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RAJASTHAN- SHIFTING SANDS OF TIME by SHYAM AMLADI

One of the Greatest Rajput fighters:

Prthiviraj Chauhan (some details about him appear later in this article)

The word “Rajput” comes from the Sanskrit word “Raj-Putra”, or “the Son of a King”-so Rajasthan means the place where Kings reside. During the 9th century, the Rajput clan came to power in Rajasthan; their kingdoms continuously lasted over 1,000 years, (more than Romans, Greeks and Chinese), till 1947 when India gained independence and all of the kingdoms including the Rajput kingdom, were ended and the kingdoms merged into Indian Republic.

What are the known characteristics of Rajputs, particularly the rulers? According scholars and history, Fighting was their ‘Dharma’ or religion. They valued specific qualities and ideals. They were large-hearted and generous. They took pride in their clan. They were brave and self- respecting. They were superb archers, equestrians and could ride elephants and camels with ease. They had tremendous stamina. Their women were equally trained for battle—and this included the queens. They gave shelter to the refugees and their vanquished foes—there is even stories of mercy shown to their enemies (it is said that Prithivraj Chauhan, one of the most celebrated Rajput kings, pardoned his enemy Gajni 17 times and spared his life. They were very loyal. They were also haughty, headstrong and emotional. This led to some of them losing in the battle because they would rather keep on fighting until death, rather than retreat and plan a different strategy to fight another day

However, there are many stories of Rajput warriors and kings sacrificing their lives for the honor of their dynasty—Prithviraj Chauhan, Padmavati, Kumbha, Sanga and Maharana Pratap—each of these kings and queens sacrificed their personal comfort to preserve the dignity and continuance of the Rajput dynasty—and some sacrificed their lives.

As a race, Rajputs are Kshatriyas (in the Hindu division of tasks called the caste system, Kshatriyas are responsible for protecting the citizens, property and kingdoms against attacks). Rajput’s claim their origin from three sources---“born of the Son” or Suryavanshi , “bord of the fire” or Agnivanshi  and “born of the moon” or Chandravanshi. Each vansha (clan or dynasty) then split into different sub clans—e.g. Suryavanshi into Sisodia, Rathod, During the eighth - twelfth century AD, the Rajput clan gained supremacy and were divided into 36 royal clans and 21 dynasties.

Generally, Suryavanshis ruled in the Malwa in present day Southern Rajasthan and MP. Chandravanshis ruled in Gujrat and Agnivanshis in Madhya Pradesh.

Many Rajput kings were against and fought the Islamic rule in Rajasthan, though some of them started having bilateral talks with them. In the 10th century the Chauhan dynasty was established in Rajasthan. Under the reign of the Chauhan Empire, Rajasthan was continuously attacked by foreign rulers. In 1191, when Rajasthan was controlled by Prithviraj Chauhan, there were constant attacks by the Muslim ruler, Muhammad Gohri resulting in the first battle of Tarain. Though Muhammad Gohri was defeated, but in 1192 he attacked for the second time, whereupon Chauhan was defeated.

After the downfall of the Chauhan clan in 1200, Muslim rulers started establishing themselves in Rajasthan. In 1540-1556 there was a surge of Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya (also called Hemu) in North India. In 1553, Hemu crushed an Afghan Governor, Junaid Khan in Ajmer and started establishing his own kingdom. Eventually, in 1556 during the battle of Panipat, Hemu was killed by the army of Akbar, the most well known of the Mogual emperors who ruled northern India . In the 13th century, Mewar was the center of attraction for every king. Slowly and steadily, Akbar started an alliance with many Rajput rulers. In 1562 Akbar married one of the Rajput princesses, Jodha Bai, the daughter of the Maharaja of Amer.

       FAMOUS WOMEN IN RAJASTHAN’S HISTORY_____

Its history is also full of bravery, beauty and sacrifice by Rajputanis (women of Rajasthan). Notable amongs the Queens of Rajasthan:

 Padmini: After catching a glimpse of the queen, Alauddin Khilji (also known as the most powerful ruler of Khilji dynasty) was enamored by her ethereal beauty. He then tried to acquire her for his harem through means of trickery. He treacherously imprisoned her husband Rana Ratan Singh and asked her to go to his kingdom in delhi with him as the ransom. Bound by her family’s honor, the queen could not agree with his conditions, so in order to save her husband queen deceived him by sending warriors in her palanquin who freed their kin

and started the battle against Khilji right there.

Karnavati: Her husband Rana Sanga had died in the battle of Khanua in 1527 leaving the kingdom with very little defense forces. Bahadur shah of Gujarat took advantage of these frail situations and attacked the fort with his enormous army. In face of these adversities, the defeat was inevitable. The court men of Chittorgarh were gripped by panic, but the queen did something that was unheard of in those times. She sent an emissary to Humayun (emperor of Mughal Empire) with a sacred thread called Rakhi. Rakhi is a ceremonious string that women of India tie on the hands of their brothers with the promise that he will always protect her. While Humanyun, who rushed to save her sister’s honor and kingdom, arrived a day too late, this ceremony is now celebrated throughout not only Rajasthan but across northern India as a sacred promise given by brothers to always protect their sisters.

Queen Karnavati

Samyukta: Prithviraj Chauhan (see his story at the end of this paper) had annexed vast regions of India to his kingdom, and his fame had spread all across the subcontinent and to Afghanistan.   Raja Jaichand's (a minor king) daughter, Samyukta, had fallen in love with Prithviraj. She desired nobody but him. For his part, Prithviraj had heard of Samyukta's loveliness and fell in love with her as well. However, Jaichand and Prithviraj belonged to a rival Rajput clan.

