Rajputs

According to the Hindu Mythology, the Rajputs of Rajasthan were the descendants of the Kshatriyas or warriors of Vedic India. The emergence of the Rajput warrior clans was in the 6th and 7th centuries. Rajputs ancestry can be divided into two: the "solar" or suryavanshi-those descended from Rama, the hero of the epic Ramayana, and the "lunar" or chandravanshi, who claimed descent from Krishna, the hero of the epic Mahabharata. Later a third clan was added, the agnikula or fire-born, said to have emerged from the flames of a sacrificial fire on Mt Abu.

It has been accepted that the Rajputs were divided into thirty-six races and twenty-one kingdoms. The Rajput clans gave rise to dynasties like Sisodias of Mewar (Udaipur), the Kachwahas of Amber (Jaipur), the Rathors of Marwar (Jodhpur & Bikaner), the Hadas of Jhalwawar, Kota & Bundi, the Bhattis of Jaisalmer, the Shekhawats of Shekhawati and the Chauhans of Ajmer.

The fall of the Gupta Empire, which held dominance in northern India for nearly 300 years until the early 5th Century, was followed by a period of instability as various local chieftains sought to gain supremacy. Power rose and fell in northern India. Stability was only restored with the emergence of the Gurjara Partiharas, the earliest of the Rajput (from 'Rajputra', or Sons of Princes) dynasties which were later to hold the balance of power throughout Rajasthan.

The Rajput clans gave rise to dynasties such as the Chauhans, Sisodias, Kachhwahas and Rathores. Chauhans of the Agnikula Race emerged in the 12th century and were renowned for their valour. Their territories included the Sapadalksha kingdom, which encompassed a vast area including present- day Jaipur, Ranthambore, part of Mewar, the western portion of Bundi district, Ajmer Kishangarh and even, at one time, Delhi. Branches of the Chauhans also ruled territories know as Ananta (in present-day Shekhawati) and Saptasatabhumi.

The Sisodias of the Suryavansa Race, Originally from Gujarat, migrated to Rajasthan in the mid-7th Century and reigned over Mewar, which encompassed Udaipur and Chittorgarh. The Kachhwahas, originally from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, traveled west in the 12th century. They built the massive fort at Amber, and later shifted the capital to Jaipur. Like the Sisodias, they belonged to the Suryavansa Race. Also belonging to the Suryavansa Race, the Rathore (earlier known as Rastrakutas) traveled from Kanauj, in Uttar Pradesh. Initially they settled in Pali, south of present-day Jodhpur, but later moved to Mandore in 1381 and ruled over Marwar (Jodhpur). Later they started building the stunning Meherangarh (fort) at Jodhpur. The Bhattis, who belong to the Induvansa Race, driven from their homeland in the Punjab by the Turks, installed themselves at Jaisalmer in 1156. They remained more of less entrenched in their desert Kingdom until they were integrated into the state of Rajasthan following Independence.

In spite of the Muslim rule up to Punjab, the Rajputs gained control of the heart of North India. The Rajputs who held the stage of feudal rulers before the coming of the Muslims were a brave and chivalrous race. The Rajput legend traces their ancestry to Bappa Rawal - the legendary founder of the race who is said to have lived in the 8th century. In actual fact although they were Kshatriyas in the Hindu caste hierarchy, they seem to have genetically descended from the Shakas and Hunas who had invaded north India during the Gupta period and had subsequently settled down in North India and due to their war-like attitudes and been absorbed as Kshatriyas into Hindu society. It is they who held the banner when the first Muslim invaders reached the Indian Heart land in the 12th century i.e. around 1191 C.E.

