Bhagwati Shri Karniji Maharaj – A Biography – Part-3
Chapter VII – Mahaprayan and Some Important Lifetime Miracles
Shri Karniji devoted Her long pious life to the cause of righteousness and the establishment of Bharat dharma. Devotees in difficulty received help, warriors received sound advice and blessings and the general public enjoyed a peaceful life. Impressed by Her pious life, Her divine powers, and Her success in strengthening Hinduism and its defenses, numerous devotees, from mighty warriors like the Rathore and Bhati chiefs on the one hand to common householders like Ananda carpenter and Dashrath Meghwal on the other, paid homage to Her. She could have but did not utilize the popularity, like some pious Hindu saints who followed, to find a sampradaya of Her own. Being an incarnation of Bhagwati, She could not countenance any schism which would have in any way weakened Hinduism. Suppressing all possibilities of the founding of a sampradaya, a panth around Her personality, She incessantly worked for the establishment of the high ideals enshrined in Bharatdharma and strengthened its defenses by helping Rajput warriors, the sword-arm of Bharat, to unite for containing the expanding Muslim influence.
Numerous miracles are attributed by the people of Rajasthan to Karniji. She helped devotees not only during Her long life but came to the rescue of those who sought Her help even after Her departure for the Heavenly Abode. Grateful devotees have recorded these miracles in numerous poems, songs, and hymns. These are recited and sung at spots hallowed by Her association and in the numerous temples where Her idols are enshrined. Her chirjas (hymns) are sung on all auspicious occasions by Rajasthani ladies and the famous singers of Rajasthan.
Since the end of the earthly life of Shri Karniji is associated with one of Her supernatural predictions, we propose to describe this and some of the other more important miracles in this chapter.
Readers would recall Rao Shekha of Pugal, his promise to eschew dacoity, his request for the boon of immortality, and Shri Karniji’s prediction of the conjunction of circumstances which would bring his death. The Rao thought he shall be able to prevent the conjunction of the circumstances and took necessary precautions.
On an Amavasya day, the aging Rao came across a magnificent boar. He could not, being a valiant Rajput, resist the temptation of spearing the game. Ignoring entreaties of attendants, he pursued the boar on his charger. The chase was long and interesting but not rewarding. He lost track of his prey and tried to throw himself on a cot lying under an aak tree near a hamlet. The owner of the hamlet recognized his guest, killed his best ram-a black one-prepared a sumptuous meal, and served it to his hungry and tired master. The Rao’s alacrity returned with the quenching of hunger. He remembered it was Amavasya and noticed he was on a khimp cot under an aak tree. His anxious inquiries revealed that what he ate was the meat of a black ram.
Realizing that notwithstanding lifelong precautions the inevitable had happened, he calmly awaited his end and prayed Shri Karniji for peace for his departing soul. The Rao’s attendants, who had been left behind in the chase, joined him and in their presence, Rao Shekha breathed his last.
On the way from Suwap to Her husband’s place, Karniji and party camped at village Keliya, where they were guests of carpenter Ananda. The host’s mother, a pious devotee, sought Bhagwati’s protection for her son. Assuring help when needed the divine Guest proceeded on the journey. Impressed by the favor the good Ananda became a great devotee and adopted the new name Karnidas in the firm belief that the joy which is only in name in Ananda was a reality in the new role of Bhagwati’s servant. He made a habit of reciting the name Karni and hoped that while he will be emancipated by this, his acquaintances would be benefitted by reciting Bhagwati’s name when they addressed him. Like Ajamil who was saved despite his impiety because he had to recite Ram every time he called his son of that name, his near and dear, he thought, would be saved because of this name.
Construction and maintenance of wells and their woodwork was Ananda’s profession. He was called to Au for the purpose. While he was being lowered into Au’s deep well, the rope used for the purpose snapped. Imagining the plight of Ananda, now at the mercy of gravitational force and consequent acceleration, the workmen handling the rope cried for help well knowing the hopelessness of the situation. Ananda however counted on Bhagwati’s kindness and merely said ‘O! Karni save me when the rope began giving way. The broken ends of the rope were suddenly held by a snake that appeared at the nick of time and saved Ananda from sure doom without the others knowing about it till Ananda from the bottom of the well called out to say that he was unhurt though the rope was broken. This consoled others. When they pulled out the rope, they found the two broken bands held together by a snake which soon disappeared. Ananda was overwhelmed. On being pulled out he would think of nothing except passing the rest of his life at the feet of his patron Goddess at Deshnok.
Rescue of Rana Mokal
The ruler of Mandar, a valiant Mohil Rajput, Rana Mokal, was a great devotee of Bhagwati Karniji. Like every Rajput warrior be had ambitions and enemies. When out on a sortie his chariot was encircled by the enemy in some strength. The enemy succeeded in killing one of the chariot horses. The chariot could not move and Mokul was almost helpless. Deprived of transport he could not establish contact with his men. There was no way out except that of leaving the vehicle. A warrior on foot howsoever courageous had no chance against an equally well-armed larger force. He could well see that he had only to alight from his transport to be overpowered and killed or worse still wounded and taken captive by the more numerous enemy. His only hope was divine intervention and this he sought by invoking Karniji. Help arrived at the most crucial juncture. The dead animal was replaced by the Goddess’s own raham (ride), a lion. His usual self-confidence returned. The lion, that he alone saw, yoked by the side of the surviving horse, revived the maneuverability of the chariot and the spirits of the warrior, who had little difficulty thereafter in securing victory.
Carpenter Chotha was another fortunate recipient of boons and blessings from the Goddess, boons, which rescued devotees from certain death in miraculous circumstances to the surprise of all who witnessed.
While the frontier between Pugal and Bikaner had been demarcated with Karniji’s intervention before the founding of Bikaner, that between the Bhatis of Jaisalmer and the Rathores under Rao Bika remained uncertain. Soon after the firm establishment of the Bikaner kingdom in Samvat 1541, a dispute about this frontier started on the boundary between village Gadhiyala in Bikaner and Girachar in Jaisalmer. A talai, named Dhineru is situated between, the two villages. In reference to arbitration, Dhineru talai was awarded to the Rathores. A jocular remark of the joyous Rathores that the winning of Dhineru was like winning the hand of the mother of the Bhatis enraged the temperamental Bhatis.
Swords were drawn by both the parties and the resultant skirmish eventually led to the declaration of war in which several lives were lost. Seeing this new danger to Rajput solidarity Shri Karniji intervened and pronounced that Dhineru and its catchment shall remain no man’s land between the two kingdoms and serve as pasture for cows for the present. She further declared that She would breathe Her last near the talai and the boundary pillar between the two kingdoms should be installed at the spot from which She left for the Heavenly Abode.
Sometime after Navratri of Samvat 1594 a messenger arrived from Jaisalmer and conveyed to Shri Karniji the humble request of the Maharawal to give darshan so that he may die in peace. He had been ailing from carbuncle for a long and was not in a fit condition to travel to Deshnok for darshan which he very sincerely longed to have.
Shri Karniji was now 150 years old. That which she desired had been achieved. She decided to become a part once again of the Universal Flame but wanted to visit contemporary Goddesses Shri Bechra and Shri Boot before leaving the world. They lived at Kharoda near Amarkot (Sindh). Shri Karniji, therefore, embarked on a journey to Jaisalmer and Amarkot. Punya Raj learning of the decision of the Goddess to depart forever sought permission to accompany and serve. He was himself 117 years old and hence in no condition to serve and nurse anyone. Shri Karniji tried to dissuade him by saying as much and making it clear that his presence at the moment of Her sublimation was not ordained. Punya Raj insisted on accompanying and his wish was granted.
Leaving Deshnok in the month of Magh in Samvat 1594 and accompanied by Punya Raj, chariot driver Sarang Vishnoi and other attendants, Shri Karniji first proceeded to Jaisalmer where She consoled the Maharawal and healed his carbuncle by a mere touch. In the history of Jaisalmer, this cure has been attributed to the healing touch of Deval Bai, another Goddess born among Charans. The grateful Maharawal presented a village as his humble offering. Shri Karniji made a gift of the village to Solanki Rajputs.
