The little girl said “Surat Al-Fātiĥah – “In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, and the especially Merciful.” All praise is due to Allah , Lord of the worlds, The entirely merciful, the especially Merciful. Sovereign of the Day of Recompense. It is you we worship and you we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path.”
Aurangzeb was agape. He was dumbfounded. Words abandoned him.
“How do you know the ayats my Lakht-e-jigar? Who taught you that in Marwar?” Aurangzeb asked. His grandchildren were finally back.
The little girl said “Durgadas Dada arranged for a Qazi while we were under his safekeeping. Dada says a warrior respects all religions. He also says Aurangzeb may be a mighty combatant…a king whose realm is one of the biggest in the world but History will never consider him as a heroic warrior or a great emperor. He will be remembered as a tyrant, a bigot and a blot on the face of humanity. Warriors fight, they don’t desecrate temple and defile holy shrines. Warriors don’t rape war widows or hand them out as war-spoils.”
The aged Aurangzeb was aghast. His stony face was still devoid of any emotions. His hands had beheaded many a sons of India. His blade had forced many Hindus to adopt Islam. His army had burned many temples to the ground and erected mosques in their places. His name instilled fear in the hearts of all. He was the king of the kings, the greatest king of all times, barely 2 years away from his death. Yet this old chieftain had hit him where it hurt the most.
He died soon.
Some 800 Kms away in Ujjain, roughly three years after the death of Aurangzeb, a proud Rajput Warrior waded into the cold waters of river Kshipra to offer his prayers to Surya, Mahakal and Bhadrakali. Durgadas Rathore had an eventful life and now he was looking forward to a serene conclusion of it. His broad chest marred with numerous war scars glimmered in the sunlight.
“Nagendra haraya Trilochanaya,
Bhasmanga ragaya maheshwaraya,
Nityaya shudhaya digambaraya,
Tasmai Na karaya namah shivaya”
He offered the Kshipra Jal-anjali to lord Mahakal. His duties were over. The oath of service and steadfast loyalty to the throne of Jodhpur was discharged effectively. Durgadas Rathore was triumphant in installing Ajit Singh as Maharaja of Jodhpur. Every single temple razed by Aurangzeb was resurrected. There was peace and calm in the kingdom and hence he was spending his last few days in the company of the divinity. But it was not easy; it took his entire life to see that happening.
“Because your armies are giving you a bad name”. Durgadas Rathore reminisced. A smile decorated his lips. What an absolute hothead he was. He was 12 years old when he first confronted the king of Jodhpur. He was in his durbar for beheading one of his camels.
“And why is that so?” Maharaja Jaswant Singh, the King of Jodhpur asked.
“Revered King, your camel-trainers take your royal camels to graze in your own people’s fields. How can you let that happen? And how can we see our standing crops being destroyed by your camels? I told him not to test my patience but when the trainer didn’t listen; I severed his camel’s head.”
“But you are a little lad, how did you kill a camel, that big?” The king was amazed.
“I leapt and slashed hard, my father has taught me that art” the boy replied.
“Who is your father, if I may know?” The king asked.
“Askaran Rathore…your army general…There he is” The boy replied and pointed to a very embarrassed general sitting quietly in his chair.
“Hahaha, like father like son…I am very impressed with your son’s courage and uprightness Askaran ji…I would love to have him in our army” The King proclaimed. The general smiled. The boy was ecstatic. That’s how his voyage started.
