This legend left me stunned. The strength of  one single woman, her monstrous sacrifice for the greater good and her consequent contribution to history are inspiring.

Panna Dhai (whose name means “emerald nursemaid”) was nursemaid to Udai Singh II, fourth son of Sangram Singh, ruler of Mewar. Her own son Chandan, nicknamed Moti, grew up playing with Udai Singh II.

Udai Singh II ascended to the throne when his older brother Vikramaditya was imprisoned by the nobility for his short-tempered and bad behavior; the last straw was slapping the face of a respected court chieftain. Since Udai Singh II was too young to rule, his cousin Vanvir Singh/Banbirwas appointed as his Regent.

Banbir believed that he was the rightful heir to the throne, and therefore, murdered Vikramaditya while he was imprisoned. On hearing this news, Panna Dhai knew that Udai Singh II would be next if Banbir’s plan was to clear his own way to the throne.

She instructed a servant to place the young sleeping prince in a basket and smuggle him out of the castle and wait for her at a spot near the river. Panna Dhai then placed her own son in the place of Udai Singh II. When Vikramaditya came into the room intending to murder the little prince, he instead murdered Moti in front of his own mother.

Panna Dhai remained at court long enough to attend the quick funeral service for her son and then met the servant who had Udai Singh II at the spot near the river. She went into hiding with the young prince, after extracting a promise from the servant never to reveal to anyone what she had done and seen that day.

While Panna Dhai and the young prince were refused shelter at several places for fear of retaliation from Banbir, they managed to find friends among the Bhils in the forests who provided them with food and shelter. At Kumbalgarh, a Jain merchant finally took both of them in. Udai Singh II was passed off as the merchant’s nephew.

As Udai Singh grew into a young man, rumours began to spread of a young, well-mannered and stately young man who claimed to be the newphew of a merchant but who might be of royal blood. When these stories reached the unhappy and displaced nobility of the court of Mewar, they sent a chieftain to interview this young man in private.

Panna Dhai believed that the time was ripe for Udai Singh II to re-emerge and she revealed the truth to the noble. With the support of the nobility, Udai Singh II was crowned the ruler of Mewar and he eventually won back the throne of Mewar from Banbir.

Kumbalgarh Fort