Gagan joshi, local archivist at Semari

Embroidered text on Indian muslin

2018

Stories are a form of vernacular mapmaking. They narrate and spacially locate events in the history of an area. These events actively shape how we interact with these sites in the present. In this piece, I was exploring this idea through the record of Semari’s (my family village’s) establishment. This was narrated to me by Gagan Joshi, the local archivist in the village. The form of the piece is borrowed from banners that record land donations to reference the relationship between property and language. 

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Rathores ruled in the name of the Maharana of Mewar. People under them were upset by the anarchy of the decoits in the region. Prompted by this, the erstwhile Maharana ordered Maharawal Sri Madho Singh to send his army detachment to drive off the Rathores and establish his rule. After gaining the knowledge of the geography, Madho Singh took his force and marched towards Semari. The first encampment was set up on a big open area known as Vakli. Vaka Bhairav was established here as an overseer of the land by the purohit Brahmin who came along with them from Bansi. The documents are still available that tell us about the land (Karkoli ki Dari) which was donated through a water resolution for the establishment of Vaka Bhairav. After that, the detachment left to capture the Rathore rulers’ fort. The second camp was put on a small hill next to a channel which was near old Semari’s palace. This camp was known as “Thana Mangri”. After the victory, this land was donated to the Nath Jogi community who still occupy it. At the foot of the mangri “Yudh Ganesh” was founded and the first cannon was used from here. A message was sent to the Rathores to either flee or fight. Without even fighting the war, at night they left Semari with 350 copper smiths. The descendants of these people still live in the Sembra Bazaar in Ratlam part of Madhya Pradesh.

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