Chand Bardai (1149 – 1200 CE)’s Epic Poem

Ask any student of Indian history about Prithvi Raj, and you will be told that this was a great king who lived and ruled in Delhi and Ajmer in the twelfth century. He was a generous king and patron of arts and poetry. The legend of his taking away  princess Padmavati, daughter of an opposing king Padam Sen, is like a romance of a medieval knight. He loved her and she loved him too, so when was about be given away to someone else, the princess sent a message to Prithviraj through a parrot, asking him to save her from the impending marriage. The valiant prince responded.

How do we know all this? We owe it to an epic poem of the court poet Chand Bardai, entitled Prithviraj Raso which is said to run to some ten thousand stanzas, some say one hundred thousand, perhaps  in unwarranted exaggeration. The work is reckoned as one of the first grand poems in Hindi literature. It is also the source of much information on North India of those times. We seldom realize how much we owe to ancient authors for our knowledge, perfect or imperfect, of history.

Here are some lines from  Prithviraj Raso:

Watching the road in the direction of Delhi,

Happy she was when the parrot returned.

Hearing the news, glad were her eyes.

The maiden was elated with the tokens of love.

She tore off the dirty clothes from her body.

Purified and anointed and adorned with robes,

Called for priceless jewels from head to foot,

Arrayed with the tokens of the king of love.

Filling a holden tray with pearls,

Lighting a lamp she waved it around,

Boldly the maiden goes

As Rukmini went to Murari,

Worshiping Gauri, revering Ahankar.

Circumambulating and touching their feet.

Then on seeing Prithviraj she smiled bashfully,

Hiding her face through shyness.

Seizing her hand, putting her on horseback,

The Lord of Delhi took her away…

Prthviraj  was also a hero  who  fought the Muslim invader Shaháb-ud-Din Muhammad Ghori valiantly in two battles at Tarain. In the second one, in 1192, he was asked by the invader to convert to Islam, and when he refused, he was slain.

September 13, 2011

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