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The Prithviraj Raso (Hindi: पृथ्वीराज रासो, Rajasthani: पिरथबीराज रासो) or Prithvirajaraso, is an epic poem composed by court poet, Chand Bardai, on the life of Prithviraj III, a Chauhan king who ruled Ajmer and Delhi between 1165 and 1192. Chand Bardai claimed to be contemporary of Prithviraj Chauhan.
The Prithviraj Raso is a semi-historical, semi-legendary account that depicts the bravery of Prithviraj Chauhan. The legend exaggerates the historical events for dramatic effects. Its historicity is considered unreliable by historians.
According to tradition, the Prithviraj Raso was composed by Chand Bardai, Prithviraj's court poet (raj kavi), who accompanied the king in all his battles, and completed by Bardai's son Jalhana. As court poet, Chand Bardai had the traditional occupation of composing poems and ballads in praise of his patron and based loosely on historical incident.
Versions and later embellishments
Over time, the Prithviraj Raso was embellished with the interpolations and additions of many other authors. Only a small portion of the existing texts is likely to have been part of the original version. Several versions of the Prithivraj Raso are available, but scholars agree that a small 1300-stanza manuscript in Bikaner is closest to the original text. The longest available version is the Udaipur manuscript, which is an epic with 16,306 stanzas. The language of the texts available today largely appears to be post-15th century and to be based upon the seventeenth-century compilation of Amar Singh of Mewar.
Significance and historical veracity
Many events and battle details narrated in Prithviraj Raso do not agree with other contemporary accounts found in both Hindu and Muslim sources (See Battle of Tarain).
Biography according to Prithviraj Raso
According to the epic poem or ballad, Prithviraj was a king, who, after ceaseless military campaigns, extended his original kingdom of Sambhar (Shakambara) in present-day Rajasthan to cover Rajasthan, Gujarat and eastern Punjab. He ruled from his twin capitals of Delhi and Ajmer. His fast rise aroused the envy of the then powerful ruler of Kannauj, Jaichand Gahadvala, and caused ill-feeling between the two.
Svayamvara of Sanyogita
The upcoming svayamvara of Sanyogita spread far and wide and became the subject of much discussion among the nobility. Sanyogita, daughter of Jaichand, secretly fell in love with Prithviraj. She met Prithviraj at the temple of Koteshwar. She was disguised as Nandini and Prithvi was disguised as Surya. He was on a mission to save the temple deity from sabotage by his archrival and king of Gujrat, Bhimdev Solannki. Prithviraj had heard of Sanyogita's unmatched beauty in a poem and decided to meet her in disguise. However, Sanyogita, who had seen a portrait of Prithviraj, could see through his disguise and decided to meet him personally. She disguised herself to avoid recognition, and hence their secret affair began. Her father got wind of this affair and resolved to have her safely wed at an early date. He arranged a Swayamwara, a Hindu ceremony where a maiden selects a husband from a number of suitors who assemble at the invitation of her guardian. Jaichand invited many princes of high rank and heritage, but deliberately failed to invite Prithviraj. To add insult to injury, Jaichand had a statue of Prithviraj made and placed at the door of the venue, thus parodying Prithviraj as a doorman. Prithviraj came to hear of this. He made his plans and confided them to his lover, Sanyogita.
On the day of the ceremony, Sanyogita emerged from an inner chamber, entered the venue of the swayamwara, and walked straight down the hall past the assembled suitors, bypassing them all. She reached the door and garlanded the statue of Prithviraj. The assemblage were stunned at this brash act, but more was to follow: Prithviraj, who had been hiding behind the statue in the garb of a doorman, emerged, put Sanyogita upon his horse and the two ran away with each other. This incident resulted in a string of battles between the two kingdoms, and both of them suffered heavily. The Chauhan-Gahadvala feud led to the weakening of both kingdoms. Prithviraj was a great Hindu ruler and defeated Muhammad Ghori many times.
First Battle of Tarain
The first move was taken by Muhammad of Ghor, who conquered territory up to the border of Prithviraj's kingdom. In 1191 Muhammad took the Sirhind or Bhatinda fortress (today in the Indian Punjab) on Prithviraj’s northwestern frontier. The next step was taken by Prithviraj, who, along with his vassal Govinda-raja of Delhi, rushed to save the frontier, and the two armies met at Tarain.
The Rajput armies first defeated the two wings of the Muslim army. The Muslim army fled while Muhammad still remained in the center with the rest of the Turki soldiers. It was then that Govind-raja and Muhammad of Ghor came face to face. The two were injured in the repeated clashes. Muhammad could not recover from the blow and fainted from the shock. Fearing that their leader had died, the army surrendered to Prithviraj and Muhammad was taken prisoner. He was brought in chains to Pihorgarh, Prithviraj’s capital, where he prostrated himself before Prithviraj, asked his forgiveness and promised never to look toward Bharat (India)again. Being a Hindu Rajput, Prithvi Raj forgave him.
Second Battle of Tarain
In 1192, Muhammad Ghori returned with a larger army and met Prithviraj’s army again at Tarain. This time Prithviraj's army was larger and included many Rajput forces from Northern India. Muhammad Ghori delivered an ultimatum to Prithviraj Chauhan that either he convert to the Muslim religion or be prepared for defeat. In reply Prithviraj Chauhan offered him a cease-fire to consider a retreat with his army.
