Saturday, November 9, 2002
M A I N   F E A T U R E

Hodal is known for three reasons: firstly, Maharani Kishori Devi, the first wife of Jat Raja Suraj Mal of Bharatpur, belonged to this place; secondly, it is the head village of a group of 24 villages inhabited by the Sorot Jat clan; and thirdly, an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Krishna is situated here, says Rajbala Phaugat.

NOT much is known about the antiquities of Hodal, a town situated on National Highway No. 1, till the Sorot Jats occupied it around 1500 A.D. The town is not far away from Mathura and Bharatpur, with which it was traditionally associated.

The ancient history of the town is obscure. It lies within Brij Bhoomi, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, and, therefore, follows all the traditions of the region. In the pre-Mughal era, the site of the present Hodal is said to have belonged to Odes, a nomadic community whose traditional occupation related to digging and managing the excavated earth. The services of Odes, who were expert in building earthen dams and kutcha ponds, were utilised even by kings and monarchs. It is not known for how long the Odes remained in occupation of the old site of Hodal before the arrival of the Jats. Some old persons in the town say that a few Deshal Brahmin families used to live here with the Odes. The Odes were traditionally a brave as well as a haughty community. It is said that on some occasions they had offended their Brahmin neighbours, who could not bear such humiliation and became vengeful. A few days before Divali, the Brahmins thought of taking their revenge and called upon the Sorot Jats who lived at Kashi Khera, near Hodal. The Brahmins and Jats invited the Odes to a feast on the eve of Divali. The Odes drank plenty of wine unaware of what was in store for them. When the Odes were in an inebriated condition, the Jats eliminated them.


The Brahmins took their revenge but they had to yield their territory, measuring 15000 bighas, to the Sorot Jats who had been on the lookout for a permanent settlement. The Brahmins retained only a small portion of the land for their own needs. Since then the Jats of the village were granting a share of their produce to the Brahmins of Hodal. This practice has now ceased, for the Brahmins have found other sources of income for their maintenance. It is said that three brothers of Sorot Jat clan had arrived in this area before the above incident from Manak Jartauli village in U.P. The eldest among them was Ojhoo who settled at Hodal along with the Brahmins, the second settled at Banchari, north of Hodal, and the youngest settled at Sondh, towards the northwest of Hodal.

The site at which all Odes were eliminated in a bloody action exists near Laal Haveli in Hodal village. At this site, a chaupal of Sorot Chaubisi was erected by the Jats. Laal Haveli was built some 90 years ago by the forefathers of Jagdish, a Mahajan of the village. The haveli has been built with red sand stone.

Hodal is well known due to three reasons: firstly, Maharani Kishori Devi, first wife of Jat Raja Suraj Mal of Bharatpur belonged to this place; secondly, it is the head village of a group of 24 villages inhabited by the Sorot Jat clan; and thirdly, an ancient temple devoted to Lord Krishna is situated here.

Hodal has seen many ups and downs during the Mughal period and later when it was brought under the direct rule of the East India Company. It was ravaged several times during the medieval period. In spite of the challenges and difficult times, the Sorot Jats held on and concentrated on cultivation.

Kishori Devi was the daughter of one Chaudhary Kashi Ram Sorot. Legend has is that one day Maharaja Suraj Mal was passing Hodal on his stately elephant when he noticed an unusual incident. An agitated bull was frightening everyone and roaming angrily when Kishori Devi, along with her friends, was returning from a well with pitchers on her head. She put her toe on the loose bridle and restrained the bull. Kishori was a brave, stout and beautiful young maiden. Suraj Mal was greatly impressed and after some time sent his purohit with the marriage proposal. Her father is said to have agreed to the relationship but wished that his status was at par with that of the reputed Raja. Upon hearing this, Maharaja Suraj Mal granted him the title of Chaudhary with the authority to collect revenue from the parganah of Hodal. The marriage was solemnised sometime around 1730.

In course of time, the Sorot Jat clan at Hodal continued to expand and four pattis came into existence: Anduva, Tihaav, Baksuaa and Ravia — named after the four sons of Ojhoo. Ojhoo also had one daughter named Bhullo who was given in marriage to Tomar Jats, who now live in nearby Bhulwana village, named after Bhullo. Probably the estate of Bhulwana with 5200 bighas was carved out of the estate of Hodal as a gift to the girl. Bhulwana lies to the east of Hodal across the Sher Shah Suri Marg. The oldest surviving member of the family of Kashi Ram is Jaildaar Balwant Singh, now 92 years of age. He provided information about his family purely based on his recollections.

Though we have fragmentary accounts about Hodal in the pre-Mughal or Mughal era, the British period records are fairly informative, especially those pertaining to the revenue department. Chaudhary Balwant Singh told me that he was the 10th descendent of Chaudhary Kashi Ram.

