Ask anyone about Bikaner and probably, you will end up talking about its forts and the famous Karni Mata Temple, where rats are considered sacred. The city, which is about 447 km from Delhi, was built by the Prince of Jodhpur (Marwar), Rao Bika after he was challenged by his father to establish his own kingdom. He did so on one condition —he gets to take his father’s dewan (chief minister), Bachhawat, along.
“History is usually written about kings and kingdoms but no one has so far written about the nobles who governed the states,” says Commander Pratap Singh Mehta, author of the book Rajputana Chronicles: Guns and Glories, which chronicles the thousand-year history of the Bachhawat clan, from Prithviraj Chauhan to Mehta’s grandchildren, in an anecdotal format.
Research for the book, which is filled with many unknown or lesser known tales of royalty as well as nobles, took Mehta almost two decades. “The cover has the painting of Mehta Pannalal by renowned artist Raja Ravi Varma. Pannalal was my grandfather’s grandfather and the only official prime minister of Marwar from 1969 to 94,” says the author.
It was only at the fag-end of his tenure with the Indian Navy that he decided to pen down the history of his ancestors. “It was my uncles, who pushed me to write it. When my father passed away in 1992, it was then that they asked me to document it all. So, almost all the pictures in the book are from my family, my uncle’s family and other private collections.”
“I still have the weapons and gloves that my forefathers used in battles,” says Mehta, who now lives in Mumbai with his son Nakuul Mehta, a popular TV actor. What was the reaction of his children when they saw the book. “They were jubilant and proud. Of course, they have been part of the Bachhawat clan but getting to know one’s ancestors is always a special experience.”
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