CREMATURIUM OF MEWAR ROYALTY WITH EXQUISITE ARCHITECTURE
Close to the prehistoric site at Ahar is the Mahasatiyaji, set aside since the time when Chittorgarh was abandoned, for the cremation of the Maharanas, members of their families, and principal officers for the erection of Chhatris, commemorative cenotaphs.
The enclosed crematorium of Mewar royalty is popularly known as Mahasatiyaji or the Great Place of Sati the chaste, and consists of royal cenotaphs commonly referred to as ‘Chhatri’. It is one of the largest cenotaph complexes of Rajasthan. It is said that before the ban on Sati, several queens and ladies of royal families committed Sati here. In the memory of self immolation, the place was called Mahasatyaji.
When a Maharana passed away, a team of five courtiers used to go and select the proper place in Mahasatiyaji that was then cleaned with cowdung and Gangajal. Soon after death, the body was put in a sitting posture so that it could be kept in a Dol that was in the shape of a Viman. The duty of touching the corpse and taking it to Mahasatiyaji was given to Bade Purohit and his relations. The Patia was sent to Jagdish Mandir in a Silver Thali and Katori and a gold Mohur. A silver Charvi with fire in it was carried by a sect of Ranawats. The body was dressed in the bridal dress without the Mod. With royal dress, Dhal and Talwar were carried and burnt with the body. Sacred wood, Sandal wood, Tulsi, Ghee and coconut were used. The eldest son of the deceased did not join the Shavyatra. The pyre was lit by Sangramsinghot Ranawat of Piladar Thikana. It was guarded for the next twelve days. Ashes were collected on the third day. A temporary structure was constructed. The public got shaved to honour the Maharana. The Maharana never passed through Dillidarwaza. Only his funeral procession did so.
Nineteen Maharanas who ruled Mewar have their cenotaphs here. The oldest is that of Maharana Amarsingh First, the son of Maharana Pratap, who was the first of his line to die in Udaipur, in 1620 A.D. This happened at Mahasatiyaji itself as after the treaty of 1615 A.D. with the Mughals, he changed the life style of living in royal palaces and started residing in Mahasatiyaji in a very simple building, that exists there just to the east of his cenotaph. As such, his cenotaph was erected there by his son Maharana Karansingh who was a great builder and a keen lover of art and architecture.
By the side of this cenotaph, on the bank of a ravine outside the compound wall there exist two cenotaphs that were constructed in the memory of Maharana Karansingh and Maharan Jagatsingh First.
It has its own characteristic architecture with Chhatris, domes and distinctive pillars. The cenotaphs are marvels of architecture. No wonder several Bollywood films have been shot here.
From these cenotaphs one enters a large compound through a small door and comes across platforms raised in the memory of Maharana Rajsingh First and Maharana Jaisingh first, his son. As the former died at village Ora near Kumbhalgarh, he was cremated there and his Chhatri was erected there on the spot. However his Maharani performed Sati in the Mahasatiyaji with a desire that a fine Chhatri be erected on the spot in her husband’s memory but it was never done.
Maharana Jaisingh died in Udaipur and was cremated at Mahasatiyaji and his memorial was also raised up to the height of the platform but his memorial in the form if a Chhatri was never completed.
Close to the southern side of this platform there is marble platform in the memory of the son of Maharana Sajjansingh and behind are those in the memory of two younger sons of Maharansa Fatehsingh. These were left incomplete as according to the tradition platforms could not be constructed in the memory of any prince.
Other cenotaphs in Mahasatiyaji include those of Maharanas Karansingh and Jagatsingh First, Rajsingh First, Jaisingh son of Sajjansingh, sons of Fatehsingh, Amarsingh (died in Udaipur in 1710 A.D.) Sangramsingh Second,
(died in Udaipur in 1734 A.D.), Chand Kunwari Bai, sister of Maharana Bhimsingh. In memory of Chand Kunwari Bai, a pious lady, a Chandori rupee was minted and circulated.
There are also cenotaphs in the memory of Maharanas Amarsingh Second, Sangramsingh Second, Jawansingh, Pratapsingh Second, Bhimsingh, Sajjansingh, Arisingh Second, Hamirsingh Second, Shambhusingh, Swarupsingh, Fatehsingh, Bhupalsingh, Bhagwatsingh.
Nineteen Maharanas who ruled and died in Udaipur have their cenotaphs here. The oldest is that of Maharana Amarsingh, the son of the famous Maharana Pratap, who was the first of his line to die at Udaipur. Maharana Pratapsingh himself died in the wild country of the Bhils at Chawand and his father, Maharana Udai Singh, who had moved his capital from Chittorgarh to Udaipur, died in the Aravalli mountains near Gogunda.
These cenotaphs,. made of white marble from the quarries of Rajnagar, take the form of Chhatris erected on high plinths, each containing, in addition to the image of Shiv, a single upright stone on which are carved figures representing the Maharana and each of the Satis. The last Maharana at whose death a Sati took place was Maharana Swaroop Singh, who died in 1861.
As a prescribed practice of Mewar, the living Maharana visits Mahasatiyaji once a year on Anantachaturdashi during Shradhya and involes the sacred spirits of his dead ancestors.
What makes Mahasatyaji unique is its sacred linkage with a holy Kund, water-body, and its surrounding Ahar settlement. The Gangodbhava Kund and an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva are considered to be very sacred. Historically these were places of pilgrimage in Mewar.
The restoration work here has been taken up in a big way by the Maharana Mewar Charitable Foundation and several teams of scholars, architects and experts have been associated with this ongoing project.