has been the act of giving a daughter or sister’s hand to the benefactor. Bearing this in mind. Karniji advised Shekha to give his daughter princess Rangkunwari to Bika. Since Bika was the worthy son of Rao Jodha, the head of the Rathores, Shekha will not have, She guessed, any objection to this proposal.

Contrary to expectations, however, Shekha, took it amiss. In a tone that could scarcely hide the fact that he was hurt, he complained, “Holy lady, you are asking me to do a thing which I consider an insult. Bika is not the heir apparent to Rao Jodha’s throne because misled by Rao Kandhal, he has relinquished his rights of succession to Jodhpur. He has ceased to be the leader of Rathores and is merely a wandering prince. His brother is now Rao Jodha’s heir. On the other hand, I am a ruler. How can a ruler’s daughter be married to a disinherited prince? I cannot show my face to my people if I agree. ”

“Bika”, Karniji informed Shekha, “has a bright future. You will, in the years to come, regret your remarks. A time will come when your descendants will consider the mere permission to wait on his descendants a single honor. I mooted the proposal keeping Bika’s future prospects in mind. You will do well by your own honor and the happiness of your daughter, who is very dear to me, to agree. ”

Shekha remained adamant. He said, “The deluge may follow my death, but I cannot while I breathe accept the proposal. I can obey all Your behests but not this one. ”

“You may boast now but remember this marriage is ordained by fate and you cannot prevent it. ”

“All that You say, or wish shall, I know, happen. You can with Your supernatural powers overcome obstacles that I may put up and marry my daughter to Bika but remember no Hindu marriage can be solemnized unless parents of the girl, make kanyadan-give her in marriage. If Rangkunwari’s marriage with Bika on Your intervention is certain, it is equally certain that the kanyadan shall not be by her father.”

A few days after the above conversation, Shekha at the head of 25 camels, made a plundering raid on Multan. The raiders captured rich booty and commenced their return journey to Pugal. The Subedar of Multan rode in pursuit with 400 horses. The Bhatis were overtaken, a skirmish ensued and as was to be expected, the Bhatis were overpowered. Rao Shekha was taken prisoner and thrown into a dark dungeon in charge of incorruptible gaolers.

Attempts made by Shekha aided by sympathizers, to escape met failure and for about two years he remained captive. When all efforts failed, Rao Shekha’s wife prayed to Karniji. Tearfully she urged, “Holy Goddess, is it not surprising that one who is brother to you should famish in a dungeon for so long? How can a well-wisher tolerate this situation? Will it not be said that the dharam bhai of an incarnate Goddess is a helpless captive of a Muslim Subedar?”

Grieving and weeping she fell asleep and in a dream saw Shri Karniji holding a trident and saying that the only way of securing Shekha’s freedom is to marry Rangkunwari to Rao Bika.

The next morning, she called her son Haru and related her dream. Haru sought advice from his kinsmen. They decided to proceed to Deshnok and seek instructions from the Goddess. The Rani accompanied by her son and the kinsmen of her husband reached Deshnok. After customary homage, they sat down. Karniji enquired after princess Rangkunwari and was requested to suggest a spouse of Her choice for the princess.

Karniji said, “I had expressed before brother Shekha my desire of seeing her united with Rao Bika, but he did not agree. ”

“Your brother disagreed but he had no right to do so. According to our custom, a mother has a prior say about the daughter’s fate, and that of the son is linked with the father. In exercise of this right, I accept Your proposal and would abide by the promise till the last.”

Directions were thereupon given to apprise Haru and others to send tilak to Rao Bika, fix a date for nuptials, and prepare for the ceremony.

When the Rani of Shekha drew attention to the necessity of the Rao’s presence for kanyadan the Goddess asked her not to worry and took upon herself the responsibility of producing him at the auspicious moment.

The tika ceremony which augured well for the unity of the Rathores and the Bhatis was performed at Janglu and preparations started on both sides for the marriage. Shri Karniji who was invited by both sides agreed to the request of the bride’s people to be their Guest.

On the appointed date the Rao’s marriage party reached Pugal and camped. Karniji had reached Pugal a couple of days earlier. Preliminary marriage ceremonies began. On account of the absence of Rao Shekha his wife who had to participate did so with a heavy heart, Doubts about Karniji’s ability at this late hour to secure the Rao’s release and bring him all the way from Multan to Pugal assailed her. Repeatedly she enquired after her husband and Karniji consoled her by saying, “Worry not. You will find my brother at your side at the time of kanyadan. ”

Release of Rao Shekha

Rao Shekha was at the other end languishing in the Multan prison. He had lost all hopes of escape. Believing his end was near, he invoked Karniji thus:

बाहू चळी निरम्मळी, चख बींभळी सुरत्त।
आजे करनळ अक्कळी, संवळी रूप सगत्त।।
“O Karniji ! appear as a chilha and free me from this bondage.”

At Pugal, the bridegroom had struck the toran and entered the citadel gate. Kanyadan time was drawing near. Availing Herself of her divine power, Karniji in the flicker of a moment reached Multan and appeared with a trident in hand before the prisoner. Dazzled by the hallowed presence, the Rao prostrated his emaciated form. Obtaining from him a firm promise on the oath of Her pious feet not to indulge in robbery, Karniji freed him from bondage and carried him the same moment of Pugal and the nuptial ground.

