Suraj Mal

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Suraj Mal
Maharaja of Bharatpur
Bahadur Jung
Maharaja Suraj Mal
Maharaja Suraj Mal
Reignr. 1755 – 1763 AD
CoronationDeeg, 22 May 1755
PredecessorBadan Singh
SuccessorJawahar Singh
Born13 February 1707
Died25 December 1763(1763-12-25) (aged 56)
near Delhi
SpouseMaharani Kishori
IssueJawahar Singh
Nahar Singh
Ratan Singh
Nihal Singh
Ranjit Singh
HouseSinsinwar Jat Dynasty[citation needed]
FatherBadan Singh
MotherDevki (Deoki)

Maharaja Suraj Mal (13 February 1707 – 25 December 1763) or Sujan Singh was ruler of Bharatpur in Rajasthan, India. A contemporary historian has described him as "the Plato of the Jat people" and a modern writer has called him the "Jat Odysseus", because of his political sagacity, steady intellect and clear vision.[1]

Maharaja Suraj Mal's Cenotaph at Govardhan, photo by William Henry Baker, c.1860

Early life[edit]

Maharaja Suraj Mal was born in o3 February 1707 into a Jat family. His father was Maharaja Badan Singh and mother was Maharani Devki.

Career[edit]

In 1739 he witnessed the invasion of the Mughal Empire by Nader Shah from Bharatpur State.

Later Maharaja Suraj Mal witnessed the power struggle between the Maratha Confederacy and the Durrani Empire.

He sheltered the Mughal imperial family and its head Alamgir II while the Siege of Delhi 1757 was taking place.

Soon afterwards he was approached by the Marathas who expected that he would aid them against the forces of Ahmad Shah Durrani.

Alamgir II unexpected demise in 1759 had tilted the country against the Maratha Confederacy.

Maharaja Suraj Mal proved himself and his princely state unhelpful to the Maratha Confederacy.

Maharaja Suraj Mal did not support the Maratha Confederacy during the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761.

He was highly displeased when some Marathas had fled from the battlefield of Panipat and entered the realms of his princely state.

He helped returned Maratha women and the widows back to Maharashtra after their defeat in 1761, because he feared that the Marathas would possibly retaliate again from Pune.

Suraj Mal demanded Delhi to be a part of his protectorate, most specifically after the political and strategic events in 1757. His forces are believed to have gained control of Delhi in 1761 and Agra in 1763.

Legacy[edit]

During his entire lifetime Maharaja Suraj Mal had witnessed the downfall of the Mughal Empire.

He was a wise leader of the Jat people.

Maharaja Suraj Mal believed himself to have been a part of the greater Mughal dynasty and viewed himself to be a part of the ruling family.

When individuals from the dynasty proved themselves to be ineffectual rulers, then he would view himself to be the de facto guardian or head of the Mughal family.

Titles[edit]

During the early years of his life he gained the title "Maharaja", later he also earned the title Bahadur Jung after his courtly feuds within the Durbar of the Mughal emperor.

Battle of Kumher[edit]

Mughal Emperor Alamgir II and his rebellious courtier Siraj ud-Daulah were having a factional feud. Suraj Mal had sided with Siraj. Alamgir sought the help of the Holkar Marathas of Indore. Khanderao Holkar, son of the Maharaja of Indore, Malhar Rao Holkar, laid a siege on Suraj Mal's Kumher in 1754. While inspecting the troops on an open palanquin in the battle of Kumher, Khanderao was hit and killed by a cannonball from the Bharatpur army. The siege was lifted and a treaty was signed between Jats and Marathas, which later proved helpful for Suraj Mal in consolidating his rule.[2][3]

Ahmed Shah Abdali's fifth invasion (1759-1760)[edit]

After news reached of Ahmad Shah Abdali invading India for the fifth time and marching towards Delhi, Suraj Mal sent 5000 troops to Delhi for its protection. Sensing that the battle between the Afghans and Marathas under Dattaji Shinde was imminent, Ghazi-ud-din retreated from Delhi to Kumher fort under the protection of Suraj Mal. On January 9, 1760 the forces of Ahmad Shah Abdali defeated Dattaji Shinde and his forces at Barari Ghat, where Dattaji Shinde was killed, Jankoji Shinde was wounded and most of the Maratha forces started fleeing. The Jat forces at Delhi retreated after the Maratha defeat at Barari Ghat.

After his victory at Burari Ghat, Ahmad Shah Abdali camped at Khizarabad, south of Delhi. He asked Madho Singh of Jaipur, Bijay Singh of Marwar and Suraj Mal of Bharatpur to present themselves at his court and pay tributes.

