THROUGH THE SILENCE OF CENTURIES
The dense, thorny forests of Alwar hold in their clasp numerous secrets of history told through tales of strength and courage, life and death... Of these the average visitor to Sariska has neither knowledge nor hint. Only the informed hear the whispers from legends that have survived the ravages of time.
The tourist visits the sanctuary (Sariska is 120 kilometres from Jaipur and 205 kilometres from Delhi) for a taste of wildlife now artificially preserved; are whisked around a few trails and return. Only the explorer delves deep into the remote gorges of the jungle spread over nearly 900 square kilometres to seek answers to shadowy mysteries in the crevices of the hills, remnants of a bygone age.
These same forests, aeons ago sheltered the exiled Pandava brothers, heroes of the epic, the Mahabharata. The dense forest and difficult terrain of Sariska shielded them until they reached the court at viratnagar (66 kilometres) and lived there disguised as servants of the king. Only five boulders now remain to testify to the presence of the five Pandavas and their wife, Draupadi.
Though the material relics of that age are scarce, the whole country teems with traditions of the presence of the heroic brothers. Bhima, the strongest brother, smote his mace in the rock face of a cliff and created a passage for them through a gorge deep in the sanctuary. This is the place known as Pandupol, the most commonly visited spot within the Sariska area. It was here also that Bhima, known by the epithets ‘‘tremendous,’ “fearful,” and “terrible:’ because he had drunk from the eight jars of the sagas and acquired the strength of many thousand elephants, received a setback to his inflated ego by Hanuman’s pretence. Hanuman lay across the road disguised as an old monkey and challenged Bhima to lift him when he was
The five boulders representing the Pandava brothers at Bairath ordered to clear the way for the Pandavas to pass. Bhim could not even move his tail and acknowledged defeat to his superior. A temple here is dedicated to Hanuman in human form.
Tourists rarely return without a visit to this temple in which the image is symbolically in a reclining position. Car and bus bads of devotees crowd the route on Tuesdays, the monkey god’s known weekday. On Wednesdays the inhabitants of the sanctuary are allowed a rest from the sight of human invaders and animals are indeed most.
The archaeological value of Talbraksha has not yet been fully exploited visible on these days. In September each year, however, they almost disappear off the track as hordes of worshippers from near and far, descend on the place for the famous fair which offers the startling spectacle of persons crawling lengthwise on the road the entire 48 kilometres distance from Alwar city. If one is lucky to be present at the right time, the ear can be treated to the fascinating narration of the folk epic, the pandun ka kada, a Mewati version of the Mahabharata, sung by Muslim jogis for hours at a stretch.
At Bhatrihari, it is the group called Bhartrihari ke jogi who dominate with their powerful music at the fair in August to which thousands throng. Spanning hundreds of years, the area gave solace and shelter to the legendary sage Bhartrihari, author of important Sanskrit works on nitishastra or ethics. A millennium later he is still greatly revered by the local populace. A temple in a hilly area (35 kilometres) of Sariska is dedicated to this saint. For every night over a month a grand musical drama of seven hours in the style of Parsi theatre is attended by a massive audience. It tells the epic story of king Bhartrihari, renowned for his justice.
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