During a fortnight’s stay at Jaisalmer, Shri Karniji called on Her great devotee Bana Carpenter who was blind since birth, and in the following words directed him to prepare Her Pratima (statue),
“The desires and lusts of the world have not touched you as you are born blind. You are also my devotee. Hence you are the proper person to draw my likeness on a stone for the benefit of posterity. Your sight will be restored, for the present, temporarily to see and remember my likeness in your mind. Every time you work on the commission, light shall return to your eyes, and to prevent distraction shall leave your eyes as soon as the day’s work is finished. Your sight will be permanently restored when the Pratima is ready and installed at Deshnok after my departure from earth. ”
Bana’s mission of a lifetime was fulfilled, and all his prayers answered when at the sound of tathastu emanating from the Holy lips he saw Shri Karniji in Her divine grace and splendor as Mahashakti incarnate standing before him. In the form denied to all except the most devoted he had the great good fortune of the darshan of the Goddess. Overjoyed, he kept looking like an innocent child till the likeness was imprinted in the deepest recesses of his heart and mind.
Selecting a beautiful yellow Jaisalmer marble slab, he sat down as in a dream to execute his commission unaware of the withdrawal of the divine presence.
From Jaisalmer, the travelers proceeded to Kharoda (Sindh) where Shri Karniji enjoyed the hospitality of sister goddesses Boot and Bechara for twelve days. Bidding good-bye the entourage turned back for Deshnok and in due course, reached Bengati where Shri Karniji called on the pious Rajput saint Harbu Sankhla. She received an especially warm welcome. After a stay of two days, the journey was resumed.
On Chaitra Shukla 9th of Samvat 1595, the party after an overnight journey reached Dhineru talai-the no man’s land between the kingdoms of Bikaner and Jaisalmer. The Sun was about to rise. She had Her chariot stopped and asked Punya Raj to arrange water for Her bath. Unable to find water at hand, he proceeded as directed to get some from the nearby Dhineru talai. She then asked Sarang Vishnoi to look for water in the silver pitcher. It had only a few drops. Sarang was directed to pour it on Shri Karniji who sat in padmasan in meditation facing the east and the rising Sun. As the sun emerged in the east, the water poured from the pitcher touched Her head and with it appeared a flame sublimating the physical form which became a part of the Universal Flame.
Punya Raj returning from Dhineru learned from the mourning Sarang and attendants the circumstances of the divine departure. Thus, at the ripe old age of 151 years, Shri Karniji Maharaj, Her mission of rehabilitating Hinduism in the desert fulfilled, left for the heavenly home. The Flame returned to the Flame.
Chapter VIII – Post-Mahaprayan Manifestations
Divine power manifests itself in various ways. These cannot be explained by mere mortals. It is as difficult to understand the cause of divine will as it is to appreciate the implications of the manifestation of such will. The Supreme power can act even without assuming human form and yet from time to time it manifests itself as an Incarnation in a human form amenable to the pleasures and pains of life.
Devotees, saints, and pious householders draw sustenance and solace from the promise of the Almighty, as recorded in Shrimad Bhagwat Gita, to appear for their salvation whenever necessary. This faith in divine protection, the fountainhead of religion, is derived from the peace of heart, the solace, the blessings, the boons, and the miracles that are attributable to divine pleasure. Not only the initiated but also the devotee can invoke blessings even after the Incarnation has ceased to have a physical form.
The possibility of securing justice and fair play, boons, and blessings even after the sublimation of a Goddess or God is a basic tenet of our faith amply proved by numerous incidents where prayer and devotion have brought about miraculous cures, surprising success, and unexpected boons.
Several miracles attributed to the divine grace of Shri Karniji happened after the Mahaprayan. Believing that it will be in conformity with the general object of this work to enumerate the more important of them, this is being done in the succeeding paragraphs.
Rao Jaitsi & Kamran Mirza
The Bikaner throne was at the time of the Mahaprayan in 1595 held by Rao Jaitsi, grandson of Rao Bika. It is of this Jaitsi that Shri Karniji said:
“सारां में सरदार जाडो जैतसी”
(Jaitsi the head of all and of a numerous progeny)
Kabul and Lahore were then held by Babar’s son Kamran who dreamt of building an empire on the ruins of the one left by his fugitive brother Humayun.
A Jain yati from Bhatner, who was angry with Rao Jaitsi for some trivial reason, forgetting all lessons of history approached Kamran, dangled before him the rich bait of Bhatner and persuaded him to march with his arms on Bhatner, the northern stronghold of the Rathores of Bikaner.
Kamran attacked Bhatner with a large army in Asadh of Samvat 1595. The small Bikaner army then recently mauled by the ill-advised invasion of Narnaul, by the late ruler Rao Loonkaran was numerically no match for the invading Mughals. Bhatner was captured by the invaders and they began preparations to march on Bikaner. Jaitsi feared the worse. Like his ancestors, Rao Jaitsi, in this hour of peril, repaired to Deshnok, and prayed for divine help in the following words:
जैत कमन्ध कर जोड़ियां, जीहा एह जपत्त।
करनल रिणमल बाचरी, पाल करो त्रिसकत्त।
पाल करो त्रिसकत्त, जेज नंह कीजिये।
जैतो सरणै राज, उबारौ लीजिये।।
लियां संग नव लाख, सगत्ताँ झूलराँ।
आवो करनल प्राप, उबारण आपराँ।
(Rathore Jaitsi with folded hands pray thus’ “Remember your promise to Ridmal and fulfill it. Fulfill it and delay not. Redeem Jaita who seeks your protection. Come yourself O ! Shri Karni with Navalkh Shaktis to save your own people).
For three days and nights, the Rao prayed continuously, determined not to leave Deshnok without divine assurance of help. Thirsty and hungry he sat at the gate of the sanctum. On the fourth day, an ivory-bangle-adorned Arm appeared at noontime and put his arrow on his bow. Assured by this manifestation of divine grace Rao Jaitsi rode north with confidence, to face the Mughal hordes.
Reaching the vicinity of Bhatner, he collected intelligence about enemy deployment and strength. Finding his brave Rajputs far outnumbered by the enemy, he decided to launch a surprise attack under cover of darkness. With lightning speed, the small Rathore force fell on the Mughals soon after darkness. A fierce battle ensued. The Rajputs fought with such courage and bravery as only Rajputs can muster. They were helped by a supernatural power. The atmosphere echoed with the sound of veer hak and innumerable missiles fell on the Mughals. Flabbergasted by this divine spectacle, the Mughal army fled the battle-field, and the Rathores made a jubilant entry into the fort of Bhatner, which was renamed Hanumangarh because it fell to the Rathores on a Tuesday, the day dedicated to Lord Hanuman.
“Much dread was then felt of the terrible Turks, and Jetsi feared to fight them. He derived little comfort from his counselors but when he consulted the oracle at Deshnok, he recovered confidence; for Karniji was propitious, manifested a hand, spoke graciously and on the Rao’s laying his arms before Her image caused an arrow to fit itself to the bow-string. The Rao thereupon made a sudden night attack on Kamran’s force. Supernatural assistance, in the shape of thousands of quoits flung from unseen hands upon the Turks, secured the victory to Bikaner. Kamran exclaimed that they must be violating some Peer’s tomb by camping on it and galloped off. At village Chotringa his umbrella was dropped in a hurry of flight, and, the village being bestowed on Charans, it is preserved by them to the present day.”
The victorious Jaitsi returned to Deshnok, paid homage, and constructed a mandap over the ‘Gumbhara sanctum’ of the Deshnok temple. (The temple is called Mandh. )
Another manifestation of Karniji’s patronage relates to the period of another outstanding ruler of Bikaner, Karan Singh. A contemporary of the last powerful Mughal, Aurangzeb, he was held in high esteem by the bigot-emperor despite the latter’s notorious dislike for warriors of other faiths. Like Raja Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur and Raja Jai Singh of Jaipur in earlier years, this scion of the glorious line of Rao Bika was tolerated by the Mughal on account of his outstanding ability as a general. In his hearts of hearts, however, the bigot never wished him well.
