My laptop is placed strategically on the table overlooking the magnificent Lake Pichola. My camera full of treasures from Mewar is plugged into the laptop. A pile of archival paperbacks has made its place on the edge of my table. The coffee maker is brewing fresh coffee and I let the aroma of the beans surround me. I let open the window and let the fresh breeze in and type the first few words of what is soon going to be an intimate, yet openly classic, oral history at the center of which stands the living legend of contemporary Mewar – Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar.
As I gather my thoughts, I can easily tell that after voraciously reading about him, seeing him through people’s eyes, taking an exhaustive tour on the history and culture of Mewar and Shri Ekling Nath ji temple, this is still just a beginning. Only when I began to see Mewar through his eyes while practically living with him for days to see him work like an entrepreneur and retire for the day like a king; cherish the past with extreme fondness while keeping a speculative eye on the future; did I realise that the more I know him the more I wanted to know of him. I also wanted to know from him and those around him the stories and ideas that have given and continue to give life to the first among equals of India’s great royal families and houses.
2nd July, 2013 – The beginning
Though this is certainly not my first visit to Udaipur (that was in 1985), it is the second one that has begun to pull back the curtains of Mewar’s living heritage in ways I scarcely imagined when I first began. Two years in July of 20111 I had the honour of being the first person to have the privilege of creating an exhaustive photographic tour of Shri Ekling Nath ji temple. A detailed report and a collection of thousands of beautiful photographs came out of that tour and are in the process of finding their way to the “Eternal Mewar” website and into several scholarly publications. This trip beginning on June 26 from Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, actually had its birth in a conversation I had with Shriji in March as I accompanied a group of 18 adult students of archaeology who have happily travelled from America to dig deep into the history of Mewar. While on that trip Shrij invited me to spend 30 minutes with him to consider a very special project he has been considering for some time: a project that will be one of the closest to my heart; a project that I will be proud to be remembered for – the book of the past and for the future; yes, the beginnings of a study of Shirji and Mewar as he sees it and as many who have shaped Mewar’s past and are shaping its future. Stay with me as I go along, uncovering the rich past and discovering the new horizons with a man whose ancestors 1400 years ago became the first of the custodians of Shri Eklingji(Siva)and whose commission continues into the 21st century.
About the author
Dr. James Daniel White, Jr. Ph. D. is a Professor of South Asian Studies and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Religious Studies at The University of North Carolina, Charlotte, USA. With an impressive academic background along with an envious professional experience and a prodigious set of publications and more than 60 scholarly researches under his wing, he needs little introduction. To know him better please click here.