Monday, May 4, 2015

Maruvani: Kesaria Balam Padharo Mharo Des

Mix-and-match is becoming ludicrous.  Farid Ayaz just passed off "Padharo mharo des" as a Sufi spiritual. Erm, a little background, then you, gentle reader, be the judge.

The tribes of Rajasthan have long exported mercenaries. These foreign legions of the desert have buttressed the ranks of kings of alluvia, and their women have been stranded in the Thar waiting for men who may never return. In the eyes of these women, the saffron/ochre of desert-turban (kesar/kasumal respectively) mix metaphorically with the mane (kesar) of the Gir lion to label the lost lover "kesaria". May he return safe to my arms. Saffron/maned lover, return to my lands - kesaria balam, padharo mharo des.

Kabir also asks us to come to his land - chalo hamaro des. But where is Kabir’s country? It is a different, more elusive country, one that you inhabit when you understand how to live in the knowledge that you will too die:

Mati Kahe Kumhar se, Tu Kya Raunde Moye,
Ek Din Aisa Ayega, Main Raundungi Toye

Clay calls out to Potter, What of thee mauling me
The day'll come soon by, Mauling thee I will be.

Here are Farid Ayaz and Abu Mohammed:

Narwar is a historic town in Madhya Pradesh in central India, roughly between Gwalior and Jhansi, east of a steep scarp of the Vindhya range where the Sind River turns sharply to the south. Classically Nalapura, the town is said to have been the capital of Raja Nala, a character in Hindu mythology who princess Damayanti of Vidarbha Kingdom chooses for husband, who loses everything to gambling, and wins it all back - a popular story told in the Mahabharata.

Dhola, son of the king of Narwar and successor to the kingdom of Nala, is wed to Maruvani, daughter of Pingal, chief of Jhangal (Bikaner), as a child: the bride is 1 1/2, the groom 3. After the formalities, Dhola returns to Narwar with this family, and soon forgets what all those lights and flutes and sweetmeats had been all about.

As a young man, Dhola is married off again, to another princess, this one named Malvani. When they hear of the second marriage, the parents of his first bride, Maruvani, send messages to Narwar asking that the lawful first daughter-in-law be fetched to her husband, but thanks to Dhola's forgetfulness and Malvani's scheming, that is never allowed to happen. There is probably an element of an alliance having lost strategic value.

So Maruvani takes matters in her own hand. She composes music in Raag Maaru - the desert raga of the Thar, and sets couplets to the music. She trains a minstrel in the couplets and sends him off to Narwar.

The night when the bard reaches the outskirts of Narwar palace is a stormy one with lightning and thunder obscuring his approach. The singer creeps up to palace walls and starts in Raag Malhar; when the preamble reaches Dhola's ears at the palace window, over air laden with static, he stands electrified, listening. Raag Malhar gives way to drizzles, the downpour subsides, the thirsty earth soaks up water and in the pungent aftermath the singer shifts to the couplets in Raag Maaru:

ढोला नरवर सेरियाँ, धण पूंगल गळीयांह !
Dhola of Narwar heed, the Treasure in lanes of Pingal !

At the mention of Pingal Dhola starts, he remembers his first bride of long ago. The singer sings out the rest of the composition, Maruvani's musical letter to her husband, that she waits for him still.

आखडिया डंबर भई,नयण गमाया रोय |
क्यूँ साजण परदेस में, रह्या बिंडाणा होय ||

My eyes red like fruit, my sight gone from tears
Why did my love leave, and why does he forbear?

केसरिया बालम आओ नि पधारो म्हारे देस
Saffron/maned lover, come this way, arrive in my land

मारू थारे देस में निपूजे तीन रतन-
एक ढोलो, दूजी मारवन , तीजो कसूमल रंग

In the desert of Thar hide jewels three
First Dhola (chivalry), Second Maruvani (fidelity), Third the color Ochre (of blood and sacrifice)

Chagrined, Dhola sets off for Bikaner on his fastest black camel. Pingal's court bursts out in celebration when he eventually reaches. After a few days in Maruvani's palace, the couple set off to return to Narwar. Several adventures ensue. Maruvani is bitten by a snake but resuscitated by Hara-Parvati. Umra-Sumra the highwayman lays a trap for the couple in the form of a traveling musicians' mehfil, but Umra-Sumra's wife, who is from the court of Pingal, tips the would-be-victims off and Maruvani escapes with Dhola. And so on.

केसरिया बालम आओ नि पधारो म्हारे देस
नि केसरिया बालम आओ सा पधारो म्हारे देस

Saffron/maned lover, arrive to my land
Come back, come to my lands

पधारो म्हारे देस, आओ म्हारे देस नि
केसरिया बालम आओ सा पधारो म्हारे देस

Return to my land, come to my land, do
Saffron lover, arrive in my land.

मारू थारे देस में निपूजे तीन रतन
एक ढोलो, दूजी मारवन , तीजो कसूमल रंग

In the desert of Thar hide jewels three
First Dhola (chivalry), Second Maruvani (fidelity), Third the color Ochre (of blood and sacrifice)

पधारो म्हारे देस, पधारो म्हारे देस नि,
केसरिया बालम, आओ नि पधारो म्हारे देस ||

Return to my land, come to my land, do
Saffron lover, come back to my land.

Dhola-Maru is one of the most popular love stories of Rajasthan. Probably dating from the 8th century, it is still remembered by couples in love, and women of Thar will still address a beloved as Dhola.

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