[HerStory Flashback] Rupmati
Perched at the edge of the mighty cliffs which surround Malwa on the south stands the palace of Rupmati.
C.E. Luard writes, “On a clear day the view from Rupmati’s Palace is magnificent. Below the steep scrap of the Vindhyas, sheer down at one’s feet lies the wide, fertile valley of the Narbada, its sacred stream which confers sanctity on every rivulet and lake within thirty miles, winding slowly through it amid fields well stocked with grain.”
The magnificent view from Rupmati’s palace and the palace of Baz Bahadur at its foot near the Rewa Kund comes alive in the monsoons. Baz Bahadur, the last ruler of Malwa before it was incorporated as a Mughal Subah in 1561-62 and Rupmati his lover.
The story of Baz Bahadur and Rupmati is known throughout India and forms the theme of many songs and has been echoed for many generations. According to C.E. Luard “Baz Bahadur, when hunting on the hill was captivated by the singing of Rupmati , the daughter of a Rajput, who belonged to Sarangpur. It is said she long refused to accept his addresses but finally consented to do so if he would bring the Narbada or Rewa river up to the summit of the hill. This he contrived to do with the assistance of the river god who bade him seek a spring beneath the roots of a tamarisk.”
The story continues- Baz Bahadur discovered the source and imprisoned its waters in the Rewa Kund, the picturesque tank that still stands close to his palace.
According to W.G. Archer, “We meet, in fact, a character in whom the twin cultures of Malwa are entangled and whose great romances, his passion for Rupmati is itself a blending of Muslim and Hindu.”
Rupmati was not only renowned for her beauty but also her singing and skills in other arts. Her palace constructed by Baz Bahadur is a testimony to his love for her.
Luard writes that songs attributed to Rupmati are still sung in Malwa. A few lines that he shares are-
Aur dhan jorta hai, ri mere
To dhan pyare ke prita punji.
Ane ke jatan kar rakho man men
Tu partit taro deka hun:
Triya ka na lage drishta
Apne kar rakhogi kunji:
Din din barhe sawayo,
Durhi ghatan eko gunji;
Baz Bahadur ki sneh upar
Nichha char karungi ji aur dhan
Friends! let others boast their treasure,
Mine’s a stock of pure love’s pleasure
Safely cared for every part
‘Neath that trusty lock my heart.
Safe from other women’s peeping
For the key’s in my own keeping.
(Translation by A. Cunningham)
Rupmati’s story is fascinating, but her end tragic and heart wrenching.
When the Mughal army led by Adham Khan Koka entered Malwa in 1562, Baz Bahadur was forced to flee.
Left to the mercy of the conqueror she decided to kill her self to protect her honour. Khafi Khan, the historian gives the following account of her end. Referring to Baz Bahadur’s defeat he writes-
“An affecting incident occurred on this occasion. Baz Bahadur had a Hindu mistress who is said to have been one of the most beautiful women ever seen in India. She was as accomplished as she was celebrated for her verses in the Hindi language. She fell into the hands of Adam Khan on the flight of Baz Bahadur and finding herself unable to resist his importunities and threatened violence, she appointed an hour to receive him, put on the most splendid dress, on which she sprinkled the richest perfumes and lay down on the couch with her mantle drawn over her face. Her attendants thought that she had fallen asleep, but on endeavoring to wake her on the arrival of the Khan they found that she had taken poison and was already dead.”
Maj. C. E. Luard, Dhar and Mandu: A sketch for the sight-seer, 1916
U. N. Day- Medieval Malwa, Munshi Ram Manohar Lal Publishers, 1965.
(image credits- Vipin Clement)