tales of romance and intrigue

The Legend of Lala Hardaul

Orchha is not just a landscape of buildings. It is a town filled with stories. Every monument of Orrcha echoes tales of friendship, romance, betrayal, mysticism and sacrifice. Intriguing, funny, unbelievable and irresistible these stories breathe life into these ancient mahals and mandirs, some of them still in ruins.

Let’s take the example of the ancient Persian style towers that stand amidst a colourful market, and are popularly known as Sawan Bhadon (names of two spring months in local Indian calendar). The locals say that they stand for two brothers who meet everyday at midnight. And this is just one of the tales associated with this monument. 

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that every building in Orccha is permeated with stories, and some with strange twists too. Behind the ruins of a melancholic yellow palace which now houses a bazaar, I heard the story of Lala Hardaul, a local prince who is worshipped in a small temple and is addressed as God. “Woh hamara bhagwan hai, hamari raksha karta hai, kabhi bhi zinda aayega,” said a local woman, claiming that Hardaul is alive and is their God. 

At this point my guide narrated his story, which I am recreating for all of you:  

Hardaul, born in Datiya was a son of the famous Bir Singh Bundela of Orchha. He grew up with his brother Jhujhar Singh and was also very fond of his sister-in-law. She also treated Hardaul like his own son.

But Jhujhar Singh’s mind was corrupted by his people. He suspected Hardaul of undue intimacy with his wife.

Jhujhar Singh decided to organise a feast for Hardaul and poisoned the food which killed Hardaul and his followers.

A few years after this tragedy, the daughter of Kunjavati (the sister of Jhujhar and Hardaul) was about to get married. Kunjavati went to invite Jhujhar Singh to attend the wedding but he declined her invitation and mockingly said that she must invite her favourite brother, Hardaul instead.

Hurt, Kunjavati, went in despair to Hardaul’s tomb and lamented aloud. Hardaul from below answered her cries, and promised her that he would come to the wedding and make all arrangements.

Hardaul kept his promise, and arranged the nuptials as befitted the honour of his house.

The same night he visited the bedside of Akbar, and besought the emperor to command chabutras (platforms) to be erected in his honour throughout the empire with a promise that, if he were duly honoured, a wedding should never be marred by storm or rain. Akbar complied with these requests, and since that time Hardaul’s ghost has been worshipped in every village.

He is honoured at weddings and in Baisakh (April-May) women, especially of the lower castes, visit his chabutras built outside the village and eat there. One day before the arrival of any wedding procession, the women of the family worship Hardaul and invite him to the wedding.

If any sign of a storm appears, Hardaul is appeased with songs.

About the artist

Sajid Shaikh is a self-taught visual artist, illustrator & graphic designer and has worked for firms like Umbrella Design and Contract Advertising. His brand of contemporary graphics inspired by traditional / modern India is surreal, obscure, bold and adds a modern twist to the subject and touch of philosophy to the design.

By Sajid Shaikh