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The Sonva Mandap in the Chunar fort, the place, where according to a popular belief, Alha married Sonva

The term Alha Khand is used to refer to poetic works in Hindi which consists of a number of ballads describing the brave acts of two 12th century Banaphar Ahir & Rajput[1] heroes, Alha and Udal, generals working for king Paramardi-Deva (Parmal) of Mahoba (1163-1202 CE) against the attacker Prithviraj Chauhan (1149–1192 CE) of Delhi. The works has been entirely handed down by oral tradition and presently exists in many recensions, which differ from one another both in language and subject matter.[2] The Bundeli, the Bagheli, the Awadhi, the Bhojpuri and the Kannauji recensions are the most well known among these.[3][4]

The original language of this work has been continuously modernized over the centuries to suit the dialect of the reciter and it has been lost wholly in this process. This epical work is believed to have been written by Jagnayak (or Jagnik), a contemporary to Chand Bardai and the court poet of Chandela ruler Paramardi Deva (Parmal) of Mahoba in Bundelkhand.[5] The original work is now lost.

The ballads from this work are still sung during the monsoons by the professional bardic singers (known as the Alhets) in various parts of northern India, mostly in Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh and northern Madhya Pradesh.[6] There are two main version of texts.

Mahoba Khand: This work was discovered as a manuscript by Shyamsundar Das in 1901 as one of the two sections of a manuscript labelled "Prithviraj Raso". Shyamsundar Das concluded that it is separate text and published it using the title Parmal Raso in 1919. It has 36 cantos, starting from the origin of the Chandellas and ends with Alha becoming a disciple of yogi Gorakhnath and retiring to forests as a monk.[7] The author laments on the end of the Hindu kingdoms and the beginning of the Pathan rule. It uses the traditional metres like doha, chaupai, chhappaya etc.

Mahoba Samaya is a section of some of the Prithviraj Raso manuscripts. The story given is essentially the same as in Mahoba Khand. It however does not have a section on the origin of Chandellas.[8]

Alha-khand: With 23 cantos, starting with Pritvhiraj winning over Sanyogita and ending with Bela becoming sati.[9] In 1865, Charles Elliott compiled a recension by collating various oral versions into 23 cantos and this recension was the basis of the first printed edition in 1871.[3] Later George Abraham Grierson enlarged this recension with additional inputs. Portions of this recension was translated into English ballad metre by William Waterfield, under the title of The Nine-Lakh Chain or the Maro Feud (1876). Later, this translation, along with the abstracts of the untranslated portions and an introduction written by Grierson was published under the title of The Lay of Alha: A Saga of Rajput Chivalry as Sung by Minstrels of Northern India (1923).

The most popular version of Alha-Khand is the text written by Lalitaprasad Mishra, composed at the request of Prayag Narayan, the son of Munshi Newal Kishore in Samvat 1956 (1900 CE).[10] The work was written in the Alha metre. It has the same 23 cantos as The Lay of Alha, but has much more detailed narration.

Characters [11][edit]

  • Banaphars: Brothers Dasraj (sons Alha, father of Indal, and Udan), Bachchharaj (sons Malkhan and Sulkhan), Todar, Rahmal.
  • Chandelas: King Parmal married to Malhna (sister of Parihar Mahil), sons Brahmanand (married to Bela (daughter of Prathviraj), Ranjit, daughter Chandrabal.
  • Jagnik: the author, son of Parmal's sister
  • Jaichand: last king of Kannauj
  • Mir Talhan: The Sayyad who accompanies the Banaphars, with 9 sons and 18 grandsons.
  • Prithviraj Chauhan: the father of Bela


The heroes of this poem are two brothers, Alha and Udal (or Udan), the generals of Parmal’s army who fought in the battle of Mahoba between Prithviraj III and Parmal in c.1182. The narration begins with the early exploits of Alha and Udal. They fought with the Karingarai (or Kalingarai) and killed him to avenge the killings of their father Dassaraj (or Dasraj) and uncle Baccharaj.[12] Later they fought the battle of Mahoba. According to the Bhojpuri and the Kannauji recensions, Alha married Sonvati (Sonva), the princess of Nainagarh (Chunar), while according to the some other Western Hindi recensions he married Macchil, the daughter of Raghomacch of Haridwar. Apart from Alha and Udal, the brave deeds of other heroes like Malkhan and Sulkhan (the sons of Baccharaj), Brahamjit (the son of Parmal) and Talhan Syed are also described in this work. This work narrates the details of fifty-two wars in total.[4]


