Rajputs: The Trailblazers of Warfare and the Mahakshatriyas of Mewar

When this was the perilous condition of Sanatana Dharma, it was the Rajputs who faced the aggression unleashed by Muslims. The history and contributions of the Rajputs are truly memorable given the fact that they have shown unforgettable valour and unparalleled heroism throughout. Some scholars have woven fabricated tales claiming that they were not originally from India. However, it is indisputable that they hailed from India. They also claim that there was infighting among them. However, there is no race or class or group of people that do not have infighting. 
 
In fact, a sizeable number of Muslims themselves opposed the Mughals. This reached such a pitch that a king like Akbar declared war against a woman named Chand Bibi. This apart, the Mughals were frequently engaged in wars against the Pathans of Bengal and the Bahamanis of the South. Taimur, Ibrahim Lodhi, Nadir Shah and others fought against other Muslims. Indeed, the Bahamani Sultans constantly fought one another. Their internecine battles were a common feature. The list of hostilities that erupted among Sher Shah, Humayun, Bairam Khan, Akbar and others is quite long. The instances of Ala-ud-din Khalji who murdered his own uncle Jalal-ud-din, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb who mercilessly murdered their own brothers are all the climatic indicators of family feud. Given this, the claim that Islam is a great unifier is simply a myth. 
 
The boundless adventures, accomplishments and exploits of Rajputs are stuff of legends. While these warriors authored their stories on battlefield with their swords, poets have immortalized their exploits in the form of Lavanis (loosely, ballads) and a specialized literary genre named Raaso. Every line in their poetry overflows with the Vira Rasa, the Heroic Element or emotion. 
 
Rajputs are the Bhaktas of Arbuda Devi (a Shakti Peeta that is located atop today’s Mount Abu). This is one of the 51 Shakti Peetas of Parvati Devi. Rajputs comprise three main categories: Marwaris, Ajmeris, and Mewaris. 
 
The Mewaris hailed from the Sisodiya lineage. The Marwaris were housed in Yodhapura or today’s Jodhpur. Rajputs hailing from Jaipur and Ajmer were known as Ajmeris. These Rajput families originally descended from the Paramaras, Chandelas and Pratiharas. Socially, they all hailed from the lower classes and rose up to prominence and eminence by the dint of their own effort. However, owing to the relentless predations of Islam, they were unfortunately pushed to leading lives in the forest and eventually became Adivasis. For example, there was a prohibition against the Lohar tribe to enter towns and cities; they only had to live in the forests and lead a nomadic life. This prohibition was first enforced from Akbar’s time and onwards.

The Mahakshatriyas of Mewar

The Mewar Dynasty is perhaps the most outstanding of all Rajput clans. The center of Mewar is Chittor or Chitrakuta. A mountain seems to have abruptly sprung up on an expansive and vast stretch of flat land. An impregnable fort that has extended itself atop it and around it—this is the home of Chittor. This is not merely a battle-fort. It is also home to some exquisite sculpture. Herein resides the divine temple of Mahadeva built by Bhoja Raja and the Krishna temple built by Mirabai. Because there is largely no vegetation in this region, the builders of this fort have thoughtfully created numerous waterbodies that have resulted in the flourishing of large pockets of trees and creepers and vines. The fort follows a plan that affords a seven-course protection. Keeping this as the center, the Rajputs built numerous other forts in the region. More specifically, the Rajputs have built truly magnificent forts in the Aravali forest region.
 
It was in this backdrop that their culture and valour grew and flourished. 
 
The tradition of the Sisodiya Rajputs began with Bappa Rawal. He was eventually followed by Raja Hammira, a great protector of those who sought refuge in him. It was precisely owing to providing this sort of protection that numerous tragedies occurred. An officer named Mohammad Shah who worked under Ala-ud-din Khalji earned his master’s ire. To avoid punishment, he sought refuge under Hammira. When Ala-ud-din marched against him, Hammira fought with extraordinary valour to protect this refugee but perished in the battle.
 
