Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Guerrilla Warfare-III (formation of Rajputana)

Fall of the Turks

There were no Turk possessions in Mewar now but the situation was different in Marwar---Nagaur, Mandor, Siwana, and Jalor were under Muslim governors. To their west were the Bhaatis of Jaisalmer and the Rathors of Kher---the latter were now acquiring a prominent place in the resistance against the foreign invaders. Three generations of their Raos were said to have fought and died against the Muslims in a short period. To the south of Siwana and Jalor were the Chauhan strongholds of Sanchor and Devada, which seem to have been attacked unsuccessfully by the army under Ala-ud-din in 1310. During the Khalji Sultan's illness and death at Delhi the Turk governors were at that city busy in the conspiracies and counter-conspiracies that followed---in these Alp Khan, governor of Gujarat, was murdered and his followers in that region revolted. Then Kamal-ud-din Gurg, governor of Jalor and Siwana, who was sent to crush this rebellion died at the hands of the rebels in 1316. Subsequently Ain-ul-Mulk from Devagiri and Ghazi Tughlak from Delhi converged on Gujarat from two directions and destroyed the rebel army. In this period (1318-20) Luntiga Chauhan stormed the fort of Siwana and slaughtered its Muslim garrison---no Sultan of Delhi tried to recover this fort.

Perhaps this was due to the fact that Ghazi Tughlak and his son Jauna were then preparing to overthrow the Khalji administration---in this attempt they sought the support, among others, of the governor of Jalor who declined to join the rebellion. But in 1320 the Tughlaks seized Delhi and Malik Ghazi Tughlak became Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlak. It was probably in this period (1320-26) that the Sesodias wrested the fort of Chittor from the Chauhans who were paying tribute to Delhi---here again no attempt was made to recover the fort by any of the Sultans[1]. Rana Hammir followed up this success by tightening his hold on the rebellious Bhil and Mina tribes dwelling in the hills and forests of Mewar and the neighboring Malwa plateau. In this latter place he deputed the Hada Rajput clan who founded the important fort of Bundi (seen below) in 1342.
the hill-fort of Bundi ruled by the Hada Rajput clan

By this time Sultan Muhammad Tughlak (1325-51) had come and gone. His most momentous decision was to change the Turk capital from Delhi to Devagiri in the south (1327-37). Most of the army and much of the civilian population were dragged south via the Muslim base of Malwa---bypassing the regions of Marwar and Mewar. Ironically these two regions, which had been attacked for their open roads to the south, were now avoided by the Turks. Guerrilla warfare by the Rajput clans had made Mewar and Marwar impassable for Muslim armies and caravans[2]. If the Sultan had made this move to better control the southern regions his hopes were crushed---in 1336 Harihar and Bukka had founded the city of Vijaynagar, Bengal broke away in 1338, and rebellions erupted in Gujarat and Daulatabad[3] after 1345. It was probably in this period that the fort of Jalor was conquered by the Chauhans from the Turks. The later Tughlak rulers were engrossed in rebellions and civil wars that came to involve the Rajputs[4] in the hills north of Delhi---Kangra, Sirmaur, and Kumaon---while rebellions of Rajput and Jat chieftains broke out in east Punjab and throughout the Gangetic plains.

In 1382 Aibak Khan the Muslim governor of Mandor, who had been practically independent of Delhi, increased the taxes on grain and fodder. The local Parihars, some of them enrolled in the Turk army, broke out in revolt and invited the powerful Rathors to their aid. The Rathors slaughtered the Turk governor and his garrison but occupied Mandor for themselves, making it their new capital. In Mewar Rana Kshetra Simha defeated the Turks of Malwa in 1389 and pushed the boundaries of his kingdom further south and east---all these possessions of the Sesodia clan were called the Kingdom of Mewar. Similarly the Rathors had triumphed over the Bhaatis, Turks, Parihars, and Chauhans[5] to form the large Kingdom of Marwar.
  1. However Rajput bards claim that Maldev's son Jeso sought the assistance of the Delhi Sultan against Hammir. Hammir defeated the Sultan and forced him to part with some money and important forts like Ranthambhor and Ajmer---this story is not corroborated by Muslim records. A Jain temple inscription however mentions Hammir's victory over "a Muslim army."
  2. Marwar and Mewar remained closed even to armies of the Mughal Empire. The royal road passed from Malwa to Agra and then to Delhi, bypassing Rajputana. It was only with the British Raj and the subsequent independence that these routes were once again opened to connect Northern and Western India.
  3. Devagiri was renamed Daulatabad, which translates to abode of wealth, as this former kingdom had certainly proved to be for the Turks.
  4. As described in GW-I ambitious princes and rebellious nobles of the plains always sought shelter and military aid from the hills. What was true for Sikhs and Mughals ranged against the Afghan invaders was equally true for the Delhi Sultans and their dependants in an earlier age.
  5. These descendants of former ruling families were reduced to the status of Thakurs under the Rathors. Some of them suffered an even worse fall to the ranks of common cultivators.

Formation of Rajputana

These two large and powerful kingdoms embarked on a vigorous military expansion and subdued lesser Rajput clans, Turks, Jats, Minas, and Bhils; thus covering a huge swathe of land between Delhi and Gujarat, which came to be called Rajputana. Branches of Rathors and Sesodias formed states in Gujarat, Malwa, and further south into the Indian peninsula. All around Rajputana indigenous powers overthrew the Turk rule and created their own petty kingdoms. In the east small Rajput states proliferated throughout Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and bogged down the Sultanate of Jaunpur in never-ending local conflicts---these later supplied the best infantry, called Purbias, to the Mughal, Maratha, and British armies. In the west the Sumras overthrew the Turks in Sindh while the Lankhas expelled the Turks from Multan. In the north the Gakhars sacked Lahore while the Rajas of Kangra plundered the neighboring plains of the Punjab.

The broken remnants of the Turk power in the south fared better. The ports of Gujarat and of the Bahmani Sultanate had opened up new routes for the movement of men and horses to India while creating an economy based on trade for these Sultanates. But here again the formation of Rajputana blocked the expansion of at least two of these Sultanates. Parts of the Malwa plateau had been occupied by the Kingdom of Mewar even when strong rulers sat on the throne of Delhi. When the local Muslim governors declared independence their energies were drained in fighting the vigorous Sesodias. Similarly a power based in Gujarat normally expands north into the Marwar region---the two areas were together called Maru-Gurjar in the past. But Marwar was now under the powerful Rathor clan while the Sultanate of Gujarat had to constantly fight against the local Rajput principalities like Champaner, Idar, and Girnar. Even in Malwa Rajput principalities like Chanderi and Raisen revolted against the local Sultan. The survival of these Rajput principalities was due in part to the Rajput Kingdom of Mewar that exhausted the military capacities of the two Sultanates in constant battles and raids.

Rajputana left its mark even on future events. While Malwa and Gujarat were forcibly incorporated into the Mughal Empire, and their ruling families were extinguished, the powerful states in Rajputana were handled with greater diplomacy by Akbar. Aurangzeb's bigotry however ended the diplomatic approach and truly created the conditions for the destruction of the Mughal Empire. The numerous states in Rajputana continued to exist down to the 20th Century and were finally merged into independent India in 1947.