Aurangzeb’s extensive empire covered present-day Afghanistan. This ill-developed area, the recruiting grounds of a substantial part of the imperial army, was ever a headache to distant Delhi. Frequently, expeditionary forces were sent to the Afghan territory to suppress the turbulent tribesmen, Realising the impolitic of entrusting this task to the Muslim battalions of the imperial army, the burden of keeping order among these tribes fell on the Rajputs.
Aurangzeb’s predecessors had implicit faith in their Rajput Rajas and the latter ably looked after the problem. Aurangzeb was different. He never wished well by the Rajputs, reciprocated their candid loyalty by studied indifference and suspicion, and being himself mean, never could believe that anyone could rise above his level.
So, when around 1705, an expedition was again fitted out against troublesome frontiersmen, departing from the time-tested practice, the emperor raised a force which was dominated by Muslim troops and generals. In the selection of generals’ bigotry again had an upper hand and the just feelings of the Rajputs were ignored. The Rajputs were sore on this account. Everything about this expedition, which it must be remembered formed an important part of a series of prejudicial acts calculated to weaken the Hindu faith, indicated the existence of a clever design, a deep conspiracy. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Rajputs got suspicious as soon as they received the first inkling of a reported plan of the bigot to take them beyond Attock and endanger the purity of their faith and religion. What first came as a whispered rumor was substantiated by no less an authority than a Muslim divine, Saiyad Jiwan Shah, who, impressed by the nonchalance of the unsuspecting Rajputs, their courage and sense of duty and their character and piety made Raja Karan Singh wise of the evil intentions of the intriguing monarch.
“Rajadhiraj, ” he said, “while you are enthusiastically proceeding to distant lands to further prove your loyalty to the throne of Akbar which you and your peers helped preserve for his descendants, the present incumbent and the direct beneficiary of your sacrifices, an arch intriguer masquerading as a true servant of Islam which he is not because he believes in foul play and deception, has evil designs against you and your compatriots’ So soon as you are across the Indus, in hostile territory, and cut off from your lands and friends, your few Rajput battalions under orders given by the bigot himself to the like-minded among the Muslim generals would be encircled for being disarmed.
Resorting unscrupulously to things like a threat, bride, and deceit, it is thereafter proposed to compel Rajputs to embrace Islam. ”
“Shaikh, ” the unperturbed Raja replied, “the Emperor knows enough about the Rajput’s regard for the religion of the Vedas, his valor and his unflinching willingness to make every sacrifice for his faith, to entertain the foolish idea that threats or bribe can make him forsake his beloved faith. ”
“Deception will be the chief instrument. The emperor is well aware of the general Hindu belief that caste is lost by proceeding beyond Attock. He has made a note of the difficult time Maharaj Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur, Governor designate of Kabul had only a decade or so ago, persuading his troops to cross the Indus and convincing them that caste is not thus lost. ”
“I remember the famous words of my uncle Jaswant Singhji, ” the Rathore king replied. They are immortalized in the couplet:
सबै भूमि गोपाल की, या में अटक कहा।
जाके मन में अटक है, सो ही अटक रहा।
It is all Lord Krishna’s (Gopal’s) land, where is the impediment. Only those who have mental reservations hesitate to cross Attock
Rajputs, thus challenged, followed him across the river. Our followers would, we are confident, do the same.”
“Undoubtedly and no one knows it better than Aurangzeb. However, he further knows that history is not without instances of conversion of Hindus who had unwillingly infringed caste rules falling easy prey to the machinations of proselytizers. ”
“A couple of bribed brahmans or even imposters would be all that is needed to convince the majority that they have lost caste. The history of conversion will be repeated. Momentum would be supplied by the murder of those who oppose it. The treacherous design has every chance of success. The conspiracy Rajadhiraj is deep. This mass conversion of the sword-arm of the Hindus would leave the rest of India at the mercy of the zealot, Aurangzeb. This ancient religion, as also all that it has cherished, its civilization and culture, things that appeal to men of all religions having reflective dispositions would be wiped off the pages of history and knowledge. Do not allow this devil to perpetrate this injustice on humanity. There is yet time. You are warned. ”
Karan felt the matter was too serious to be dismissed any more, as a figment of the imagination. Sacred values upheld at great cost and sacrifice were all in danger. On patient considerations, he found all available clues leading to the same conclusion.
In this hour of danger to the Vedic faith the Raja, like his ancestors, sought guidance from Shri Karniji, the patron Goddess of his house. He was rewarded. His doubts vanished. Determination replaced it.
Accepting the very fact of this warning as an indication of Karniji’s blessing, the Prince called an immediate meeting of his brother princes in the expedition.
The Lord of Bikaner disclosed the brewing conspiracy to his colleagues. Knowing how vile Aurangzeb was, they needed little proof and were soon convinced. Karan said, “I have, dear friends, pondered over all aspects of the disclosure and believe that it is because of the protecting arm of Bhagwati Shri Karniji, ever available to the Rathores, that one in the confidence of the hostile camp, contrary to all expectations, ventured to take this risk in the cause of Hinduism. ”
The assembly of the chiefs of the 36 clans decided to avail themselves of the sense of rivalry between Hindu and Muslim troops to obtain time for further deliberating over the matter.
In wars against other Muslims, the Rajput contingents formed the vanguard of the Mughal Army, and they hoped to be at the forefront in the present campaign also as it had been launched by the Mughal against his co-religionists. In the formation order, the Rajputs would have crossed the Indus boat-bridge before the neo-Muslim, Pathan, and Turk troops in a routine manner without anyone even noticing it. But it was converted into a prestige point by the Rajputs claiming, as the battle vanguard, the right to first ford the river. Unaware of the design behind making an issue of routine movement order, the Muslim commanders opposed the move and claimed priority for themselves. The order of movement became a bone of contention and a prestige issue.
The matter went to the supreme commander because it threatened the very unity of the army. As the vehemence of the Rajput argument in support of their right to first cross the bridge and fight in the vanguard increased, the determination of their rivals to have the honor also increased. The commander thought he was acting clever when he canceled the Rajput right to lead in battle on condition that out of consideration for the Shahjadas, they (Rajputs) as loyal troops would not object to the troops directly under the Princes to first use the ferry. This suited the Rajput design because contingents directly under the Princes formed the bulk of the army and such units consisted exclusively of Muslim soldiers. The Rajputs agreed with proper reluctance. The commander thought he had once again succeeded in fooling the Rajputs by touching their vanity. For once, he was wrong.
The Muslim contingents were ferried across the Indus and the commandeered boats returned to the left bank to take the Rajputs. At this very juncture, sad tidings reached the Amber camp. One of the numerous wives of the former ruler of Amber chose this auspicious time to depart for her heavenly abode and the stepson, the ruler of Amber, on receipt of the sad news, ordered, in all solemnity, a proper period of bereavement for the peace of the departed soul. The other Hindu princes could not, because of social requirements, leave without paying condolence visits on the prescribed days. For once the rigidity of Hindu custom helped the Rajputs achieve their aim. The Mirza Raja, Prince of Amber, sought and obtained permission to return to his capital.
The Muslim contingents were a few days march from the opposite bank by the time the Rajputs were in a position to leave the bereaved kinsman of Amber without undue strain on social propriety. Considering it the opportune moment for carrying out the second part of the scheme, led by Karan, the Rajput heraldry made for the waiting boats as if to board them. Arriving at the destination on a signal from their leader, the prince of Bikaner on whom they spontaneously and in a rare moment of unanimity bestowed the title of Jangaldhar Badshah, they began destroying, led by Karan himself the waiting transport. By executing the plan of damaging the boats the Rajputs not only destroyed all possibility of the timid, or the too loyal, going across the turbulent river but also eliminated the probability of the more numerous Muslim contingents being urgently ferried back across the Indus to attempt to persuade or compel the Rajputs to give up their plan.
