An exquisitely carved 17th century memorial would normally be a focal point for tourism and spin-off earnings for the local populace.
But for this village in Madhya Pradesh’s Rajgarh district, the elaborate memorial to a Rajput chieftain is a strict reminder for a life of moderation.
The 500-odd residents of Sanka Jaagir village have since generations given up on alcohol consumption and non-vegetarian food in honour of Shyam Singh Khinchi — a 17th century Rajput chieftain who ruled over nearby Kotra area in present-day Narsinghgarh tehsil.
Sanka villagers, who call the memorial ‘Shyamji ka mandir’, consider themselves direct descendents of the Rajput ruler and go by the feeling that resorting to excesses of life would be against dignity of their illustrated ancestor who laid down life defending his land. Some also have blind belief that defying the rules would bring bad times upon them.
“Even if someone consumes alcohol they do not enter the village in that state. And though there is no formal rule, some have started living outside the limits of the village because they had taken to consuming liquor,” Narendra Singh Gurjar, said the newly-elected sarpanch of Sanka Jaagir, about 80 km from Bhopal.
Archaeology department records show that the memorial, a state protected monument, was constructed in the 17th century by Bhagyavati, the widow of the Rajput leader.
An example of exquisite Rajasthani and Malwa style of architecture, the main edifice is surrounded by elaborate carvings of mythological and folk tales. The entrance area is in the style of a fortress. A temple of Lord Shiva is also situated in the campus.
Locals, however, have interesting additions to offer. They tell that when Shyam Singh fell in a battle with Muslim invaders, a pregnant Bhagyavati fled and took refuge with the Gurjars in Sanka village.
She gave birth to a son here, but the Rajputs would not marry their daughter to him as they suspected the boy’s ancestry.
“Thus Bhagyavati decided to marry him with a Gurjar girl and the Sanka villagers are all descendents of this match,” Ramnarayan Gurjar, caretaker of the memorial said.
But the villagers also have a strange tradition of not allowing childbirth under their roofs.
Before the advent of Janani Express – a government ambulance service carrying expectant mothers to hospital — the women had to give birth in the open, forcing the government to build a small structure on outskirts of village.
But the structure is deserted now and the villagers concede that in cases of emergency, women still give birth in open.
District collector Anand Sharma said that while the tradition of moderation was appreciable the tradition of open childbirth was worrying.