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Jodhpur then, Jodhaa now

Jodhpur then, Jodhaa now

Author: Priyadarsi Dutta
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 20, 2008

Could 2008 prove even a flimsy remake of 1708, the annus mirabilis of Rajput resurgence? In that year,Jodhpur, the state of the Rathors, secured freedomfrom Mughal hegemony, after waging relentless battle for 30 years. Aurangzeb had proclaimed its annexationafter his dissenting ally, Maharaja Jaswant Singh I,died prematurely in 1678. The leader of that protracted war of independence was Veer Durga Das Rathore (1638-1719), cherished as "defender of the people of Marwar". A folk saying still current in Rajasthan is: "Ma poot aisa janiyo jaisa Durgadas" (Mother give birth to a son like Durgadas).

One wonders if that saintly Rathore hero had foreseen how tyrannical Mughal rule would one day be glorified on Indian silver screen. A love story that never was would be woven around Jodhpur and Delhi durbar by fertile imagination of director Ashutosh Gowarkiar. On the death of Maharaja Jaswant Singh I, Aurangzeb had exclaimed: "Darwaza kufr sikasht" (the door of infidelity resisting Islam is now broken). That was the end-result of the 'political love story' between Rajputs and Mughals -- once mortal enemies and then allies under compulsion.

Surely, Aurangzeb, we are told, was not the best emperor. The finest emperor was clean-shaven Akbar the Great (1556-1605). However, it is a little inconvenient fact that the title Akbar himself wore was 'ghazi' (killer of Hindu infidels). At the second battle of Panipat (1556) he had presumably beheaded (or was it Bairam Khan on his behalf?) Hemu, or Hemchandra Vikramaditya Bhargava, the great Brahmin military general from Rajasthan.

Akbar won greater claims to ghazi-hood after the capture of Chittor in February 1568, when he ordered a general massacre of Hindus in which an estimated 30,000 perished. A pyramid of severed heads was raised. And Chittor did not prove for 'secular' Akbar any Kalinga for Asoka. But this February, we are celebrating the 'immortal' love of Jodhaa-Akbar as a Valentine's Day-era makeover!

While in pre-independent India we had Rana Pratap as our hero, in independent India his tormentor, Akbar, is our reel-model. Sixty years of feel-good negationism! The Rajput Karni Sena's agitation is thus momentous. It's the shock therapy Hindus need to come out of 'secular' self-hypnosis. Now, can Rajput resurgence of 2008 replicate a 1708?

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