This occasion is recorded in contemporary Rajasthani verse as follows-
करण पृथी इकराह, पतसाह आरंभ करे, कूच कर हले दर कूच काजा।
अटक असुरांण रा कटक सब ऊतरे, रहै तटवार हिंदवाण राजा।।१।।
वंस षटतीस मिल वात आ विचारी, जोर औरंग पड़े सोर जाडो।
सूर रो सूर केवाण भुज साहीयां, पाभ पड़ता हुवौं भूप आडो।।२।।
कुहाड़ा मार जिहाज बटका करे, धीर सारा धरे मेट घोषो।
करां षग तोल मुष बोल कहियो करन, जितैं उभो इतै नहीं जोषो।।३।।
करण वाषांण दुनीयांण धिन धिन कहै, धरम षत्रियांण भुज, अमर धारू।
अटक सूं लियां हिंदवाण आयो उरड़, मुरड़ पतसाह वीकांण मारू।।४।।
“Launched on a campaign of conquest the Mughal ferried the Muslim troops across the Indus At Attock while the Hindu kings awaited transport on the Indian side. “
“The thirty-six clans discussed the designs of Aurang and the inherent danger. The catastrophe was warded off by Sur Singh’s son volunteering to shield them. “
“When he destroyed the boats, and sword in hand announced that there is no danger while he lives, everyone felt reassured. “
“The world is all praise for Karan, the immortal upholder of kshatria dharma who upsetting the designs of the Mughal brought the levies back with their religion intact. “
Karan and others returned to their capitals. Fast couriers in the meanwhile carried despatches to the royal presence at Delhi. Aurang was furious. He ordered an immediate expedition against Bikaner, the newly accepted leader of the Rajputs. The Bikaner Vakil at the Mughal Court conveyed the dismal news, post-haste, to his master. Once again moment for trial had come. Meeting single-handed the wrath of the powerful Mughal was, for Bikaner, Karan thought, a well nigh hopeless task. He could not sacrifice his valiant Bikaneries just like that. Feeling the need for guidance, help, and solace, he repaired to Deshnok and prayed that this calamity may pass off. For three or four days he sat at the feet of the deity, himself composed a chirja, and recited it repeatedly for the fulfillment of his wishes.
Meanwhile, at the other end, something made the emperor revise his orders. The expedition was called of. It returned to Delhi. The emperor sent a farman by a special messenger directing Karan to report at the Court. Karan consulted his ministers. They smelt foul play at the emperor was not above laying a trap for unwary knights and assassinating or incarcerating them once they were within his reach and power.
“Aurangzeb”, they said, “is an evil genius. He can stoop down to anything. Breach of rules of chivalry is to him another name for diplomacy. There is a positive danger in complying with his behest. On the other hand, if our Master does not comply with the orders, there could be a risk of war. But it seems the Mughal is in no position to start one in the immediate future. Evidently, the reasons which compelled him to recall the expeditionary force must have at once been strong and lasting. The wisest course of action, therefore, is to bide time and ignore the summons. ”
“I have implicit faith in Karniji’s grace. I shall, I am confident, count on it to steer me, as in the past, through the Impending danger. With Her name as my armor, I shall boldly, as befit my House, face the situation and the Emperor. ”
Accompanied by his sons Kesari and Padam the Raja appeared before Aurangzeb. In the meanwhile, Banamalidas the bastard son of one of the former Bikaner rulers informed the emperor that Karan had turned back from Attock for fear of forcible conversion, and offered to embrace Islam as the price of the Bikaner throne, Aurangzeb who accepted Banmali’s offer planned to have Karan beheaded. Assassins detailed for this heinous act were stationed in the Darbar when the Raja flanked by his sons fearlessly walked into the Emperor’s presence. The Emperor gave the agreed signal but waited, and waited for quite some time, in vain for the assassins to execute their commission. Guessing that something was the matter, and apprehensive of the secret being divulged and his own life is endangered by the vicinity of the Rathore stalwarts, the tactful king changed his mind, recalled Karan’s services in the fratricidal wars between Aurang and Dara that preceded the vile rise of the monarch to Akbar’s throne, when Karan opposed his own cousin, Maharaj Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur for the sake of Aurangzeb.
It would be unjustly charitable to suppose that the spontaneous decision of the monarch to abandon designs on the life of the unsuspecting Rajputs were dictated by any realization of the wickedness and patent injustice of that course of action. Knowing what Aurang was, it would perhaps be more logical to conclude that the recollection of Karan’s loyalty in the war, Where he was, as a matter of fact, arrayed against his own cousin must have given to the monarch the idea that the simple loyalty and the steadfast courage of a Rajput warrior like Karan were precisely what the empire needed for suppressing his enemies in the peninsula. Whatever be the reason, Aurang overlooked the serious affront and bestowed on Karan the Subedari of Aurangabad (Deccan). Jangaldhar Badshah, Karan, on his part attributed all this to the grace of Karniji and commemorated this by constructing a fine temple in Aurangabad, dedicated to Bhagwati Shri Karniji.
Wars between Jodhpur and Bikaner
The next important period in the History of Bikaner connected with Karniji is that falling between Samvat 1790 and 1804 during the reign of Maharaj Gaj Singh. The sister kingdom of Jodhpur was then ruled by Maharaja Abhey Singh.
Abhey Singh built a mighty force, defeated sarbulund Khan of Ahmedabad, and captured that city as a climax to a brilliant campaign enshrined in immortal verse by Kaviraja Karnidan and Ratnoo Virbhan in their Dingal (Rajasthani) epics Suraj Prakash, and Rajroopak, respectively.
Though an able general and a wise statesman who tinkered with the idea of a confederacy and alliance between ‘India Muslims, as distinct from Muslims of foreign origin, and the Rajputs by joining hands with the Saiyad Brothers (Indian Muslims), he suffered from the common Rajput failing of never forgetting old wounds and was ever eager to settle scores with brother Rajput kings.
Bikaner and Jodhpur were two branches of the same tree. Rao Bika had forgone his claim to the Jodhpur throne and carved a big kingdom for himself. Jodhpur, over the years, had done equally well. There was enough for each to be proud of the other. By mutual cooperation, they could have extended each other’s domains over larger areas. Unfortunately, very soon after the separation of the two branches, mutual relations were estranged. The proverbial stepmother was perhaps at the root of the first estrangement. The gulf between the two caused by minor prestige points kept widening. They wasted their energy and strength in mutual confrontation and the two houses, regrettably, exhibited a singular lack of statesmanship and foresight in the matter of mutual relations. The present writer, who has numerous friends on both sides and who territorially owes loyalty to the Jodhpur House, has been pained to notice that beyond a certain point the two are not even till date prepared to accommodate each other’s viewpoint. In all, eight times the Jodhpur forces rode on Bikaner and the latter replied by five attacks.
We are for our present purpose concerned with only two of these. In Samvat 1797 ambitious and able Abhey Singh ruled Jodhpur. Having failed to achieve his objective in his first attempt made the year before, when armies were sent on Bikaner under trusted lieutenants, he raised a large army again. Assisted among others by Bikaner rebels, Thakurs Lal Singh (Bhadra), Sangram Singh (Churu), and Bhim Singh (Mahajan), Abhey Singh himself led the attack on Bikaner. On the way, he stopped at Deshnok for paying respects to Bhagwati Shri Karniji. He desired the Charans of Deshnok to address him in the same manner as they were wont to address the king of Bikaner, but the bold Charans flatly refused.[Ojha: Bikaner Rajya ka Itihas]
Abhey marched on Bikaner. The outer defenses could not withstand the onslaught. Entering the town, the Jodhpur army pillaged in. Kunwar Gaj Singh and Rawal Rai Singh from the Bikaner side enraged by the loot planned a counter-attack. Maharaj Jorawar Singh restrained them, and their troops were withdrawn into the fort. While the seize continued Jorawar Singh strengthened his defenses but the situation was near hopeless and Jorawar Singh, who was a poet of no mean ability, addressed his patron deity thus:
डाढाली डौकर थई, का थूं गई विदेस,
षून बिना क्यूं षोसजे, निज बीका रो देस।
“O, Bhagwati how is that the land of your Bika is being pillaged? Can it be that you have become old or powerless? Or is it because you have left for foreign lands?”
