Bundi: The Legacy Continues...
The sleepy town of Bundi awoke with great anticipation on the morning of the
Navsamvatsar. The 2nd of April, 2022 coincided with the first day of the Hindu month of Chaitra, which formally heralds the new year for North India. The beginning
of the year 2079 of the Vikram Samvat, a year filled with hope and revival,
especially so, after the 2 years of the pandemic. However, for the people of Bundi, it was the eagerness to participate in an ancient tradition of the anointment of
the titular Maharao Raja of Bundi that excited them even more. Hoardings and
posters announcing the Royal Event had sprung up all over the city. The last
Maharao, Ranjit Singh, died childless in 2010. He left behind no heir to succeed
him and as per tradition the gaddi must not remain vacant as the ancient
lineage must continue. Thus, after a 12 year long wait, the members of the former nobility of Bundi including the late Maharao of Kota ascertained Kr Vanshvardhan Singh of Kapren to be the deserving candidate. Nephew to Bundi's late Maharao, and the closest surviving kin sharing the sam royal bloodline, the virtue of anointment belonged to this Kunwar Sahib of Kapren alone.
The Former kingdom located in the South-Eastern part of Rajasthan was amongst
the 22 princely states that comprised erstwhile Rajputana. A 17-gun salute state,
Bundi was founded in 1242 AD by Rao Devaji, a descendant of Rao Visaladev the
Chauhan ruler of Ajmer who also happened to be the ancestor of the illustrious
Prithviraj Chauhan. The Bundi Royals are the head of the Hada branch of the
Chauhans and claim descent from the Agnikula or the fire clan of Rajputs.
Maharao Bhadhur Singhji was the last ruler of Bundi and upon independence
signed the treaty of accession thereby formally merging the State of Bundi into
the Union of India in 1949. Maharao Bhadhur Singhji had been adopted by his
predecessor Maharao Ishwari Singhji who did not have any issues and thus in his
lifetime adopted 2 sons, Bhadhur Singhji and his brother Kesari Singhji from one
of the jagirdars or noble family of Bundi.
Maharao Vanshvardhan Singh is the grandson of Maharaj Kesari Singhji, brother of the Late Maharao Bhadhur Singhji. An alumnus of Daly College Indore, Vanshvardhan graduated from De Montfort University in Leicester UK. A keen cricketer he has also represented MP in the Junior National Shooting Championships.
The Garh Palace complex and below that, the Moti mahal palace complex were
the primary venues for the splendid Raj Tilak Dastur. The Taragarh Fort and the
sprawling Garh Palace complex pretty much dominate the skyline over the
medieval town of Bundi. Built over 400 years by successive rulers of Bundi, a
series of palaces, gardens, temples, fortified mansions and other magnificent
structures exist within this astounding 500 meter high, hill side fortification that
have each been named after the ruler who built them. However, the forts, piece
de resistance is most definitely the stunning Chitrashala that boasts of some of
the finest wall paintings and frescoes in Rajasthan. Executed by the ateliers of the
Bundi School of miniature art, these exquisite paintings depict scenes from the
life of Lord Krishna and his consort Radha, religious and military processions,
shikaar scenes, festivals and local folklore. The use of blue and green hues is
predominant in most of these creations.
Customary rituals commenced right from daybreak and continued until sunset. Kr Vanshvardhan arrived with much fanfare from his Ishwari Niwas residence to the Mataji ka Chowk within the Moti Mahal complex. After the ceremonial bath and cleansing ceremony, pujas and havans were performed by the rajpurohits or the
royal priests. This was followed by darshan, abhishek and paying obeisance at the Royal Family deities at the Ashapura Mata and the Rangji temples.
Meanwhile in the open courtyard of the Moti Mahal Palace the invitees to the Raj
Tilak had already begun to assemble and were directed to their ordained seats. In the centre of the garden-courtyard, a large canopy was erected, below which the royal gaddi was placed. On the left of the canopy was a large area designated for the Jagirdars and members of the families of the former nobility of Bundi, and important dignitaries from the town. Immediately flanking the 2 sides of the canopy were seats reserved for the visiting Royalty that included the Maharaja of Bikaner, Maharao of Sirohi, Raja of Khilchipur, Yuvaraj of Kutch and Raghogarh.
And then there were special seats for the Maharaja of Alwar and his son who are
directly related to the Bundi Royals. On the right of the canopy was a section that
had been earmarked for the Kotah nobility, special guests and family members.
And directly facing the canopy at a little distance was the enclosure for the ladies
who were attending the coronation ceremony.
At the auspicious hour, Vanshvardhan reached the venue accompanied by liveried attendants bearing the Royal Standard, the insgnia, the chhatri and the fly-whisks. Once he had taken his seat, the paag of the Late Maharao Ranjit Singhji was brought from the
Rangnathji temple and placed over the head of Kr Vanshvardhan by HH Maharaja Jitendra Singh of Alwar. This was followed by the RajTilak Dastur that was performed by the Royal priests. Once this ceremony was concluded it was timefor the nazar and nazrana ceremony that was performed by the visiting royalty and subsequently by all the members of the families of the former jagridars of Kotah, followed by rest of the invitees and guests.
Post noon, the focus now shifted to the imposing Garh - palace where the
next set of ceremonies were to be held. The traditional Darikhana, exclusively
organized for the Bundi Jagirdars at the Diwaan – I – Khas within the Garh Palace
precinct had been a major topic of discussion. The Darikhana, an age-old feudal
practice is primarily a congregation of the nobility in the presence of the ruler and
held on special occasions such as festivals, birthdays or coronation ceremonies.
The nobility attending the Darikhana have to adhere to the strict dress code and and are seated as per their hierarchy and pecking order. Vanshvardhan now
climbed onto a bedecked horse and rode up to the fort followed by his retainers and others on foot. Resplendent in the customary brocade achkan and a safa adorned with an exquisite family heirloom – a stunning sirpech or turban ornament, he took up his position on the marble throne at the Diwaan – I – Khas.
On either side were seated members representing the 40 Jagirdar and Kotdiyat families that included Kapren, Junia, Antarda, Bada Kheda, Jajawar, Peepalda,Thikarda, Savantgarh, Indergarh, Balwan and Khatoli amongst others.
As per the protoco,l all the Jagirdars then performed the nazar and nazrana; simply a social gesture to acknowledge the anointment of the new titular Maharao Raja of Bundi
and reposing their loyalty and allegiance to him.
Last but not the least, it was time for the stately elephant procession that now
began to wind its way through the old town of Bundi. The new ‘Maharao Raja’
mounted atop the beautifully caparisoned elephant, steadily navigated the 3km
long route that was overwhelmingly greeted by the enthusiastic townsfolk. Post
sunset and amidst chants of ‘Long Live the Maharao Raja of Bundi’, the procession
finally culminated at Ishwari Niwas thus putting at rest the uncertainty and the
speculation that had prevailed for the past 12 years and further ensuring the
continuity of the 780 year old, ancient, legacy of the Hada rulers of Bundi.