The story of Viramdeo Songira is a historical romance of Hindu-Muslim unity. How a Muslim princess could marry a Hindu prince, Viramdeo-son of Rajput King Kanhardeo of Jalore and finally, after the death of Viramdeo, how she took his head in her lap and became sati-is epitomized in it.
Viramdeo was only sixteen years old when Rawal Lakhansi of Jaisalmer sent a note through a special messenger to Kanhardeo saying that a cuckoo had given him the ominous message that Kanhardeo would be poisoned shortly after dawn the next day.
The messenger was received very warmly at Jalore. After his audience with Kanhardeo, he was invited to the opium-taking ritual. When the servant brought him milk, Kanhardeo, having been forewarned, detected some oiliness on the surface of the milk and so fed in to a dog. The dog convulsed with pain and then fell dead. Kanhardeo was filled with rage. He ordered that the servant be interrogated and if necessary, he be even tortured to extract the truth behind the conspiracy.
Rawal Lakhansi’s messenger was sent back with a letter of thanks and lots of gifts. Soon an intimacy developed between Rawal Lakhansi and Kanhardeo.
One day Kanhardeo conferred with his brother Raningdeo and son Viramdeo that since Rawal Lakhansi had obliged them, it would be appropriate to return the favor by giving him his daughter, Virmati Bai in marriage. Soon the formal proposal was sent to Rawal Lakhansi.
Rawal Lakhansi received the proposal with a sense of worry but decided to take the advice of his queen Sodigi Umarkot. Sodigi advised that the proposal be accepted and that there was no sense in turning it down.
The auspicious day of the wedding was fixed and the marriage party ser out. Sodigi reminded Rawal Lakhansi to praise the arrangements made by her father when Rawal Lakhansi was married to Sodigi.
During the warm reception that was extended by Kanhardeo, Rawal Lakhansi said, “The arrangement is good but it was better at Sodigi’s place.”
After the wedding when the party was to depart Rawal Lakhansi again commented that the wedding was good but the wedding at Sodigi’s place”.
On hearing this Kanhardeo and Viramdeo realized that they had failed in choosing a good husband for Virmati. Virmati was enraged at this acidic remarks of Rawal Lakhansi. She decided that she would never let herself accept Rawal Lakhansi as her husband in the real sense.
Next morning after the wedding, the quarrel between Rawal Lakhansi and Kanhardeo rose to an explosive point. Viramdeo said that they would not send Virmati Bai with the Rawal. But to keep up the tradition, Kanhardeo said that Virmati Bai must go to Jaisalmer at least once. Consequently, with Rajadia, an attendant, as an escort along with one hundred cavaliers, Virmati left Jalore with the wedding party.
Eight miles away from Jalore, at Village Mandal, the party halted for rest. The horses were unbridled and lunch preparations commenced. Virmati told her female attendant to fetch some water from the nearby tank. On reaching the tank the attendant found about hundred young men frolicking in the water heavily perfumed by spreading scented oils all over it.
The flustered maid quickly filled her pitcher and brought it to Virmati Bai. The oily water brought reprimands on the poor maid who informed Virmati of what was happening at the tank. Virmati ordered her to go and enquire who were the people there. She was informed that it was Nimba.
Virmati thought for a while and promptly took her decision. She sent the maid with the message that Virmati Bai was the daughter of Kanhardeo Songira and had been married off to Rawal Lakhansi. Her only fault was that she had merely gone through the ritual of marriage. If Nimba dared, Virmati could enter his seraglio.
Nimba consented and when the chariot of Virmati Bai was isolated from the rest of the party, a batter ensued. The attendant Rajadia got killed. Victorious Nimba and his companions got a hearty welcome on their arrival at their fortress.
Viramdeo was now convinced of the worthlessness of Rawal Lakhansi and accepted Nimba as their relative.
