For a Rajput, their land and women are matter of ‘Shaan’ ‘Aan Baan’- majesty, dignity and honour.
The history of Mewar proudly speaks of many women who described the true meaning of courage and sacrifice. From Rani Padmavati to Meera, Mewar had many gems to count on. In this list, there is a Mother whose sacrifice was unparallel. Her loyalty and patriotism had no boundaries. Her name is Panna Dai.
When Maharana Sangram I (1509-1527) was a Rajput ruler of Mewar, whose dedication and warrior ship earned him the title of ‘Rana Sanga’.
Maharana Sangram Singh had four sons –
Udai Singh was born in 1522. He was the youngest among them. He was just an infant when his father, Rana Sanga took his last breathe in 1528. It is said, he was poisoned by his own chieftains after the battle of Khanwa in which they were defeated. It was an entirely hard phase to cope for Mewar.
Bhojraj was also killed while fighting for Mewar in 1526 when Rana Sanga was alive. After Rana Sanga’s death, his eldest son ascended the throne as Rana Ratan Singh. He just ruled Mewar for four years (1528 to 1531) as he died in a battle.
After his death, he was succeeded by his other brother Vikramaditya II. Vikramaditya was ill-tempered and arrogant. His mother Rani Karnawati had placed the youngest son Udai, in the care of her trusted and loyal maid Panna, who was a wet nurse to Udai.
Panna Dai was so intelligent that Rani Karnavati used to ask her advice on political matters. Therefore, Rani Karnavati entrusted Panna Dai on every matter.
Panna means ‘emerald’ in Hindi and Dhai means ‘wet nurse’. Panna had a son of her own, Chandan who was the same age as that of the young Prince Udai.
Vikramaditya was all of 14 when he claimed the throne after his brother’s death, but his temperament was not good and that of an able ruler.
The nobles and chieftains in the court of Mewar did not like his way of ruling. Once he abused and misbehaved with an old chieftain in the court. This was the last straw for them. They placed Vikramaditya under palace arrest and a distant cousin of Maharana Sangram, Bhanbir, was asked to be the king and ruler of Mewar.
Bhanbir, from the very start, considered himself as the rightful heir to the throne, he killed Vikramaditya II, in his palace and with the same bloodied sword he ran towards the palace quarters of Panna Dhai, to get rid of the other obstacle in between in him and the throne, Udai Singh.
A maid came running to inform Panna Dhai about the assassination of Vikramaditya II and the intentions of Bhanbir. Panna Dhai had to think and act fast to save the only heir of Mewar. Both Udai and her son were sleeping in the bed.
She lifted the sleeping prince and put him in a fruit basket and covered it with fruits and quickly called in a male servant and ordered him to take the basket to a safe location by the river banks and wait there until she joined him by the river bank. After the servant was gone, she quickly shifted her son Chandan in the prince’s place and covered him with a blanket.
Soon after Bhanbir rushed into the room with a blood covered sword and overcome with rage. He was so mad that he didn’t even lift the blanket to see who was sleeping under it, and he brought his sword down on poor Chandan who was killed.
Panna watched in horror as her own son was murdered. The Rajput women were known for their bravery and courage. After murdering little Chandan, he left the room and proclaimed himself as king.
Panna meanwhile packed a few clothes and supplies in a bag and exited the fort to meet the servant at the designated spot. From there, Udai Singh and Panna started towards Kumbhalgarh. She could not reveal his true identity, fearing for his safety. She found refuge in the house of a rich merchant, the governor of Kumbhalgarh, Asha Shah. For few years they stayed there.
In 1539, a chieftain from Mewar visited the fort and Udai, now a young man was sent to receive him. He was introduced as the governor’s nephew. However, his mannerisms and personality convinced the chieftain that the young man was no nephew of the governor. The rumour quickly spread that Udai Singh, the rightful heir to the throne had returned and was alive.
A group of nobles were sent from (Mewar) Chittor to Kumbhalgarh to interview Panna and Udai Singh. It was established without doubt that he was indeed Udai Singh, one surviving son of Maharana Sangram Singh and the rightful heir to the throne of Mewar.
Udai Singh was proclaimed the King by the nobles and chieftains. An attack was launched on Mewar under the rule of Bhanbir by a force of Kumbhalgarh and the nobles and chieftains of Mewar. Bhanbir was either killed, or he fled from battle, never to return. Udai Singh was declared the ruler of Mewar.
In 1544 Udai Singh ascended to throne. And his son was born in the same year – the lion of Rajput history,
It all became possible by the ultimate sacrifice made by Panna Dhai, the royal nurse. Her extraordinary courage so characteristically that of a Rajput is a legend. Her sacrifice of her son, for the sake of the country, finds no parallel in Indian history and maybe in all of the world’s history.
Her story is written in golden words. She was a warrior who never broke down, not even when her son was slaughtered with the sword before her.
तू पुण्यमयी, तू धर्ममयी, तू त्याग-तपस्या की देवी|
धरती के सब हीरेपन्ने, तुझ पर वारें पन्ना देवी ||
तू भारत की सच्ची नारी, बलिदान चढ़ाना सिखा गयी |
तू स्वामिधर्म पर, देशधर्म पर, हृदय लुटाना सिखा गयी ||
– सत्य नारायण गोयनका
Dr Sindhu Prashanth