The refusal of the two Rajput Kingdoms of the Chauhans and the Rathods (Gahadwalas) to unite in face of the Muslim invasion led to the fall of Delhi and Kannauj to the Muslims and led to the establishment of Muslim Rule in India.
The Rajputs - The Brave Warriors
In spite of the Muslim rule up to Punjab, the Rajputs gained control of the heart of North India. The Rajput (from Raj-Putra i.e. prince or literally "king's son") who held the stage before the coming of the Muslims were a brave and chivalrous race. The Rajput legend traces their ancestry to Bappa Rawal - the legendary founder of the race who is said to have lived in the 8th century. It is the Rajputs who held the banner when the first Muslim invaders reached the Indian Heartland in the 12th century i.e. around 1191 C.E.
The main Rajput kingdoms in the 11th and 12th centuries were that of the Cahamanas (Chauhans) in East Punjab, Northern Rajasthan and Delhi. The Gahadwalas (Rathods ) ruled the Ganges valley today's UP. The Paramaras ruled Malwa in Central India and the Tomaras ruled from Gwalior. The most powerful kingdoms were hose of the Chauhans and the Rathods - both of which unfortunately were incessantly at war with each other when the Muslim raiders appeared again in the 1191 C.E.
In the 11th century i.e. in the post-Mahmud Ghazni era, the most powerful Hindu Kingdom in North India was that of the Gahadwalas or Rathods who were a Rajput clan. The founder of the Gahadwala line was Govindchandra Gahadwala. He was an astute ruler and ruled from Kannauj. Most of North India, including the university town of Nalanda was a part of his kingdom. He stoutly defended his kingdom from further Muslims incursions. He instituted a tax for this purpose, which was called Turushka Danda (i.e. tax to fight the Turushkas or Turks). His grandson was Jaichandra Gahadwala (Rathod) who played a tragic role in Indian History.
The Story of Prithviraj Chauhan and Mahmud Ghori
In Jaichand's days, a rival Rajput clan had established itself in Delhi (Pithoragarh). The ruler there was Prithviraj Chauhan. Prithviraj was a romantic, chivalrous and an extremely fearless person. After ceaseless military campaigns, Prithviraj extended his original kingdom of Sambhar (Shakambara) to Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Eastern Punjab. He ruled from his twin capitals at Delhi and Ajmer. His fast rise caught the envy of the then powerful ruler Jaichandra Gahadwala and there was a lot of ill-feeling between the two.
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Prithviraj's Love for Sanyogita - Jaichandra's Daughter
The story of Prithviraj's bold exploits spread far and wide in the country and he was the center of much discussion in the circle of the nobility. Sanyogita, the daughter of Jaichandra Gahadwala fell secretly in love with Prithviraj and she started a secret poetic correspondence with him. Her father the haughty Jaichandra got wind of this and he decided to teach his daughter and her upstart lover a lesson. So he arranged a Swayamwara (a ceremony where a bride can select her husband from the assembled princes. She had the right to garland any prince and she became his queen. This is an ancient Hindu custom among Royalty). Jaichandra invited all the big and small princes of the country to Kannauj for the royal Swayamwara. But he deliberately ignored Prithviraj.
To add insult to injury, he even made a statue of Prithviraj and kept him as a doorman.
The Elopement of Sanyogita with Prithviraj
Prithviraj got to know of this and he confided his plans to his lover.
On the said day, Sanyogita walked down the aisle where the royals had assembled and bypassed all of them only to reach the door and garland the statue of Prithviraj as a doorman. The assemblage was stunned at this brash act of hers. But what stunned them and her father Jaichandra was the next thing that happened.
Prithviraj who was hiding behind the statue, also in the garb of a doorman, whisked Sanyogita away and put her up on his steed to make a fast getaway to his capital at Delhi.
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Chouhan-Rathod Warfare Leads to Weakening of both Rajput Kingdoms
Jaichandra and his army gave earnest chase and in the resultant string of battles between the two kingdoms fought between 1189 and 1190, both of them suffered heavily. While this drama was being enacted, another ruler also named Mahmud who was from Ghori in Afghanistan had grown powerful and had captured Ghazni and subsequently attacked the Ghaznavid Governor of Punjab and defeated him. The kingdom of Mahmud Ghori now stretched up to the domains of Prithviraj Chouhan. A clash was inevitable.
