History of Rajasthan

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The history of human settlement in north Indian state of Rajasthan dates back to about 5000 years ago with parts of north Rajasthan at the heart of the Indus Valley Civilization. This region was long known as Gurjaratra that is country protected or ruled by the Gurjars[citation needed] before it came to be called Rajputana, early in the Muslim period.[1]

Ancient history[edit]

Parts of Rajasthan may have been occupied by the Indus Valley Civilization (Harappans). Excavations at Kalibanga in northern Rajasthan around 1998 revealed the existence of human settlements of Harappan times on the banks of a river that dried up later, which some people believe to be the Saraswati.[2]

Rajasthan's geographic position in India has caused it to be affected by the expansionist efforts of various empires.[3] It was a part of the Mauryan Empire around 321-184 BCE.[citation needed] It had also been a part of Republics like Arjunyas, Hunas, Kushans, Malavas, Saka Satraps and the Yaudheyas. The Guptas reigned in the 4th century.[citation needed] Some Buddhist caves and Stupas have been found in Jhalawar, in the southern part of Rajasthan.[citation needed]

The decline of the 300 year old Gupta Empire in the 6th century led to the political unrest in the Northern India and was followed by an epoch of instability as numerous chieftains tried to gain power. The situation was stabilized when the Gurjara-Pratiharas, the earliest of the Gurjar clan emerged around 700 CE.[4] Gurjar pratihars were well known for their hostility towards Arab invaders.The Arab chronicler Sulaiman describes the army of the Gurjar Pratihars as it stood in 851 CE, The king of Gurjars maintains numerous forces and no other Indian prince has so fine a cavalry. He is unfriendly to the Arabs, still he acknowledges that the king of the Arabs is the greatest of kings. Among the princes of India there is no greater foe of the Islamic faith than he. He has got riches, and his camels and horses are numerous.[5]

Medieval period[edit]

Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya, Hindu Emperor of Northern India
Maharana Pratap, a Rajput ruler and great warrior of his time. Mughal emperor Akbar sent many missions against him. However he survived and ultimately gained control of all areas of Mewar excluding fort of Chittor.

Prithviraj Chauhan defeated the foreign invader Muhammad Ghori in the first battle of Tarain in 1191 and in fifteen further battled before himself being defeated. After getting defeated for sixteen times, Ghori begged for his life saying a sentence with a literal meaning "I am your cow, Forgive". In the seventeenth battle, a traitor from Chauhan's kingdom supported Ghori's army and landed up in the defeat. What happens after this is clear from the local folk songs still prominent in Rajasthan. It is said that Prithviraj was taken to Afghanistan along with his raj-kavi cum friend, Chandbhar. In Ghori's court, Prithviraj and Chandbhar were brought in shackles. Prithviraj was asked to show the art of archery, wherein he could aim and shoot just by hearing the sound. It is also known as Shabdbhedi-baan. Ghori asked him to show him this art. To make game interesting for himself, he got his eyes pierced with hot iron rods. Chandbhar says, "A king, though as a prisoner, can receive command only from a king. So it would be an honour if you command Him to shoot". Then he says few verses or poetry, few of those lines were, "Char baans chobis guz, aangal asht pravan, taa upar sultan hai, mat chooko Chauhan". Chaar baans meant four bamboos stick, chaubis guz as approximately 24 yards, aangal asht praval meant eight fingers width. All this combined gave the exact location of Ghori sitting on his throne i.e. 4 bamboos stick high, 24 yards away and exactly eight fingers up was the Ghori sitting. "Go ahead O Chauhan and don't miss the aim". This is how Prithvi Raj kills Ghori in his court and obviously to meet his own death. Grave of Prithvi Raj Chauhan is present till date next to Ghori's grave.[citation needed]

After the defeat of Chauhan around 1200, a part of Rajasthan came under Muslim rulers. The principal centers of their powers were Nagaur and Ajmer. Ranthambhor was also under their suzerainty. At the beginning of the 13th century, the most prominent and powerful state of Rajasthan was Mewar. The Rajputs resisted the Muslim incursions into India, although a number of Rajput kingdoms eventually became subservient to the Delhi Sultanate. Mewar led others in resistance to Muslim rule: Rana Sanga fought the Battle of Khanua against Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire.

In between 1540 to 1556, Afghans were in control of most of North India. Rajasthan born Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya also called Hemu,the Yadav Rajput Rulers who started his career as a supplier of various merchandise to Sher Shah Suri empire held various positions in capital Delhi as 'In charge of Food Affairs', 'Minister of Internal Security' and 'Prime Minister-Cum-Chief of Army' with Islam Shah and Adil Shah, who ruled from Punjab to Bengal. Hemu crushed the first rebellion in 1553 at Ajmer where he killed the Afghan Governor Junaid Khan and appointed his own man as governor. Hem Chandra won several battles (22) against Afghan rebels and Mughal king Akbar and won all of them without losing any. He defeated Akbar's army at Agra and Delhi in 1556, and became a 'Vikramaditya' king after 350 years of foreign rule at Purana Quila in Delhi. Hemu lost in the Second battle of Panipat on 7 November 1556, and was killed.

