Ram Singh I
|Ram Singh I|
|Coronation||September 10, 1667|
|Predecessor||Jai Singh I|
|Issue||One son: Kunwar Kishan Singh (died 1682)|
Career as prince
Kunwar Ram Singh had served in the campaigns of his great father Jai Singh I and by 1654 had acquired a rank of commander of 3000 (cavalry) in the Mughal nobility. His first independent campaign was in 1660, after the accession of Aurangzeb as emperor, when he led an army against the hill-state of Srinagar(Uttarakhand). Jai Singh took his younger son Kirat Singh on his last campaign to the Deccan (1664–67) leaving Ram Singh to be his representative at the Mughal court. When Jai Singh sent the Maratha hero Shivaji, to meet Aurangzeb (1666), he took an oath to be responsible for his safety at the Mughal court, and made Ram Singh Shivaji's caretaker.
Shivaji and Ram Singh
Shivaji, accomapanied by his son Sambhaji and other officials and servants, was received by Kanvar Ram Singh at his military camp in the suburbs of Agra city (12 May 1666). Ram Singh escorted them to meet the emperor at the Diwan-e-khas (hall of special audience) in Agra fort. Here they gave a customary present (nazara) of 1,500 gold pieces (mohurs) at which, Aurangzeb cried out, "Come up Shivaji Raja!"
Shivaji was taken to his place among the nobles who stood in two parallel columns in front of the throne. Shivaji didn't receive any gift or honor from the emperor nor had there been any serious negotiations for his position.
It happened to be the emperor's birthday and robes of honor were given to the high ranked nobles like the prime minister Jafer Khan and Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur (commander of 6000. But the highest ranking Mughal noble was Raja Jai Singh I, a commander of 7000). All this while Shivaji had been forgotten. Shivaji was deliberately made a commander of 5000 by Aurangzeb and was made to stand behind mansabdārs (military commanders) of his court. Moreover, the noble in front of him was Rai Singh, also a commander of 5000 but of a higher grade. The nobles in front of Shivaji were the ones whom Shivaji had comprehensively defeated in the past. Shivaji Maharaj took offense at this seeming insult. His loud voice and angry gestures caused a minor commotion...Ram Singh came to him and tried to calm him down but the Maratha king couldn't be pacified. Shivaji stormed out of the court and was promptly placed under house arrest in Ram Singh's camp, under the watch of Fulād Khān, Kotwal of Agra.
For the next three days Shivaji refused to appear in court and returned the rank of nobility. Aurangzeb decided to kill or at least imprison him——whereupon Ram Singh told the emperor to first kill him and his Rajput soldiers, who were honor-bound by his father's oath to Shivaji, before even a hair of the Maratha king's head was touched. Aurangzeb allowed Ram Singh to keep him in his care but only after the Rajput prince signed a bond (15 May) taking full responsibility for the Maratha king.
For the next few months Shivaji lived in Ram Singh's camp, guarded by Rajput warriors, but also regularly watched by Mughal soldiers. When further negotiations proved futile Shivaji decided on escape— in August he feigned illness and began sending out baskets of sweets as charity. On August 17, 1666 Shivaji and his son hid themselves in such baskets and escaped from Agra.
Ram Singh in Assam and the decree of 1669
Since Shivaji had escaped from the midst of Ram Singh's camp, Aurangzeb's suspicion naturally fell on Ram Singh for the feat. Some Maratha Brahmins confessed under torture that Ram Singh had connived at Shivaji's escape to honor the oath taken by his father. Ram Singh's rank was reduced by 1000, his estates were taken away, and he was banished from the Mughal court. Nearly a year later the Kachwaha prince was permitted to enter the court and his estates were restored (March 1667).
