Rajput resistance to Muslim conquests

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Before the Muslim conquest of Indian subcontinent, much of north and west India was being ruled by Hindu Rajput dynasties. The Rajput kingdoms contended with the rising and expansionist empires of Central Asia, be they Arabs, Turks, Mughals or Timurids. They earned their reputation by fighting battles with a code of chivalrous conduct rooted in their strong adherence to tradition and Hinduism. The Rajputs held out against the Arab Caliphates and other Central Asian Empires for several centuries. A few of Rajput kings converted to Islam, some formed alliance with the Mughals, which laid the foundations for the creation of a mighty Mughal Empire.

A Khanda (sword) of Rajputs developed in the Rana Pratap's period.

Arabs in 8th century[edit]

Before the onset of this age West Asia was conquered by the politico-religious ideology of Islam (7th Century). Under the Umayyad Caliphs the Muslim Arabs attempted to conquer the frontier kingdoms of India; Kabul, Zabul, and Sindh, but were repulsed. In the early 8th Century the Kingdom of Sindh under Rajput King Dahir of the Rai dynasty was convulsed by internal strife——taking advantage of the conditions the Arabs renewed their assaults and finally occupied it under Muhammad bin Qasim, the nephew of Al-Hajjaj (governor of Iraq and Khurasan). Qasim and his successors attempted to expand from Sindh into Punjab and other regions but were badly defeated by Lalitaditya of Kashmir and Yashovarman of Kannauj. Even their position in Sindh was unstable at this time. Junaid ibn Abdur-Rahman al-Marri, the successor of Muhammad bin Qasim, finally subdued the Hindu resistance within Sindh. Taking advantage of the conditions in Western India, which at that time was covered with several small states, Junaid led a large army into the region in early 730 CE. Dividing this force into two he plundered several cities in southern Rajasthan, western Malwa, and Gujarat.[1]

Indian inscriptions confirm this invasion but record the Arab success only against the smaller states in Gujarat. They also record the defeat of the Arabs at two places. The southern army moving south into Gujarat was defeated at Navsari by the south Indian Emperor Vikramaditya II of the Chalukya dynasty who sent his general Pulakesi to defeat the Arabs . The army that went east, reached Avanti whose ruler Gurjara Pratihara [2] Nagabhatta utterly defeated the invaders who fled to save their lives. Arab forces failed to make any substantial gains in India and in the Battle of Rajasthan (730 CE), their army was severely defeated by the Indian kings. As a result, Arabs' territory got restricted to Sindh in modern Pakistan.[1]

Ghaznavid invasions[edit]

In the early 11th century, Mahmud of Ghazni conquered the Rajput Hindu Shahi kingdom in the North-west frontier in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and his raids into northern India weakened the Pratihara kingdom, which was drastically reduced in size and came under the control of the Chandelas. Mahmud sacked some temples across northern India to stop idol worship, including the temple at Somnath in Gujarat,[3] but his permanent conquests were limited to the Punjab. The early 11th century also saw the reign of the polymath king Raja Bhoj, the Paramara ruler of Malwa.[1]

Spread of the Gahadvalas, Chandels, Tomars, and Chauhans[edit]

Mehrangarh Fort, the ancient home of the Rathore rulers of Marwar.

The Rajputs occasionally united against foreign invaders – once under Bappa Rawal, then under Shakti Kumar of Mewar and Jaypal Tomar. Once the foreign invasions stopped, the Rajputs fought each other in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Major wars broke out between the Tomars of Delhi and Gahadvalas of Kannauj. The Rathores, as the Gahadvala dynasty, established the kingdom of Kannauj, capturing it from Tomar rulers in the 11th century. The Rever dynasty established the kingdom of Tarangadh in 11th through the 12th century, and conquered Marwar in the 13th century. The Chandelas established Jejakbhukti and ruled from Mahoba.[1]

Chauhans established rule over Delhi and Ajmer in the 10th century. The most popular ruler of this dynasty was Prithviraj Chauhan. It is said that his sword weighed 52 kg.

Muhammad Ghori was the Muslim king from Afghanistan. He wasn't aware of the power of the Chauhans. During the First Battle of Tarain, Ghori was defeated with heavy losses. However, the Second Battle of Tarain was won by Ghori because of betrayal from Jai Chand as there was enmity between him and Prithviraj.[1]

Delhi Sultanate[edit]

The Delhi Sultanate was founded by Qutb ud din Aybak, Muhammad of Ghor's successor, in the first decade of the 13th century. The Chauhans reestablished themselves at Ranthambore, led by Govinda Chauhan, grandson of Prithviraj III. Jalore was ruled by another branch of Chauhans, the Songaras. Another branch of the Chauhans, the Hadas, established a kingdom in Hadoti in the mid-13th century.[1]

Fight against Khiljis[edit]

