Ground Reports

Their Forefathers Gave Up Turbans After Losing Ram Janmabhoomi To Mughals; 500 Years Later, This Community From Ayodhya Fulfills A Great Vow

Sumati Mehrishi

Jan 12, 2024, 07:48 PM | Updated 07:52 PM IST

A community event of the Suryavanshi Kshatriyas in Ayodhya
A community event of the Suryavanshi Kshatriyas in Ayodhya

The Dashrath Samadhi Sthhal, besides being a sacred space, is the spot where the Suryavanshi Kshatriya clan takes several decisions that have a direct bearing on their unity, cultural persistence, and spiritual nurturing of the younger generations. 

It was also the venue for the "Kshatriya Mahakumbh" last November. 

This Mahakumbh had the participation of 145 villages from Ayodhya as well as Basti. "Rashtrapurush Suryavanshi Ram" and Ayodhya, the celebration of the pran-pratishtha rituals and ceremony on 22 January, 2024, were central to the discussions at the "Chaudah-kosiya"panchayat. 

Local reports point that Mukhiya Guruprasad Singh addressed the Mahapanchayat held during the Mahakumbh and said that the Suryavanshi Kshatriya samaj will follow the path of "Rashtrapurush Suryavanshi Ram" towards preserving and bolstering the unity and integrity of Bharat.

"The moment will reestablish the grandeur and meaning of Bharat's cultural heritage and pride. This moment will write itself in golden letters in India's dharmic history," their mukhiya said. 

Community members at the Dashrath Samadhi Sthal
Community members at the Dashrath Samadhi Sthal
A community gathering
A community gathering
A community gathering
A community gathering

With the Suryavanshi Kshatriyas, the mention of Ram is often followed by the mention of "Bharat".

The Mahapanchayat Milestone In Jagannath Puri’s Honour

Towards the end of the Mahapanchayat, Atul Singh, a member of the community, bowed down before the men present at the gathering and took their blessings. Last year, Atul completed a yatra to Jagannath Puri with his mother and wife. He is 35 (young for the pilgrimage as per tradition and community). 

The community preserves its centuries-long tradition of pilgrimage to Jagannath Puri and Atul Singh was honoured and blessed for a grand, unique, culmination, which cannot and does not take place without agreement from all villages where the Suryavanshi Kshatriyas live on both sides of Saryu ji. His journey is their milestone. Their collective pride. 

During the Mahapanchayat, an elderly man in the gathering spoke on the microphone about how Atul Singh was an inspiration for him. "It is said that elders inspire, but Atul Singh is only 35. How can he inspire me? Well, he is an inspiration for people his age and those younger than him, hence he is an inspiration to me and all of us. In my experience, it is the first time I have seen a man this young from among us go on pilgrimage."

The family returning from the pilgrimage from Jagannath Puri brings back the "Pooja ki chhadi" as per the ritual. The Pooja ki chhadi is a miniature cane. Though people from other communities too go on pilgrimage to Puri and visit Shri Ram Janmabhoomi for darshan as per their family tradition, the Suryavandhi Kshatriya clan’s journey is unique for how it culminates in Ayodhya. 

Atul Singh with his mother and wife
Atul Singh with his mother and wife

This community, its traditions, its appetite for yatras and celebrations, and an intriguing oscillation from sorrow to joy, seem like a story arising as an episodic adaptation of the Ramayana itself. Born in Ayodhya. Struck by a long period of sorrow. But in the end, Ram comes home. 

The Closure From A Humiliating Defeat  

On August 5, 2020, members of the samaj living in 105 villages along the Saryu river marked a historic moment in their history. The bhoomi pujan of the Shri Ramjanmabhoomi Mandir signaled the fulfillment of a vow taken by their ancestors five centuries ago.

Five hundred years after their forefathers took the vow to not wear turbans and footwear, the Suryavanshi Kshatriyas unfolded the fabrics of their headgear, to finally mark reclaiming their dignity.

History, like pain and pride, becomes personal. The Kshatriyas of the Suryavanshi clan address Ram as "Raja Ram"—their king. Forsaking the ceremonial safa and footwear was an act to preserve their remaining dignity after the Mughal armies defeated the Kshatriyas over temple control. 

Their history has become severely personal, much like shame, and defeat—emotions that are known to instil events into history. 

Mahendra Pratap Singh, a member of the clan explained the vow as a "prann" in the honour of Raja Ram. His forefathers swore that they would not wear the turban "until the day they win back the Ram Janmabhoomi and its dignity from the clutches of the aggressor -- the Mughal armies." 

The Kshatriya clan took the responsibility of the defeat.

The replacement for the turban was a headgear known as "mauri". It was made of the gamchha, a simple cloth that lacked the grandeur, pride and flow of the traditional turban. However, most importantly, the "mauri" would keep the head bare, subjecting it to the change of seasons. 

This tangible change in the use of headgear was marked by the emotion that Raja Ram, their deity and king, had not only lost his temple to the aggressor owing to the bhaktas' defeat, but in the recent decades, was living under a makeshift space covered just by a “tirpaal” (tent).  

‘Adbhut’ Deepotsava, The Return To Light 

Ramesh Singh ji told this author that Yogi Adityanath's celebration of Deepotsava at Ram ki Paidi is growing in prominence within Ayodhya, but for members of the Suryavanshi Kshatriya Samaj, the Deepotsava is of even greater importance.

"This was the first time that our villages saw the lighting of deepaks at a large scale. There were spots in villages where people of our samaj live, where people lit 500 to 1,000 to 2,000 deepaks. This was not a norm earlier. It is the impact of the celebration initiated by Yogi Adityanath ji at Ram ki Paidi."