Meanwhile, in the south, his father Jai Singh was also harshly punished for the failure of his Bijapur invasion——unlike the Muslim generals who had also failed but were always in Aurangzeb's favor. Weighed down by these losses and the removal of his son from an influential post, Raja Jai Singh died on August 18, 1667. Ram Singh became the next Raja of Amber (10 September) with Aurangzeb putting the tika (paint mark) on his forehead. (This was the last occasion that this ceremony, started by Akbar as a means of honoring the leading Hindu Rajas, was performed. Aurangzeb eventually stopped this ceremony as a Hindu practice in his Islamic state.)
Within a few months (on December 27, 1667), Raja Ram Singh was sent to Assam. In the early stage of the campaign, at the head of a massive force, that was vastly superior to the Assam forces, Ram Singh pursued the Assam forces from the western boundary at Manas river to Guwahati where he laid siege. The Assam forces, under Lachit Borphukan, unable to match the Mughals on land, were able to win the decisive Battle of Saraighat on the Brahmaputra river which forced Ram Singh to retreat back to Mughal territory. The Ahom pursued Ram Singh to their Western boundary at Manas river.
In fact, with the removal of the influential Jai Singh, Aurangzeb had decided not to appoint Rajputs to any administrative post——and the reason soon became clear. With the leading Rajput chiefs away on military campaigns, Aurangzeb in 1669 ordered the provincial Muslim governors to enforce his decree to destroy newly built temples and places of religious instruction of the "infidel" Hindus.
Ram Singh and the Rajput War
When in 1676 Ram Singh returned to Agra as commander of 5000, Aurangzeb was engrossed in the frontier wars with the Pashtun tribes. But on the petering out of that conflict a bigger storm arose, which was destined to overthrow the Mughal Empire. In 1679, taking advantage of Maharaja Jaswant Singh's death in Afghanistan, Aurangzeb occupied his Kingdom of Marwar and simultaneously imposed the jaziya tax on the non-Muslims on April 2, 1679. The earlier decree of 1669 on temple destruction was now openly enforced and extended into the Rajput territories like Marwar, Mewar, Shekhawati, Bundelkhand, and Malwa.
However an alliance of the Rajput clans, and the desertion of Aurangzeb's son Sultan Muhammad Akbar to the Rajputs and Marathas, completely altered the situation. The insurrection spread among the Bhatis, Hadas, Gaurs, and there was a danger that the Amber Kachwahas could join their subordinate clansmen the Shekhawats. So before leaving for the Deccan in 1681 Aurangzeb appointed Ram Singh and his clansmen to a military outpost in Afghanistan so that they couldn't influence events in Rajputana.
In any case Ram Singh did not have the influence among the Mughal nobility that the accomplished Jai Singh had always commanded. Any progress in his career had been marred by Aurangzeb, who had first punished him and then denied him the full resources to fight in Assam.
Ram Singh in Afghanistan
The Kachawaha chief was posted at Jamrud to keep the frontier roads open and to subdue the Pashtun tribes through force and the payment of subsidies. But the treacherous Aurangzeb took away his only son Kunwar Kishan Singh to serve in the Deccan Wars, where the unfortunate prince met the fate of other Rajput chiefs who had been removed by poison and intrigue by Aurangzeb. Kishan Singh was killed on April 11, 1682, ostensibly in the course of a quarrel with his Afghan servant.
Barely had Ram Singh recovered from this shock when Aurangzeb now demanded that his grandson Bishan Singh be sent to the Deccan. Ram Singh, remembering the fate of his son and other Hindu princes, evaded this order for years. The angry Aurangzeb deprived him of his post in 1686, demoted him in rank, and sent him to Kohat where he died (April 1688) mourning for the fate of his dynasty at the hands of the bigoted Mughal emperor.
He was succeeded on the Amber throne by his grandson Bishan Singh.
- Purandare, Babasaheb. Raja Shivachhatrapati.
- Sarkar Jadunath (1984, reprint 1994). A History of Jaipur, New Delhi: Orient Longman, ISBN 81-250-0333-9.