Everything has a story. Every custom, every tradition, every ritual in every culture has an interesting story behind and often the stories are so bizarre that the practices that has emerged out of those stories and continued for centuries and millenniums start to make enough sense, which, without the stories could easily be considered absurd superstitions. The reason why people living in Bundelkhand invite someone who was born more than three centuries ago is one such story.
For the past 330 years in Bundelkhand, a region that falls between the states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh in India, all the marriages have had but one guest in common- Lala Hardoul, a prince of Orchha, who was born in the year 1664.
Dinman Hardoul Singh (the real name of Lala Hardoul) was one of the two sons of Maharaja Vir Singh Deo. The name of his elder brother was Jhujjar Singh. Dinman Hardoul Singh was but the popular among the two and people would call him thus Lala Hardoul. He was believed to be a courageous, considerate and loving prince. His brother was, perhaps, a little itchy at his popularity.
When Jhujjar got married, his wife became very close to Lala due to his loving nature, which eventually led Jhujjar to start suspecting that his brother and his wife might be a little too close for anything normal and accused them of having an illicit relationship behind him, which both of them disagreed. But it had very little impact on Jhujjar and he put this condition before his wife that if she had nothing for Lala, then she should not be uncomfortable to poison him.
Lala was aware of what was going on, and so when his sister-in-law brought to him poisoned food after being forced, he didn’t think twice and ate the food so as to save the dignity of her. The poison killed him in the year 1688 when he was just 24 years old.
Sometimes later, when their sister’s daughter was getting married, she (sister) came to the palace to invite Jhujjar to the marriage as is the tradition for ‘bhai bhaat’. But Jhujjar, still irritated by the popularity of now dead Lala Hardoul, rejected his sister saying she had always loved and favoured more Lala Hardoul and if she needed a brother now, she should go and seek help from Lala.
Angered and heartbroken, she went to the tomb of Lala Hardol that very day and sought help from dead Hardol.
What happened next was something nobody thought was possible. On the day of the marriage, people started to literally see Lala Hardoul around the place where the marriage was taking place and it is believed that he took care of all the customs that was needed of him. The attendants were so taken aback at this bizarre event that they declared him a deity and constructed a temple in his name which still stands today and people flock there to pay their respect and invite him to the marriages that happen in the region of Bundelkhand.
Inviting Lala Hardoul has now fused to the traditions of the locals and it would continue for a long time to come. Locals believe he is very much alive and attends all the wedding he is invited to.