The Rajputs who till the 10th century were mostly local feudal lords holding the status of revenue collectors for their Gurjara-Pratihara overlords, asserted themselves as independent rulers, after the Ghaznavid storm had blown over, and took over the earlier kingdoms of the Gurjara-Pratiharas. The main Rajput kingdoms in the 11th and 12th centuries were that of the Cahamanas (Chouhans) in East Punjab, Northern Rajasthan and Delhi. The Gahadwalas (Rathods) ruled the Ganges valley today's UP. The Paramaras ruled Malwa in Central India and the Tomaras ruled from Gwaliar. The most powerful kingdoms were hose of the Chouhans and the Rathods - both of which unfortunately were incessantly at war with each other when the Muslim raiders appeared again in the 1191 C.E. The Rajputs, who were a brave and chivalrous race, held the stage of feudal rulers before the coming of the Muslims.

The Gahadwalas (Rathods)

In the 11th century i.e. in the post-Mahmud Ghazni era, the most powerful Hindu Kingdom in North India was that of the Gahadwalas or Rathods who were a Rajput clan. The founder of the Gahadwala line was Chandradeva, whose son Govindchandra Gahadwala was the most illustrious ruler of this line. Govindchandra was an astute ruler and ruled from Kannauj. Most of North India, including the university town of Nalanda was a part of his kingdom. He stoutly defended his kingdom from further Muslims incursion. He instituted a tax for this purpose which was called Turushka Danda (i.e. tax to fight the Turushkas or Turks). His grandson was Jaichandra Gahadwala (Rathod) who played a tragic role in Indian History.

Prithviraj Chouhan

In Jaichand's days, a rival Rajput clan had established itself in Delhi (Pithoragarh). The ruler there was Prithviraj Chouhan. Pritiviraj was a romantic, chivalrous and an extremely fearless person. After ceaseless military campaigns, Pritiviraj extended his original kingdom of Sambhar (Shakambara) to Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Eastern Punjab. He ruled from his twin capitals at Delhi and Ajmer. His fast rise caught the envy of the then powerful ruler Jaichandra Gahadwala and there was a lot of ill-feeling between the two.

Sanyogita, the daughter of Jaichandra Gahadwala fell secretly in love with Prithiviraj and she started a secret poetic correspondence with him. Her father the haughty Jaichandra got wind of this and he decided to teach his daughter and her upstart lover a lesson. So he arranged a Swayamwara (a ceremony where a bride can select her husband from the assembled princes. She had the right to garland any prince and she became his queen. This is an ancient Hindu custom among Royalty). Jaichandra invited all the big and small princes of the country to Kannauj for the royal Swayamwara. But he deliberately ignored Prithiviraj. To add insult to injury, he even made a statue of Prithiviraj and kept him as a dwarpala (doorman).

Prithviraj got to know of this and he confided his plans to his lover. On the said day, Sanyogita walked down the aisle where the royale had assembled and bypassed all of them only to reach the door and garland the statue of Pritiviraj as a doorman. The assemblage was stunned at this brash act of hers. But what stunned them and her father Jaichandra was the next thing that happened. Prithiviraj who was hiding behind the statue, also in the garb of a doorman, whisked Sanyogita away and put her up on his steed to make a fast getaway to his capital at Delhi.

Jaichandra and his army gave earnest chase and in the resultant string of battles between the two kingdoms fought between 1189 and 1190, both of them suffered heavily. While this drama was being enacted, another ruler also named Mahmud who was from Ghori in Afghanistan had grown powerful and had captured Ghazni and subsequently attacked the Ghaznavid Governor of Punjab and defeated him. The kingdom of Mahmud Ghori now stretched up to the domains of Prithiviraj Chouhan. A clash was inevitable.

Mahmud Ghori threw the gauntlet by laying siege to the fortress of Bhatinda in East Punjab which was on the frontier of Prithiviraj's domains. Prithviraj's appeal for help from his father-in-law was scornfully rejected by the haughty Jaichandra. But undaunted Prithviraj marched on to Bhatinda and met his enemy at a place called Tarain (also called Taraori) near the ancient town of Thanesar. In face of the persistent Rajput attacks, the battle was won as the Muslim army broke ranks and fled leaving their general Mahmud Ghori as a prisoner in Pritiviraj's hands. Mahmud Ghori was brought in chains to Pithoragarh - Prithviraj's capital and he begged his victor for mercy and release. Prithviraj's ministers advised against pardoning the aggressor. But the chivalrous and valiant Prithviraj thought otherwise and respectfully released the vanquished Ghori.