Sultan Ala ud din Khilji (1296–1316) conquered Gujarat (1297) and Malwa (1305), captured the fort of Mandu and handed it over to the Songara Chouhans. They captured the fortresses of Ranthambore (1301), Mewar's capital at Chittorgarh (1303), and Jalor (1311), after long sieges with fierce resistance from their Rajput defenders. Ala ud din Khilji also fought the Bhatti Rajputs of Jaisalmer and occupied the Golden Fort. He managed to capture three Rajput forts of Chitor, Ranthambore and Jaisalmer, but couldn't hold them for long.[4]

Fight against Tuglaqs[edit]

The Mewar reestablished their supremacy within 50 years of the sack of Chittorgarh, under Maharana Hammir. Hammir defeated Muhammad Tughlaq with Bargujars as his main allies, and captured him. Tughlaq had to pay a huge ransom and relinquish all of Mewar's lands. After this the Delhi Sultanate did not attack Chittorgarh for a few hundred years. The Rajputs reestablished their independence, and Rajput states were established as far east as Bengal and north into the Punjab. The Tomaras established themselves at Gwalior, and the ruler Man Singh Tomar built the fortress which still stands there. Mewar emerged as the leading Rajput state, and Rana Kumbha expanded his kingdom at the expense of the sultanates of Malwa and Gujarat.[1]

Lodis and Mughals[edit]

The Delhi Sultanate recovered somewhat under the Lodi dynasty, and Rana Sanga of Mewar convinced Babur to challenge Ibrahim Lodi for control of the Delhi Sultanate, hoping that the struggle between Muslim rivals would allow the Rajputs to reclaim Delhi. Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi at the First Battle of Panipat on 21 April 1526, and the Rana Sanga rallied a Rajput army to challenge Babur. Babur defeated the Rajputs at the Battle of Khanwa on 16 March 1527. The Rajput rulers agreed to pay tribute to Babur, but most retained control of their states, and struggles between Babur's successor Humayun and the Suri Dynasty for control of the Sultanate preoccupied the Muslims for several decades.[1]

Rajputs at the rise of the Mughals[edit]

Jaipur is one of several major cities founded by Rajput rulers during the Mughal era.

Soon after his defeat in 1527 at the Battle of Khanwa, Rana Sanga died in 1528. Bahadur Shah of Gujarat became a powerful Sultan. He captured Raiseen in 1532 and defeated Mewar in 1533. He helped Tatar Khan to capture Bayana, which was under Mughal occupation. Humayun sent Hindal and Askari to fight Tatar Khan. At the battle of Mandrail in 1534, Tatar Khan was defeated and killed. Puranmal, the Raja of Amber, helped the Mughals in this battle. He was killed in this battle. Now it became necessary for Humayun to crush the rising power of Bahadur Shah. While Bahadur Shah was besieging the fort of Chittorgarh, Humayun started against him. Hearing the news, the Rani Karmawati, widow of Rana Sanga, sent rakhi (passion flowers) to Humayun. Humayun is considered to have accepted the rakhi, but stopped at Sarang Pur in January 1535. Mewar was weakened due to constant struggles. After a long wait, the Rajputs had a last fight on 8 March 1535, and Rani Karmawati, together with other women, committed Jauhar (mass suicide) the same day. Humayun now pursued Bahadur Shah. Later Bahadur Shah and Sher Shah Suri created many problems for Humayun, and he lost the empire. He regained the empire in July 1555, and died in January 1556. Akbar, the son of Humayun, tried to persuade Mewar to accept Mughal sovereignty, like other Rajputs, but Rana Udai Singh refused. Ultimately Akbar besieged the fort of Chittor in 1567. This time, Rana Udai Singh left the fort with his family. Jaimal Rathore of Merta and Fatah Singh of Kelwa were left to take care of the fort. On 23 February 1568, Akbar hit Jaimal Rathore, who was looking after the repair work, with his gun. That same night, the Rajput women committed jauhar (ritual suicide) and the Rajput men, led by the wounded Jaimal and Fateh Singh, fought their last battle. Akbar entered the fort, and at least 30,000 people were killed. Later Akbar placed a statue of these two Rajput warriors on the gates of Agra Fort.[1]

Akbar and Rajputs[edit]

Maharana Pratap of Mewar, a 16th-century Rajput ruler firmly resisted the Mughals. Akbar sent many missions against him. He survived to ultimately gain control of all of Mewar, excluding Chittorgarh Fort.
Chittorgarh Fort which Rana wanted to reclaim. Also seen is Vijay Stambha along with Gaumukh Reservoir.