Muhammad Ghori adopted a ruse and replied to Prithviraj with a letter indicating acceptance of the truce. The Rajput army believed him and started celebrating, letting down their guard in a relaxed and casual mood. With Prithviraj’s army thus unprepared, Ghori's army attacked in the early hours of morning. The Rajput army was nevertheless able to stave them off and make a retreat. Muhammad’s army then sent waves of mounted archers to attack the Rajput forces, but had to retreat as Prithviraj’s elephant force advanced. At dusk, however, Muhammad Ghori was able to achieve victory through creating confusion by sending heavily armoured horsemen to charge the center of Rajput defence.
About 100,000 Rajput soldiers are said to have died in the battle. Prithviraj was imprisoned and taken to Ghazni. The second battle of Tarain is believed to be the most decisive battle in Indian history as it opened the path for later conquerors of India. Muhammad and his successors were able to conquer the Rajputs and establish their Empire in India known as the "Sultanate of Delhi".
Death of Prithviraj
As a prisoner in Ghor, Prithviraj was brought in chains before Muhammad Ghori. He haughtily looked Ghori straight into the eye. Ghori ordered him to lower his eyes, where upon a Prithviraj scornfully reminded him that the "eyes of a rajput is lowered only when a rajput dies".On hearing this, Ghori ordered that his eyes to be burnt with red hot iron rods.
Prithviraj's former court poet Chand Bardai, came to Ghori to be near Prithviraj in his misery. Chand Bardai came in disguise and paens. On the one hand, he earned Mahmud's regard; on the other, he took every opportunity to meet with Prithviraj and urge him to avenge Ghori. The two got an opportunity to kill Muhammad Ghori when Ghori announced an archery competition.
Chand Bardai told Ghori that Prithviraj was so skilled an archer, that he could take aim based only on sound, and did not even need to look at his target. Ghori disdained to believe this; the courtiers guffawed and taunted Chand Bardai, asking how a blind man could possibly shoot arrows. In the spirit of their usual barbaric mockery, they brought the blind and hapless Prithviraj out to the field. Pressing a bow and arrows into his hand, they taunted him to take aim. Chand Bardai told Ghori that this taunting would avail nothing, for Prithviraj would never do as some sundry courtiers bade him do. He said that Prithviraj, as an anointed king, would not accept orders from anyone other than another king. His ego thus massaged, and in the spirit of the occasion, Mahmud Ghori agreed to personally give Prithviraj the order to shoot. Some iron plates were hung and Prithiviraj was asked to aim at them. A man was to strike the plate with a hammer and Prithviraj was supposed to hit that plate.
Thus, Chand Bardai provided Prithviraj with an oral indication of where Ghori was seated by composing a couplet on the spot and reciting the same in Prithviraj's hearing. The couplet, composed in a language understood only by Prithviraj went thus:
"Char bans, chaubis gaj, angul ashta praman, Ta upar sultan hai, Chuke mat Chauhan." (Four measures ahead of you and twenty four yards away as measured with eight finger measurement, is seated the Sultan. Do not miss him now, Chauhan).
Ghori then ordered Prithviraj to shoot. Prithviraj thus came to know the location of Ghori and started shooting at the plates.When he hit the target courtiers said "vah" "vah" and Ghori said "Shabash", recognising Ghori's voice and turning in the direction from where he heard Ghori speak. Prithviraj took aim based only on the voice and on Chand Bardai's couplet, he sent an arrow racing to Ghori's throat. After this Ghori was killed by Prithviraj and took his revenge against him, but before Ghori's bodyguard could kill Prithviraj, he and Chand Bardai killed each other, to avoid dying in hands of the enemies.
- Vijayendra Snatak (1 January 1997). "Medieval Hindi Literature". In K Ayyappap Panikkar. Medieval Indian literature: an anthology (Volume 1). Sahitya Akademi. pp. 142–. ISBN 978-81-260-0365-5. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
- Raj kavi can be translated as "court poet" or "royal sage" and identified a courtier who was expected both to provide advice to the king and to compose "official" histories that glorified the king. Raj kavi were expected to accompany the king while hunting and making war. His role also may have included that of a balladeer who encouraged and exhorted the warriors to bravery in battle by reciting the great deeds of their leaders and illustrious clan forebears. In general see Bloomfield, Morton W. and Dunn, Charles W. (1992) Role of the Poet in Early Societies (2nd edition) D.S. Brewer, Cambridge, England, ISBN 0-85991-347-3
- Gopal, Madan (1996) Origin and Development of Hindi/Urdu Literature Deep & Deep Publications, New Delhi, India, page 8, OCLC 243899911
- Kaviraj Syamaldas "The Antiquity, Authenticity and Genuineness of the epic called the Prithviraj Rasa and commonly ascribed to Chand Bardai" J Asiatic Soc. of Bengal, V 55, Pt.1, 1886
- Luṇiyā, Bhanwarlal Nathuram (1978) Life and Culture in Medieval India Kamal Prakashan, Indore, India, page 293, OCLC 641457716
- "Prtihviraj: A Tale of Romance, Honour and Trajedy - Total War Center Forums". Twcenter.net. 2008-03-23. Retrieved 2012-09-20.
- Char bans, chaubis gaj, angul ashta praman, Tau par sultan hai, Mat Chuko Chauhan