The story below is a composite; I first heard it from a colleague who heard it from his father. It was added to by a young boy from Ayodhya who had just turned 21. He is employed by a cab company in New Delhi and said that he had heard it from his grandfather. The story belongs to a time when India was yet to be carved up into different states and thus belongs to many regions – if we had to place it within a framework, the story would be from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. But the devi temple where this lore is still sung is in Maihar, Madhya Pradesh.
There once lived two brothers — two warriors to be more precise — who none could defeat. They are immortals and live among us even today and some say that they have become one in death but others say that they are still two people. Whatever be the real story, the truth is that they are the most favoured devotees of Maihar Devi who does not accept the offerings from anyone – not from the priests, not from the big people of the village or country, not anyone at all – before Alha and Udal have offered their prayers, lit the diya and done the aarti. Such is the power of their bhakti.
When Alha and Udal lived there was no one in whole world who dared challenge them in a sword fight. The saying was that ‘talwar bhi unse haar man gayi’ (even the sword accepted defeat at their prowess and courage). They fought against kings and were the most renowned fighters in their region. Even Prithviraj Chouhan was no match for them. They were generals in the army of Raja Parimal of Chandel (Rajasthan) and one day Prithviraj Chauhan decided that he had to establish his supremacy over all the kings of the region and went to battle against Chandel. The brothers fought like lions and in the process, Udal was wounded which angered Alha so much that he ravaged the entire army and managed to bring Prithviraj Chauhan to his knees. As he was about to cut off his head, the Devi appeared and told him that he should spare the life of the man in front of him because he would change the lives of many people from his tribe. Alha who had drawn his sword out by then bowed to the devi’s wishes and cut off his own head instead. For this sacrifice – the biggest sacrifice of all according to our tradition – Alha and his brother were made immortal. And today it is said that in the temple of the devi which is at Maihar, when the doors open at 4 in the morning, a lamp is lit, there are fresh flowers at her feet and the water has been filled in the bowl beside her. The brothers have offered their prayers because without their offering, the devi will not accept anything from the anybody else.
Story collected by: Arundhuti Dasgupta
Text Source: (For stories of Alha,Udal) Rethinking India’s Oral and Classical Epics: Draupadi among Rajputs, Muslims, and Dalits