Akbar won the fort of Chittorgarh, but Rana Udai Singh was ruling Mewar from other places. On 3 March 1572 Udai Singh died, and his son, Maharana Pratap, sat on throne at Gogunda. He vowed that he would liberate Mewar from the Mughals; until then he would not sleep on a bed, would not live in a palace, and would not have food on a plate (thali). Akbar tried to arrange a treaty with Rana Pratap, but did not succeed. Finally he sent an army under Raja Man Singh in 1576. Rana Pratap was defeated at the Battle of Haldighati in June 1576. Rana Pratap escaped from the battle and started guerrilla warfare with the Mughals. Ultimately he was successful in liberating most of the Mewar, except the fort of Chittorgarh. The Bargujars were the main allies of the Ranas of Mewar. Rana Pratap died on 19 January 1597, and Rana Amar Singh succeeded him. Akbar sent Salim to attack Mewar in October 1603, but he stopped at Fatehpur Sikri and sought permission from the emperor to go to Allahabad, and went there. In 1605 Salim sat on the throne and took the name of Jahangir.[1]

Jahangir and Rajputs[edit]

Jahangir sent an army under his son Parvez to attack Mewar in 1605. A indecisive battle was fought at Debari. The Mughal emperor sent Mahabat Khan in 1608. He was recalled in 1609, and Abdulla Khan was sent. Then Raja Basu was sent, and Mirza Ajij Koka was sent. No conclusive victory could be achieved. Ultimately Jahangir himself arrived at Ajmer in 1613, and appointed Shazada Khurram to fight against Mewar. Khurram devastated the areas of Mewar and cut the supplies to the Rana. With the advice of his nobles and the crown prince, Karna, the Rana sent a peace delegation to Prince Khurram, Jahangir's son. Khurram sought approval of the treaty from his father at Ajmer. Jahangir issued an order authorising Khurram to agree to the treaty. The treaty was agreed between Rana Amar Singh and prince Khurram in 1615.

  • The Rana of Mewar accepted Mughal sovereignty.
  • Mewar and the fort of Chittorgarh was returned to Rana.
  • The fort of Chittorgarh could not be repaired or renovated by Rana.
  • The Rana of Mewar would not attend the Mughal court personally. The crown prince of Mewar would attend the court and give himself and his army to the Mughals.
  • It was not necessary for the Rana to establish a marriage alliance with the Mughals.

This treaty, considered respectable for both parties, ended the 88-year long enmity between Mewar and the Mughals.[1]

Aurangzeb and Rajput rebellion[edit]

The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (1618–1707), who was far less tolerant of Hinduism than his predecessors, placed a Muslim on the throne of Marwar when the childless Maharaja Jaswant Singh died. This enraged the Rathores, and when Ajit Singh, Jaswant Singh's son, was born after his death, the Marwar nobles asked Aurangzeb to place Ajit on the throne. Aurangzeb refused, and tried to have Ajit assassinated. Durgadas Rathore and the dhaa maa (wet nurse) of Ajit, Goora Dhaa (the Sainik Kshatriya Gehlot Rajputs of Mandore), and others smuggled Ajit out of Delhi to Jaipur, thus starting the thirty-year Rajput rebellion against Aurangzeb. This rebellion united the Rajput clans, and a triple-pronged alliance was formed by the states of Marwar, Mewar, and Jaipur. One of the conditions of this alliance was that the rulers of Jodhpur and Jaipur should regain the privilege of marriage with the ruling Sesodia dynasty of Mewar, on the understanding that the offspring of Sisodia princesses should succeed to the throne over any other offspring. This stipulation would lend itself to many future conflicts.[1] Bundelas of Bundelkhand also waged rebellion against the Mughals.

Foreign observations[edit]

Some British colonial officials were impressed by the military qualities of the Rajputs and their centuries old struggle against Muslim invaders. In his Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan James Tod writes:[5]

What nation on earth could have maintained the semblance of civilization, the spirit or the customs of their forefathers, during so many centuries of overwhelming depression, but one of such singular character as the Rajput? ... Rajasthan exhibits the sole example in the history of mankind, of a people withstanding every outrage barbarity could inflict, or human nature sustain, from a foe whose religion commands annihilation; and bent to the earth, yet rising buoyant from the pressure, and making calamity a whetstone to courage .... Not an iota of their religion or customs have they lost ...

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l John Merci, Kim Smith; James Leuck (1922). "Muslim conquest and the Rajputs". The Medieval History of India pg 67-115
  2. ^ Panchānana Rāya (1939). A historical review of Hindu India: 300 B. C. to 1200 A. D.. I. M. H. Press. p. 125. 
  3. ^ Kakar, Sudhir. The Colors of Violence: Cultural Identities, Religion, and Conflict. University of Chicago Press P 50. ISBN 0226422844. 
  4. ^ "Rajput". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  5. ^ Freitag, Jason (2009). Serving empire, serving nation: James Tod and the Rajputs of Rajasthan. BRILL. p. 25. ISBN 978-90-04-17594-5.