There is a possibility that their celebration of Deepawali and Dusshera would become as grand as it was five centuries ago, after crossing the January mark.

"Jo Deepawali ko hua, wo adbhut thha (what took place on Deepawali was extraordinary and unique. Women and children made rangoli with rice, colours, flowers and flour near the Amritsarovars. Some villages even arranged lighting to give Amritsarovars a new cultural-prominence. The ponds have come as a new venue for the samaj and bonding between people from the villages."

The Unique Culmination Of Jagannath Puri Yatra

During her visit to Ayodhya, this author discovered a fascinating aspect of the Suryavanshi Kshatriyas’ determination to uphold dharma through the ancient valued aspect of yatra -- journey.

For centuries, the community has preserved the tradition of pilgrimage to Jagannath Puri and Badrinath from Ayodhya and celebrating their pilgrimage by hosting a grand 'bhoj' for people of all jatis, followed by a bhoj for people of the Suryavanshi Kshatriya clan. This bhoj serves as a spiritual and cultural binder to Hindus of all castes from the 105 villages where they live. 

Invitation is sent to people from all villages not in the form of cards, but by extending rice smeared in haldi. 

Ramesh Singh told this author: "Those departing for pilgrimage to Jagannath Puri go from door to door in the village asking for bhiksha, as a symbol of their surrender to dharma.

Villagers bless them and pray for the completion of the pilgrimage. The pilgrimage undertaken by any member of the Survyavanshi Kshatriya family is a matter of honour for the entire clan."

On 24 and 25 November last year, Atul Singh, resident of village Sarairasi, earned the opportunity to host this grand bhoj in his village. 

He departed, with his wife and mother, from his village in Ayodhya for a pilgrimage that would take him to Varanasi, Gaya, and from there to Jagannath Puri in Odisha. 

He says, "During childhood, I heard my grandfather talking about the Suryavanshi Kshatriya tradition of going for pilgrimage to Jagannath Puri Dham. My grandfather told me about the spiritual importance of the grand bhoj and the sense of pride it brings to the Samaj.

"During the growing years, I was fascinated by the scale, grandeur and the scale of the bhoj. So this year, I kept the humble prayer of holding one before the members of my samaj. I am blessed - indeed that the bhoj concluded to the satisfaction of my clan. Their satisfaction is of core value to me as the host. Blessings of Shri Ram make it possible for the pilgrims."

When All Jatis Converge 

Next comes what Atul Singh describes as "larger than life" since his childhood days. It is known as the "pakka bhandara" -- primarily titled owing to the presence of food items that are deep fried and involve local delicacies. This bhandara is attended by people from all jatis – all castes are included. 

Atul Singh adds, "It is open to all jatis from all villages - 56 on this side of Saryu ji and 53 on the other side. The number can vary by a digit or two, but that's the math we go with for food preparation. There is no question of food falling short - as the bhandara is held in the honour of the fellow villagers."

After the pakka bhandara the celebrations get tapered to members of the community in the "kutcha bhandara", where the hosts offer and share simple food with the members of the "biradri" (clan) itself. 

While typical bhandaras usually rely on the support of community or village members, the hosting Suryavanshi Kshatriya takes on the monumental task single-handedly, without any contributions from the community.

Learning that the honour of hosting the bhoj is not the host's alone -- nor is the credit for organising it exclusive to the village – was overwhelming for this author. The honour is shared with the entire Suryavanshi Kshatriya clan living on the banks of Saryu ji.

How old could the tradition of the Suryavanshi Kshatriya going for the pilgrimage to Jagannath Puri be?

"From what three generations of elders in my family have told me, it is several centuries old. I must add that the tradition of bhoj, at this scale and this attention, the agreement, acceptance from the members of the 'biradri' and consecutive sabhas held, is a norm with the Suryavanshi Kshatriya samaj alone."

The Flow of Kshatriya Fervour 

In 2020, when this author spoke to members of the community, their hesitation for going for the full flowing safa from the humble mauri was evident. 

They seemed to avoid the mention of when they would begin to wear the safa. The reason - "what if - what if - things go wrong from this point". "Let the temple work begin," they said. "Let's see, if and when the temple work begins, we will think about it." 

This hesitation was owing to the generational burden of witnessing their pride, associated with their Araadhya Raja Ram, getting mauled by different manifestations of the aggressor. The final blow was watching Ramlalla seated under a makeshift tent. 

When this author spoke to Mahendra Singh after the bhoomi pujan in 2020, he broke down several times over the phone. "I cannot tell you about the pain we have lived with for years -- watching our Araadhya Shri Ram living under a tent -- while we lived in pucca houses. This is our weakness -- the collective weakness of the Hindus."

It was due to this sense of grief and weight of uncertainty among them that this author suggested that a public ceremony of safa-tying, in the honour of the Suryavanshi Kshatriya Samaj, would be not a bad idea in BJP's interaction with the different communities of Ayodhya.

The hoarding of a Suryavanshi Kshatriyas event from some years back. (Maharaja Shoorsaini/YouTube)
The hoarding of a Suryavanshi Kshatriyas event from some years back. (Maharaja Shoorsaini/YouTube)

The month of Kartik however, and the rituals and celebrations surrounding Deepawali, the Mahapanchayat and the events around it, have reinforced their vigour for wearing the safa

The force energising it was the visible rising of the temple at Shri Ram Janmabhoomi. 

The inauguration of Ram Mandir on 22 January is their moment to remember and honour Thakur Gajsingh, who led their defence against the Mughals five centuries ago. The Dashrath Samadhi Sthhal is the sacred point from where the Suryavanshi Kshatriya rigour, fervour and safas will move towards the Ram Janmabhoomi. 

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