Blogs Home / Blogs / History, Art, Culture & Tourism in Thar Desert / Cultural Aesthetics of Marwar, Part -7
  • Cultural Aesthetics of Marwar, Part -7

    Cultural Aesthetics  of Marwar, Part -7

    Traditions and Practices Prevail in Marwar's Society

    Opium eating and Intoxication

    हमारी नई वैबसाइट - भारत का इतिहास -

    The People who were to took part in battles, were habitual of Opium eating and Intoxication. The land owing Rajputs had no other occupation to while away their time. Highly intoxicated under wine and opium, they witnessed dances and songs of Dholis (Drummers), prostitutes etc. they heard their songs all day long. Further more if so pleased their fancy they went out for hunting and parade to the Goddess Durga outside the village border for offering a buffalo or a goat to her. Those were the ordinary status, join the military or the police or otherwise serve the State or the Jagirdar. In communal dinners and excursions they were very fond of taking meals from the same plate. In medieval period these traditions were at their peak but it still prevails in rural society. On birth, marriage and death, opium is served among the guests. Even on holi, Diwali and other occasions opium or alcohol is served.

    The European travellers had observed the practice of opium eating habit as the peculiar social practice prevalent among the Rajputs of Rajputana. Bernier, Manucci, James Tod, John Malcolm and Bishop Heber have recorded the opium eating habit of the Rajputs. Bernier also write about the opium-eating habits of the Rajputs and the poverty of the people of Rajasthan. In 1658 A.D., Bernier remarked that— "From an early age they (Rajputs) are accustomed to the use, of opium, and I have sometimes been astonished to see the large quantity they swallow. On the day of battle they never fail to double the dose, and this drug so animates, or rather inebriates them, that they rush into the thickest of the combat insensible of danger. If the Raja be himself a brave man, he need never entertain an apprehension of being deserted by his followers : they Only require to the well led, for their minds are made up to die in his presence rather than abandon him to his enemies.

    It is an interesting sight to see them on the eve of a battle, with the fumes of opium in their heads, embrace and bid adieu to one another, as if certain of death. Who then can wonder that the Great Mughal, though a Muhammedan, and as such an enemy to the Gentiles, always keeps in the service a large retinue of Rajas, treating them with the same consideration as his other Omravs, and appointing them to important commands in his armies?"

    Manucci's observations on the opium-eating habits of the Rajputs are graphic. James Tod considered that the use of opium tended more to the physical and moral degradation of the Rajputs than the combined influence of pestilence and war. John Malcolm Stated that women give opium to infant children.

    James Tod, therefore, considered growth and extension of opium, culture as demoralizing. He craved that the East India Company should restrict opium cultivation by judicious legis¬lative enactments in Rajasthan instead of making a monopoly of it. He remarked that "generations yet unborn would have just reason to praise us for this work of mercy."

    Amal-ro-Geet dated V.S. 1867 says that opium taken early in the morning after bath is supposed to produce exhilarating effect, in the noon it causes whirling, and in the evening it produces pleasing effect.


    Sati system was a very old tradition in Rajputana. Rajput queens, female members of royal families and even the ladies of other casts also, dedicated their body to the flames of funeral pyre of their husband. We find a large number of sati instances in the history of Marwar of different period. Foreign travellers also have given their impres¬sions about the prevalence of sati among the Rajputs. It was not possible for a widow to lead a honourable and peaceful life if she did not commit sati. Bernier's Travels in the Mughal Empire (1656-68A.D.), was written in 17th century. This work was edited by Archibald Constable and V. A. Smith. His few references to Sati system of Rajasthan are of great value.

    Manucci states that instances of widow burning were traced particularly in the dominions of the Rajput rulers, where no Muhammedan Governor was appointed. He ascribed the responsibility of perpetuating this custom to Brahmins and deeply rooted prejudices of the Rajputs. George Thomas stated that on the death of their husbands females often ascended the funeral pyre with the "heroic fortitude."

    John Malcolm noticed that among the Rajputs, the females of the Bhati tribe were most prompt and willing to sacrifice themselves. Indeed, with the most of them it was a point of honour not to outlive their husbands.

    Bhatt Jagajiwan the court poet of Maharaja Ajit Singh of Marwar, in Ajitodaya gives the account of the death ceremony of Maharaja Ajit Singh and observance of Sati is highly informative. Along with the Ranis, female slaves, animals and birds also committed sati as was evident from the account given by Bhatt Jagajiwan and Virabhan. According to them 62 or 66 women and animals including 6 queens committed sati on the death of Maharaja Ajit Singh.

    Jagdish Singh Gehlot writes that total number was 84 who committed sati. According to him 6 queens, 20 female servants, 9 female guards, 20 female singers, 2 female huzuri servants one co-wife, many monkeys and peacocks ascended the funeral pyre. In 1932 A.D., Lord William Bentinck prohibited sati system by forcing a low.

    Custom of Slavery

    The custom of slavery was also very prominent in Marwar. The poor people and their families served their masters for generations. A particular cast known as Gola and Goli was also in existence up to the end of 19th century. The prevalence of this custom was observed by the Western travellers also. Broughton and John Malcolm had noticed the prevalence of traffic in slaves on large extent in Rajputana and Central India in the early part of the nineteenth century.

