Saturday, December 03, 2005

Rajputs in school textbooks

Following from the previous post on resistance let’s see how Rajputs are “mentioned” in history textbooks. By way of illustration we can restrict the coverage to the story of greatest Rajput state of Mewar (Udaipur). All are agreed that on the question of military power, land area, and financial strength, Mewar can be called the greatest Rajput Kingdom.

The period 1206-1526 was termed as the age of the Delhi Sultanate in the history textbooks written by the British and this terminology was followed unchanged by their successors. The first detailed mention of Mewar really is during the attack on Chittor by Ala-ud-din Khalji (1303). The textbooks then study each succeeding Sultan of Delhi until the invasion of Babur (1526) where, almost out of the blue, a ruler called Rana Sanga of Mewar appears to challenge the invader. He is defeated and there is no more mention of his kingdom until the next period of the Mughal Empire.

Now this creates an impression in most minds that Rajputs fought bravely but were always on the losing side. But those who study military history will ask: how come Rana Sanga was able to muster a large army when his ancestors had been supposedly conquered by the Delhi Sultans? How and when did he create a confederacy of Rajput chiefs? And where did all these powerful Rajput chiefs suddenly appear from in this “Muslim period”?

The answer is found not in the text books but in the history of Mewar, which has been published privately in several books and websites. This history reveals the guerrilla warfare of the Mewar and other Rajput rulers against the Turk invaders and their victory, after which the region came to be called Rajputana. It also reveals the trade routes passing through Rajasthan, the surprisingly high status of agriculture in what is wrongly called the “desert” state, and the mineral deposits and stone mines that together made these states financially strong.

It also shows how Mewar was really the leading kingdom of North India from the reign of Rana Kumbha (1433) down to the reign of Maharana Sanga (1509-28). Their campaigns dented the power of Muslim sultanates like Nagaur, Malwa, and Gujarat and ensured the survival of Rajput principalities within those areas. Now what kind of “Muslim period” was this where a Hindu Kingdom dominated for nearly a century?

Terms like “Delhi Sultanate” followed closely by “Mughal Empire” naturally create a myth of continuous Muslim rule in India. Whereas the actual story is the failure of the Turk invaders to conquer India and form a viable empire, or even to convert Indians to Islam in large numbers. This idea of continuous “Muslim rule” also encouraged Sikh separatism because the overseas Sikhs (Khalistanis) had convinced themselves that India was weak until the rise of the Sikhs. Their websites make such laughable claims even today! This logic can now be applied to some Jats, though they are in a minority, who are making similar claims about their rise to power.

In fact the term “Delhi Sultanate” should cover the period 1206-1388, which latter date is the year of Firuz Tughlak’s death. Independent kingdoms like Mewar, Marwar, and Gujarat in the north and Vijaynagar and Bahmani in the south have already made their mark on history and this next period (1388-1526) should ideally be called the age of independent kingdoms.

In this period we can study not only the Rajput Kingdoms, but also Vijaynagar and the Muslim Sultanates, Orissa, Mithila, Nepal, and the Ahom kingdoms. The resistance of the AJGARs can also be covered in this section, to which we can add Muslim converts like Meos, Ranghars, and Maula Jats who also resisted the Turk rulers.

Other kingdoms/regions that were important in this period were the Jammu & Kangra hills, Kumaon-Garhwal, and the Gakhars of the Salt Range.