Few years back in May 2012, I was on a memorable trip to Saurashtra (Gujarat) mainly Somanth Mahadev and Junagad, a town rich with Historical heritage. Five years later, each and every spot we visited there are fresh in my memory today and I feel the town narrates its own tales when you are receptive.
Junagad is an honest and humble looking town maintaining its simplicity in contemporary times. The best proof of it according to me was that there were no shopping malls in this town which kept the social life and web of human relationships intact. One of the prime attraction as well as pilgrim spot in Junagad is Girnar Mountain. When journeying towards the base of Girnar ranges from afar they appeared enormous but friendly, as if singing a song of millenniums. When we reached at the base of Girnar which is called as ‘Girnar Taleti,’ I was besieged with the site and the atmosphere around. Girnar which stood tall and proud with 3000 feet above Junagad and 10,000 steps is an invitation not only to an adventure but also a call to your own salvation.
Girnar Taleti is surrounded with Shri Hanuman , Mahadev, Devi Parvati and several other temples but it’s the existence of ‘Maths’(Monasteries) and ‘Akharas’ (Indian word for a place to enable various practices of Sadhu including their basic amenities-food, shelter etc.) which is the distinguishing feature of the place. The saffron clad Monks mixed with crowd of devotees and tourists, the devotional music of Aartis coming from various surrounding temples creates a charm of mystical environment there.
And as if this was not enough to mesmerize me, while admiring Girnar from its base my attention was captured by something peculiar- the huge boulders of Girnar. Those boulders were delicately balanced and positioned in a manner of falling down and it appeared as if they were stopped mid way. I found myself wondering aloud “They look different who must have stopped them?” and our plain looking, simply dressed tourist guide spoke in desi (local) ascent of Gujrati “Ranak Devi”, my curious expressions further encouraged him to narrate this tale, a kind of combination of History and Mythology which is related to Solanki Dynasty ruling throne of Patan and one name that stand out in Solanki Dynasty is Siddhraj Jaysinh. He is considered as the strongest and most courageous Solanki King and one of the prominent legends of the Gujrat bards is woven around the siege of Junagadh by Siddhraj Jaysinh. He wanted to marry princess Ranakdevi of Junagad but she was already betrothed to his vassal, Ra Khengar the Chief of Junagadh. Princess Ranak’s rejection to advances of Siddhraj for marriage angered him and he fiercely attacked Junagad while the marriage ceremony was ongoing. Siddhraj killed Ra Khengar, Princess Ranak’s father and brothers but to save her honour as well as of her town, it seemed Princess Ranak needed no warrior skills. With her Sati power she screamed to Girnar to protect her and as if hearing her plea or command all the stones, rocks and boulders of Girnar started rolling towards the army of a man who destroyed her marriage, it is believed as soon as she pronounced her curse the army of Siddhraj was getting smashed under those rocks in no time. This also crushed the ego of proud Siddhraj and he realised his folly immediately pleading to Princess Ranak to take back her curse upon which Princess Ranak like a benevolent mother eventually forgiving the gravest mistake of her children, raised her hand and pleaded again to Girnar “Khama Gir Khama” which meant “stop Girnar, stop” and miraculously the avalanche stopped.
Later Ranak Devi committed Sati on funeral pyre of her husband and the palace with four pillars some distance away from Girnar Taleti which was built specially for her marriage stands quietly as if heartbroken itself on the tragic tale of Sati Ranak. The story of Sati Ranak is a source of inspiration for many Gujarati poets.
It might be difficult for our modern mind to accept the miracle element involved in this story and that such powerful lady sacrificing her own life on the funeral pyre of her husband doesn’t settle well with us, if we try to find a coherency in this tale we might not have much of a result at hand and it will simply appear as an imaginative and exciting story of the legends of Junagad. While I certainly agree and share the same perception, but if we change this approach a bit and try and apply some possibilities of events that might have taken place due to which elements of Sati and divinity emerged giving rise to this beautiful folktale.
It could be an event of a rivalry between men of two tribes/kingdoms for a lady, land and supremacy as for them, they all were symbolically same and the further interpolations taking source probably from the natural phenomena or a geographical movement which would have been incomprehensible for the ancients while such movements caused a change in the position/formation of these kind of rocks/boulders at the base of Girnar.
This tale could be outcome of primeval people's effort to describe the courage of lady in a millennia wherein such heroic acts might be beyond the normal range of achievements and experience of females of that period as well a specific types of movements observed in nature during or prior to the course of events. It can also be looked as a myth justifying and validating the Sati practice which was prevalent in that era though completely eradicated in modern India, the echoes of it can be heard through such stories. There can be many such possibilities but the metaphors, divine or mystical elements added to this tale grants a purpose to it.
If you are also fond of the magical aspects of a tale you may choose to believe that those rocks indeed fell at the behest of 'Sati Ranak' as she is popularly known in this folktale. However whether it’s the logic or the awe of mystery that applies to your senses, such stories/folktales continues to play an inherent role in explaining our cultural and historical heritage without which they would be just a quiet cluster of natural or man-made structures.