Statue of Kardva Odedra in centre of Junagadh
Approximately 10 miles south-east of Porbander is the village of Odedar. This is the village of the Odedra Mahers. Originally known as the Sumra-Rajputs from the region of Sindh. Acts of bravery and the fight for righteousness still exist in these small but rich in culture villages across the planes of the Kathiyavad region in Saurashtra. This is one of the many true stories that enrich the history of the region and its people. This is the story of Maher – Kardva Odedra.
In 1740 (British calendar), Kardva, the son of Ala-bhai Odedra from Odedar was born. Kardva had five brothers and four sisters. The youngest sister – Moonthi, who had two sons Arjun and Vinja, was married to Nebho in the village of Kadchche. Kardva was married to Janji whose parents lived in the village of Bakharla near Porbandar.
During this period, Mangrol was in the rein of Sheikh Darbar and Junagadh was governed by Nawab Hamid Khan Babi, who then reported to the central Mogul Empire. In those times the local Rajput clans would be given lands and villages as a token of appreciation for giving backing to Maharajas at times of war. The Rajputs of those given villages and land would then be the ‘Gurasia’. Arjun, the nephew of Kardva, was the ‘Gurasia’ of the village Foolarama, which is near the town of Kutiyana.
Kardva was well respected and admired individual in the area for his fairness and righteousness. In the village of Odedar he was the leader and gave most of his time for the well-being of the village and its people. Kardva’s reputation grew to the region of Junagadh. The Nawab very soon made close ties with Kardva.
One day, Amarji who was the Nawab’s right hand man was on his way to Mangrol and happened to see the rich and vast crop yield that grew in lands around the village of Foolarama. He returned to Junagadh and informed the Nawab. Arjun Kadchcha and his father Nebho were summoned to the Nawab’s court in Junagadh. They were both told that the village of Foolarama would have to pay yield-tax (‘vero’) for the crops that they grew. Arjun and Nebho returned to their village very concerned and decided to inform Kardva. They both went to Odedar and told Kardva what had happened. Kardva assured them that all would be fine and that he would pay a visit to the Nawab.
Kardva went to Junagadh and in the courts informed the Nawab that the village of Foolarama was that of the Gurasias who was Arjun, his nephew and Junagadh does not have any right for any tax on that land. The Nawab listened to all this and agreed that Kardva was right and this should not have happened. Amarji, who was also present, was very angry but could not question the Nawab’s decision.
Time went on and one day Amarji was heading back to Junagadh from Mangrol. When he was between Meethi and Bagsora, near Dharm Vav he met Kardva’s nephew – Arjun. When Amarji saw Arjun, his blood began to boil. Amarji shouted to Arjun: “Why do you hide behind your uncle if you call yourself a man!” Arjun hand went to his sword. Amarji’s men took their swords out and ran towards Arjun. Arjun began to unleash his sword. Swiping it from side to side and cutting Amarji’s men. Arjun had no chance. He was outnumbered and soon he was overpowered. Amarji’s men constantly pushing their swords into the body of Arjun, he fell to the ground and died.
Word spread of the incident. Moonthi, the mother of Arjun came hollering to Kardva. Wiping the tears of her face she asked Kardva : ” …why did they kill my son when you promised that things would be sorted…!”
Kardva was furious with the Nawab. He sent his sister and his family to the village of Bakharla and got ready to face the might of the Nawab. With a Burdeye-Pagdi on his head, a Rajput sword on his side and a rhino-skin shield on his back, Kardva headed towards Junagadh.
On the way to Junagadh he visited Jaimal Lakha in the village of Padharia. Jaimal Lakha was a close friend of Kardva and had 1200 Rajput warriors under his hand. Kardva informed Jaimal of what had gone on and that he intended to take revenge for the killing of his nephew. Jaimal assured Kardva that he and his men would back him when ever he commanded them. Kardva informed Jaimal that he first intended to find out who gave the orders. He would go in the gates of Junagadh disguised as a ‘Sadhoo’(Holy man).
Junagadh had four main gates, the rest surrounded by high walls. The gates are known as ‘Gate of Mujvedi’, ‘Gate of Girnar’, ‘Gate of Vanthli’ and ‘Gate of Beelkha’. Singing and chanting, disguised as a ‘Sadhoo’, Kardva entered into Jungadh and headed towards Deevan Chhokh. Prince Mohabat Khan, son of the Nawab, attended a school in Deevan Chhokh. A carriage with the Prince in it passed. Kardva decided to follow it. The carriage went through the gates of the school where a guard stood waiting. Kardva shortly followed. The guard stopped Kardva from going in
Guard: ” ..where do you want to go holy-man?”
