Rajasthan : Pre Independence Kingdoms


Rajasthan was a part of the illustrious Mauryan Empire around 321-184 BCE. It had also been a part of Republics like Arjunyas, Hunas, Kushans, Malavas, Saka Satraps and the Yaudheyas. The Guptas reigned in the 4th century. Some Buddhist caves and Stupas have been found in Jhalawar, in the southern part of Rajasthan. The decline of the 300 year old Gupta Empire in the 5th century led to the political unrest in the Northern India and was followed by an epoch of instability as numerous chieftains tried to gain power. The situation was stabilized when the Gurjara Pratiharas, the earliest of the Rajput dynasty emerged around 700 CE. Since then Rajasthan was identified as Rajputana or the land of the Rajputs.[citation needed] The term Rajput literally means the son of a king. # From 640 CE onwards, the Pratiharas, Chauhans and Gahlots set up independent Kingdoms.[citation needed] Around 1000-1200 AD, the Rajputs had internal strife among themselves and were engaged in armed conflicts with each other. A struggle for supremacy took place among the Parmars, Chalukyas, and Chauhans. During the eighth – twelfth century AD, the Rajput clan gained supremacy and altogether the Rajputs were divided into 36 royal clans and 21 dynasties like the Hadas of Jhalwawar, Kota & Bundi, Sisodias of Mewar, the Bhatis of Jaisalmer, the Shekhawats of Shekhawati, the Kachhwahas of Jaipur and the Chauhans of Ajmer, the Rathores of [[Marwar] Jodhpur]]. Rajasthan includes most of Rajputana, comprising a number of Rajput kingdoms as well as Jat kingdoms and a Muslim kingdom. The Jats were rulers in Bharatpur and Dholpur. Tonk was ruled by a Muslim Nawab. Jodhpur, Bikaner, Udaipur, and Jaipur were some of the main Rajput states. Rajput families rose to prominence in the 6th century CE,[citation needed] establishing kingdoms in Rajputana and across northern India.


Medieval Period

Maharana Pratap, a Rajput ruler and great warrior of his time.Mughal emperor Akbar sent many missions against him. However he survived and ultimately gained control of all areas of Mewar excluding fort of Chittor.

Prithviraj Chauhan fought a brave battle against the foreign invader Muhammad Ghori and defeated him in the first battle of Tarain in 1191 CE (but was defeated in the Second Battle of Tarain in 1192 CE), but was defeated in the seventeenth battle with Ghori. After getting defeated for sixteen times, Ghori begged for his life saying a sentence with a literal meaning “I am your cow, Forgive”. In the seventeenth battle, a traitor from Chauhan’s kingdom supported Ghori’s army and landed up in the defeat. What happens after this is clear from the local folk songs still prominent in Rajasthan. It is said that PrithviRaj was taken to Afghanistan along with his raj-kavi cum friend, Chandbhar. In Ghori’s court, Prithviraj and Chandbhar were brought in shackles. PrithviRaj was asked to show the art of archery, wherein he could aim and shoot just by hearing the sound. It is also known as Shabdbhedi-baan. Ghori asked him to show him this art. To make game interesting for himself, he got his eyes pierced with hot iron rods. Chandbhar says, “A king, though as a prisoner, can receive command only from a king. So it would be an honour if you command Him to shoot”. Then he says few verses or poetry, few of those lines were,”Char baans chobis guz, aangal asht pravan, maar maar mote to chook na Chauhan”. Chaar baans meant four bamboos stick, chaubis guz as approximately 24 yards, aangal asht praval meant eight fingers width. All this combined gave thew exact location of Ghori sitting on his throne i.e. 4 bamboos stick high, 24 yards away and exactly eight fingers up was the Ghori sitting. “Go ahead O Chauhan and don’t miss the aim”. This is how PrithviRaj kills Ghori in his court and obviously to meet his own death. Grave of PrithviRaj Chauhan is present till date next to Ghori’s grave. And after the defeat of Chauhan around 1200 AD a part of Rajasthan came under Muslim rulers. The principal centers of their powers were Nagaur and Ajmer. Ranthambhor was also under their suzerainty.In the 12th century the Bhatti rajputs of jaselmer so enragged the empror Alo Din Khilji by looting his rich carvan,so his army attacked the state and captured the fort.At their conqure the rajput women commited the jauhar. At the beginning of the 13th century CE, the most prominent and powerful state of Rajasthan was Mewar. The Rajputs resisted the Muslim incursions into India, although a number of Rajput kingdoms eventually became subservient to the Delhi Sultanate. Mewar led others in resistance to Muslim rule: Rana Sanga fought the Battle of Khanua against Babur, the founder of the Mughal empire.


# In order to gain the trust of the Rajput rulers, the Mughal Emperor Akbar arranged matrimonial alliances. He also sought reconciliation with the hostile Rajputs after performing the matrimonial alliances. He himself married the Rajput princess- Jodha Bai who was the daughter of the Maharaja of Amber. He granted high offices to a large number of Rajput princes and this maintained very cordial relations with these Rajputs. Soon most of the Rajputs were transformed into friends of Akbar from adversaries and many of them surrendered their kingdoms to Akbar. Rulers like Raja Maan Singh of Amber were trusted allies. However all Rajput rulers were not ready to accept Akbar’s dominance and preferred to remain independent. One such ruler was Raja Uday Singh of Mewar, who founded the city of Udaipur. He never accepted Akbar’s supremacy and was at constant war with him. Akbar forcefully seized Chittor, his capital. After his death, this struggle was continued by his son – Rana Pratap. He fought a terrible battle with Akbar at the Haldighati pass where he was defeated and wounded. Since then Rana Pratap remained in recluse for 12 years and attacked the Mughal ruler from time to time. He fought valiantly throughout his life never ceded his independence to the Mughal ruler.


The traditional sacrifice and the self-respect of the Rajput women are also worth mentioning while discussing the imperial rule of Rajasthan during the medieval epoch. When the Rajput rulers were forced to surrender their kingdoms to other invaders, the Rajput women in order to protect their chastity and self-respect used to light up a pyre and together they used to jump into the fire thus sacrificing and ending their own lives. This custom of collective sacrifice was known as Jauhar.

Rajasthan’s formerly independent kingdoms created a rich architectural and cultural heritage, seen today in their numerous forts and palaces (Mahals and Havelis) which are enriched by features of Muslim and Jain architecture.


Modern Period

Rajasthan had never been united politically until its domination by Mughal Emperor Akbar. Akbar created a unified province of Rajasthan. Mughal power started to decline after 1707. The political disintegration of Rajasthan was caused by the dismemberment of the Mughal Empire. The Marathas penetrated Rajasthan upon the decline of the Mughal Empire. In 1755 the Maratha general Scindia occupied Ajmer. The beginning of the 19th Century was marked by the onslaught of the Pindaris.


The Rajput kings concluded treaties with the British in the early 19th century, accepting British sovereignty in return for local autonomy and protection from the Marathas. Following the Mughal tradition and more importantly due to its strategic location Ajmer became a province of British India, while the autonomous Rajput states, the Muslim state (Tonk), and the Jat states (Bharatpur and Dholpur) were organized into the Rajputana Agency. In 1817-18 the British Government concluded treaties of alliance with almost all the states of Rajputana. Thus began the British rule over Rajasthan, then called Rajputana.

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