Of the Legend of the Goddess of the River, and of her
dealings with Rup Mati and Bāz Bahādur.

Now in the valley of the river Rewa by a fair reach of water lieth the town of Dharmpuri, and the lord thereof was a Rājput of the Rāthor clan, whose name, some say, was T’hān Singh.* On an island in the midst of the river was his fort, and therein he abode. From the days of the coming of the Ghoris to Māndu, and during the rule of the Khiljis, he and his fathers bowed before the kings of Māndu and faithfully had they served them. In the days when a Rājput named Medini Rai won the favour of Māhmud the second of the Khilji line, his father held high command under him, and when Māndu fell into the hands of Bahādur Shāh,* king of Guzerāt, he and all other Rājputs in the fortress made ‘Jauhar’ of their women, and, donning robes of saffron, went to the death for the sake of their lord.*

Yet had the kings of Māndu not won the service of the proud Rāthor or any other Rājput clan, if they had not on their part respected their honour nor demanded their daughters in marriage. For the giving of daughters to the Mussulmān, nay even to any save a true-born Rājput of another clan, is an abomination to them—for to the Rāthor all Rāthornis are sisters. Even to this day is the Mahārāna of Udaipur honoured above all Rājputs, and the daughters of his household hold pre-eminence in all the royal houses of Rājasthān, for that he alone defied to the uttermost the demands of the proud Moguls for a daughter of the sun.* Nor in these days had the Rāthors, of the race of the moon, given daughters to the Mogul.

Now T’hān Singh had a daughter of the age of fourteen years, and she was beautiful exceedingly and of great accomplishment. By the holy river of Rewa she was born and dwelt—nay in the midst of the sacred stream—and the music of the waters thereof had passed into her soul, and on her the Goddess of the river showed great favour so that her skill in playing upon the ‘bin’ and in song was beyond all praise. For her the Thākur sought a bridegroom among the noble houses of Rājasthān and thither the coco-nut* had been sent, that in the coming month of marriages she might be wedded.

Now it befell that on the day of the coming of spring, whereon all the land of Hind rejoices and pays honour to the Gods, who bless the earth with fresh leaves and flowers and promise of harvest, Rup Mati was moved by the God­dess to take her beloved ‘bin’ and go with her chosen handmaidens to a pool in the forest and chant the songs of spring. There they bathed their golden limbs in the pool and, twining their hair with garlands of the jasmine, took seat on the grass beneath the thick shade of a banyan tree and listened to Rup Mati who, ‘bin’ in hand, sang the sweetest songs of spring.

Upon this very day it befell also by the hand of fate, which was to bring love and doom to Rup Mati the fair, that Bāz Bahādur, king of Māndu, rode forth with his gallant array to hunt in the vale of Rewa. Some say that he followed a deer, which he had wounded and which went to drink of the pool, whereby the maidens sat, but others, that in the silence of the forest he heard a voice, whereof the beauty and sweetness pierced him to the soul. Thereon he halted his company and, taking but three with him, he stalked with jungle cunning the fair mistress of that voice too fair. Nearer they crept to the pool and then through the leaves they espied the face of Rup Mati, excelling in beauty even the voice, which yet rang high and clear. Bāz Bahādur’s companions looked to him for an order, but beheld him in open amaze, staring at the maid as if he had never before seen woman.

‘Shadow of God,’ said one, ‘’twere easy to seize her and carry her off: give but the order and she shall be thine to-night.’

‘Still thy impious tongue,’ was all the answer the young king vouchsafed, and the next moment he burst through the bushes and showed himself to the maidens in all his youth and beauty, still unspoiled. Shrieking, they gathered round Rup Mati, but she faced the intruder with all the spirit of a true Rājputni, forgetful in her wish to save her companions of her duty, as a maid ripe for wedlock, to hide her face from the alien.

In words of fire the young king made protest of the love which had sprung into flame in his heart, vowing that, whether she would or no, she must with him to Māndu to be his bride and queen.

Rup Mati answered never a word but gazed, enrapt, on the face of the king, and thus for a while they stayed, the eyes of each feeding on the other’s face and form.

Overcome with passion, the king stepped forward as if to grasp the maid. She shrank back, and now the sense of her danger awoke her to a sense of her duty—to herself, to her lineage, and to the Goddess of her worship.

‘Never,’ she cried, pointing to the towering ramparts of Māndu, ‘never will I marry thee until the waters of Rewa, the Goddess of my worship, flow through thy royal city there on high.’

For a brief moment the king gazed on her, and then swiftly turning vanished back into the jungle, silently as he had come.

Rup Mati gazed after him, as if scarce knowing whether she had not indeed been vouchsafed a vision of some beautiful god of the forest, but quickly her maids called her to herself, and hurriedly and in lingering fear they made their way back to the fort of the Thākur.