The other brilliant name that stands out in this clan is that of Rana Kumbha or Kumbhakarna. He was learned in all the Sastras. He had also earned expertise in music, dance, instruments, and prose. He wrote a commentary titled Rasikapriyaa on the Gita Govinda. He is also the author of the encyclopedic work on music titled Sangitaraja
 
His grandson is the renowned king Rana Sangram Singh. He sported eighty-four battle scars on his body. In his battle against Ibrahim Lodhi, he lost his left hand which was holding the shield. Undaunted, he continued the battle with just one hand! Such battle scars are called Viralakshana (mark of valour) in our poetic tradition. The doctor who treated his hand counted the number of these scars. Rana Sangram Singh was the son of Rana Rayamalla and Ratnaa Kumari. Sangram Singh’s wife is the fabled Rani Rupamati. Her beauty and their love story hold an esteemed place in the annals of legends. He stood rock-solid for years on end, continuously fighting the Khaljis and the Lodhis. Despite standing with such sturdiness, he embraced death by being poisoned by his people close to him thanks to infighting and petty jealousies. He breathed his last in Ranthambhor (Ranasthambhapuri). 
 
In summary, on some occasions, the Rajputs lost their lives waging war due to silly reasons, and on others, died in order to protect some random person. They expended their valour mostly from a misplaced sense of chivalry.  Some historians claim that Rana Sangram Singh had a defective leg and was blind in one eye. But no matter his physical deformities, it should not be forgotten that he was an extraordinary warrior.
 
His son was Vikramaditya who did not distinguish himself as a warrior. And so, Sangram Singh coronated his other son, Uday Simha, who paled in comparison with his father. Moreover, he was given to sensual indulgences. Unable to face Babar, he fled Chittorgarh and escaped to the forest-and-mountain fort, Udaipur that lay amid the dense Aravali jungles. The very fact that he even survived is in itself a heroic tale. Our gratitude must go to his maidservant, Panna because his son was Maharana Pratap Simha.
 
When Uday Simha was just six years old, one of his cousins, Banvir developed an ambition to ascend the throne through nefarious means. In fact, he had already been the de facto ruler by sidelining Uday Simha’s elder brother, Vikramaditya. Eventually, he began to plot the assassination of Uday Simha. A spy who learned of this plot conveyed it to Pannadasi, a maid in the royal household. She clothed her own son with the boy Uday Simha’s dress and made him sleep on the royal cot. Then she concealed Uday Simha in a basket of used food-leaves which were sent for disposal every day, thereby sending him out of the fort. Eventually, Banvir arrived and mistaking Panna’s son for the prince, chopped him into pieces in front of his own mother’s eyes. Panna thus made the supreme sacrifice by sending her own son to death in order to save the prince.
 
Indeed, the world of Rajputs boasts a legion of such stellar women who offered selfless sacrifice of this nature. Krishna Kumari chopped off her own head. Rana Samar Singh’s wife Karmadevi committed Jauhar. It appears as though falling into the fire was akin to a sport for these brave women. They have become immortal in history by the sheer force of their bravery which made them neglect their lives in order to uphold their honour. 
 
To be continued
 

Author(s)

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Dr. Ganesh is a 'shatavadhani' and one of India’s foremost Sanskrit poets and scholars. He writes and lectures extensively on various subjects pertaining to India and Indian cultural heritage. He is a master of the ancient art of avadhana and is credited with reviving the art in Kannada. He is a recipient of the Badarayana-Vyasa Puraskar from the President of India for his contribution to the Sanskrit language.

Translator(s)

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Hari is an author, violinist, and designer with a deep interest in Hindu scriptures, Carnatic music, education pedagogy design, and literature. He has worked on books like The New Bhagavad-Gita, Your Dharma and Mine, Srishti, and Foggy Fool's Farrago.

About:

Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.