In order to gain the trust of the Rajput rulers, the Mughal Emperor Akbar arranged matrimonial alliances. He also sought reconciliation with the hostile Rajputs after performing the matrimonial alliances. He himself married the Rajput princess- Jodha Bai who was the daughter of the Maharaja of Amer. He granted high offices to a large number of Rajput princes and this maintained very cordial relations with these Rajputs. Soon most of the Rajputs were transformed into friends of Akbar from adversaries and many of them surrendered their kingdoms to Akbar. Rulers like Raja Maan Singh of Amer were trusted allies. However all Rajput rulers were not ready to accept Akbar’s dominance and preferred to remain independent. One such ruler was Raja Uday Singh of Mewar, who founded the city of Udaipur. He never accepted Akbar's supremacy and was at constant war with him. Akbar forcefully seized Chittor, his capital. After his death, this struggle was continued by his son – Rana Pratap. He fought a terrible battle with Akbar at the Haldighat pass where he was defeated and wounded. Since then Rana Pratap remained in recluse for 12 years and attacked the Mughal ruler from time to time. He fought valiantly throughout his life never ceded his independence to the Mughal ruler.

An ancient ruin in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.

The traditional sacrifice and the self-respect of the Rajput women are also worth mentioning while discussing the imperial rule of Rajasthan during the medieval epoch. When the Rajput rulers were forced to surrender their kingdoms to other invaders, the Rajput women in order to protect their chastity and self-respect used to light up a pyre and together they used to jump into the fire thus sacrificing and ending their own lives. This custom of collective sacrifice was known as Jauhar.

Rajasthan's formerly independent kingdoms created a rich architectural and cultural heritage, seen today in their numerous forts and palaces (Mahals and Havelis) which are enriched by features of Muslim and Jain architecture.

Maratha Empire[edit]

Since the early 1700s, the Maratha Empire began expanding northwards, led by Peshwa Baji Rao I of Pune. This expansion finally brought the newly founded Hindu Maratha Empire in contact with the Rajputs. Rajasthan saw many invasions by the Marathas, under military leadership of Holkars and Scindhias. Most of Rajputana passed under the control of the Maratha Empire and continued to pay tribute to Pune till the British East India Company replaced the Marathas as paramount rulers.[6]

British India[edit]

The arrival of the East India Company in the region led to the administrative designation of some geographically, culturally, economically and historically diverse areas, which had never shared a common political identity, under the name of the Rajputana Agency. This was a significant identifier, being modified later to Rajputana Province and lasting until the renaming to Rajasthan in 1949.[7][8]

The Company officially recognised various entities, although sources disagree concerning the details, and also included Ajmer-Merwara, which was the only area under direct British control.[7][8]

Area Controlled by[8] Designation
Ajmer-Mewara Direct British control Chief Commissioner's Province
Alwar Kachwaha Rajputs State[7]
Banswara Gahlot Rajputs State[7]
Bharatpur Jat State[7]
Bikaner Rathore Rajputs State[7]
Bundi Chauhan Rajputs State[7]
Dholpur Jat State[7]
Dungarpur Gahlot Rajputs State[7]
Jaipur (Amber) Kachwaha Rajputs State[7]
Jaisalmer Jadon Rajputs State[7]
Jhalawar Jhala Rajputs State[7]
Jodhpur (Marwar) Rathore Rajputs State[7]
Karuali Jadon Rajputs State[7]
Kishangarh Rathore Rajputs State[7]
Kotah Chauhan Rajputs State[7]
Kushalgarh Rathore Rajputs Chiefdom[8] (Not referred to by Gupta & Bakshi)
Lawa Kachwaha Rajputs Chiefdom[7] or Estate[8]
Pratapgarh Gahlot Rajputs State[7]
Shahpura Gahlot Rajputs Chiefdom[7] or State[8]
Sirohi Chauhan Rajputs State[7]
jaipur Pathan State[7]
Udaipur (Mewar) Gahlot Rajputs StateTemplate:Jkjn sfnp

Of these various areas, Marwar and Jaipur were the most significant in the early 19th-century, although it was Mewar that gained particular attention from James Tod, a Company employee who was enamoured of Rajputana and wrote extensively, if often uncritically, of the people, history and geography of the Agency as a whole.[9][a]

Alliances were formed between the Company and these various princely and chiefly entities in the early 19th century, accepting British sovereignty in return for local autonomy and protection from the Marathas. Following the Mughal tradition and more importantly due to its strategic location Ajmer became a province of British India, while the autonomous Rajput states, the Muslim state (Tonk), and the Jat states (Bharatpur and Dholpur) were organized into the Rajputana Agency. In 1817-18, the British Government concluded treaties of alliance with almost all the states of Rajputana. Thus began the British rule over Rajasthan, then called Rajputana.