“Jaya Tvam Devi Chamunde Jaya Bhuu-Taapa-Harini |
Jaya Sarva-Gate Devi Kaalaraatri Namostu Te”
He offered the Kshipra Jal-anjali to Bhadrakaali. He looked back at how he rose from ranks in the Jodhpur army. How the King at his death-bed, exhorted to him to protect the throne of Jodhpur from the evil advances of Aurangzeb who was once at friendly terms with the kingdom but now planned to seize the throne as the king was about to die heirless though with a pregnant wife. He recalled how shattered Aurangzeb was when he was informed that the King’s widow had given birth to a healthy baby and how deceitfully he suggested that the Jodhpur crown prince Ajit must grow up in Delhi in front of him. That was an evil plan to raise Ajit as one of his own. Upbringing in Aurangzeb’s household would have converted Ajit into a Hindu hating oppressor. But he along with Thakur Mokam singh Balunda and Mukand Das Khichi, his trusted lieutenants sneaked into Aurangzeb’s royal citadel and stole the baby from there. His wife put her own infant girl, in place of Ajit Singh. And they ran with the baby. The Mughal army was soon after them. They stopped slashed their blades hard and then continued running. He started with 300 men, only seven survived. But the good news was that the crown prince of Jodhpur was safe.
Aurangzeb was not someone who took defeats frivolously. He went on a slaughter spree. The entire Marwar region witnessed days of relentless butchering of men, women and children alike. Marwar was now under the direct rule of a Mughal governor. Durgadas Rathore didn’t lose heart and raised his Guerrilla army while making sure that Ajit Singh grew up in secrecy and security of the Aravali hills. Durgadas Rathore and his men indulged in frequent skirmishes on Aurangzeb’s army. His men plundered the Mughal caravans and trade routes. The state treasuries in Gujarat and Rajasthan were pillaged too thereby severely hitting the economy of Aurangzeb’s empire. A bounty was announced on Durgadas’s head but he was a legend by now. Some believed in him, some didn’t believe in him and some even thought that Durgadas was an entire tribe of warriors. Once the joint army of Mewar and Marwar detained Aurangzeb and while they were about to slash his head off, the king of Mewar forgave him out of magnanimity. As a result of that Mewar became Aurangzeb’s top target.
Mughals tried capturing Mewar but Karma was to play a nasty game with Aurangzeb. His own son Sultan Muhammad Akbar turned rebel just like he did once upon a time. Akbar sought Durgadas Rathore ‘s friendship. Durgadas Rathore commanded the entire Rathore clan and on his behest, the Sisodiya clan joined the fight against the Mughals too. The Rathores, Sisodiyas and the rebel Mughals fought courageously against the immeasurable army of Aurangzeb. Durgadas’s able chieftainship led the combined army under the rebel prince Akbar to a small victory as they made an entire battalion of Mughals to withdraw. But the Mughals hit back with vigor and the combined army under Akbar was forced to retreat. Durgadas went to the Deccan to seek the alliance of then Maratha King, Sambha Ji. Akbar went into a self imposed exile and handed his children over to Durgadas Rathore.
“Nama Suryaya Santaya Sarvaroga Nivarine |
Ayu rarogya maisvairyam dehi devah jagatpate”
He offered the Kshipra Jal-anjali to Lord Surya and reminisced how he raised Akbar’s children and arranged for a Qazi to make sure children get raised as per their faith. He remembered the decline of Aurangzeb. He grinned when he recalled Aurangzeb’s diplomatic tactics to appease the Marwar army by Conferring Ajit Singh the title of ‘Jagir’ of Jodhpur while Durgadas Rathore wanted Aurangzeb to accept Ajit Singh as the king of Jodhpur. Aurangzeb’s body and spirit was broken by the constant skirmishes by the Rajputs and the Marathas. He tried getting him killed many times but he either fled or killed the assailant. He remained the biggest barb in Aurangzeb’s path till he breathed his last. He remembered how he drove the Mughal army out after the fall of Aurangzeb and recaptured Jodhpur. His chest bloated with pride as he recollected how he resurrected all the temples that Aurangzeb had demolished. But he sighed remembering how Ajit Singh’s mind was disillusioned by the courtiers jealous of the reputation and influence possessed by Durgadas. And how the thankless king disrespected his guardian.
The aged chieftain started wading out of the water. His comfortable straw-hut waited for him. It had everything that an old man needed – some religious books, idols of gods, fruits, vegetables, a flute, a comfortable bed made out of stalks and foliage and a breathtaking view of the Kshipra river. The old man stretched out on his bed and started looking back at a life well spent.