    According to John Malcolm Marwar was the province from which greatest numbers of slaves were obtained. In the famine of 1813-14, Pindari leader Amir Khan formed in that country a battalion of 1200 children and youths of this class. Vat Sangrah is a colossal work consisting of about one thousand fictitious stories in Rajasthani prose. From the style of the language it appears to be a compilation of stories of the 17th century. Though it is not a historical work, it refers to the existence of untouchability and slavery. Chandrakunwar-ri-Varta copied in V.S. 1822 is one of the stories of the Varta series refers to slavery.


    The people of medieval era believed that some evil women become cat in night and they eat the hearts of alive infants and dead bodies in grave yard. These women were called Dakins or Witches. Many suspicious old women were killed in this charge. Vat Sangrah, a compilation of stories of the 17th century mentions about a reference of Bhutas (ghosts) and Dakins (witches) in some of the stories shows how superstitious the people were. John Malcolm observed that the belief in witch-craft was common to all India but it prevailed in an extraordinary degree in Central India and Hadoti region. Rajrana Zalim Singh, Regent of Kota, with all his extra ordinary talent was remarkable, for a weak childish supersti¬tion upon this point. He considered the influence of cats (Tasser-i-Goorab) like that of the Dakans (witches). Therefore, on September 5, 1819, he ordered the Kotwal to seize all the cats in cantonment and take them over the river Sindh. Every man who caught and brought a cat was promised a present of one rupee. A large proportion of witches were also punished by his order. His reputation had gone far more to confirm the belief of others in witch-craft. The Rawal of Rajgarh (in Sindhia's territory) used to quote him as his authority for the practice. This belief is still prevailed in Marwar area but people can not kill any woman for this charge.

    Pastimes of Royal people

    In Kumarapal's inscription it is mentioned that the women were busy with games and plays, dear to them on branches of the trees in the forest. Dhola-maru-ri-Vat by Kallol, dated V.S. 1677 also gives the reference to the Chaupar or game of dice played in the harem indicates the popularity of the pastime among aristocrats of both sexes.

    Suraj Prakash by Karnidan, Rajasthani text in verse, dated V. S, 1787 (1730 A.D.) is a contemporary work of Maharaja Abhaya Singh. It says that Rajput children indulged in the pastime of making mud-forts and destroying them as if they were staging a mock invasion. Lion-hunting and ishqabazi have been referred to as royal pastimes in the work. It also preserves an account of the Vedic sacrifices, rites of Nath sect and practices of wrestling and boxing known to the age.

    Bhagwat Dashama skandha of the 18th century also provides the illustrations of the pastimes of Marwar people, Water pranks and wrestling are well-illustrated. Coomarswami has discovered among Rajput paintings the reproduction of a set of playing cards, round in shape and about 8 cms. in size. The figure represented on one of the cards is that of Krishna slaying Shakatasur. Other type of playing cards was ganjifa consisting of 40 cards, played by common people in their spare time. From a description of the playing cards given in Ain-i-Akbari it is clear that it consisted of 12 suits of 12 cards (improved upon by Akbar), though the figures were of the Indian style. Maharaja Mansingh (1803-1843 A.D.) of Marwar accepted a Political treaty with East India Company in 1818 A.D. and a new era of peace and development started in the region. The British political officers brought Marwar into the modern world. When the revolution of 1857 was successfully suppressed, the British officers took over the charge of almost complete administration of the state. Now Maharaja, his nobles and the royal family members had enough leisure. These royal people cultivated mainly two pastimes, Shikar (Hunting) and Polo. These royal people were fond of precious jewelry, costly western style dresses, private railway salons and different types of dishes.

    Hunting or Shikar was a post monsoon or winter event. Shooting tiger, bagging wild boar and deer, arranging the best wild grouse shoots, the maharajas were adept at the sport, and often used hunting as a means of inviting the British viceroy and senior officers, establishing social channels of communication in order to gain political or economic ends. Maharaja Takhat Singh (1843-1873 A.D.) was very much fond of hunting of wild beasts. During hunting, Maharaja's harem had to accompany him in dense forests also.

    The game of polo had its origins in India, but it was the Britishers who took up the game, gave it to indigenous rulers; and with the adoption of the famous Jodhpuri breeches and riding boots, the sport moved to an international arena. The Marwari royals practiced it with a skill and dexterity that remained unchallenged for decades. They had well-stocked stables, and talk of polo was as frequent as that of the weather.

    The 19th and 20th century royal families adapted to Western ways, were known by Western pet-names, and in society columns were frequently referred to as the Jaipurs or the Jodhpurs. When they travelled to England, the maharanis shed the confines of the parda system and dressed in slacks. The wealth and lavish lifestyles of the royal families created an aura of glamour and tales of extravagant eccentricities began to circulate in fashionable London. There came a time when prominent jewellers in the West started fashioning Indian jewellery for the princes were major buyers of such 'trinkets'.

    When the railways first came to India, the princes were among the first to develop their state railways. A number of the trains run even today on tracks laid by the princes of the states. Travelers can sample some of the excitement of early train travel in the comfort of the Palace on Wheels train that does a tourist circuit in the winter season. The carriages once belonged to the royal homes, and they are still luxuriously furnished: living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, bars and bedrooms, each fitted out in sumptuous splendor.

    हमारी नई वैबसाइट - भारत का इतिहास -

  • Share On Social Media:
Or sign in with
Forgot Password
Already a user ?