Receiving no satisfying reply from Suraj Mal, Abdali marched into Jat territory coming through Shergarh and on February 6, 1760 laid siege to Dig. Marathas regrouped under the leadership of Malhar Rao Holkar who started raids on Afghan camps using guerilla warfare. Ahmed Shah Abdali raised the siege of Dig and marched against Malhar Rao Holkar. In a matter of month, Abdali inflicted several defeats on forces of Malhar Rao Holkar which resulted in Malhar Rao Holkar and his minister Gangadhar Tatya retreating to Jat kingdom of Bharatpur for refuge. Once there, Malhar Rao Holkar began peace talks with Ahmed Shah Abdali.

Abdali then marched and laid siege to the fort of Aligarh on the eastern side of river Yamuna. Aligarh fort came under Suraj Mal’s territory and a garrison under Durjan Sal held the fort at the moment. Though it was a fortified and well provisioned fort, Abdali was successful in completely isolating the fort from reinforcements and supplies arriving from Suraj Mal. Durjan Sal understood his precarious position and surrendered the fort to Abdali.

Here Abdali found out that a fresh Maratha force of about 50,000 strong was dispatched from Deccan under the command of Sadashivrao Bhau. Najib-ud-daula persuaded Ahmed Shah Abdali to stay in India for the rainy season and inflict a severe defeat to the Marathas.  Abdali made camp at Aligarh and started making allies with Shuja-ud-daula and Ahmed Khan Bangash against the upcoming fight against the Marathas.[4]

Failed Durrani expedition against Suraj Mal (early 1761)[edit]

Ahmad Shah Abdali and the Afghans decisively defeated the Marathas at Panipat, but had won no spoils in return. The Maratha army was starving and thus, provided no valuables to be looted. Delhi also, was in no better state as it had been rendered barren and empty due to recent invasions. The Afghan army had not been paid their salaries since the beginning of Abdali’s invasion in 1759. Ahmad Shah Abdali thus, felt a need for money which he demanded Najib-ud-Daula and Shuja-ud-Daula. Najib-ud-Daula persuaded Abdali to ask Suraj Mal to pay tributes to Abdali. With this intention, Najib-ud-Daula presented Nagar Mall and Majlis Rai, who were Suraj Mal’s envoys to Abdali.

The negotiations were unsuccessful and Zinat Mahal's (wife of Alamgir II), requested Abdali not to negotiate with Suraj Mal who had given refuge to Alamgir II’s murderer Ghazi-ud-din. Helpless Abdali ordered an expedition against Suraj Mal with his wazir Shah Wali Khan commanding it, accompanied by Zinat Mahal, Prince Jawan Bakht and Mirza Babur. They set out for Agra on March 7, 1761, but the Afghan army did not cooperate.

The Afghan soldiers had not seen their home for almost two years, had not been paid their salaries for almost two years, who after facing death and destruction at Panipat were once again being asked to sacrifice themselves for promise of loot. The Afghan soldiers also remembered the previous time they visited Mathura, when an epidemic of cholera broke out killing countless Afghan soldiers. To stop the soldiers from revolting, Ahmad Shah Abdali decided to return to Afghanistan as swiftly as possible and on March 13, 1761 left Delhi for Afghanistan.[4]

Death[edit]

Maharaja Suraj Mal died on 25 December 1763 at Delhi. His son Jawahar Singh succeeded him as the Maharaja of Bharatpur.

Commemoration[edit]

His large cenotaph is at Kusum Sarovar, Govardhan, Uttar Pradesh.[5]

Notable institutes named after him include Maharaja Surajmal Institute of Technology and Maharaja Surajmal Brij University, Bharatpur.

References[edit]

  1. ^ R.C.Majumdar, H.C.Raychaudhury, Kalikaranjan Datta: An Advanced History of India, fourth edition, 1978, ISBN 0-333-90298-X, Page-535
  2. ^ Advanced Study in the History of Modern India 1707-1813, by Jaswant Lal Mehta, pp606
  3. ^ Images of Women in Maharashtrian Literature and Religion, edited by Anne Feldhaus, pp185-186
  4. ^ a b Singh, Ganda (1959). Ahmad Shah Durrani - Father of Modern Afghanistan. Gosha-e-Adab : sole distributers Nisa traders (1977).
  5. ^ Cenotaph of Raja Sooruj Mull, Govurdhun. 97140, British Library online collection
Suraj Mal
Sinsiniwar Jat Dynasty
Born: 1707 Died: 1763
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Badan Singh
Maharaja of Bharatpur
1755–1763 AD
Succeeded by
Maharaja Jawahar Singh