(ii) Goetz. , H. : The Art & Architecture of Bikaner State, page 62
Some years after the Jodhpur seize of 1739 which had been arised thanks to the personal interference of Karniji who appeared as a white kite on the highest palace tower, Zorawar Singh donated a Golden Umbrella to the shrine.
The appearance of a white kite, the symbol of Bhagwati Karniji at this juncture reassured him. He renewed his efforts and sent a mission to Jai Singh of Amber, the latter ordered an army three hundred thousand strong to march on Jodhpur, receiving intelligence of this move Abhey made a last-minute attempt at a settlement. His terms did not find favor with the defenders. Compelled by the urgency arising out of the new developments, he had to raise seize and proceed post-haste to the defenses of Jodhpur. The returning Jodhpur army was severely mauled by Bikaneris. Once again, the blessings of Bhagwati helped Bikaner save the situation against heavy odds.
Repeated setbacks could not however shake Abhey Singh’s confidence in his might to diminish his desire for vengeance. Instead of deterring him, each preceding failure whetted his revengeful nature. Once more he could not resist the temptation of using his painstakingly acquired might against his own Bikaner cousins, now led in Samvat 1804 by Maharaja Gaj Singh. Under Bhandari Ratan Chand, the Jodhpur forces marched on Bikaner with the ostensible aim of putting Gaj Singh’s brother Amar Singh on the Bikaner throne because it was, perhaps, believed that the latter had a better claim. Two of the premier nobles of Bikaner, the chiefs of Mahajan and Bhadra, took sides with Jodhpur and Amar Singh. Several skirmishes took place. Pitched battles were few and there was non of attrition.
Tired of repeated onslaughts and his wanderings Gaj Singh repaired to Deshnok, offered worship, and prayed for guidance. He was determined to maneuver for a pitched battle, if the Goddess so willed and gave an indication of such desire in the way he had in mind.
The sacrificial goat was brought before the idol and responded to acceptance in the way the devotee, Maharaj Gaj Singh, had in mind. Reassured by this manifestation the fugitive Maharaja mobilized his forces and dividing his twenty thousand men into their parts attacked the Jodhpur army entrenched at Sujandesar well. The Bhandari’s position was shaken, Observing the success of the onslaught he staked his all on saving his fortified position from capture by Bikaner troops. The full might of the Jodhpur army was diverted towards this position.
Abandoning all caution, Gaj led his men personally. His horse was shot under him, but he felt himself protected by the self same bangle-adorned-Arm that Predicted victory for Jaitsi. Commandeering a fresh horse, the Maharaja resumed the attack. So determined was the Jodhpur defense that his second ride met the same fate in the hail of lead but the rider went ahead like one under a charm, protected from lethal bullets, primarily aimed at him, by the bangle-adorned-Arm.
Requisitioning the help of contingents under Amar Singh and the Mahajan chief, Ratan Chand launched a fierce direct attack on the oncoming Gaj Singh. Precisely at this juncture, the Jodhpur band came under mysterious fire from the skies. Ratan Chand and his men were flabbergasted. His contingent fell in disarray. Leaving the bodies of eight commanders and 500 men on the field of battle, the Jodhpur general beat a retreat, paying no heed to Gaj Singh’s challenges. The retreat became a rout when the retreating forces were attacked and pursued by fresh troops under Swaroop Singh of Jaipur. And thus, in Samvat 1804, Maharaja Gaj Singh, by divine intervention, came out victorious and unscathed from a shower of bullets and saved his kingdom from peril.
Marathas and Maharaj Bijai Singh
Jodhpur’s Maharaja Bijai Singh was a pious devotee of Lord Krishna. His father Bakhat Singh a patricide, who had given much trouble to the Bikaner house on his own and jointly with Abhey Singh, was a great general. Bijai Singh did not inherit the last-mentioned quality. The numerous foes that his ambitious father made awaited an opportunity for revenge. They got it when the patricide breathed his last. Ram Singh the nephew whom Bakhat had ousted from Jodhpur brought numerous Maratha forces in Samvat 1810 to dislodge his cousin and Bakhat Singh’s successor Bijai Singh.
Relations between Jodhpur and Bikaner had by then taken a new turn. Forgetting inconvenience and loss that successive Jodhpur onslaughts had caused, Gaj Singh of Bikaner, himself a victim, entered into an alliance with Jodhpur’s Bijai Singh and found Jodhpur’s help timely and useful in suppressing the Hissar rebellion of Mansur Ali and Surajmal.
Bijai Singh’s forces supported by the Bikaner army and that from the third neighboring Rathore state Kishangadh making up a total of 1, 15, 000 met the invaders from the south, who were more than double in number, at Gagarana. The Rathore reputation coupled with an onslaught upset the Maratha mercenaries. They fell back seven kilometers to the village Chorasan. Bijai Singh was urged to force a general action as a success, his advisers’ thought was certain,
On Asoj Sud 13 he engaged the enemy, in such war as Rathores alone can make. But numbers prevailed and their chiefs were defeated. Bijai Singh with the survivors sought refuge at Nagore. The Marathas laid seize. It continued for fourteen months when he urged to leave the fort and make his way through the lines of besiegers for Bikaner. With a thousand followers, he escaped by night and reached Deshnok. Charan Gopinath, a pious literary man was despatched ahead to Deshnok to ascertain Bijai Singh’s prospects. His naive prayer was as follows:
“Mother ! if Thou will restore Jodhpur to Bijai Singh, he will restore those forty-two sansan villages (religious grant) in Nagore which Bakhat Singh his father, forfeited and will lay the deed of grant at Thy feet.”[Gazetteer of Bikaner, Powlett, page 64, and Khiyat of Dayal Das.]
Gopinath then sought an omen which he got; the Bhagwati manifesting Her favor through the aakha.
Though Bijai’s attempts to woo the Amber kinsman’s help did not succeed, he learned shortly afterward that the alliance against him had broken, and the seize of Nagore abandoned on the engagement of a payment. Jodhpur was also restored. Convinced that such restoration was the result of Bhagwati’s benediction the relieved prince atoned for the misdeed of his father by sending, as promised, to Deshnok temple, the sanads of the forty-two villages and in addition made a cash gift of a lac and quarter rupees.
Up to now, we have written of miracles benefitting people of the area where Karniji was born or brought up or lived or stayed during Her long life. Beneficiaries of divine intervention will naturally be people who have faith in that particular divine manifestation and pay unflinching homage to their deity. Since the Shakti cult and worship of Karniji Maharaj is preponderant in the Rathore Kingdoms, there is nothing surprising in most of the important miracles being connected with people and events in these lands. It would, however, be wrong to suppose that the manifestations are confined within any territorial limits. Whenever and wherever a devotee needs just help. he gets it. More often than not such divine pleasure is not different from routine happenings. It is only when the intensity of suffering is matched by the intensity of devotion that the divine intervention becomes a noticeable phenomenon and merits the epithet miracle.
Bakhtawar Singh of Alwar
An example from Alwar relating to the post Mahaprayan period will illustrate the point. A wild boar wounded by the lance of Maharaja Bakhtawar Singh of Alwar entered the premises of a Rasoolshahi Faqir near Malakhera gate of Alwar town. The hunters lost track of the prey and the search having failed the royal hunter returned to his palace. There he developed colic. The Faqir enjoyed a reputation for magic powers and through some gullible attendant, the suggestion was conveyed to the ailing Maharaja that the colic was the punishment for wounding the sacred animal, the wild boar, and defiling their sacred premises by forcing the wounded beast into the takiya. Pained by this misunderstanding, the Raja, who had the common Hindu virtue of toleration in more than average measure, conveyed his regrets to the Faqir and also conveyed the assurance that no disrespect was ever intended and that he was sorry if, unwittingly, he had hurt the feelings of any subject.
