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Sultan Alau'd Din put to Flight; Women of Ranthambhor commit Jauhar. Indian, Pahari style painting from c. 1825
The Rajput ceremony of Jauhar, 1567, as depicted by Ambrose Dudley in Hutchinsons History of the Nations, c.1910

Jauhar (also spelled jowhar) is the self-immolation of queens and female royals of the Rajput kingdoms of Rajasthan in India, when facing defeat at the hands of an enemy. The roots of this practice lie in the internecine warfare among different Rajput clans.[1] The most famous Jauhars in recorded history have occurred at the end of Rajput battles with Muslim empires.[2] It was followed by females and children of the Rajput clans in order to avoid capture, enslavement and rape at the hands of invaders. The term also describes the practice of mass suicide carried out in medieval times by Rajput women to save their honor from invaders. The term is derived from two Sanskrit words, Jau or Jiv meaning "life" and Har meaning "to take" added together means to take one's own life. Jivhar was later conflated with the Arabic word Jawhar meaning "mettle", "jewel" or "property". In the palaces of the maharanas there was a special room of Jauhar that is called as "Jauhar Kund" before the johar they speak the slogan "jai bhavani", (bhavani is an another name for durga maa) and give their handprints in the wall surrounded by the jawhar kund.

During the Jauhar, which was said to take place during the night, Brahmin priests would chant Vedic mantras, and the Rajput women, wearing their wedding dresses, would commit suicide with their children via self-immolation. On the morning after the Jauhar, the men would carry out the saka; after taking a bath, the men would wear saffron clothes, smear the ashes of their wives and children on their foreheads, and put a tulsi leaf in their mouths. Then, they would sally out either to annihilate their enemies or to be annihilated by them.


This practice is culturally related to Sati, [clarification needed] although it occurs at a different occasion.[1] While both practices have been most common historically in the territory of modern Rajasthan, sati was a custom performed by widowed women only, while Jauhar and saka [clarification needed] were committed while both the partners were living and only at a time of war.


Jauhar[3] and saka were not just limited to the Hindus who formed the nobility and ruling classes and castes of Rajasthan and northern India. People of all castes and classes practiced it[citation needed]. There is extensive glorification of the practice in the local ballads and folk histories of Rajasthan.

There are many instances of Jauhar (and saka), but these are not well recorded. Maharani Samyukta, wife of Prithviraj Chauhan, the last Hindu king to rule Delhi, committed Jauhar along with her ladies when asked to surrender to Afghan invaders. King Vijaipal's wife committed Jauhar at the fort of Bayana, but this is based on ambiguous information from the fort of Timan Garh, now in the Karauli district of Rajasthan. The womenfolk of the family of Silhadi, the military power-broker, committed Jauhar, led by his queen, who was the daughter of Mewar's King Rana Sanga.[citation needed]

There are a number of other instances of Jauhar on record, especially in the Khilji and Tughlaq times. Jauhar was committed during the Tughlaq campaign against the state of Kampili in the Raichur Doab and the siege of Anegondi – later to be famous as Vijayanagar.

Among the well-known cases of Jauhar are the three occurrences at the fort of Chittaur (Chittaurgarh, Chittorgarh), in Rajasthan, in 1303 AD,[4] 1535 AD, and 1568 AD. Jaisalmer has witnessed two occurrences of Jauhar, one in the year 1304 AD during the reign of Alauddin Khilji, and another during the reign of Firuz Shah Tughlaq. Another occurrence was in Chanderi.

