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Maharani Kishori lived in the 16th century, the wife of Jat Maharaja Suraj Mal of Bharatpur in Rajasthan, India. She came from Hodal, a town situated in the Palwal district of Haryana (on National Highway No.2), near Mathura and Bharatpur.
Maharani Kishori played an important role in running the administration of Bharatpur, the Maharaja always consulted her on important matters. She continued to act as an advisor for three generations, even after the death of her husband the Raja.
One day in March Khande Rao Holkar, Malhar Rao's son, was inspecting his army in an open palanquin. He was fired upon from the fort and hit by a cannonball, dying on 17 March. His father Malhar Rao vowed that he would cut off the head of Maharaja Suraj Mal and throw the fort into the Yamuna River.
The Marathas increased their pressure and Suraj Mal held his defenses, though no other ruler was ready to come to his aid. He consulted with Maharani Kishori.
Knowing of the enmity between Malhar Rao Holkar and Jayappa Sindhia, she advised Maharaja Suraj Mal to take advantage of the differences within the Marathas camp.
To this end she began by making contact with Diwan Roop Ram Katara, the friend of Jayappa Sindhia, whom she asked to take a letter from her husband to Jayappa Sindhia with a proposal for a treaty. Jayappa Sindhia contacted Raghunath Rao, who in turn advised Holkar to make a peace treaty with Suraj Mal.
Malhar Rao Holkar assessed the situation and consented, out of fear of becoming politically isolated. This led to a treaty on 18 May 1754, which proved of great benefit to Maharaja Suraj Mal.
The Pushkar bath of Maharani Kishori
Maharani Kishori, wife of Maharaja Suraj Mal and adopted mother of Jawahar Singh, was adept at political intrigue. She was distressed to see that Jawahar Singh was not adopting a favourable policy towards family members and the nobility. She knew that only keeping him engaged in warfare could control him. She also knew that the Rajputs would never tolerate this abrupt rise of Jat rule and would always resist the latter's efforts to gain power. The solution to both problems lay in war.
Maharani Kishori told her proud son that she wanted to go for a sacred bath at Pushkar. Jawahar Singh pointed out that Pushkar was situated in the territory of his eternal and deadly foe, Raja Madho Singh, who would not tolerate her arrival at Pushkar with a large retinue. Instead he advised her that if she determined to go Pushkar for a bath, she should go with only a few followers and Rupa Ram, Purohit.
The Rani retorted that she was the mother of Jawahar Singh and the queen of Maharaja Suraj Mal, and taking a bath like Marwari women would affront her pride; she would like to take her bath along with the Rajput Ranis (queens) there, and also intended to give alms surpassing that of the Rajput Ranis. Furthermore, she did not understand why the Jats should be afraid of the Rajputs any longer.
Jawahar Singh knew full well that this would lead to warfare and bloodshed, so he marched to Pushkar with 60,000 cavalry, 100,000 infantry and 200 guns. With fluttering banners and beating drums, they entered Jaipur territory and set up an impressive camp in the sandy plains of Pushkar.
When the Marathas were defeated in the Third Battle of Panipat, some one hundred thousand Maratha survivors returning south reached Suraj Mal’s territory without food, arms or clothing. Maharani Kishori together with Maharaja Suraj Mal received them with open arms, feeding the refugees and caring for the wounded until they were well enough to travel.
Saving the Bharatpur royal house from annihilation
In July 1778, Mirza Najaf Khan was constrained to make peace with the Rao Raja, recognising his title to Alwar and other territories conquered from the Jats. He sent back Hamdani against Maharaja Ranjit Singh and himself started for Agra. In September 1778, he appeared before Kumher with a large army, to finish the affairs of Jats.
The siege of Kumher was prosecuted with great vigour but the garrison, in hopes of the Emperor's arrival, put up a stiff resistance. Mirza Najaf Khan grew impatient as the siege seemed to drag on an interminable length of time. The Amir-ul-umra, out of the considerations of policy and for the general good, sent a letter full of admonitions... reminding Ranjit Singh that there was yet time to secure pardon through submission, and to atone for his past error by loyal service, without dragging several thousand men to their destruction.
This advice failed to find any place in Ranjit Singh's heart - he remained as haughty and obstinate as before.
The besieging army redoubled their efforts and soon rendered the fort untenable. In their hour of supreme peril they remembered the old Maharani Kishori, who had outlived the glory of house of Bharatpur, and been pining in neglect and retirement after the death of Maharaja Jawahar Singh. Ranjit Singh's well-wishers advised him to send the old Rani Kishori to the Mughal camp, because she enjoyed the respect and good-will of the high officers of Amir-ul-umra and might possibly by her intercession procure pardon for his past offenses.
But Ranjit Singh hesitated to act upon their advice, lest the Mirza should compel him to surrender unconditionally, by detaining her in Mughal camp. One night he escaped with a few friends, leaving Kumher to its fate. Next morning the Muslim troops scaled the walls of the fort and overpowered the defenders. Rani Kishori fell prisoner into their hands and was taken with all honour to the camp of Nawab. In obedience to his orders his officers erected lofty and secluded tents for her residence and well trained servants were appointed to wait upon her, in hopes that after a few days her grief might subdue.
It was not with the suspicious and timid steps of a prisoner that she went to meet the conqueror when summoned by him, but rather in the hope and confidence of a mother in distress who goes to see her foster child. On reaching the presence of Nawab she, like an affectionate nurse, walked around the person of Amir-ul-umra, and with sincerity took upon herself all his woes. With tearful in her eyes she narrated the pitiful tale of her misery.
When Nawab Amir-ul-umra learnt the distress of her heart, his own overflowed with kindness: he very graciously set her up as his own mother, giving her the fort of Kumher for her residence and the mahals (palaces) around it for her support.
For her sake he also pardoned Ranjit Singh his crimes and left him the fort of Bharatpur, with territories worth seven lakhs (seven hundred thousand) rupees as jagir (his district). Where the barbarous ferocity of the Abdali had failed, the magnanimity of Amir-ul-umra succeeded.
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- Thakur Deshraj: Jat Itihas (Hindi), Maharaja Suraj Mal Smarak Shiksha Sansthan, Delhi, 1934, 2nd edition 1992.
- Dr Natthan Singh: Jat - Itihas (Hindi), Jat Samaj Kalyan Parishad Gwalior, 2004
- Chaudhari Udayvir Singh: Jat Bandhu, Agra, 25 April 2001
- Kalika Ranjan Qanungo: History of the Jats : Contribution to the History of Northern India (Up to the Death of Mirza Najaf Khan, 1782). Edited and annotated by Vir Singh. Delhi, Originals, 2003, ISBN 81-7536-299-5
- Dr. Prakash Chandra Chandawat: Maharaja Suraj Mal aur unka yug, Jaypal Agencies Agra, 1982
- Kunwar Natwar Singh: Maharaja Suraj Mal