The marriage festivities at Pugal took the Rao by surprise. Before he could recover from the surprise, led by his wife he performed the important ceremony of making a gift of his daughter to the bridegroom, Rao Bika. Like a puppet, he acted as ordained by fate forgetting his boast that he would not do this.

Thus, was solemnized in Samvat 1539 the marriage of Rangkunwari Bhatiani with Rao Bika. The marriage united the families in an alliance which strengthened with the passage of time and firmly laid the foundations of a united Hindu front against military and political pressures on north Rajasthan from the east and the west. Asking Rao Shekha to forget all his objections to the marriage, Karniji swore the Rathores and the Bhatis to a lasting friendship.

Having thus secured his rear and the west Rao Bika launched his mission of unifying the land under a strong administration:

When Rao Bika was on one of his routine visits of homage at Deshnok, in Samvat 1540, Karniji predicted that a quarrel would soon start between the Jat principalities and advised him to give shelter and help to those who approached.

The wife of Poola Jat, head of the Bhadang clan, incurred her husband’s displeasure on account of a trivial incident and received a whip stroke. The proud Jat lady who was insulted for praising the munificence of Godara Pandu, another and more important chieftain of the same caste, sent word to her favorite and eloped with him. The elopement followed by the marriage of Malki-this was the romantic lady’s name-and the aged Godara Pandu enraged the Bhadangas. Obtaining help from the chiefs of Raysalana, Kaswa, and Baloon, they looted Ladhadiya, the principal Godara village. Pandu refused to surrender to the demand for returning Malki and sought Rao Bika’s help. Forewarned by Karniji the Rao was waiting for just such an opportunity. He promised help on the condition of Pandu accepting Rathore protection. Pandu accepted.

The anti-Pandu alliance sought the help of Tanwar Rajputs and the combined forces of the Tanwars and the Jat chiefs awaited the Rathores at Dhenka, Rao Bika launched a determined attack, Narsingh and Kishore Jatu, the heads of Tanwars were killed and the Rathores won the field putting several of the enemies to sword. The defeated Jat chiefs surrendered. They accepted Rao Bika’s suzerainty and thus the Rathores added 720 villages to their nascent kingdom. Karniji’s desire of seeing law and order, peace, and prosperity in an area that was prey to internecine feuds and frequent loot was thus fulfilled by Her great devotee carrying out Her behest.

Founding of Bikaner

The victorious Bika called at Deshnok to seek blessings. She advised him to formally lay the foundations of his kingdom by building his capital and name it after himself. Napa Sankhla, a loyal soldier of the Rao suggested a site near the meeting point of roads connecting Multan with Nagore and Ajmer.

For his fort, the Rao selected the rati ghati (the red pass) and requested the Goddess to lay the foundation. She accepted the request and in a solemn and dignified ceremony laid, in Samvat 1542, the foundations of the citadel of the second Rathore kingdom of the desert and strengthened the western defenses of India.

When the fort and capital were ready, Karniji was approached for gracing the coronation of Rao Bika. As at the time of the coronations of Rao Ridmal and Rao Jodha, she declined, and sent instead, Punya Raj who had put the tilak on Her behalf on Rao Jodha at the time of the latter’s coronation. With Punya Raj, she conveyed Her blessings and also sent five leaves of a Jhadberi tree as a gift ensuring peace and prosperity to the Kingdom.

On the day following the coronation, Rao Bika accompanied by his wife and others including Rao Kandhal Mandla and Bida reached Deshnok to pay homage to the Goddess. Shri Karniji wished the Rao a happy and prosperous life and reminded him of his duty of establishing peace and prosperity in his domain. She advised him to remember the obligations and selfless services of Rao Kandhal.

Rao Bika ruled till Samvat 1561. For his brother and follower Rao Bida, he captured Chapar Dronpur from the Mohils. He died on Ashwin Shukla 3rd of Samvat 1561 and was succeeded by his 35 year old son Loonkaran. On the occasion of his coronation, Karniji again declined to attend and was represented by Punya Raj who applied tilak to the new Rao.

An interesting prediction was made by Shri Karniji when accompanied by his five sons Jaitsi, Pratapsi, Bersi, Ratansi, and Tejsi, Loonkaran then a Kunwar reached Deshnok and paid homage to the Goddess.

पातलियो परताप रूड़ो रतनसी,
सारां में सिरदार जाडो जैतसी
बैर उग्राहरण बैरसी।
“Jaitsi shall have numerous progenies and head the clan, Bersi and his descendants would be extraordinarily brave and vindicate the clan’s honor, Partap would be so so while Ratansi and progeny will win prestige”

Needless to say, this prediction proved correct over the centuries.

In Samvat 1583, Loonkaran planned an attack on Narnaul. He sought Karniji’s guidance. She advised him against the venture. The Rao ignored the advice and proceeded towards his goal. The defenders of Narnaul met him at Dhosi where the battle fought on Srawan Vadi 4th of Samvat 1583. Loonkaran valiantly gave his life on the battlefield.

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