Jauhar of Agnikula ( Agalassoi )[edit]

The Agalossoi tribe is mentioned in the conquests of Alexander, they were most likely Agnikula (Parmara) Kshatriya's, they had an army of 40,000 men and 3,000 horses. Their two chief towns were obliterated by the Macedonians. The women and children committed jauhar rather than subjugation and slavery. The citadel was well defended and its inhabitants were pardoned by Alexanders' General Cutius in respect of the voluntary immolation of its people, an incident in keeping with the Hindu tradition.[5]

Jauhar of Jaisalmer[edit]

Bhatnair, Tanot and Jaisalmer, capitals of Bhati Rajputs, witnessed the scene of Jauhar thrice, the last time men did not have enough time to build the pyre and hence slit the throats of women, and hence, it is considered half Jauhar.[6] In the time of Maharawal Jait Singh, Alauddin Khilji besieged the fort of Jaisalmer, and after seven months, 24,000[7] women committed Jauhar.[6]

Second Jauhar of Chittor[edit]

Rana Sanga died in 1528 AD after the Battle of Khanua. Shortly afterwards, Mewar and Chittor came under the regency of his widow, Rani Karnavati. The kingdom was menaced by Bahadur Shah of Gujarat, who besieged Chittorgarh. Without relief from other forces and facing defeat, the Rani committed Jauhar with other women on March 8, 1535, while the Rajput army rallied out to meet the besieging Muslim army and committed saka.[8]

Karnavati importuned the assistance of Humayun, the son of Babur, her late husband's foe, by sending him a rakhi and a request for his help as a brother. Humayun started for Chittor but could not reach there in time. This is the occasion for the second of the three Jauhars performed at Chittor. [9]

Third Jauhar of Chittor[edit]

The Burning of the Rajput women, during the siege of Chitor

Emperor Akbar besieged the fort of Chittor in September 1567.[10] Changing the strategy, Rana Udai Singh II, his sons and the royal women, using secret routes, escaped soon after the siege began. The fort was left under Rao Jaimal Rathore and Patta Sisodiya's command. One morning, Akbar found Jaimal inspecting repairs to the fort, which had been damaged by explosives, and killed him. That same day, the Rajputs realized that defeat was certain. The Rajput women committed Jauhar on the night of February 22, 1568 AD, and the next morning, the Rajput men committed saka. (Abul Faz'l has given an account of the event as seen by Akbar in his biography in 1568 AD.)

Jauhar of Raisen[edit]

Raisen was the country of Shiladitya the Tuar, his brother Lakshman defended the town against Mughal Army. Shiladitya was chief architect of the obliteration of Hindu confederacy at battle of Khanwa since he walked off the battle field with his kinsmen and Rana Sanga was left with little force. Raisen took refuge with Sultan of Gujarat Bahadur Shah but later he moved back to Raisen as he knew Sultan will not tolerate his presence without his army for long. To protect the town he even accepted Islam but his family including the daughter of Rana Sanga decided to defend the town until death. This led to a long siege of Raisen fort and after a year when supplies ended, Jauhar was committed led by Rani Durgavati and her daughter in law (daughter of Rana Sanga), the men led by Lakshman Tuar committed saka.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ashis Nandy, "Sati as Profit versus Sati as Spectacle: The Public Debate on Roop Kanwar's Death," in Hawley, Sati the Blessing and the Curse: The Burning of Wives in India
  2. ^ Pratibha Jain, Saṅgītā Śarmā, Honour, status & polity
  3. ^ Kayita Rani, the Royal Rajasthan
  4. ^ "Main Battles". 
  5. ^ Vincent Arthur Smith, The Early History of India from 600 B.C. to the Muhammadan Conquest, page 91
  6. ^ a b R.K. Gupta, S.R. Bakshi, Studies In Indian History: Rajasthan Through The Ages The Heritage Of ..., page 100
  7. ^ Beny & Matheson. Page 149.; Khooni Itihaas, Arya Prakashan Mandi, Bikaner,1926
  8. ^ R.K. Gupta, S.R. Bakshi, Studies In Indian History: Rajasthan Through The Ages The Heritage Of ..., page 124
  9. ^ R.C.Agarwal,Bharatvarsha Ka Sampoorna Itihaas P. 378, S.Chand & Co., 1969
  10. ^ R.K. Gupta, S.R. Bakshi, Studies In Indian History: Rajasthan Through The Ages The Heritage Of ..., page 125
  11. ^ Sir Henry Yule,The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians, page 358

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