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|Veer Teja (incarnation of Lord Shiva )|
Teja riding the horse
Veer Teja or Tejaji (1074–1104) was legendary Rajasthani folk hero. He is considered one of the major eleven incarnations of Lord Shiva and worshipped as a deity in rural Rajasthan. Teja's legend is that of a young man, striving for respect and recognition, who is willing to sacrifice everything in order maintain tribal conceptions of honour. There are a number of different variations to the Teja legend as recounted by different bards and priests. However there are five main elements to the legend that are included in most stories:
- Teja's marriage in infancy with an infant girl from a neighbouring clan, a barter marriage, which involved his sister being given in marriage to his infant wife's cousin
- Teja setting off an a perilous journey to fetch his wife from her parents home in response to a taunt by his sister-in-law (elder brother's wife)
- Teja risking his life to protect the cows of a lower caste woman from bandits, this is a revolutionary aspect of the legend.
- Teja bravely fulfilling a vow to a snake at the cost of his own life
- Teja's wife and his sister being burned to death at his funeral pyre in the ritual of Sati
As per anthropologists, Teja's cult is a non-Brahmanical cult that includes an element of protest against the caste system. Even today a person from the Mali (gardener) caste is the chief priest of Teja's temple (rather than a Brahmin).
Veer Teja is considered to be folk-deity and admired in entire Rajasthan by all communities. He was born on Friday, magha shukla 14 samvat 1130 (29 January 1074), in the family of Dhaulya gotra Nagavanshi Jats. His father was Chaudhary Tahar, a chieftain of Kharnal in Nagaur district in Rajasthan. His mother’s name was Sugna. Mother Sugna is believed to have got son Teja by the blessings of Nāga-deity.
History of Dhaulya clan
The ancestors of Teja were settled in Khilchipur in Madhya Pradesh. The Naga Jats of Marwar are from Vasuki or Ganapati Nagavanshi. The Dhaulya clan started after Dhawal Rao or Dhaula Rao ruler of Nagavansh. Swet Naga in Sanskrit is the Dhaulya Naga in Prakrit language. Teja's ancestor Udairaj occupied Khirnal and made it his capital. There were twenty four villages in Khirnal pargana and area was quite extensive. This pargana of Khirnal was very famous during those.
During Teja's period the country was ruled by small republics which were in constant struggle with each other. Taharji, Teja's father, was the Chieftain of Kharnal. There were conflicts between Nagavanshi is and Aryans. Nagavanshis were bent upon to destroy the Aryans. According to Hindu mythology, During Mahabharata period, Parīkśita the successor of Yudhisthira, was the ruler of Hastinapura. Parikshit was cursed by a sage's son to die after snake bite. On hearing this, the king forswore the throne for his son Janamejaya and spent his last days listening to the discourses of Sage Śuka on Bhagwat. As prophecised, Snake king Takshaka bit Parikshit leading to his death. In fact Takshaka was a Nagavanshi king who killed Parikshit.
As per the tradition in that area, the chieftain had to initiate the ploughing of fields after first rains in jyestha month. Teja's father and brother were out of the village at first rains so his mother asked Teja to do the first ploughing for the season. Teja went to fields and started ploughing. His sister-in-law became late in bringing him, his food (a dish locally called Chhak) which angered Teja. On Teja's anger she taunted him about his halitosis and on the fact that his wife was in her father's home. This prompted him to go to fetch his wife from his in-laws. The sister-in-law asked Teja that before he brings his wife Pemal, he should bring his sister Rajal so that she can receive Pemal on her first arrival to Kharnal. Teja was married to Pemal in early childhood at Pushkar with the daughter of Rai Mal Jat of Jhanjhar gotra, chieftain of village Paner . After marriage there was a dispute between two families in which the maternal uncle of Pemal and father of Teja were killed. Teja did not previously know that he was married.
When Teja was on way to village Tabiji to bring his sister, he was attacked by Meena sardar. There was a war and Teja was victorious. He reached village Tabiji, got permission of her sister's husband Jogaji Siyag and brought Rajal to Kharnal.
Next day early in the morning he mounted his mare Līlaṇ with palāṇ and started journey to Paner to bring his wife Pemal. It was a difficult journey, but he crossed all the Rivers running full of water due to heavy rains. He reached Paner by evening. At that time his mother-in-law was milking cows. The cows got disturbed due to Teja's brisk entry on his mare. His mother-in-law could not recognize Teja and cursed him that he be bite by a black snake as he has disturbed her cows. Teja got angry over this comment and decided to return without Pemal.