The priest who received the message was vain enough to conclude that the Maharaja was supplicating favors because the ailment was actually a punishment for the alleged sacrilege, vanity made him oblivious of reason and logic. He thought the Raja was in his power because of the coincidence and forgetting manners and his own status told the messenger, “Go tell your kafir master that relief from his pain cannot be so easily obtained. The magnitude of the impropriety merits a visit by the Ruler himself with folded hands, covered by a handkerchief, to the sacred grave, and dusting it with his beard. Death will be the consequence of failure to carry these directions to the letter. ”
The Prince was not prepared to rectify the alleged insult at the cost of his dignity. He was also keen to remove the false belief that his colic was induced by the magician. It was also necessary to wash off the evil effects of the subtle propaganda of the Rasoolshahi priests whose audacity had exceeded all limits. All this could be achieved in one stroke by prompt miraculous relief from the intense pain by the intervention of the Gods and Goddesses of his own faith. Addressing his courtiers, he therefore asked. “Can’t someone invoke our own Gods and expose the fraud perpetrated by these faqirs or do you expect me to dishonor myself by submitting to this indignity?”
Present in the Court then was Barhath Umaid Ram of Hanutia, a great devotee of Shri Karniji. He spoke, “Publicity stunts are not the sustenance of our belief. The miraculous can happen where necessary faith and piety exists. If you vouch for implicit faith in Bhagwati Shri Karniji, I can with confidence in success pray for immediate divine intervention for your relief. ”
The Maharaja who appears to have been a monotheist agreed to give the Goddess and the Barhath a try, and the latter pouring ghee on the sacred fire and conceiving the flame as the divine form addressed special hymns to Bhagwati. A white, chilha, the accepted manifestation of Karniji’s pleasure, alighted on the spire of the palace. The Maharaja’s pain disappeared, the moment he paid homage to the sacred bird to the immense joy of his well-wishers and the chagrin of the hoax priests. The relieved Ruler gave vent to his anger by evicting from his domain the five hundred and odd priests of the Rasoolshahi order sans their noses to the happy satisfaction of the people on whose simplicity and purses these scoundrels had for long preyed. His respect for Karniji he proved by sending valuable rare presents to Deshnok.
Defense of fort Baldeogadh
On another occasion in the regime of the self same Maharaj Bakhtawar Singh, Bhagwati Karniji came to the rescue of the ruling house when Her devotee, Bakhtawar Singh was deceitfully entrapped by his kinsman, the Raja of Jaipur. He secured release on the promise of surrendering 5 forts in lieu of a sum of Rs. 2 lacs claimed by Jaipur as arrears of tribute for his ancestral Jagir in Amber territory. While commanders of four of these forts complied with the terms of the agreement, the fifth, the commander of Baldeogadh near Behror, a fierce Rajput refused to oblige on the plea that an agreement affecting his fort was void in the absence of his endorsement. For the help of his small garrison, he sought help from Khetri, but the Jaipur faced laid seize ere help arrived. The besieged garrison soon faced a water famine and prospects of death by thirst. The commander reported his sad plight to Bakhtawar Singh assuring that he could hold out till help arrived from Khetri and then throw off the attack if water could be obtained. The ruler could think of no way of saving his loyal men except to pray to Karniji. The prayer, climaxing in two dohas, composed by this recent convert to the Shakti cult, brought a small cloud that poured rain on the fort filling all reservoirs up to the brim. Soon afterward the promised help arrived. On a signal from the fort, the Khetri force attacked the Jaipurians from the rear while the garrison sallied forth from the fort in a fierce charge. The invaders beat a hasty retreat in disarray and the fort remained with Alwar.
These two dohas become Bakhtawar Singh’s mantra. He had these engraved on the hilt of his sword [This sword is preserved in the Alwar collection.]. They read:
धम धम बाज त्रमागळाँ, हुवै नकीबाँ हल्ल।
सादाँ आजे सम्मळी, किनियाणी करनल्ल।
बाढाळी बहताँह, राढाळी त्रम्मक रुड़ै।
साढाळी सहताँह, डाढाळी ऊपर करे।
Karniji Maharaj of the Kiniya clan heard my prayers and decided to help at the most critical juncture in the midst of the jubilations of the heralds and the beat of war-drums.
The protection of your shawl was vouchsafed to me when I most needed it amidst the flash of swords and the ring of drums.
Dharna at Alwar
The chapter can appropriately include a narrative of another divine intervention by Bhagwati Karniji. The dramatic circumstances leading to it have their beginning in the time-tested mode of protest against injustice, adopted by the Charans and called dharna (Satyagrah followed by self-immolation).
Aggrieved by the conduct of Maharaj Vinay Singh of Alwar who, reportedly, had till this incident little veneration for religion, the Charans of Alwar State staged a dharna. The administration, taking its cue from the ruler, tried various ways of obstructing the dharna and dislodging the participants. The determination of the aggrieved fortified by religious fervor stood all onslaughts and won the sympathy of the populace. The Maharaja ordered his Nayak soldiers to scatter the protesting Charans. This order enraged the Narooka contingent of Ladana which revolted and moved in to protect the dharna. The Nayaks also refused to obey. The Maharani, a Ranawat lady from Shahpura pleaded for mass support for the protest dharna. The people of Alwar responded by forgoing cooked meals. All kitchens including the palace kitchen were closed. Even the ruler had to go without cooked meals. Traders put up shutters and complete hartal was observed. Puja at the hundreds of city temples stopped. Sympathizing crowds formed defensive rings around the dharna ground to permit participants to go ahead with the rituals undisturbed.
People advised the ruler to relent while there yet was time. He was unrepentant. He kept behind doors and would not listen. To avoid people, he lay down covering himself with a sheet. There was deadly silence everywhere and the atmosphere was surcharged with the prospects of an impending catastrophe. The angry Maharaja refused to talk even to Maharani Ranawatiji. He resented her pious sentiments.
Exasperated by general non-cooperation, the Maharaja called his Muslim Prime Minister, one Uspandyar, and empowered him to forthwith stop the dharna and remove the participants. The Maharaja ordered, “The disloyal conduct of officers and contingents ordered to carry instructions has displeased me. You are the only one among those close to me on whom I can still rely. Please do not fail me. ”
At the other end with the entering of the undefiled dharna in its crucial stage, the leader Kavia Ramanath thus invoked Bhagwati Shri Karniji’s intervention:
व्है सिंघ होफरड़ीह, पतशाहाँ परचा दिया।
डरपी डोकरड़ीह, मा आती मेवात में।
“Can it be that the divine Mother who assuming the form of a lion brought mighty emperors to the path of rectitude is so enfeebled by age as to be afraid of coming to Mewat (Alwar State) ?”
At the very moment of this invocation, Vinay Singh who was closeted with his Prime Minister enquired of the latter, “Who is under my bed?”
“How can there be anything under your bed my Lord when the guards are all around to protect you?”
“Then who is shaking my bed?” and Vinay alighted from the quaking bed.
“You have merely noticed the movement of the bed, your Highness, but I feel as if the whole palace is revolving. ”
The Maharaja also noticed this and found that the frequency of shocks which had taken the form of an earthquake was increasing.