Post independence[edit]

The name of Rajasthan was probably popularised by Tod and during his lifetime some people believed that he had coined it.[11] Although he claimed that it was the classical name for the region, the term seems first to be documented in an inscription dating from 1708 and to have become popular by his time.[12]

It took seven stages to form Rajasthan as defined today. In March 1948 the Matsya Union consisted of Alwar, Bharatpur, Dhaulpur and Karauli was formed. Also, in March 1948 Banswara, Bundi, Dungarpur, Jhalawar, Kishangarh, Kota, Pratapgarh, Shahpura and Tonk joined the Indian union and formed a part of Rajasthan. In April 1948 Udaipur joined the state and the Maharana of Udaipur was made Rajpramukh. Therefore in 1948 the merger of south and southeastern states was almost complete. Still retaining their independence from India were Jaipur and the desert kingdoms of Bikaner, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. From a security point of view, it was vital to the new Indian Union to ensure that the desert kingdoms were integrated into the new nation. The princes finally agreed to sign the Instrument of Accession, and the kingdoms of Bikaner, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Jaipur were merged in March 1949. This time the Maharaja of Jaipur, Man Singh II was made the Rajpramukh of the state and Jaipur became its capital. Later in 1949, the United States of Matsya, comprising the former kingdoms of Bharatpur, Alwar, Karauli and Dholpur, was incorporated into Rajasthan. On January 26, 1950, 18 states of united Rajasthan merged with Sirohi to join the state leaving Abu and Dilwara to remain a part of Greater Bombay and now Gujarat.

In November 1956 under the State Re-organisation Act, 1956 the erstwhile part 'C' State of Ajmer, Abu Road Taluka, former part of princely State Sirohi (which were merged in former Bombay), State and Sunel Tappa region of the former Madhya Bharat merged with Rajasthan and Sirohi sub district of Jhalawar was transferred to Madhya Pradesh. Thus giving the existing boundary Rajasthan. Today with further reorganisation of the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. Rajasthan has become the largest state of the Indian Republic.

Location of historical Sunel-Tappa region,shown with red colour in map.

The princes of the former kingdoms were constitutionally granted handsome remuneration in the form of privy purses and privileges to assist them in the discharge of their financial obligations. In 1970, Indira Gandhi, who was then the Prime Minister of India, commenced under-takings to discontinue the privy purses, which were abolished in 1971. Many of the former princes still continue to use the title of Maharaja, but the title has little power other than status symbol. Many of the Maharajas still hold their palaces and have converted them into profitable hotels, while some have made good in politics. The democratically elected Government runs the state with a chief minister as its executive head and the governor as the head of the state. Currently, including the new district of Pratapgarh, there are 32 districts, 105 sub-divisions, 37,889 villages, 241 tehsils and 222 towns in Rajasthan.

Gurumukh Nihal Singh from Rajasthan was appointed as first governor of Rajasthan. Hiralal Shastri was first nominated chief minister who worked from 7 April 1949, after two more nominated chief ministers Tikaram Paliwal became first elected chief minister from 3 March 1951.



  1. ^ James Tod is rarely considered to be a reliable source nowadays, although he is still revered in some areas of Rajasthan.[10]


  1. ^ Majumdar, R.C. (1994) [1952]. Ancient India. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 263. ISBN 978-81-208-0436-4. 
  2. ^ "Pune archaeologists hope the Saraswati will unlock mysteries of the past". Rediff. 29 April 1998. Retrieved 2007-09-01. 
  3. ^ Gupta & Bakshi (2008), p. 145
  4. ^ Krishna Chandra Sagar (1992). Foreign influence on ancient India. Northern Book Centre. ISBN 8172110286, ISBN 978-81-7211-028-4. 
  5. ^ Radhey Shyam Chaurasia (2002). History of Ancient India: Earliest Times to 1000 A. D.. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 207. ISBN 81-269-0027-X,ISBN 978-81-269-0027-5. "The king of Gurjars maintain numerous faces and no other Indian prince has so fine a cavalry .He has" 
  6. ^ Naravane, M. S. The Rajputs of Rajputana: A Glimpse of Medieval Rajasthan. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Gupta & Bakshi (2008), p. 143
  8. ^ a b c d e f Lodha, Sanjay (2012). "Subregions, Identity, and Nature of Political Competition in Rajasthan". In Kumar, Ashutosh. Rethinking State Politics in India: Regions Within Regions. Routledge. p. 400. ISBN 9781136704000. 
  9. ^ Gupta & Bakshi (2008), pp. 136-137
  10. ^ Gupta & Bakshi (2008), p. 140
  11. ^ Freitag, Jason (2009). Serving empire, serving nation: James Tod and the Rajputs of Rajasthan. Leiden: Brill. p. 36. ISBN 978-90-04-17594-5. 
  12. ^ Gupta & Bakshi (2008), p. 142


Further reading[edit]