The term Alha Khand is used to refer to poetic works in Hindi which consists of a number of ballads describing the brave acts of two 12th century Banaphar Rajput heroes, Alha and Udal. The works has been entirely handed down by oral tradition and presently exists in many recensions, which differ from one another both in language and subject matter. The Bundeli, the Bagheli, the Awadhi, the Bhojpuri and the Kannauji recensions are the most well known among these.
The original language of this work has been continuously modernized over the centuries to suit the dialect of the reciter and it has been lost wholly in this process. This epical work is believed to have been written by Jagnayak (or Jagnik), a contemporary to Chand Bardai and the court poet of Chandela ruler Paramardi Deva (Parmal) of Mahoba in Bundelkhand. The original work is now lost.
The ballads from this work are still sung during the monsoons by the professional bardic singers (known as the Alhets) in various parts of northern India, mostly in Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh and northern Madhya Pradesh. No manuscript of this text has been found so far. There are two main version of texts.
Mahoba Khand: This work was discovered as a manuscript by Shyamsundar Das in 1901 as one of the two sections of a manuscript labelled "Prithviraj Raso". Shyamsundar Das concluded that it is separate text and published it using the title Parmal Raso in 1919. It has 36 cantos, starting from the origin of the Chandellas and ends with Alha becoming a disciple of Gorakhnath and retiring to forests as a monk.. The author laments on the end of the Hindu kingdoms and the beginning of the Pathan rule. It uses the traditional metres like doha, chaupai, chhappaya etc.
Alha-khand: With 23 cantos, starting with Pritvhiraj winning over Sanyogita and ending with Bela becoming sati. In 1865, Charles Elliott compiled a recension by collating various oral versions into 23 cantos and this recension was the basis of the first printed edition in 1871. Later George Abraham Grierson enlarged this recension with additional inputs. Portions of this recension was translated into English ballad metre by William Waterfield, under the title of The Nine-Lakh Chain or the Maro Feud (1876). Later, this translation, along with the abstracts of the untranslated portions and an introduction written by Grierson was published under the title of The Lay of Alha: A Saga of Rajput Chivalry as Sung by Minstrels of Northern India (1923).
The most popular version of Alha-Khand is the text written by Lalitaprasad Mishra, composed at the request of Prayag Narayan, the son of Munshi Newal Kishore in Samvat 1956 (1900 CE). The work was written in the Alha metre. It has the same 23 cantos as The Lay of Alha, but has much more detailed narration.
The heroes of this poem are two brothers, Alha and Udal (or Udan), the generals of Parmal’s army who fought in the battle of Mahoba between Prithviraj III and Parmal in c.1182. The narration begins with the early exploits of Alha and Udal. They fought with the Karingarai (or Kalingarai) and killed him to avenge the killings of their father Dassaraj (or Dasraj) and uncle Baccharaj. Later they fought the battle of Mahoba. According to the Bhojpuri and the Kannauji recensions, Alha married Sonvati (Sonva), the princess of Nainagarh (Chunar), while according to the some other Western Hindi recensions he married Macchil, the daughter of Raghomacch of Haridwar. Apart from Alha and Udal, the brave deeds of other heroes like Malkhan and Sulkhan (the sons of Baccharaj), Brahamjit (the son of Parmal) and Talhan Syed are also described in this work. This work narrates the details of fifty-two wars in total.
- Rethinking India's Oral and Classical Epics: Draupadi among Rajputs, Muslims, and Dalits, Alf Hiltebeitel, University of Chicago Press, Feb 15, 2009, Opening Alha, p. 121-152
- "Alha Udal of U.P.". rediff.com, Hindi edition. August 24, 2000.
- Mishra, Pt. Lalita Prasad (2007). Alhakhand (in Hindi) (15 ed.). Lucknow (India): Tejkumar Book Depot (Pvt) Ltd. pp. 1–11 (History of Mahoba).
- आल्हाखंड और अल्हैत, नर्मदा प्रसाद गुप्त, इंदिरा गांधी राष्ट्रीय कला केन्द्र, प्रथम संस्करण १९९५
- Parmal Raso, Shyam sunder Das, 1919, 551 pages
- Lalita Prasad Mishra, Alha Khand, 1923
- आल्ह- ऊदल लोककथा A website on the Alha Khand (in Hindi).
- Mishra, Pt. Lalita Prasad (2007). Alhakhand (in Hindi) (15 ed.). Lucknow (India): Tejkumar Book Depot (Pvt) Ltd. p. 614.