Maharani Ranawatiji who was in an adjacent room and had overheard the conversation between her husband and his Dewan became apprehensive of the wrath of the elements falling on her recalcitrant husband. The first concern of a Hindu lady in times of peril is the safety of her lord. Addressing her patron Goddess Bhagwati Karniji she prayed. “Please spare my husband. Excuse his fault. Rathore than impose more punishment, why don’t you give him the sense to see the injustice of his conduct. Show him the correct path so that he may revise his orders, stop interference in the dharna ceremony and redress the wrongs and injustice perpetrated on his people, ”
The Prime Minister also, apprehensive of danger, pleaded with his master, “My Lord this wrath of the elements may be the manifestation of the displeasure of Bhagwati Karniji who has been invoked by the protesters. I understand this incarnation is greatly venerated for coming to the rescue of worshippers in times of peril. I am a Muslim, and my religion does not permit such thoughts. Nevertheless, my loyalty to my Hindu master enjoins me to remind him of his faith and his duties. The ordained shall happen but I do not want posterity to believe that the improper advice of a non-Hindu Dewan was the cause of evil days for the Alwar House. I would advise you, therefore, to abandon all intentions of defiling the dharna and to redress the wrongs. ”
Vinay was still adamant. He rejected the Dewan’s advice and the latter laying the seal and other insignia of his high office at the feet of his master resigned and left the royal presence to his residence.
Earlier the Maharaj’s elder brother Harnath Singh had left the kingdom because of disagreement with the Maharaja about the policy towards the Charans and the dharna.
The departure of Uspandyar Beg, his outspoken comments as also the increasing frequency and intensity of the quake had a tempering effect on the Maharaja, now left alone. The prayers of his devout Maharani were answered. He began to see, thanks to the change of heart brought about by the benevolence of Bhagwati Karniji, the injustice of his stand. He, therefore, recalled Harnath Singh from Baswa and sought his help for an amicable settlement of the problem consistent with his prestige as ruler. The Charans, reputed for their loyalty, had never even dreamt of hurting their master’s prestige. They willingly agreed to accept the gesture and the proposed settlement. The successful dharna was wound up, with a couplet from the devout Kavia Ramnath recording their obligation to Bhagwati Karniji for intervention in the cause of justice and fair play:
“व्है सिंघ होफरड़ीह, पतसाहां परचा दिया।
डग भर डोकरड़ीह, मा आई मेवात में। “
“The Divine Mother who assuming the form of a lion brought mighty emperors to the path of rectitude kindly intervened in the cause of Dharma in Mewat. “
The reformed Maharaja celebrated his transformation by building a magnificent temple to Karniji in the Alwar fort.
Numerous other acts and incidents bearing an imprint of Bhagwati Shri Karniji’s intervention at the behest of pious devotees are related by the people of Rajasthan. Such intervention can well be called the most important ground for sustaining belief in truth and right and indeed in incarnations of Almighty. Wherever and whenever a devotee in distress, prey to injustice, and indignity needed help, the same was provided in ample measure by his patron Goddess and these interventions in turn increased the depth of feeling and strengthened the faith. When faced by trouble, people have, over the centuries, invoked Karniji’s blessings and blessed are those that were vouchsafed help, guidance, and resultant solace and joy.
Chapter IX – Devi Deshnok-Lady of Deshnok
Maharaja Ganga Singh
One of the greatest votaries of Bhagwati Shri Karniji in recent times was the Bhagirath of the desert, late Maharaj Ganga Singh of Bikaner. Anecdotes and stories of his implicit faith, deep piety, and untampered devotion to Karniji abound. He was not only a great ruler but also a deeply religious person. His successes in all walks of life were undoubtedly the result of his wisdom, his political sagacity, his love for his people, and above all, his painstaking labor, and yet one cannot lightly overlook the commonly held belief that he could subdue opposition and ride adversity because of the rapport that he had established with patron deity Bhagwati Karniji. The relationship between the Bikaner house and the Lady of Deshnok has always been intimate; stories of Her intervention for its benefit have been related in preceding chapters but the mystic communion that Maharaj Ganga Singh achieved places him on a different footing.
It will be recalled that past rulers approached Karniji in times of adversity in the confidence that they shall get what was their due as the rulers of the thrones established with Her blessings. They did not claim divine benediction in their own right. The illustrious Maharaj Ganga Singh was different. To him, the opportunity to worship Karniji was in itself the most desirable thing a boon in its own right. He seldom sought specific boons. Nor did he neglect this worship between two periods of need for help. He was ever Her devotee, and like a true one attained that sangfroid, mental poise, intellectual dignity, and political acumen which make a great ruler a great man.
There are many achievements to this credit, the most important being the conversion of an economically backward area into a prosperous well-administered state. During his regime, the revenue of the State increased from a few lacs to four crores. Large areas were drought under irrigation and the foundations laid, firmly and soundly, for expansion of irrigation. The desert was opened by an extensive railway network and the well-trained Bikaner troops added new chapters to the glorious military history of the Rathore armies.
In 1937, Maharaj Ganga Singh completed 50 years of his rule. His beloved subjects whose beloved he was, decided to celebrate the occasion in a manner befitting its importance. The Maharaja deferred consent as the monsoon, never partial to his domain, was in 1937 unduly late. Astrologers predicted a poor year. People were losing hope. The Maharaja would naturally not entertain any idea of celebrations in a famine year, whatever the optimists among his loyal subjects may urge. He required divine guidance and for fixing a date and time for his decision repaired to Deshnok. Time passed. The elements did not relent. The weather remained unchanged. The sky was cloudless from horizon to horizon, hot winds swept the sand dunes and emaciated cattle languished in the scant shade of leafless thorny shrubs. The time had come for planning famine relief operations and gearing the administrative machinery to efficiently execute them. Even the most optimistic were losing hope. People had stopped looking at the north-east sky. Herdsmen were preparing to leave for distant pastures and the kisans were withholding their food grain and fodder stocks. Almost on the day (September 14th or 15th) when chances of rainfall were at rock bottom, the devotee Maharaja camping at Deshnok, an hour or so before sunset on the day fixed for announcing a decision, ordered that preparations for the jubilee be begun at full steam. He had received the consent which he needed from his Bhuwaji (Aunt), Bhagwati Karniji. Needless to say, that the year was good. What needs, however, be said is that from nowhere a small cloud appeared and before the very eyes or onlookers assumed the form of welcome massive monsoon clouds which quenched the land’s thirst, delighted everyone and cooled the atmosphere. The happy people joined with all enthusiasm and zeal in making the celebrations a tremendous success. The celebrations were on a magnificent scale, remembered to this day by all who anything to do with it, as participants or onlookers.
This ability to establish rapport with manifestations of the Supreme Power is the most significant contribution of Sakar philosophy which is the basis of idol worship. Saints and religious, leaders as also philosophers and thinkers have in one way or the other, directly or by implication, by cold logic or inspiration or out of sheer desperation talked of such Supreme Power. Even the irreligious seek solace in religious traditions in hours of need. Men who impelled by vested interests condemn faith and worship and the need for divine help, know in their heart of hearts that in the hour of peril there is no better and safer recourse than the blessings of the Supreme Power, which can be successfully achieved only by complete identification (yoga) with the Supreme.
Yoga can be attained by, among other things, bhakti. Evaluation of different paths of yoga would probably show that bhakti-marg is the easiest. Various schools of bhakti-marg exist but the one that appeals most to the simple devout heart is that of Sakar bhakti. The type of concentration, loyalty, and loving affection that have to be developed by a bhakta seeking yoga i.e. merger with the Universal Atman can best be imbibed by worshipping God in a conceivable form.
Self and soul suffer limitations so long as such a merger with the Universal Soul is not affected. Realizing this, devotees constantly endeavor to attain yoga by Sakar worship, where an individual’s Virat and Sukshma submerge, and where the narrow self-interest and the limitations of vyashti fall off and the sentiment of Vasudeo Kutumbkam is engendered.
The important form of Sakar worship is the worship of God as Shakti. This worship has its own appeal. Shakti cult helps devotees attain yoga by praying at the feet of the various incarnations of Shakti. Numerous temples spread all over Rajasthan, Sindh, and Malwa, dedicated to Bhagwati Shri Karniji have, therefore, been constructed by the devout. The premier temple is, of course, the one at Deshnok built around the place chosen by Bhagwati for daily meditation.
