Alha Khand- epics of bravery and battlefields
India is a diverse country with a wide variety of cultures and traditions present in every part of the country. From north to south and east to west, one can experience diverse cultures with more than 19,500 languages being celebrated in the country. Thus, with such a wide colorful population, it’s not odd for India to be a cultural hotspot of the world.
Reviving the stories of bedtime, every kid in India is grown up listening to tales of brave heroes and mythology. Our Grandma always narrates stories of how our forefathers made India a land of its people, languages, religions, customs, and occupations. While some are grown up listening to Mahabharata and Ramayana, others are grown up hearing the tales of Alha Khand. Dating back to the 12th-century C.E, Alha Khand is a collection of poetic works or ballads written on the bravery of two 12th century Rajput heroes, Alha and Udal, who were generals in the court of the king Paramardi-Deva of Mahoba in Bundelkhand.
What is the Story of Alha Khand?
The Alha Khand is the tale of the intertwined fate of two brothers Alha and Udal who were the generals of Parmal’s army. They belonged to the Banaphar community and were the sons of Dassaraj. Some versions of Ballad state that the mother of Alha was an Aryan Ahir. While in the Bhavishya Purana it is assumed that she belonged to the Ahir caste. The duo fought in the battle of Mahoba between Prithviraj III and Parmal in c.118. These warriors fought a total of 52 wars including the battle of Mahoba. According to the Ballads in Bhojpuri, Alha married Sonvati, the princess of Chunar, while in other versions he married the daughter of Raghomacch- Macchil.
The story of Alha Khand is much similar to that of Mahabharata. When Dassaraj captures their mother from the defeated kingdom and marries her kicked starts the basic plot of the story. Her brother Mahil to avenge the forceful capture of his sister plots to destroy the kingdom of Dassaraj from inside. He plans several wars from several rulers and even ignites the murder of Dassaraj by the Kannauj king. Alha and Udal were the sons of Dassaraj who fought a war with Kannauj ruled by Jaichand Rathor and ended up killing him to avenge the death of their father and uncle Baccharaj. Alha also called Madrakh, and Gaygowal was deemed immortal and it is believed that he still roams on the surface of the earth. Udal the younger brother of Alha was believed to bear the strength of 12 tigers. He died in the war against Prithvitaj Chauhan. Among all the characters of the ballad, Malkha was one of the most important characters. He was the stepbrother of Alha and was killed in the battle of Mahoba.
As Alha is believed immortal, there is a myth that says Alha every day visit the Meher temple of Bundelkhand where he worships the deity Maha Chandika even before the temple is opened.
The History of Alha Khand
The term Alha Khand is used to refer to poetic works in Hindi which consists of a number of ballads describing the brave acts heroes, Alha and Udal, of Mahoba (1163-1202 CE) against the attacker Prithviraj Chauhan (1149–1192 CE) of Delhi. The story is entirely handed down in oral tradition and is present in various versions that differ by language and state. Some of the notable Alha Khands are present in Bundeli, Bagheli, Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Maithili, and Kannauji languages. The original ballads were written by Jagnayak (or Jagnik), a contemporary to Chand Bardai and the court poet of Chandela ruler Paramardi Deva of Mahoba. Mahoba is a small city present in the region of Bundelkhand. Though those original ballads are now either lost or revised as per the dialect of the presenter.
These poetic ballads are an important part of Indian culture especially during the month of Sawan. Sawan is the fifth month in the Nanakshahi calendar and is usually referred to as the season of monsoon. During this month, many villages are drowned in celebration and joy with devotees keeping Sawan Somvar Fasting for worshipping Lord Shiva. Children set up huge swings and adults usually spent time listening to the tales of Alha Khand. Specialized speakers are hired to narrate the ballads in the theatrical like an adaption of the play. These professionals are called bardic singers also known as the Alhets. There are mainly two versions of the text- Mahoba Khand and Alha Khand. Mahoba Khand was written by Shyamsundar Das in 1901 with a different conclusion as Alha becoming a disciple of yogi Gorakhnath unlike the end in the Alha Khand.
One of the most notable bardic singers was Lallu Lal Bajpai. He established his post as a prominent folk singer of Alha Khand. His telecast of Alha Khand was a regular program of Doordarshan’s Chaupal program. He was known for his passionate singing having a sword in one hand and a mustache on the other. He used to hold a sword in his hand while singing ‘Alha’ and used to chant it while singing. This unique style of storytelling established his legacy as a folk artist.
Why Alha Khand isn’t as famous as other mythological tales?
Though the tale of Mahabharata is widely famous not only in India but across the world, the tale of Alha Khand isn’t as popular. While everyone knows about Mahabharata, Alha Khand is only notable in the villages of the country. Even the most nomadic Hindu figures are unknown to the tale of Alha Khand. One of the major reasons is that the ballad has only been handed down in oral tradition and has been changed from time to time to suit the language of the presenter. Another reason is the conflict that whether the story was mythology or a real story. Some source suggests that the story is mythology while other’s argues that the battle of Prithviraj Chauhan really happened in the 12th century. Thus, this moral conflict also led to the unpopularity of the tale.