Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2013 by salaamreaders

The Whimsical Circumlocutor

It’s been a horrendously long time since I wrote for pleasure, my time being occupied writing scholarly passages with content that was utter baloney and engaging in a pagan worship ritual, It Which Must Not Be Named, but operates under various aliases, the most popular being Calculus, Algebra and the worst, their combined form, Mathematics. I have borne the brunt of the storm (the dreaded school-leaving exams), going in as a terrified, eighteen year old mess (the result of a month and half’s preparation) and emerging at the end as a weather-beaten, slightly less terrified, eighteen-years-and a-month old mess. All in all, it’s been a good long haul, but I digress.

It was the thought of my turning into a jobless, penniless and most importantly, worthless adult or worse, a saleswoman, that sobered me up and spurred me into action. As much as the notion of wandering the high seas…

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Chittorgarh-Home to the Brave

Posted in History, India, Travel, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2010 by salaamreaders

Jaya Stambha or the Victory Tower is to Chittorgarh what Eiffel Tower is to Paris. It is the most recognizable face of this quaint and medieval fort, perched on a hill which rises abruptly from the surrounding plains. The fort itself is huge, spread over many miles and enclosed by high  walls, watch towers and other battlements, once formidable but now lying in ruins. 

The Victory Tower was built by Maharana Kumbha to commemorate his victory over Mahmud Khilji, the Sultan of Malwa in 1437. This nine storeyed tower stands tall at over 37 metres and is accessed by a 157 step staircase from within the center of the tower. The staircase is almost vertical like a spiral staircase and one has to feel his way as parts of it are quite dark. Both the external facade and the  internal walls are covered with sculptures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses depicting stories from the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The images are all defaced due to depredations of medieval marauders.

The Victory Tower

But Jaya Stambha is not the only tower in Chittorgarh. There is another –Kirti Stambha or the Tower of Fame-which is much older(12th century) and dedicated to the Ist Jain Tirthankar, Adinath. This was reportedly built by a Jain merchant. It is also intricately carved with the images of various Jain Tirthankaras. It is an amazing contradiction-a tower to commemorate victory in a battle and a tower dedicated to an epitome of non-violence, both within the same fort!

The Tower of Fame


But these are not the only reasons to visit Chittorgarh. The place has been immortalized by the bhakti  of  Meera Bai, the sacrifice of Panna Dhai, the romance of Padmawat and the indomitable bravery of the Rajputs. Meera  was of royal blood who had found eternal love in Krishna. Undeterred by the disapproval of her family, she renounced the material in favour of the sacred. Her bhajans are still sung all over India.

A Temple  

Panna Dhai’s story of sacrifice is also unparralleled.  She was the foster-mother  of  Prince Udai Singh, son of  Rana Sanga, the king of  Chittor. After the death of the king, his brother  wanted to kill the infant prince to usurp the throne. Panna Dhai replaced Udai Singh with her own son who was killed by the brother of the dead king. Udai Singh was thus saved and he eventually became the king and founded the beautiful city of Udaipur.


Mallik Muhammad Jayasi, a sufi poet composed Padmawat  in 1540. It relates the story of how Rana Ratansen of Chittor, having heard of the incomparable beauty of Padmawati, wooed her only to lose both her and his life to the lust of  Sultan Allauddin Khilji of Delhi. The Sultan, too, had heard of this beautiful damsel and laid siege to Chittor to carry her off. To save the city, the Rana consented to the Sultan having a glimpse of the beautiful  Padmawati  in a pool of water. Treacherous that he was, the Sultan apprehended the Rana and sent word to Padmawati ( also known as Padmini) that her husband would be released if she joined his harem. The Rani pretended to consent and went to the Sultan along with warriors concealed in litters supposed to be carrying her maids. The Rana was rescued but the enraged Sultan  assaulted the fort. Defeat was inevitable for the Rajputs in the face of an overwhelming enemy. Disgrace and pollution would have been the lot of their women at the hands of their aggressors. But they preferred death to disgrace. The women immolated themselves on a funeral pier and the gallant men rode out, to the last man, to embrace death on the battlefield.  When Allaudin entered the fort, all he found was a smouldering funeral pyre which had already consumed hundreds of women. A general massacre was ordered and the city was put to the torch. The story depicts the ideals of love, bravery, courage, honour and chivalry which were so dear to the Rajputs.

A Ruined Palace

Similar tales of valour were enacted countless times, for the fort controlled the gateway to Gujarat for the Delhi Sultans and the Moghuls. And the Mewar Rajputs were not the ones to give up their freedom without a fight. Now the fort is deserted but for the tourists. A new town has sprung up below on the plains.

A view of the town from the battlements 


Chittorgarh though not on the usual tourist itinery is well worth a visit. It lies about 310 KMs from Jaipur on the Delhi- Mumbai national highway (NH-8). It is 120 KMs from Udaipur on the same highway. It is well connected by rail and road. The nearest airport is at Udaipur. For local transport, auto- rickshaws and local taxis are easily available.

A Matter of Faith

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 20, 2010 by salaamreaders

We are all products of our circumstances. I was born in a middle class Hindu family and therefore my world view of religion is that of a typical person of this class. I mean I grew up with images of a pantheon of Gods and Goddess, all capable of delivering me from my miseries if I believed in them and prayed hard enough. So I prayed to Lord Hanuman, my favourite, mostly on the eve of examinations, to somehow let me pass. And mostly, I passed-whether through divine benediction or otherwise, I can not say.

The need to ask God for various things has not stopped since then. In fact, as life became more and more challenging, the list of demands also grew commensurately. It is now difficult to fit all of them in the limited time that is available for prayers now!

Seriously, what makes even well-educated and seemingly rational people to believe and have faith in someone or something they have never even seen? After all, how many of us have seen or are even likely to see Him? There are no simple answers, I guess. But, maybe, it has primarily to do with how one has been brought up. A childhood full of religious rituals, prayers, temples, festivals etc is likely to induce a sense of belief and faith. But it has something to do with age also. An adolescent is more likely to be iconoclastic. A young adult is, perhaps, agnostic. But as we grow older, our responsibilities increase many fold and things are mostly not under our control. It is at such times that one looks to some force which might solve our problems. If nothing else, it gives us the much-needed peace, solace and hope that things may turn out right, eventually. It is this faith that keeps us going under in the times of adversity.

So, have faith. All will be well.

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