We have earlier described the manner in which this place came to be called Deshnok. It is situated 30 km south of Bikaner. The town is connected by road and rail and has a prosperous population. In the main temple is installed the Pratima carved by the blind suthar Banna, who was, readers would recall, specially commissioned because of his untarnished vision and deep piety, by Bhagwati Karniji Herself to prepare it.
Banna selected a beautiful yellow marble from his native Jaisalmer and continued to execute his commission even after Bhagwati had left for Khawad. He took nearly three months to complete the work. On completing the work to his satisfaction, he rested, slept on his bed at his house in Jaisalmer with the idol under the pillow, Next morning, he was found sleeping with the Pratima, Under his pillow, in the Gumbhara at Deshnok.
Much had happened since Bhagwati left on her Jaisalmer voyage. People at Deshnok did not know that Banna was busy preparing a Pratima and the sculptor, in his, turn did not know that his worshipped had sublimated Her physical form. On finishing with the exchange of information, the Pratima was bathed in Sri Ganga water and installed on Chaitra Sudi 14th, Samvat 1595 in Uttara Falgun nakshatra in the Gumbhara. Banna permanently recovered sight. Since then the idol is being regularly worshipped in the prescribed manner.
This premier idol of Bhagwati, carved by the chosen artist is a little more than two feet in height and is juxtaposed in front of a gold toran. The base is nearly two inches above ground level. Banna’s work gives an overall impression of supernatural charm. The imprint of the divine hand can be discerned by the faithful. Details of the folds of the garments and the features have been brought out by delicate craftsmanship. The face is longish and is adorned by a crown on the head, kundals in the ears, and the likeness of metal and pearl ornaments around the well-proportioned neck. It is distinguishable from the general fun of idols, carved by old Indian masters in as much as it respects anatomical proportions.
The right-hand holds a trident while the left carries a demon’s head. Bangles adorn both wrists. The sari and the lohari carry a flower pattern in a fine line.
The main idol is flanked by seven small statues on the left and the same number on the right. The seven statues on left represent the seven sisters of Karniji while those on right represent Bhagwati Awadji and her six sisters.
Temple or Mandh
Temples are symbols of India’s traditional worship procedures. Intellect and wisdom, knowledge and experience, devotion, and action draw Peace, satisfaction, and contentment in being presented like common offerings before idols placed in our temples.
Bhagwati Karniji’s idol is worshipped at several temples all over Western Rajasthan. The most important temple is the one at Deshnok.
The Gumbhara in which the idol has been installed in compliance with Bhagwati’s wishes was constructed by Karniji herself. The Gumbhara is an uncemented structure. The roof is of logs of Jal wood resting on walls of undressed boulders securely balanced on each other. No mortar has been used and the spaces between the stones and the logs provide sanctuary to the Kabas. The entire structure encloses about 10 ft. sq. area.
Around this Gumbhara Jaitsi built, as resolved, a katcha structure to celebrate his victory in Samvat 1595, over Kamran Mirza. This structure received the appellation Mandh, which has since stuck and is used for all temples dedicated to Bhagwati Karniji.
Maharaj Surat Singh in the 19th century replaced the katcha Mandh with the existing Pucca structure in lime mortar. After this alteration, it became a shikhar bandh structure. The high parapet wall with battlements and bastions and the lofty gate constructed by him, give the structure the shape of a fort. Indeed, it has not been considered anything short of an inner line of defense and the self same Surat Singh appointed the Sankhlas the killedars of the Mandh.
The iron doors of the main gate of the Mandh were brought from the demolished Depasar fort and Surat Singh presented a pair of silver battle drums now housed in the Pankhasal. He introduced the shastriya pujan procedures. The gold door of the sanctum is a present from Maharaj Bakhtawar Singh of Alwar. Maharaj Doongar Singh of Bikaner presented a gold toran, a gold katara, a gold umbrella (the biggest in the collection and suspended on top of the idol), and a gold chandrahar.
The late Maharaj Ganga Singh renovated the greater part of the temple. Ordinary stone was replaced by marble. Moreover, he completed the marble work of the main door taken up and mostly completed at the expense of philanthropist millionaire, Dhadha Chand Mal of Bikaner.
The main entrance thanks to the devotion of this Dhadha is a beautiful piece of architecture. The carving is ingenious and tasteful. Intricate patterns exhibiting fine workmanship have been woven in choice white marble by qualified craftsmen, Architecturally, the entrance is well proportioned and befits the dignity of the holy place to which it opens its door. Chand Mal constructed a spacious dharmshala for the comfort of pilgrims.
Within the fortification are two other temples, one a marble one dedicated to Bhagwati Awadji and the other a smaller one containing the pratimas of Karniji’s granddaughter Manu Bai and the latter’s friend a carpenter girl.
Just inside the main entrance is a space dedicated to Dashrath Meghwal. This youth from an untouchable caste earned a position of dignity in the vicinity of Bhagwati by valiantly sacrificing his life at the hands of robbers in saving sacred cows.
Deshnok has two other important temples. One of them Shri Nehriji temple is dedicated to Karniji. The temple, situated outside habitation in picturesque surroundings, is served by a good dharmshala.
Karniji on first arriving from Sathika sojourned at this place for the greater part of Her life and sanctified the place. The place acquired the appellation Nehriji because of the miraculous manner in which a piece of dry wood revived to serve, as required, for churning curds. The revived tree bears marks of curd drops that were thrown out in the process of churning. These marks are permanent and are so embedded in the texture of the tree that, astonishingly, they reappear even when old bark peels off and a new one replaces it.
Temra Rai Temple
The Temra Rai temple is dedicated to Bhagwati Awadji and is located at the place where the foolish Kanha suffered for his obstinacy. Readers would recall that Karniji carried Awadji’s puja in a karand (basket) and the karand was damaged when Kanha’s servants yoked elephants to move it. The karand in its original form together with the pratima of Bhagwati Awad Ji is housed in this temple situated in the center of the town.
Deshnok is a prosperous town with a population of over 11500. Electricity and potable water are provided. The place has adequate accommodation for the large numbers of visiting pilgrims. Thanks to the blessings of its patron Goddess and the faith of Her devotees, this holy town has a bright future. Let us hope and pray it shall continue to provide contentment, joy, and courage to those who come in piety and faith.
We have, in the preceding pages, described a few of those numerous occasions when Bhagwati Shri Karniji came to the rescue of pious devotees. These stories picked at random are illustrative of divinity’s power of intervention in the hour of need for the protection of Dharma and the benefit of the devotee. Every moment in every era, divine power manifests itself in various ways. In lands where Karni worship is widespread, one can learn of the numerous miraculous ways in which Bhagwati has come to the rescue of humble folk and powerful rulers. From the vast repertoire of the devotees, we have for the purpose of this narrative picked a few of the more important incidents. General experience has led people to believe that incarnations promptly help those who worship them. It is the readiness of incarnate power, even after the cessation of the human form, to come to mankind’s help, which sustains mankind’s faith in God and incarnations. “Lord appears as an incarnation, as a savior of pious souls, for establishing Dharma and vanquishing its enemies whenever Dharma is in jeopardy”. [Shrimad Bhagavat Gita]
The formless assumed form as Bhagwati Shri Karniji, adorned the land in physical form so long as necessary and then reverted to formlessness. This specific physical form of Adi Shakti even after reverting to the state of formlessness manifested itself in various ways for the benefit of its devotees and shall by similar manifestation in hours of need and when properly invoked, keep the flame of religion alive. We bow in all humility to the One who thus manifests for the salvation of the pious. With Lalas Ramdao we may say:
निरधार ताय आधार नित,
कृत प्रकार तोरा किमौ,
आकार रूप इळ उपरा,
निराकार करनी निमौ।
How can I describe the various forms and ways of the one who is helping us helpless? Before the earthly form of the formless Karni, I bow.
The pious devotees and the common folk with their simple faith can all count upon Bhagwati. Blessings and boons which the devotees have received are numerous and the number will keep on increasing ever and ever and ever.
THE RATHORES FROM RAO SIHA TO RAO JAITSI
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