Saturday 7 December 2013

The scribe who built forts

He can be termed as one of the first, if not, the first statistician of  the world. He was also a scribe and he was born in a clan of scribes. A multi-talented man, he is best remembered for his revenue reforms which formed the basis for land reforms carried out by the British and subsequently by independent India.
An astute solider, he was also a well-known for building forts and it was he who built the imposing Rohtas fort, now in Pakistan. He was also the first Hindu to lead a full-fledged Mughal Army.
One of the nine gems of the Mughal Emperor, Akbar, he was also a highly skilled soldier. A little known fact about him is that he was responsible for providing internal security to Akbar.
A devout Hindu apart from being a man of literary tastes, he repaired, renovated and built several temples across India. He came to the help of the Tirumala temple of Srinivasa when the Nizam of Hyderabad tried to capture it.
He is even credited with having repaired a temple in Karnataka and contributed significantly to the Srinivasa Temple in Tirumala apart from the Kashi Vishwanatha temple in Benaras.
This man is none other than Raja Todar Mal (Todarmal), one of the Navaratnas or nine gems in the court of Akbar. He is remembered even today for his revenue reforms that were first adopted by the Afghan ruler, Sher Shah Suri and subsequently by the Mughals. Later, they formed the basis for Sir Thomas Munroe during the period of British India to introduce the ryotwari system in India.
Todarmal was born in Laharpur, Uttar Pradesh, in a Bhatnagar family. While one account says that he was a Kayastha Brahmin, others say he was a Khatri from the Punjab and that his place of birth was in the Punjab.
Whatever the history of his birth, we know that he first served under the renowned Afghan ruler, Sher Shah Suri. When Sher Shah died and Humanyun, the Mughal, managed to regain the Delhi throne, he imprisoned Todar Mal but released him after being told of his academic and scholastic qualifications.
After several years, Todarmal  joined in the service of Akbar as a clerk and rose in 1560 to become the Finance Minister of Mughal India. He held several other positions and was also in charge of the Mughal Mint.
He built the magnificent Rohtas fort under direction from Sher Shah Suri. The fort today is a UNESCO World Heritage monument, testifying to the engineering skill of Todar Mal.
He also built a fortress palace at Laharpur in Uttar Pradesh.
He was also actively involved in the construction of the Mughal forts at Fathepur Sikri and Lahore in 1583 and also the Allahabad fort which was originally built by Emperor Ashoka.
He also built the magnificent Moti Mahal palace in Allahabad which still exists today.  
Todar Mal rebuilt or renovated several temples cross India and in Karnataka, he rebuilt the Anjaneya temple in Mulabagal, Kolar.
This temple was built by Arjuna, one of the Pandavas, after the Kurukshetra war. There is a small statue of Todar Mal in the temple
Another temple that is associated with Todar Mal is that of Srinivasa in Tirumala. This temple too has a statue of Todar Mal. He also renovated the Kashi Vishwanatha temple in Kashi.
Todar Mal is also credited with having built the temple to Chitragupta in Patna, Bihar.
Members of the Kayastha community worship Chitragupta among other Gods. Chitragupta is a scribe for the Gods and Kayastha means scribe in Sanskrit and it goes without saying that Todar Mal was a renown scribe.
The Kayastha caste reflects its traditional role as record-keepers and administrators of the State. Kayasthas from historical times have occupied the highest government offices, serving as ministers and advisors during mediaeval Indian period and the Mughal Empire, and they also held important administrative positions during the British period.
Todar Mal, historians agree, was true to his caste and he was a scribe of the highest order. Not only was an excellent book keeper, he was also a competent accountant. He also managed the Mughal mint in Bengal. He also introduced standard weights and measures. He understood statecraft well and Emperor Akbar had high regard for him.
He became the Finance Minister of the Mughal Kingdom in 1575 and the Chief Finance Minister in 1582. He came up with a book on land records which then was known as Todar Mal’s Rentroll.
Very few know that Todar Mal was a man of letters. He translated the Bhagavatha Purana from Sanskrit  into Persian. He believed a single language could unify the people and its country and he, therefore, batted for Persian as the administrative language and sole language of the Mughal Kingdom..
According to the Puranas, Kayasthas are descended from Chitragupta. The Puranas invest Chitragupta with the task of recording the deeds of humanity, upholding the rule of law and judging whether human beings go to heaven or hell upon death
Raja Todar Mal also
The Mathurs also claim Todar Mal as their own. They are a sub-caste of Kayastha.
The  Mathurs are the only sect who are referred to as direct descendants of a Vedic God in the religious texts and the only ancestor worshipping sect of Hinduism also called Chitranshi/Devputra. Kayasth’s are said, in the Vedas and Puranas, to have a dual-caste as of Kshatriya and Brahmin. Mathurs today are  concentrated across North Indian states of  Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi and Rajasthan. They too were scribes.
Even in the ancient times, they were the people whose profession was writing.
The Mathurs trace their genealogy to Brahma. This is how it goes. When Brahma had created all the fourVarnas, he thought that there must be someone to keep records and account of each Varna. He then started meditating and closed his eyes.
When his meditation was over, he found a radiant figure holding a pen and an inkpot standing before him. Brahma then called him Chitragupta and asked him to be the keeper of  records. He said as he had been created from Brahma, he shall be called Kaya and his progeny Kayastha.
This is how the word Kayastha originated. Since then,  reading and writing has been the hereditary occupation of the Kayasthas.
As far as Mathurs go, they are one of the many sub-castes of the Kayasthas.
The Mathurs trace their ancestry to Charu, one of the twelve sons of  Chitragupta and Irawati. Incidentally, there are a class of Brahmins who call themselves Mathurs and they trace their ancestry to Mathura.
There are also a class of Vaishya who call themselves Mathur Vaishya and trace their ancestry to Mathura. There are also some Bengalis who are known as Mathur Babus. According to the Puranas, Charu resided at Mathura-and so his descendants came to be known as Mathurs.
The Mathurs served under the Hindu Kings of Mathura till Qutb-ud-din conquered it. Subsequently, some of them learned Arabic and served under the courts of Turkish and Mughal Emperors while others fled Mathura in search of work.
In the ancient times, the Mathurs worked in the posts of Dewan under the Surya Vanshi Kings who ruled Ayodhya. The Suryavanshi kings included Ikshvaku, Raghu, Dashrata and Rama and it is said that Mathurs have worked under them and served them. The Mathurs are subdivided into als and gotras. People belonging to the same al claim to have descended from the same immediate ancestor and share a common totem.
Gotra is a larger group being composed of a number of al.
According to tradition, there were only eighty-four big villages in Brij Bhoomi, the empire of Mathura. It is probably on that account that there are eighty-four further sub-sects called Als of the Mathurs.
Coming back to Todar Mal, he died in 1589.
Another Todarmal was Pandit Todarmal (1719–1766). He was a Jain and an eminent scholar and writer. He stayed in Jaipur. His son, Gumani Ram, founded Gumanpanth, a strict form of Jainism.
We also have a Todar Mal in the Punjab. He was called Diwan Todar Mal Jain and he was a businessman. He belonged to Kakra village, a few miles from Patiala. In Sikh history, he is remembered for buying a small piece of land for the cremation of the dead bodies of Mata Gurji, , the mother and Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh, the two younger sons of 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh in 1704 A.D, by paying an exorbitant price to the owner of the land.

He had to cover the whole piece of land with gold coins (ashrafis) in a vertical position, as he was asked to vertically place gold coins on the land and only that much land was given to him which he could cover with gold coins. He later also made arrangements for their cremation.

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