Artist Comments: Eight hundred years ago the flamboyant and princely rulers of Rajasthan, known as the Rajput, built isolated forts, spectacular palaces and walled mansions in the desolate regions of North Western India, known as the kingdom of Marwar
The Marwari horse was a fearless warrior on the battlefield, bred for his loyalty and courage, and the most famous of all the Marwari stallions of Rajasthan is Chetak, the pride of India. In 1576, during the battle of Haldi Ghati, he charged into the invading Mogul army, reared his front legs and drummed his hooves on a war elephant’s head. The elephant panicked and Chetak’s master, Maharaj Prata of Akbar, killed the Imperial commander of the invading Mogul army.
The second wave of the advancing Mogul army overwhelmed the warriors of Rajasthan and during the melee Chetak’s hind leg was hacked off above the hoof, but the severely wounded horse gallantly leaped a mountain stream and carried Maharaj Prata to safety, before dying in his master’s arms. Chetak’s name is forever immortalized in the annals of Indian history for these and other heroic deeds and his name lives on in numerous racehorses, children’s games and as the brand name of a popular motor scooter.
A few years after the departure of the British Raj, the Indian Socialist Government abolished the oppressive feudal system and the rigorous caste system, which created the basic fabric of Indian society. Rajput noblemen were stripped of their titles, property and their beloved horses, the Marwari, became symbols of hatred for the liberated peasants.
During the decades that followed the plight of the Marwari horse was deplorable as thousands of magnificent horses were slaughtered, castrated and given to the peasants to be used as beasts of burden. They were mistreated, tied up and shackled in squalid conditions, enslaved and driven to the point of extinction. More recently the Indian Government made a desperate effort to preserve the integrity of the remaining 500 documented horses, untainted by cross breeding. The Maharana of Marwar founded the Chetak Trust and other breeders of the area founded The Chetak Horse Society of India. They organized the Haldi Ghati Horse Fair, at Udaipur, the site of Chetak’s last stand, and the event continues to be a great success attracting horse lovers from around the world.
The average Marwari is a small horse standing at just over 14 hands, their
distinctive long curled ears, which they can turn all the way around for protection during a sandstorm, endow them with exceptional hearing, enabling both horse and rider early warning of impending danger. Their heads are refined and relatively long, with an arched neck and flaring nostrils. They are wide between the eyes with long eyelashes, and have a medium mussel with a shallow yet firm mouth.
This extremely sturdy breed can adapt and thrive in extreme and hostile environments, their long legs keep their underside away from the scorching desert heat. The Marwari’s homing senses and their ability to bring back riders lost in the desert is legendary. They have muscular thighs an elegant round rump and their small feet, which are rarely shod, are especially adapted for the desert and arid terrain.
Each year in Pushkar, a city in Rajasthan, during the Holy month of Kartik Poornima, more than 100,000 pilgrims gather to wash away their sins in the Holy Lake, during the light of the full moon, and worship at the temples located at the waters edge. During the festival, thousands of farmers, horse traders and herdsmen set up camp in the areas outside the city for the largest horse and camel fair in the country. Prize Marwari horses used in Hindu marriage ceremonies, and religious occasions, are situated at the top of the hill while hundreds of tents are spread out in the valley below offering cattle, camels, and buffalo.
According to the head priest of the Monastery of Kalabar, “The Marwari has survived a long journey and can be traced back to a time when the ocean was churned to extract nectar for the Gods… a period when horses had wings.” To know and love the Marwari is to enter a magical realm of chivalry, lost in the sands of time, where valiant deeds of intrigue and passion were fought by heroes on mythical horses. We’ll be hearing much more from the legendary Marwari as their thunderous hoofs echo through the mists of time into this new millennium