The 1st Battle of Tarain 1191 C.E. - Victory of Prithviraj Chouhan
Mahmud Ghori threw the gauntlet by laying siege to the fortress of Bhatinda in East Punjab which was on the frontier of Prithviraj's domains. Prithviraj's appeal for help from his father-in-law was scornfully rejected by the haughty Jaichandra. But undaunted Prithviraj marched on to Bhatinda and met his enemy at a place called Tarain (also called Taraori) near the ancient town of Thanesar. In face of the persistent Rajput attacks, the battle was won as the Muslim army broke ranks and fled leaving their general Mahmud Ghori as a prisoner in Prithviraj's hands.
Mahmud Ghori was brought in chains to Pithoragarh - Prithviraj's capital and he begged his victor for mercy and release. Prithviraj's ministers advised against pardoning the aggressor. But the chivalrous and valiant Prithviraj thought otherwise and respectfully released the vanquished Ghori.
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The 2nd Battle of Tarain 1192 C.E. - Defeat of Prithviraj Chouhan
The very next year Prithviraj's gesture was repaid by Ghori who re-attacked Prithviraj with a stronger army and guilefully defeated him by attacking the Rajput army before daybreak. (The Hindus incidentally followed a hoary practice of battling only from sunrise up to sunset. Before Sunrise and after Sunset there was to be no fighting- as per a time honored battle code). The defeated Prithviraj was pursued up to his capital and in chains he was taken as a captive to Ghori in Afghanistan.
The Blinding of Prithviraj
The story of Prithviraj does not end here. As a prisoner in Ghor he was presented before Mahmud, where he looked Ghori straight into the eye. Ghori ordered him to lower his eyes, whereupon a defiant Prithviraj scornfully told him how he had treated Ghori as a prisoner and said that the eyelids of a Rajputs eyes are lowered only in death.
On hearing this, Ghori flew into a rage and ordered that Prithviraj's eyes be burnt with red hot iron rods.
This heinous deed being done, Prithviraj was regularly brought to the court to be taunted by Ghori and his courtiers. In those days Prithviraj was joined by his former biographer Chand Bardai, who had composed a ballad-biography on Prithviraj in the name of Prithviraj Raso (Songs of Prithviraj). Chand Bardai told Prithviraj, that he should avenge Ghori's betrayal and daily insults.
The Blind Prithviraj Avenges the Injustice done to him
The two got an opportunity when Ghori announced a game of Archery. On the advice of Chand Bardai, Prithviraj, who was then at court said he would also like to participate. On hearing his suggestion, the courtiers guffawed at him and he was taunted by Ghori as to how he could participate when he could not see. Whereupon, Prithviraj told Mahmud Ghori to order him to shoot, and he would reach his target.
Ghori became suspicious and asked Prithviraj why he wanted Ghori himself to order and not anyone else. On behalf of Prithviraj, Chand Bardai told Ghori that he as a king would not accept orders from anyone other than a king. His ego satisfied, Mahmud Ghori agreed.
On the said day, Ghori sitting in his royal enclosure had Prithviraj brought to the ground and had him unchained for the event. On Ghori's ordering Prithviraj to shoot, Prithviraj turned in the direction from where he heard Ghori speak and struck Ghori dead with his arrow. This event is described by Chand Bardai in the couplet, "Dus kadam aggey, bees kadam daey, baitha hai Sultan. Ab mat chuko Chauhan, chala do apna baan." (Ten feet ahead of you and twenty feet to your right, is seated the Sultan, do not now miss him Chouhan, release your baan - arrow).
Thus ended the story of the brave but unrealistic Prithviraj Chouhan - the last Hindu ruler of Delhi. Delhi was to remain under Muslim rule for the next 700 years till 1857 and under British rule till 1947. Those few Hindus who came close to liberating Delhi during the seven centuries of Muslim rule were Rana Sanga in 1527, Raja Vikramaditya in around 1565 (2nd battle of Panipat), and Shrimant Vishwas Rao who was the Peshwa's son and was co-commander of the Maratha forces in the 3rd battle of Panipat in 1761.
Metaphorically speaking, the next Hindu ruler to actually preside over Delhi was to be Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of Independent India (and Jawarharlal Nehru - who was the President's first Minister).
The ornate interior of Jaipur's Rambagh palace. A typical symbol of late Rajput architecture. However for all this glory, the Kings of Jaipur / Amber could not preserve their throne during the Muslim rule, giving away their daughters to the Mughal Rulers and serving as the paid servants in the Mughal armies against their fellow countrymen. Raja Man Singh and Raja Todar Mal helped the Mughals against Maharana Pratap - the valiant Rajput ruler of Mewad who defiantly held up the banner of Indian independence in face of overwhelmingly powerful alien attacks. But unfortunately, renegade Rajput soldiers fought against Maharana Pratap at the Battle of Haldighati. It was these dark sheep who, to save their throne and skin, brought defeat and dishonor to the nation.
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