The haveli of Chaudhary Kashi Ram stands in ruins
The haveli of Chaudhary Kashi Ram stands in ruins

There are a number of old buildings and places of historical importance in and around Hodal. The most notable are the ruins of a haveli of Chaudhary Kashi Ram and the adjoining Court House, known as Izlaas Khas, built by him around 1750. Apart from these, there are the ruins of a fine baoli, a step well, in the middle of the new settlement. These dilapidated buildings are situated on an elevated ground in Andua Patti, to which Kashi Ram belonged. Of the Court House, only the high facade now survives. The adjoining courtrooms and storehouses, which were on the verge of coming down, were demolished on orders of the Municipal Committee a few years ago. The old haveli of Chaudhary Kashi Ram has fine stone carving on the surviving interior walls, masonry columns, and a high façade. All of them are made out of heavy blocks of stones, brought in bullock carts in those times from Bansi Paharpur and Dhaulpur mines. The haveli is in a poor condition. Its upkeep seems to be nobody’s responsibility, for it has several claimants.

A view of Sati ka Talaab
A view of Sati ka Talaab

To the eastern side of the town, and not far away from the house of Jaildaar Balwant Singh, is a finely built large masonry tank known as Sati ka Talaab, the Sati temple, an artistically built cenotaph, some other temples of deities revered in the village and ruins of an old kachehri. All these structures are in front of the P.W.D. Rest House at Hodal and not very far away from the G.T. Road. The Sati ka Talaab is quite deep and has eight quays around it. The presence of corner quays is a unique feature of this tank. The tank used to receive considerable flow of rainwater from the eastern and southern side till five decades ago. During the last several decades the catchment-area has been encroached upon by builders of colonies.

The cenotaph was raised sometime between 1765-67 in the memory of Balram, brother of Kishori Devi and only son of Kashi Ram who was killed during the invasion of Delhi by Jawahar Singh. The body of Balram was brought to Hodal like an honorable general and assigned to flames on the banks of the Sati ka Talaab. The cenotaph, raised on a high platform, has a plinth layout which matches that of a cross or a chaupar. The stone pillars are 16 in number. The temple of Sati was built a few years earlier than Balram’s cenotaph. It is said that Chaudhary Kashi Ram passed away at Bharatpur. When his body was being consigned to flames at Bharatpur, his wife Jaskaur wished to perform sati. Her wishes were fulfilled. The ashes of both the husband and wife were brought to Hodal and kept on a chabutra on which the temple is said to have been built. The footprints of both the husband and wife were carved on a stone slab and placed in the sanctum sanctorum. Every year on Magh Sudi Duj and Baisakh Sudi Duj, a devotional fair is held in memory of Jaskaur who performed sati. Rawat Jats of the neighbouring villages congregate here to pay respects to her. Jaskaur belonged to Maanpur village of Rawat Jats.

The Sati ka Talaab has been fairly well maintained. The tank was cleaned and restored a couple of years ago while the Sati Ghat was reconstructed 25 years ago by a local trader, Haridayal, in memory of his wife Chandrawati Devi.

The main source of water for the residents of Hodal was either tanks or masonry wells until the modern water supply system became operational. Two baolis also exist in the town: one of them, known as Shahi Baori, was constructed in the Mughal period; the other beside the G.T. Road was constructed by Chaudhary Kashi Ram. While the former was essentially a drinking water source, the other was sunk solely for irrigation of the fields. The Shahi Baori is now used by neighbouring households to dump garbage and refuge. Even Alexander Cunningham, the father of modern archaeology in India, and the Deputy Collector of Gurgaon who compiled the Gurgaon District Gazetteer in 1910 could not notice the existence of this baoli.

Fifty years ago, Hodal was like a big, self-sufficient village with a bazaar run entirely by local baniyas. At that time there were nearly 200 families of Mahajans. Most of them settled here after the British took over the territory and ensured peace and stability. They had migrated to Hodal from far off places, and built their shops-cum-residences in the mandi and old bazaar area, now within the old town.

There were also some Muslims in Hodal before 1947. Most of them migrated either to Pakistan or to Muslim-populated cities in India. Chaudhary Balwant Singh says that Muslims had very cordial relations with other communities at Hodal. The Muslim community had constructed a mosque near the Shahi Baori and an idgah outside the town. There is no trace of these buildings now. Probably these were demolished at the time of the Partition.

The most revered and sacred place of Hindus in Hodal is Pando Ban. Legend has it that during their period of exile, the Pandavas had rested at this place and worshipped Lord Krishna. A thick forest surrounds this religious place on three sides. It is now a resting-place for monkeys. There is a deep pond inside the forest which receives water only during the rainy season.

Modern Hodal has all the civic amenities except a degree college for boys. The degree college for girls was started here in an impressive new building on the initiative of Harsh Kumar a few years ago when he was a Minister in Chaudhary Bansi Lal’s government. The Municipality at Hodal was started by the Punjab Government Notification No. 1464 of September 24, 1885. It still functions from the old building beside the old thana building.