The 1st Battle of Tarain 1191 C.E. - Victory of Prithiviraj Chouhan

Mahmud Ghori threw the gauntlet by laying siege to the fortress of Bhatinda in East Punjab which was on the frontier of Prithiviraj's domains. Prithviraj's appeal for help from his father-in-law was scornfully rejected by the haughty Jaichandra. But undaunted Prithviraj marched on to Bhatinda and met his enemy at a place called Tarain (also called Taraori) near the ancient town of Thanesar. In face of the persistent Rajput attacks, the battle was won as the Muslim army broke ranks and fled leaving their general Mahmud Ghori as a prisoner in Pritiviraj's hands. Mahmud Ghori was brought in chains to Pithoragarh - Prithviraj's capital and he begged his victor for mercy and release. Prithviraj's ministers advised against pardoning the aggressor. But the chivalrous and valiant Prithviraj thought otherwise and respectfully released the vanquished Ghori.

The 2nd Battle of Tarain 1192 C.E. - Defeat of Prithiviraj Chouhan

The very next year Prithiviraj's gesture was repaid by Ghori who re-attacked Prithiviraj with a stronger army and guilefully defeated him by attacking the Rajput army before daybreak. (The Hindus incidentally followed a hoary practice of battling only from sunrise up to sunset. Before Sunrise and after Sunset there was to be no fighting- as per a time honoured battle code).The defeated Prithiviraj was pursued up to his capital and in chains he was taken as a captive to Ghor in Afghanistan.

The Blinding of Prithviraj Chauhan

The story of Prithiviraj does not end here. As a prisoner in Ghor he was presented before Mahmud, where he looked Ghori straight into the eye. Ghori ordered him to lower his eyes, whereupon a defiant Prithiviraj scornfully told him how he had treated Ghori as a prisoner and said that the eyelids of a Rajputs eyes are lowered only in death. On hearing this, Ghori flew into a rage and ordered that Prithviraj's eyes be burnt with red hot iron rods. This heinous deed being done, Prithiviraj was regularly brought to the court to be taunted by Ghori and his courtiers. In those days Prithiviraj was joined by his former biographer Chand Bardai, who had composed a ballad-biography on Pritiviraj in the name of Prithviraj Raso (Songs of Prithviraj). Chand Bardai told Prithiviraj, that he should avenge Ghori's betrayal and daily insults.

The Blind Prithviraj Avenges the Injustice done to him. The two got an opportunity when Ghori announced a game of Archery. On the advice of Chand Bardai, Prithviraj, who was then at court said he would also like to participate. On hearing his suggestion, the courtiers guffawed at him and he was taunted by Ghori as to how he could participate when he could not see. Whereupon, Prithiviraj told Mahmud Ghori to order him to shoot, and he would reach his target. Ghori became suspicious and asked Prithviraj why he wanted Ghori himself to order and not anyone else. On behalf of Prithiviraj, Chand Bardai told Ghori that he as a king would not accept orders from anyone other than a king. His ego satisfied, Mahmud Ghori agreed.

On the said day, Ghori sitting in his royal enclosure had Prithiviraj brought to the ground and had him unchained for the event. On Ghori's ordering Prithviraj to shoot, we are told Prithiviraj turned in the direction from where he heard Ghori speak and struck Ghori dead with his arrow. This event is described by Chand Bardai in the couplet, "Char bans, chaubis gaj, angul ashta praman, Ete pai Sultan hai (Taa Upar hai Sultan). Ab mat chuko Chauhan."(Ten measures ahead of you and twenty four feet away, is seated the Sultan, do not miss him now, Chouhan).

