Panna Dhai, a 16th century Rajput woman of the Kheechee tribe, nursemaid to Udai Singh, the fourth son of Maharana SANGRAM SINGH I (SANGA) (1509-1527). Her name, Panna means emerald, and dhai means a wet nurse in hindi language. She had been given charge of young Udai, breast – feeding him virtually from his birth in 1522, along with her own son Chandan (also known as Moti), who was of similar age and Udai’s playmate.
Panna Dhai’s sacrifice
Unfortunately, Vikramaditya’s temperament had not improved even after the defeat in 1535 and, one day in 1536, he physically abused a respected old chieftain at the Court. This led the Mewar nobles to place Vikramaditya under palace arrest, leaving the object of Panna Dhai’s love and loyalty, Udai Singh as heir-elect to the throne. The Court appointed a distant cousin, Banvir to act as his Regent. He was, allegedly, the illegitimate son of Udai’s uncle, Prithviraj (Crown Prince Prithviraj had a fight with his younger brother, Sangram Singh, and was sent into exile where he died, never to succeed to his birthright as Maharana of Mewar). Banvir, who considered himself to be the rightful heir to the throne knew the time was right to act. One evening that same year, he assassinated the imprisoned Vikramaditya, then hurried towards the rawala to get rid of the only remaining barrier to his ambition, the 14-year-old Maharana-elect, Udai Singh.
Panna Dhai had already fed her beloved son and her royal charge, and put them to bed. A servant (vari) ran in to tell her of the nearby assassination. Immediately, the loyal nursemaid realised what Banvir was doing. She also knew that, for the future of Mewar, young Udai must be saved. Urgently, she instructed the servant to put the sleeping prince into a large basket and smuggle him out of the fort to a spot by the nearby river where she would join them later. As soon as the servant left with the basket and its precious royal contents, she lifted her sleeping son, Chandan, from his bed and placed him on the prince’s bed, covering him with a blanket.
Within moments, Banvir burst into the room, sword in hand. When asked the whereabouts of the infant Maharana, Panna Dhai pointed to the occupied bed and watched in horror as the murderer slew her son. Banvir then called a meeting of the Court, informed the gathered chiefs that both Vikramaditya and Udai were dead and, claiming his dubious right to the throne, proclaimed himself the new king of Mewar. Meanwhile, the grief-stricken Panna Dai watched as her son was hastily cremated. She then packed some clothing and meager supplies into a bag, and hurried from the fort. At the designated spot by the river, she took charge of the young king and urged the servant, in the name of Mewar, not to mention a word of what had transpired that night. The woman and child trekked for many weeks. They called at several towns seeking refuge from the local Chieftains. However, having heard of events at the capital, and to evade any repercussions from Banvir, the Rawats (Chiefs) refused assistance. As Panna and Udai struggled on through the rugged valleys of the Aravalli ranges, only the local tribals, the Bhils, traditionally faithful to the Mewar crown, gave the couple food and temporary lodgings. Finally, they arrived at Kumbhalgarh, many kilometres west of Chittor, where the local governor, a kiledar(governor)in maheshwari cast named Asha Depura Shah, agreed to give the child protection.