So naturally Raja Jaichand was outraged that a romance had been budding behind his back. Jaichand decided to insult Prithviraj and arranged a swayamvara  (a Hindu ceremony in which the bride chooses the bridegroom) for his daughter in 1185AD.  He invited royalty from all neighboring states - except Prithviraj. He then commissioned a clay statue of Prithviraj, and placed him as a doorman to Jaichand's court as further insult to Prithviraj.

Prithviraj Chauhan, on hearing about the impending swayamvara, devised a plan to elope with the bride to be. On the day of the ceremony, Samyukta walked through the court holding the ceremonial garland, ignoring the gazes of her ardent suitors. She passed through the door and put the garland around the neck of Prithviraj's statue, declaring him her husband. Prithiviraj, who meanwhile was hiding behind the statue, caught Samyukta up in his arms, set her on his horse, and whisked her away to Delhi. Raja Jaichand was enraged but could do nothing as his daughter, rightfully had chosen her husband in front of everyone!

 

Samyukta garlanding the statue.

 

PLACES TO SEE

UDAIPUR

The city was founded by Udai Singh, the early founders a Sisodia or Suryavanshi.  Famous among Sisodias was Maharana Pratap, the 12th leader of Mewar, a fierce warrior and leader who ruled from 1572 AD-1597, and defended Udaipur against attacks from invaders like Moguls.

Maharana Pratap
Lake Palace was built by the 62nd king of Mewar in 1746 as a summer palace—which is why it was built on a lake. Udaipur is also famous for one of the most fierce and deadly battles between Maharana Pratap and Mogul emperor Akbar, called the Battle of Haldighati, about 20 miles from Udaipur, in which Pratap was able to save the city and his kingdom from Moguls.

 

JODHPUR

Founded in 1459 by Rathor ( Suryavanshi ) Rajput, Rao Jodha-the city is named after him.  Jodho was a great ruler---as evidenced by the fact that at his death after 30 years of rule, he controlled 80,000 square miles of territory; his son Rao Bika founded Bikaner city.an early warrior of the Rajput dynasty built the massive Mehrangarh fort, which is considered a masterpiece of engineering and unique. It stands 410 feet above ground, has seven gates and has 68 feet by 117 feet walls which protect it from enemy attack. In fact the fort is so strong, it has never been breached.

Other famous Rajput kings who occupied the fort: Raja Gaj Singh, Maharaja Jaswant Singh and Raja Ganga Singh. All these kings, in various centuries (15th to 18th) fought Mogul invaders like Babar, Akbar and Aurungzeb?

Jodhpur is also called “Blue City” because people who live there have been painting the outside of their houses blue—to shield the inside from the intense desert heat. So it is also called the “Sun city” because of the intense Sun which beats down on the city.

JAIPUR

Founded in 1727 by the Raja Jai Singh, a Sisodia Rajput, it has the distinction of being the first planned city in India. Jai Singh ascended the throne at the age of 11 after his father’s death. He had a brilliant mind and a passion for architecture and astronomy. During his time he build astronomical structures—pillars, geometrical designs and pointers to stars and galaxies. This complex of astronomical Observatories is called “Jantar Mantar” or “magical structures”. He built 5 such Observatories, including one in Delhi. They are still in very good shape and are often used to track stellar movements etc. You will find Jaipur has wide roads, fortifications and precise squares and boulevards. This is all because of the original plan designed by Jai Singh with the help of noted Indian architects like Vidhyadhar Bhattacharya from Bengal. The city is built very close to the architechtural work of 3000 BC, called “Shilp Shastra”.

Jai Singh was not only a planner and ruler, but also a great warrior. Even though the size of his army was relatively small (about 40,000) he equipped them with modern armaments like Matchlock, a new invention that enabled firing of hand-held muskets. Because of this and his brilliance in the battlefield, he was respected by Mogul emperors who protected him from his enemies.

          

Jai Singh’s Observatory?, Delhi

Jai Singh was awarded the title of “Sawai”  (literally, One and Quarter Times, meaning fiercer than others) for his bravery and victories, including the battle of Khelna. However, he died in battle of Amber in 1743, fighting the Maratha emphire (which was led by another great warrior from Pune, Shivaji).

 

Ranthambore

Established as a Tiger sanctuary in 1955, Ranthambore is also a historical place in the rich saga of the Rajputs. Ranthambore fort  was built by Rao Hammir, a Chauhan (Suryavanshi) Rajput in 1110. Hammir was defeated, after wining three fierce battles against Alauddin Khilji from Bengal, one of the most powerful kings of the Khilji dynasty, he was defeated by Khilji in 1290.

Today, this 101 square mile Sanctuary has tigers, leopards, boars, bears, jungle cats etc. it has 28 tigers.

PRITHVIRAJ CHAUHAN   (1178-92 AD)  

 Prithviraj  is considered one of the greatest rulers of the 12th century who controlled a large territory in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. In Rajasthan, he ruled in the city of Ajmer, which is close to Jaipur.   He was a fierce warrior and a renowned archer, but was defeated by the Persian invader Muhammad Ghori, even though Chauhan defeated him several times and pardoned him.

According to the legend, Ghori, after defetaing Chauhan, blinded him. But when he was brought into the stadium to be taunted (similar to Samson) and asked to hit a target merely by listing to the sound, Chauhan, with the help of his court poet, Chand Bardai who cleverly recited a poem pointing out where Ghori was sitting, suddenly turned his arrow towards Ghori and killed him. Then Bardai and Chauhan committed suicide --though another legend is that they both escaped and disappeared.                                                  

So, all in all, as you travel through this great and historic land, it is worth remembering that being a “Rajput” or a “Rajputani” is a rare honor—and one that the past generations—soldiers, kings, queens and common folks---earned whether fighting an invader or helping the poor.

 

 

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