Rup Mati herself held her peace, pondering in her heart the beauty and the fiery words of her sudden lover, but her maids showed not such wisdom. Babbling, they told their story to their fellows in the Zanāna, and soon the Thākurāni was ware that her daughter had shown her face to a man—and him the alien king of Māndu. In distress and perturbation she bade her women summon the Thākur to the female apartments. Soon he came, in spotless white save for his head-dress of five colours, which crowned a face of regular feature, and his parted beard was white as his clothes. Wailing, the Thākurāni told him of the disgrace to his beloved daughter, of the shame that had fallen, and of that which of a surety would fall upon their house, if the king demanded possession of the girl. Swift and relentless was the Thākur’s answer, and conceived in the spirit of the appeal by the lady of Rupnāgarh to Rāna Rāj Singh of Udaipur when Aurangzeb demanded her hand in marriage, ‘Shall the swan mate with the stork, a Rājputni pure in blood be the bride of a monkey-faced barbarian?’* Then he gave the order for which honour called. Much his love for his daughter, but for Rājput honour more. Death was the only defence against dishonour, and he bade the fatal draught of opium* be prepared for her drinking. Weeping, wailing, and lamentation filled the Zanāna, and the aged Thākurāni and her women fell at his feet, beseech­ing him to relent. Sternly he refused, and despite all their entreaties he remained obdurate. The family priest was summoned, yet could he win naught from the fierce fury of honour outraged. Only to religion did the Thākur bow, when the priest forbade defilement of the festival of spring by sacrifice of its fairest flower. Then with reluctance he gave consent to the postponement of the drinking until morning broke, and, ordering Rup Mati to be held prisoner, strode out to drown his sorrow in opium.*

Shut in her little room the tender maid awaited the terrors of the dawn. Slumber fell not on her eyelids, and her thoughts strayed hither and thither, now to the fate that awaited her by her father’s command, and now to the lover, who had come and spoken and vanished like a dream. Yet anon, worn out by weeping, she dozed fitfully and then of a sudden awoke in terror, for the room was lit with a great light and before her was a shining figure of stature far exceeding that of mortal man or woman.

Terror-stricken she hid her eyes and cowered before it, but a soft hand was laid gently on her shoulder and a loving voice spake compassionately in her ear:

‘Fear not, maiden mine, for I am Rewa, the Goddess of thy worship: in thine hour of trial thou didst remember me nor am I unmindful: behold, in the city of Māndu from

under a tamarisk tree shall a spring break forth, which shall be called by my name and which shall mingle with my water in one divinity.’

The vision faded and the little maid laid herself down again, pondering on all that the rede of the Goddess might portend. This way and that way ran her interpreting, and from all ways comfort flowed into her heart.

The night passed and the vague light of false dawn began to illumine the valley. Her hour was drawing nigh but the Goddess was mindful of her worshipper. Haply she had also visited Bāz Bahādur in a vision of the night. Be that as it may, as the first cock crew there was an outcry, the clash of arms, the rush of feet. Bāz Bahādur had hastily collected his men and escaladed the little fort at dawn.

Stoutly fought the Thākur and his men, yet was the unequal struggle quickly over and soon, instead of the deadly opiate of Durgā, Rup Mati was drinking the living wine of her lover’s lips.

And now must Rājput pride bow to barbarian might. Coldly and sternly the Thākur stood by as his daughter and her maids made ready for the journey.

‘Go we by the Jahāngirpura gate?’ asked his com­panions of the young king.

‘Nay, for the way is rough and hard, moreover must this dainty fair enter Māndu by the royal road for there shall she reign queen of the city, as of my heart. Send swift word to the governor to prepare for our royal advent on the morrow, and march we now to Nālcha.’

Thither they set out, Rup Mati on a spirited horse with her chosen knight riding beside her, and at eve they halted at the palace at Nālcha—and ‘of the beauty of Nālcha,’ as saith Jahāngir,* ‘what shall be written?’ In the morn they made the short march over the plateau, ever nearing the edge of the world, by the hill of Gangli Teli* of whom the proverb says: ‘Where now is Rāja Bhoj and Gangli Teli where?’ By hill and vale they went, past mosque and tomb and caravanserai, until, on the last height, the governor of the city awaited their coming with all his array. Thence mounted on elephants, with trappings of gold and howdahs of silver, they passed on down the steep descent to the narrow isthmus between the sheer ravines. Onward up the great ramp, where the seven hundred elephants of Hoshang Shāh or Māhmud Khilji, bedizened even as theirs and painted with indigo and turmeric and lac, had borne their masters, fresh from triumphs over Guzerāt or Chitor, or, divested of their gorgeous panoplies, had toiled with cyclopean blocks of red freestone or blue slate, to build the palaces and tombs of kings, the baths of the veiled queens, and the mosques of the one God, whose prophet is Muhammad—peace be on him and all the faithful.

Then through the great gate whose triple arches still look serenely to Delhi, and through the elephant gate that guards the inner city, past the massive sloping walls of the Hindola Mahāl* and to the ramp within it, that leads to the female apartments, did the royal elephants bear their burden. There they knelt to let their riders dismount, and Rup Mati passed in behind the curtain to be arrayed for her bridal.

