A MUSICAL RAGA IN THE NAME OF TWO FAMOUS GIRLS (Post No.11,044)

WRITTEN BY LONDON SWAMINATHAN

Post No. 11,034

Date uploaded in London – –    20 JUNE 2022        

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Nagars are Gujarati Brahmins. They have great adaptability. During the Mughal era they dominated nearly every filed of activity- diplomacy, statesmanship and war.  They helped the rulers to administer the state and won their confidence. In recognition of their services, they received big jagirs/ estates. They learnt Persian and Arabic and excelled as writers.

They once came into contact with Akbar.  On a visit to Vadnagar in Gujarat, Akbar was so charmed with the singing of the raga Malhar by the Nagar sisters, Tana and Riri, and he invited them to Delhi to become his court musicians. But the Nagars took offence at this invitation which led to serious rift between the rulers and the proud Nagars. Many thousands were killed in the encounter that followed and the sisters immolated themselves.

 A monument (deri) still stands to their memory in the Mahakaleshwar cremation ground of Vadnagar. It is in memory of these sisters that Tansen named his own Raag ‘Tanariri’.

After the struggle with the Mughals , the Nagars gradually left Vadnagar and settled down in various towns in Gujarat and other states.

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There is a legend that the last Rajput ruler Karan Ghela had a Nagar minister Madhav, who was a brave soldier, an able stateman and astute diplomat. Once, when he was away from home on state business the king cast his eyes on Madhav’s wife and his brother Keshav, who tried to defend her honour, was killed in the skirmish that followed. On his return Madhav was so enraged at what he learnt that he went to Delhi to seek the help of Alauddin Khilji, the then ruler, to avenge himself. But though Alauddin overcame Karan Ghela in battle , he also abducted Madhav’s wife Kamaladevi and her daughter and converted them to Islam.

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To preserve their identity, Nagars formulated a certain code of conduct in 347 CE which is recorded in the Nagar Khand of Skanda Purana. It forbids inter caste marriages and eating with those outside one’s estate and prescribes 48 rituals or samskaras. When Vadnagar was invaded by foreigners Nagars sought shelter in Saurashtra and Rajasthan. Some of them became Jains and Buddhists and a number of Jain texts were the works of the Nagars. The Chinese pilgrim Hien Tsang refereed to them in his account of Indian pilgrimage.

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Nagar women have enjoyed a privileged status since ancient times. The first women graduates of Gujarat (in 1901), Vidhyagauri Nilkanth and Sharadaben Mehta were Nagars.

Recent research points out they were from Hatak (modern Ladakh) and their presiding deity is the Lord of Hatak, Hatkesh or Hatkeshwar.

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According to a legend, while on a hunt King Chamatkar of Anarta killed a deer suckling her young. The deer cursed him and as a result he developed leukoderma. The Brahmanas who lived in those parts cured him with herbs and he rewarded hem with gifts money and lands which they refused, being men of high principles. But the queen persuaded 68 of 72 wives to accept the gift. The four families who refused the gifts went away to the Himalayas and but the other 68 Brahmanas stayed on and believed to be the founders of 68 Gotras of Nagars

According to another version the king showed his gratitude by renovating an old city for them and consecrating a temple to Hatkeshwar, there the new city being named Chamatkarpur. Another name of the city is Vadnagar and the Brahmanas who lived there came to be known as Nagars.

Source : Religions and communities of India, Edited by P N Chopra.

 tags- Tanariri, Raga, Tansen, Akbar, Nagars, Vadnagar, Brahmins, Gujarati

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