Virmati Bai son gave birth to two sons. When Viramdeo’s younger sister was to be married, invitation was sent to Dehiya and the marriage was settled. Virmati Bai came to Jalore to attend the wedding and advised Viramdeo to invite Nimbaji properly so as to improve relations with him and clear away any misunderstanding.
On receiving the invitation Nimbaji was happy, but he sent a reply that if Panju Payak (renowned swordsman) came to escort him to Jalore, he would be pleased to be present at the wedding. His request was granted and Panju Payak escorted Nimbaji to the Jalore Fort.
The wedding took place as scheduled.
One day while Bijadiya was attending on Viramdeoji, he said “Sir, Nimba is a cause of anxiety to me. He killed by father Rajadiya. I want to take my revenge.”
Viramdeo permitted him to do what he liked.
At a meeting, Bijadiya picked up Viramdeo’s sword and struck through Bijadiya and the pillar against which he was resting. However, soon, Nimba’s all men were killed as their weapons had been sent for sharpening and were not available in time.
When Panju Payak came to know of this treachery, he left for Delhi on horseback and joined the forces of Allaudin. He showed the Emperor some of his sword tactics and impressed him with his swordmanship.
One day the Emperor asked him: “Is there anyone better than you at swordmanship?”
Panju replied: “Yes sir, it is Viramdeo of Jalore.”
A summon was sent to Jalore by Allaudin. Kanhardeo along with Raningdeo and Viramdeo soon reached Delhi, taking one thousand horsemen with them. They were well received at Delhi and given a house to live.
One day the Emperor invited Viramdeo to have a dual with Panju Payak. Viramdeo had known of the covert motives of Panju. He came to know that Panju would be carrying a razor tied to his toe, and with it he meat to kill Viramdeo. Viramdeo paid Panju in the same coin and killed Panju with a sharp razor. The emperor, who was more interested in the game rather than Panju, was extremely pleased.
Hearing of the bravery of Viramdeo, princess Phiroza, daughter of Sultan Allaudin Khilji, was much impressed. Viramdeo now started attending Allaudin’s court regularly. One evening accidentally the princess saw Viramdeo as he came out of the royal court. The princess took fancy to him and the same night, she dreamed the Vireamdeo was her husband in her precious life.
The princess conveyed her feeling to her mother, Shah Begum, who told the sultan but he was annoyed at the conduct of the princess. Days and months passed but the princess was adamant. Finally the sultan agreed and said, “Shah Begum, Viramdeo is a Hindu Prince. I have doubts about the marriage, but I shall try”.
The Sultan called Kanhardeo, Raningdeo and Viramdeo to his private chamber and put up the marriage proposal. Kunwar Viramdeo was stunned at the proposal. For him marriage with a Mohamadan girl was a sacrilege. His father and uncle hesitated. It was not easy for them to say no to the Sultan. They pondered over the matter and discussed it in the interest of their community, state and religion.
Kanhardeo accepted the proposal of marriage, but put up three conditions. He asked 12 lakh of rupees, three years’ time for building a suitable palace at Jalore and performing marriage ceremony as per Hindu rituals. The Sultan accepted all the conditions and Kanardeo was given 12 lakh of rupees and a lot of other gifts.
Kanhardeo immediately left Delhi for Jalore with his Kunwar. Raningdeo was detained as a pledge on the instructions of the Sultan. While parting Raningdeo told his brother to use money for repairing the fort and on war preparations as they would inevitably have to fight with the Sultan sooner or later.
The great Jalore fort was given a new shape and a number of tunnels were constructed for emergency. A massive army was organized and soldiers were paid their salary in advance. Detailed arrangements for keeping provisions of foodgrains and other stuff were made.