Kardva: “…my son I am in search for some ganja to smoke. Would you know where I could get some from?”
Guard: ” …this is no place to get any ganja. This is the Prince’s place of learning. Nobody is permitted to go inside”.
Kardva: “..my son, could you get me some ganja from someone who you know. I feel very tired.”
The Guard offered to get the ganja. As the guard went across the road, this gave Kardva the opportunity to go inside. Kardva went inside the school where a ‘Molvi’ (teacher) was teaching the Prince. Kardva pushed the ‘Molvi’ and went towards the Prince. Kardva shouted to the ‘Molvi’: ” …Molvi, inform your Nawab that Maher Kardva from Odedar has arrived!.”
The Molvi ran to the Nawab’s court and said to the Nawab that a man dressed as a Sadhoo was threatening to kill the Prince. The Nawab and his men quickly made their way to the school. There Kardva had taken to the roof of the school. With a knife in one hand and the Prince in the other Kardva stood waiting for the Nawab. The Nawab arrived and shouted to Kardva : “Kardva, please let my son go…. I’ll do what ever you say…”. Kardva ordered a cooper plate to be brought. The plate was quickly brought. (Promises in those days were written on copper plates and if broken would cause bad luck)
Kardva: ” Write what I say on the cooper plate!”.
Nawab: ” Say what you will”.
Kardva: ” Nawab…. The door that I have arrived into Jungadh will be named Gate of Kardva. My nephew was killed unjustly and for this I order you to pay a fine of 900 ‘cori’. (Ordering a fine to a Nawab was considered a major insult to him) And the Chhokh from where I take this fine will be known as Kardva Chhokh!. Also after I get out from here you will not come after me until the ninth day.
Nawab: ” … I agree..”
Kardva: ” Not like that…. Put your hand on the Koran and say it!”
The Nawab placed his hand on the Koran and made the promises. Kardva released the Prince. The Nawab paid the fine in front of many people at, what is now known as Kardva Chhokh in the centre of Jungadh. The Nawab’s men looked on as a common man was ordering a fine to be paid by the humiliated Nawab. Nothing could be done because the Nawab had promised. After the Nawab had done what Kardva had ordered him, he rode out of Junagadh and returned to Jaimal Lakha in Padaria, where Kardva’s brother’s son Vajdev was waiting. Kardva informed Jaimal-Lakha that his men would be outnumbered by the might of Junagadh’s armies, who wou
ld start to look for him after the nine days. From there Kardva and Vajdev got on a horse and rode out.
Kardva decided to go to the Kingdom of Gonal, where Bha-Koombhaji reined. Bha-Koombhaji did not have the courage to confront the might of Jungadh and refused to assist Kardva. Kardva then rode to Bhavnager where Vakhatsinji reined. There too he was refused. He then headed west to the Okha region to a town called Positra. Positra was a fort and had the strength of gunpowder and cannons. The Vaghers of Okha vowed to give Kardva assistance.
The nine days were soon up. The Nawab of Junagadh ordered the head of Kardva to be brought to him. Like a swarm of wasps from a hive, the Junagadh armies surged out of the gates of Jungadh. Searching for days, finally the armies were informed that Kardva and Vajdev were at Positra. The army arrived at Positra and found that the fort was inaccessible. The army could not get over the walls nor through the walls so they decided to dig tunnels under the walls of the fort.
The armies of Junagadh began to crawl their way through and the battle began. Kardva swinging his sword from side to side. His sword in one hand and shield in the other, cutting and slicing his enemies into two he led the attack. The battle went on for a month. But death was getting closer to the courageous Kardva. He and his men were becoming outnumbered by the shear number of men from the Junagadh armies.
On the day of Thursday, the second day of the month of ‘Fagan’ in the Vikram-swanth calendar year of 1831 (1775 British calendar), Kardva and Vajdev lost their lives fighting and became Martyrs of truth and righteousness.
To date the dynasty of Arjun still live in the village of Kadchhe near Kutiyana in Saurashtra and are known as the Nebhanie family. And the dynasty of Kardva are still living in the village of Bhakharla and are known as the Arjunka-Odedras.
Memorial stones stand in the towns of Positra and Bhakhala with the elegant memorial statue in the centre of Jungadh. The place is known as Kardva Chhokh
Article supplied by Kishan V Sisodia