While the poetic licence is apparent in the modern versions of the ballads, the attack of Prithviraj Chauhan is directly attested by two inscriptions of 1182CE at Madanpur near Lalitpur in a Jain temple.[13]

Alha is sometimes called Alhan. Alhan (अल्हण) was a popular name in 12-13th century in North India.[14][15]

The genealogy of Chandela ruler Parmal (Parmardi) given in Mahoba Khand or Alha Khand does not match the genealogy given in Chandela inscriptions. In Mahoba Khand, the father, grandfather and the great-grandfather of Parmal are given as Kirtibramha, Madanbrahma, and Rahilbramha. While Madanavarman (1129-1163), Kirttivarman (1070-1098) and Rahila (9th century) were indeed ancestors of Paramardi (1166-1202),[16] most names and the sequence do not match.

The Alha Khand states the end of the Chandellas after Parmal. That is not supported by history. The Chandelas became very weak after the attack by Prithviraj, but the dynasty lingered on at least until 1308, i.e. another century.[17]

A Jain temple in Chhatarpur has an Adinath image installed in Samvat 1208 (1151 AD). According to one reading of the inscription, it mentions Alha, Udal and the entire group. However other scholars have read the inscription differently.

During the Chandella rule, Aharji was a flourishing Jain center in Bundelkhand. It was the site of a massive pratishta in samvat 1237 (1180 CE), many images bearing that date have been found, including a monumental image that mention Paramardideva as the ruling king. With the exception of a single samvat 1241 image, the activity ceased as a result of the Chandella defeat in samvat 1239.[18]


  1. ^ Hiltebeitel, Alf (2009). Rethinking India's Oral and Classical Epics: Draupadi among Rajputs, Muslims, and Dalits. University of Chicago Press. p. 163. ISBN 9780226340555.
  2. ^ Rethinking India's Oral and Classical Epics: Draupadi among Rajputs, Muslims, and Dalits, Alf Hiltebeitel, University of Chicago Press, Feb 15, 2009, Opening Alha, p. 121-152
  3. ^ a b "Alha Udal of U.P.", Hindi edition. August 24, 2000.
  4. ^ a b Mishra, Pt. Lalita Prasad (2007). Alhakhand (in Hindi) (15 ed.). Lucknow (India): Tejkumar Book Depot (Pvt) Ltd. pp. 1–11 (History of Mahoba).
  5. ^ ["दुर्बल-भुजाएं-भी-फड़क-उठत दुर्बल भुजाएं भी फड़क उठती हैं आल्हा सुनकर" Dainik Tribune, रामफल चहल, January - 18 - 2015]
  6. ^ आल्हाखंड और अल्हैत, नर्मदा प्रसाद गुप्त, इंदिरा गांधी राष्ट्रीय कला केन्द्र, प्रथम संस्करण १९९५
  7. ^ Parmal Raso, Shyam sunder Das, 1919, 551 pages
  8. ^ Prithiviraj Raso of Chandvardaai, Canto LXIX, Nagari Prachaini Granthmala No. 4-22, Aug. 1913. It is likely that Mahoba Khand is based on the Mahoba Samaya chapter.
  9. ^ आल्हा को दिया था शारदा मां ने अमर होने का वरदान, Amar Ujala, April 18, 2013,
  10. ^ Lalita Prasad Mishra, Alha Khand, 1923
  11. ^ The Lay of Alha: A Saga of Rajput Chivalry as Sung by Minstrels of Northern India (1923), p. 26-37.
  12. ^ आल्हा में माड़ो का प्रसंग सुन श्रोता हुए रोमांचित, Jagran, 11 Oct 2014
  13. ^ आल्हा की शौर्य गाथा सात समंदर पार तक गूंजी, Jagran, Thu, 02 Aug 2012
  14. ^ जीण माता संवत १२३० इसमें उदयराज के पुत्र अल्हण द्वारा सभा मंडप बनाने का उल्लेख है
  15. ^ छत्तीसगढ़ के संस्कृत कवि, श्री हरि ठाकुर, December 8, 2007, पृथ्वी देव प्रथम के शासन काल में अल्हण सुप्रसिद्ध विद्वान कवि थे
  16. ^ Shishir Kumar Mitra, Early Rulers of Khajuraho, Motilal Banarasidas, 1977, p. 240
  17. ^ आल्हा- रुदल की ऐतिहासिकता, इंदिरा गांधी राष्ट्रीय कला केन्द्र,
  18. ^ Kasturchand Jain Suman, Bharatiya Digambar Jain Abhilekh aur Tirth Parichay, Madhya-Pradesh: 13 vi shati tak, Delhi, 2001, pp. 212-232.

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