History of Udaipur
Udaipur, once known as Mewar, is the land that produced a galaxy of patriots and heroes in quick succession, people who etched the name of Rajasthan in every corner of the world. The Mewar dynasty traces its roots to the Sun God. Its history has been a continuous struggle for freedom of religion, thought and land against other Rajput groups as well as the overbearing Mughals and Muslims of bygone eras. Its act of patriotism, heroism, magnanimous behaviour and love for independence can never find any match in the annals of any country.
Foundation of Udaipur
Once the capital of Mewar, Udaipur was founded by Rana Udai Singh after the fall of Chittor to Akbar in 1568. Although the Rajputs were thrown out of their capital they never gave up their sense of freedom, choosing to give up their lives lives for dignity and honour instead. Legend says that Maharana Udai Singh was out hunting one day and he came upon a sage seated beside the Pichola Lake. The sage said that the king would build his palace at the same site, and then the fortunes of his family would change. The Maharana built a small shrine, Dhuni Mata, to mark the spot which is now the oldest part of the City Palace. Udai Singh chose the site of Udaipur for his new capital and built an artificial lake named Udai Sagar after himself. Later he hit upon a pond said to have been made in the 15th century by a banjara (gypsy). Travel to City Palace Udaipur, India
The Architecture Expension of City
The gypsy had built a dyke upon a stream for his bullocks cross over. Udai Singh further extended this pond and created one of the most picturesque man made lakes in Rajasthan. The Rana named it Pichola after the neighbouring village of Picholi. His new capital was established when in 1559 he built a small palace, Nochouki, on an overlooking ridge. Other buildings and structures soon mushroomed around the palace. With successive generations the marble and granite palace of the Rana spread out, always allowing an architectural excellence quite unique to the Mewar dynasty. The city palace went on expanding until it could claim itself to be one of the largest palaces in the world.
Udaipur remained Untouched from Mughals
Sisodias, offshoots of the Chauhanas who ruled the Mewar region, were against Mughal dominion and tried every trick possible to distance themselves from them. Udaipur remained untouched from Mughal religious and aesthetics influences and remained so till the coming of the Europeans. Maharana Fateh Singh of Udaipur was the only royalty who did not attend the Delhi Durbar for King George V in 1911. This fierce sense of independence earned them the highest gun salute in Rajasthan, 19 against the 17 each of Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bundi, Bikaner, Kota and Karauli. Udaipur retained its romantic quality and Rosita Forbes, who passed this land of bravery during the decline of the British Raj, described it as "like no other place on earth."
The Sisodia Dynasty
The Sisodias claim their descent from Lord Rama, the hero of the famous Hindu epic Ramayana. It is also said that the group descended from the Sun God and is thus known as the Suryavanshi or Children of Sun. The prince of Mewar is treated as the legitimate heir to the throne of Rama. The earliest history of the clan calims that the group had probably descended from the Central Asian tribes who had moved from Kashmir to Gujarat in the 6th century. Vallabhi, their capital was invaded by raiders and the pregnant queen, Pushpavati, escaped their clutches because she was away on a pilgrimage. The queen gave birth to a baby boy, Guhil (cave born), in a cave in the mountains of Mallia and left him in the hands of Kamalavati, a Brahmin lady from Birnagar. The queen then committed sati (a widow’s self immolation on her husband’s funeral pyre).
Guhil grew up among the tribal Bhils and in 568 AD, when he was 11, became their chieftain. Guhil also founded a new clan known as the Gehlots, who derived their name from their founder. In the 7th century they moved north to the plains of Mewar and settled in the area around Nagda. Nagda is a small town around 25km from Udaipur and was named after Nagaditya, the fourth ruler of Mewar. The seventh ruler was accidentally killed by a Bhil in 734AD, and thus the three-year-old Kalbhoj became king, who later came to be known as Bappa Rawal (Bappa meaning father and Rawal a title of the Kshatriya caste).
Bappa grew up as a cowherd in the town of Kailashpuri (now Eklingji) but spent much of his time studying the Vedas in the hermitage of the sage Harita Rishi. He learned to respect Lord Eklingji, and later Harita Rishi gave him the title of the Diwan of Eklingji, one that has become a legacy for the succeeding maharanas. When he was 15 Bappa came to know that he was the nephew of the ruler of Chittor who had been ousted by the ruler of Malwa. He left Kailashpuri, went to the fortress city of Chittor and snatched his kingdom back from the prince of Malwa, Man Singh Mori. In the 9th century bad luck fell upon the Gehlots who were driven away by the Pratiharas who in turn made way for the Rashtrakutas and Paramaras (for more details on the latter three dynasties see History of Madhya Pradesh). Chittor remained the capital of the Sisodias till it was sacked by the Mughal Emperor, Akbar in 1568.
The Gehlots settled in Ahar, where they were known as Aharya. They maintained this title till they shifted to Sissoda. Sissoda arrived at its name when a prince of Chittor built the town right where he had killed a hare (Susso). Since then the clan has retained the title of Sisodia. However, another version says that the dynasty was so named from the word sisa or lead. It is said that a prince of the dynasty was accidentally made to eat beef. The Sisodias are staunch followers of the Hindu faith which holds the cow sacred. When the prince realised his folly he chose to atone for his blunder by swallowing molten lead.
The Chivalry and Honor of the Sisodia Clan
A century later they shifted to Mewar in Rajasthan. The valour and honour of the Sisodia clan is known everywhere – from the pages of history books to the folklore of Rajasthan. "O mother, give me only unto the house of the Sisodias, if you must" says the lines of a popular folk song. The Mewar dynasty is the world’s oldest surviving dynasty with a time span of 1,500 years and 26 generations and has outlived eight centuries of foreign domination. Extremely possessive about their culture, tradition and honour, the Sisodias have played an important role in medieval Indian history as tireless upholders of Hindu traditions. Maharana Pratap Singh once refused lunch with Raja Man Singh because he had given away his sister in marriage to Prince Salim, later Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Man Singh avenged this insult by defeating Pratap at the battle of Haldighati. Pratap’s son Amar Singh made peace with the Mughals but unable to accept his humiliation, he gave up his title in favour of his son Maharana Karan Singh. Amar Singh left Udaipur never to see its landscape again.
Maharana means Great Warrior, and the one from Udaipur is the acclaimed head of all the 36 Rajput clans. The title of Rana was adopted in the 12th century when the Parihara prince of Mandore awarded it to the Prince of Mewar. The Mewar dynasty descends from the sun family and is hence known as Suryavanshi (descendents of the Sun) with the sun as its insignia. The central shield on the coat of arms depicts a Bhil tribal, the sun, Chittor Fort and a Rajput warrior with a line from the Gita saying ‘God helps those who do their duty’. The Maharana of Udaipur is crowned only after being annointed with blood drawn from the palm of a Bhil chieftain, who then leads the Maharana to the throne of Mewar.