Thus ended the story of the brave but unrealistic Prithviraj Chouhan - the last Hindu ruler of Delhi. Delhi was to remain under Muslim rule for the next 700 years till 1857 and under British rule till 1947. Those few Hindus who came close to liberating Delhi during the seven centuries of Muslim rule were Rana Sanga in 1527, Raja (Hemu) Vikramaditya in around 1565 (2nd battle of Panipat), and Shrimant Vishwas Rao who was the Peshwa's son and was co-commander of the Maratha forces in the 3rd battle of Panipat in 1761. Metaphorically speaking, the next Hindu ruler to actually preside over Delhi was to be Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of Independent India (and Jawarharlal Nehru - who was the President's first Minister).

The Rajput Resistance to Muslim Rule - Man Singh Tomar

In spite of the establishment of Muslim rule in Delhi and UP (Uttar Pradesh) in the former kingdoms of Prithiviraj Chauhan and Jaichand Rathod, the Muslim invaders could never overrun the entire country. The Rajput dynasties like the Tomaras of Gwaliar and the Ranas of Mewad still continued to rule central India. One such Rajput ruler was Man Singh Tomar the king of Gwaliar. Man Singh put up a stout resistance to the Lodis and he succeeded in halting the Muslim ruler Sikandar Lodi's southward march at Gwaliar. While the Tomaras of Gwaliar held back the Muslims from advancing into Malwa, the Ranas of Mewad held up the banner of Indian independence from Mewad in those trying times of Muslim aggression in India. In South Rajasthan especially, the Rajputs had defiantly preserved their writ by resisting the Delhi Sultans. The center of this Rajput resistance was the kingdom at Chittor.

Maharana Pratap

Udai Singh's son was Maharana Pratap who leads the Rajputs against Akbar's armies and preserved Rajput rule in Mewad. Rana Pratap was faced with the formidable challenge of renegade Rajput princes like Raja Todar Mal and Raja Man Singh who had joined forces with the Muslim rulers.

The Battle of Haldighati

In the Battle of Haldighati fought between Maharana Pratap and the Mughals; the Rajputs were not able to overcome the combined strength of the Mughals and the renegade Rajput princes who had played the role of traitors. But Maharana Pratap, who was badly hurt in the battle, was saved by his wise horse Chetak, who took him in an unconscious state away from the battle scene. Although Maharana Pratap was not able to thwart the Muslims successfully, the saga of Rajput resistance to Muslim rule continued till the 17th century when the baton of the struggle for Indian Independence from Muslim tyranny was taken up by the upcoming power of the Marathas, who brought about an end to Muslim domination of India.

According to the Rajput bards the Chauhan is one of the four Agnikula or 'fire sprung' tribes who were created by the gods in the anali kund or 'fountain of fire' on Mount Abu to fight against the Asuras or demons. Chauhan is also one of the 36 (royal) ruling races of the Rajputs.

Chauhan dynasty flourished from the 8th to 12th centuries AD. It was one of the four main Rajput dynasties of that era, the others being Pratiharas, Paramaras and Chalukyas. The Chauhans dominated Delhi, Ajmer, and Ranthambhor. They were also prominent at Sirohi in the southwest of Rajputana, and at Bundi and Kota in the east. Inscriptions also associate them with Sambhar, the salt lake area in the Amber (later Jaipur) district. Chauhan politics were largely campaigns against the Chalukyas and the invading Muslim hordes. In the 11th century they founded the city of Ajayameru (Ajmer) in the southern part of their kingdom, and in the 12th century captured Dhilika (the ancient name of Delhi) from the Tomaras and annexed some of their territory along the Yamuna River. Prithviraj III has become famous in folk tales and historical literature as the Chauhan king of Delhi who resisted the Muslim attack in the first Battle of TARAIN (1191). Armies from other Rajput kingdoms, including Mewar assisted him. However, Prithviraj was defeated in a second battle at Tarain the following year. This failure ushered in Muslim rule in North India in the form of the SLAVE DYNASTY, the first of the Delhi Sultanates.