Lachha Gujari was a friend of Pemal. Her house was about 2 km from Rupangarh. Lachhan Gujari helped Pemal to meet with Teja. For this Lachhan rode on camel and went to Teja facing many clashes with Meena sardars en route. Lachhan reached Teja and gave Pemal's message that if Teja does not come she will die. Parents of Pemal had decided to re-marriage her with some other person. At this time Pemal was going to die but saved by Lachhan. Teja came to Paner and saw her there. Pemal was a beautiful and attractive girl. They were talking with each other that they heard knock of Lachha Gujari. Lachha told Teja that thieves have taken away all her cows and there is no body in this to help. Teja mounted his mare Lilan and started alone to fight with dacoits, who had taken away Lachha's cows.
A man of words
Teja found that dacoits who had stolen the cows of Lachhan Gujari were Meena sardar's people. Teja, who was made for helping others, decided to bring those cows. The myth is that he encountered a snake burning in fire that was saved by Teja. That snake cursed Teja and wanted to bite Teja. In fact he had encountered with a Nagavanshi chieftain and he had a war with him. He promised to come back after bringing his wife Pemal. He was badly wounded in the process to bring Gujari's cows back from dacoits. Veer Teja was man of words. While returning he kept his words and produced himself before the snake. The snake did not find unwounded place on the body of Teja so he offered to bite on tongue. The snakebite was on tongue of Teja. Teja died due to snakebite on 28 August 1103.
Historical facts are that while Teja was returning from Paner with his wife he was attacked jointly by Meenas, who were defeated earlier and Nagavanshi chieftains. Teja and his wife fought bravely with sword. Teja was killed in the war and Pemal became sati (abandoned custom and no more practiced in India) at place called Sursura. Teja's sister Rajal had also become sati which is a unique example of sister becoming sati in the Indian history.
Postal stamp on Teja
India Postal Department released a special on commemorative stamp on Folk deity Veer Teja Maharaj at Kharnal in Nagaur Distt of Rajasthan on Tejadasani: Thursday, September 7, 2011. Union Minister Sachin Pilot released the stamp in a function in presence of thousands of people. The ruling Congress state President and former Minister Dr Chandrabhan, sitting Lok Sabha member Jyoti Mirdha, former Minister Harendra Mirdha and several dignitaries were present on the occasion. itava village near tarana tehsil
Veer Teja in media
A Rajasthani language movie titled “Veer Tejaji”, based on the life of Teja was made in the 1980s. The movie was a big commercial success in its time and gave a significant fillip to the Rajasthani movie industry.
- Dhali, Rajshree Popular Religion in Rajasthan: A Study of Four Deities and Their Worship in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century, 2014, p. 229
- Mansukh Ranwa, Kshatriya Shiromani Veer Tejaji, 2001, p.13
- Rajasthan Talkies: Thursday, September 8, 2011, Special postage stamp released on Folk deity Veer Teja
- Rajshree Dhali, “Popular Religion in Rajasthan: A Study of Four Deities and Their Worship in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century”, (K.N. Panikkar & I. Kamtekar, CHS/SSS)
- Mahendra Singh Arya, Dharmpal Singh Dudi, Kishan Singh Faujdar & Vijendra Singh Narwar: Ādhunik Jat Itihasa (The modern history of Jats), Agra 1998
- Thakur Deshraj: Jat Itihasa (Hindi), Maharaja Suraj Mal Smarak Shiksha Sansthan, Delhi, 1934, 2nd edition 1992.
- Mansukh Ranwa: Kshatriya Shiromani Vir Tejaji (क्षत्रिय शिरोमणि वीर तेजाजी), 2001
- Madan Meena: Tejaji Gatha (Hadoti & Hindi), Kota Heritage Society, Kota, 2012 ISBN 978-81-8465-686-2 (Published under the World Oral Literature Project, University of Cambridge, UK)
- Tejaji fairs in Madhya Pradesh
- Tejaji fair Bundi
- Tejaji temples
- Tejaji in Imerial Gazeteer of India
- Rajasthani oral tradions of Devnarayan