Three years passed but the Sultan did not get news for the marriage. On the contrary he was getting news of war preparations. Meanwhile, Raningdeo fled after killing Khilji’s soldiers keeping an eye on his movements. The Sultan was furious at all these developments. This was the time when he was at the peak of his rule. His empire extended from Delhi to Deogiri. He had forget many battles against Mongols and Rajputs of Chittorgarh and Ranthambhor. The Sultan also got news of some rebellious elements at Gujarat. He ordered Ulugkhan to move with army for Gujarat to crush the rebellion. At this stage, the Khilji commander wanted permission from Kanhardeo to move his army through Jalore. This was refused by Kanhardeo. Again when Commander Ulugkhan returned after the conquest of Gujarat, he encamped 29 miles away from Jalore. Kanhardeo could not tolerate this act of the Khilji Commander. The Delhi Sultan had got a bad name for being cruel in slaying cows, oppressing Brahmins, molesting Hindu women and destroying temples.
Having obtained permission from his father Kanhardeo, Kunwar Viramdeo launched a surprise attack on Ulugkhan. As a result, Khilji forces were defeated. Ulugkhan narrowly escaped death. Sultan’s nephew and other relatives were killed in the two-day war, and thousands of Hindu men and women along with valuable property captured from Gujarat, were recovered. This victory added another feather to the crown of the Jalore King and now he was considered as demigod.
Kanhardeo got the news of the Sultan’s march. He was made of sterner stuff. He ordered that arrangements be made to repulse the attack. Within a week, Khilji soldiers laid a siege around the fort. The war began and went on for months and years. It was a terrible and ferocious war but there was no sign of early fall of Jalore. On the other hand, Khilji forces faced a lot of trouble and numerous soldiers got killed despite reinforcements. The Sultan was also getting news of revolt in various other parts of his empire. He did not consider it proper to lose a cow for a cat and ordered the lifting of the siege and early departure for Delhi.
The next morning Jalore people observed Khilji soldiers fleeing. Their joy was beyond narration, because all the stocks of foodgrains were nearly exhausted and they were expecting the fall of the fort, the departure of Khilji forces proved to them a God’s boon.
A grand feast was arranged in the fort. After attending the open durbar, Kunwar Viramdeo and his brother-in-law Dahiya joked with each other over the dinner. On certain remarks of Viramdeo, Dahiya felt insult to his clan, and took a vow to teach a lesson to Viramdeo of Jalore.
The next morning, he was in the Sultan’s camp and informed him that Jalore fort was depleted as all provisions of the foodgrains were finished and if the seize was continued for a few more days, the surrender was imminent. Dahiya assured the Sultan of all help and doing everything to make the Khilji forces victorious. Hearing all this, Sultan’s joy knew no bounds. He ordered for a fresh attack. In Jalore Kanhardeo was relaxing. He did not pay heed to the warning of his spies that Khilji forces were re-assembling with Dahiya. At last when invaders were only a few miles away, he ordered for preparing for the war. But this was no easy time for him. The fort was surrounded by the Sultan’s army. Kanhardeo, Viramdeo and others fought very bravely, but the battle did not last for long. Within a short time, Khilji troops entered the fort through the secret passage as directed by Dahiya. Thousands of people on both sides, including Kanhardeo, were killed. Kunwar Viramdeo was caught alive. He was brought before the Sultan where shah Begum, Princess Phiroza and the Sultan were waiting for the final outcome. When Kunwar Viramdeo saw the princess, the begum and the Sultan he turned away his face. A ray of hatred appeared on his face. Before the princess or the Sultan could say anything, he breathed his last.
Princess Phiroza had accepted Viramdeo as her husband. She wanted to become Sati. Soon on the instruction of the Sultan, a pyre, was prepared and Phiroza sat with Viramdeo’s dead body in her lap. The pyre was lit. all eyes were wet with the grim tragedy. Sultan was aghast at the heroic sacrifice of the Rajputs and the tragic death of his daughter as also numerous killings. The gain was nothing. Hence on his took a vow not to fight a war with Rajputs rulers and remained peaceful through the rest of his life.
Phiroza and Viramdeo Songira – Rajasthani Folktales