Bright and happy were the days that followed for Rup Mati, sole queen of Bāz Bahādur’s heart. When after a long night of love he left her, she would call her women at will and bathe in the Turkish baths or in the open-air baths of the Jahāz Mahāl,* or spend long days by the cool waters of the Champa Baori,* deep below the level of the ground.

On Bāz Bahādur’s return, more often soon than late, for he neglected all things for her company, they would sing to each other the songs of love which they had composed, or, calling the musicians and the singing and dancing girls, listen to their songs of love and war. Fair was life to them evening after evening on the roof of the Ship Palace, in the heart of their dear city impregnable, looking out over mosque and tomb, dome and cupola of blue and green and yellow and of marble white, and beyond, to lake and wood, to hill and vale—fair indeed, and all the fairer for the music in their ears and the love within their hearts.

Yet was not Rup Mati slow to perceive that herein lay danger for Bāz Bahādur. His nobles delighted to gather round him and ply him with wine, till he knew not night from day. And from the women, from his former queen, from the concubines and dancing girls, there was danger to her love. That from the queen ceased indeed, when she ‘rasped through her life with the file of jealousy’. Yet the others remained, but such was Rup Mati’s wisdom that even in their presence found she field for pretty compliment to Bāz Bahādur.

‘We are thy bees and thou our lotus flower,
For thee we pray, that thou ne’er cease to bloom:
Open thy petals to us and we live:
Withhold thy bounty and we read our doom.’

Yet the fear was always in her heart, and she sought to lead Bāz Bahādur away to some place of retirement where love might have fuller and more constant scope, untroubled by temptation. To this end she led him forth and they rode, as oft depicted by artists of Hindustān, over the plateau and up and down its hills and vales seeking for the promised spring of the Goddess, whose discovery would be to Rup Mati the sanction for her union with her lover. Past the Red Palace to the east and beyond the dell of the Blue Jay to the Hill of Gold* in the west they rode, but found it not. Then on a day riding south past the white mausoleum of Hoshang Shāh, under the walls of the great mosque, ‘the mosque of exalted construction, the temple of heavenly altitude, whose every pillar is as those of the Kā’aba’, under the shadow of Māhmud Khilji’s seven-storied tower of victory,* by the waters of the great lake and beyond it, they came to a sheltered vale in the hills, and there beneath a tamarisk tree, as the Goddess had foretold, they found the gushing spring which to this day men call by her name—the spring of Rewa.

At Rup Mati’s entreaty, here Bāz Bahādur built him a country palace.* The waters of the spring he held back to make a pool for his lady’s bathing, and from it he led the waters by a lofty aqueduct within the palace walls, that even there his fair queen might lave her golden body in the water of the spring, whose gushing marked the fruition of their love.

Beyond the new palace the path led upward to the caravanserai on the hill, and thereto they wandered through the pink balsams, under the white blossoms of the teak trees hung with blue convolvulus, and as the eyes of Rup Mati, emerging from the darkness of the narrow stair, topped the parapet, she could not withhold her cry of amazement at the width and loveliness of the scene—the richly wooded slopes of the Vindhyas, the broad plains of the river of Rewa, showing here and there the silver gleam of her bosom, and away beyond in the south the jagged peaks of the Sātpuras. As a poetess her heart went out to it with an instant and undying love, and then she found another spring of joy. Away to the west shone a long stretch of silver, and by it Dharmpuri, her old home, e’er love and fate and the River Goddess bore her away to joy and sorrow and doom. Here she bade Bāz Bahādur build her two chattris on the roof, that she might come at will to gaze and dream. Many a day they sat there and sang together. Anon, when Bāz Bahādur neglected her for the delights of wine or of some new beauty, she would steal away at night with her ‘bin’ to this place of wide prospect, and gazing at the lamp, nightly lit by the priest in the temple of the Goddess at Dharmpuri, sing out her soul to the moon and the moon-bathed valley.

‘Dead is the day when thou wast one with me,
As I with thee:
Now, I am I and thou art thou again,
Not one but twain:
What cause gave we for thy malignity,
O Destiny?’

Then when all seemed saddest, Bāz Bahādur, tearing himself away from the singing girls and wine, would climb to the roof of his palace and answer her couplet by couplet: and at last, yearning for his soul’s mate, would scale the height and the stars and the woods be witnesses of their love revived.

If question be made of the truth of this story, let this suffice that here it hath been written, as they tell it in Māndu, where from a small seed of fact it has grown like a pipal tree out of the ruins of its palaces, fitting itself to probabilities and localities. They who write histories tell it otherwise, and even so doth Āhmad-ul-Umri, whose relation followeth hereafter, but of the capture and the death of Rup Mati for her love and her chastity, there is but one tale; nor should one tale be told twice. Therefore let them who desire the unfolding of that tale read it as Āhmad-ul-Umri set it down in the Persian tongue and as it is hereinafter done into English. In this place shall no more be written than the telling of Ābul Fazl in the Akbārnāma anent Rup Mati’s death that ‘her faithful blood became aglow, and from love to Bāz Bahādur she bravely quaffed the cup of deadly poison and carried her honour to the chambers of annihilation’.*