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Rawal Ratan Singh

Rawal Ratan Singh of Rajasthan and his Resistance against the Turks

The Warlike Traditions and Resistance
The rulers of Mewar had their glorious history by virtue of offering tremendous resistance for the cause of their country against the Arab and Turkish invaders. Bapa and Khuman have been credited to have successfully repelled the Arab invaders and checked their expansion beyond Multan and Sindh. During the four centuries that followed, the Guhilots of Mewar had occasionally to face reverses at the hands of their powerful neighbours, the Chalukyas, the Paramars and the Chauhans. Jaitra Singh (12l3 – 61) consolidated his own power and shook off completely the ascendancy of rival princes. He tried to check the advance of the Truks towards Rajasthan and made Chittor the seat of the government. When Rawal Ratan Singh, the son and successor of Samar Singh, ascended the gaddi in the year 1302, he had to maintain the warlike tradition of his house by defending the fort of Chittor against Alauddin’s invading forces. His war against the Khalji Sultan ended in disaster for him and the Rawal house, and he died defending the fort against his enemies in the year 1303 AD.

The Siege of Chittor (1303 AD)

The fall of the fort and the death of the Rawal are the interesting accounts of the siege of the fortress. Alauddin Khalji, who was one of the most ambitious rulers that ever sat upon the throne of Delhi, undertook the difficult task of reducing the powerful state of Mewar to submission. Early in 1303 he started from Delhi and besieged the fort of Chittor, the capital of the guhilots. This expedition was the outcome of the Sultan’s ambitious desire for territorial expansion. It was also directed, in all probability, towards the achievement of conquering the regions of independent Hindu chiefs. After the reduction of the fort of Ranthambore in 1301, the occupation of the fort would really help his scheme of expansion in the Deccan. It tradition is to be believed, the immediate cause of his expedition was his infatuation for Padmini, the fair queen of Rawal Ratan Singh. Amir Khursau, who was the poet-laureate and who accompanied the Sultan on this expedition, has left gralphuic description of the siege of the fort and its fall.

On his arrival in Chittor, Alauddin pitched his white canopy on the top of an adjacent hillock, known as Chittori. He occupied this position in order to hold his court and direct (he operations of the siege personally. Then the right and left wing of the army was stationed on either side of the fort. The troops were also ordered to encircle the whole town. For about seven months the siege continued, but all the attempts o capture the fort failed. The brave Rajputs, under their gallant leader Ratan Singh, defended the fort to the last man. The wonderful citadel was not affected in the least despite the onslaughts of the marjniq, battles and clever stratagems. The gallant Sisodia vassal chief Lakshman Singh fell fighting along with his seven sons. Gora and Badal, the two brave sons of Chittor, fought but they failed to withstand the combined strength of the enemy. The woman performed the awful ritual of jauhar to save their honour. The life in the fort was thereafter thrown into utter confusion, leading to its inevitable collapse. The Rana had to submit ultimately on the 26th August 1303 A.D. Mr. Tod gives a picturesque description o the last scene o resistance. “When further resistance seemed impossible, they preferred death to disgrace, and performed that horrible rite, the Jauhar, where the females are immolated to preserve them from the pollution or captivity. The funeral pyre was lighted with in the ‘great subterranean retreat,’ in chambers impervious to the number of several thousands. The fair Padmini closed upon them, leaving them to final security from dishonor in the devouring element.” Alauddin’s army then entered the fort. “The heroic resistance of the Rajputs had exasperated the Sultan who ordered a general massacre of the population.” Amir Khusrau, who was eyewitness, says that 30,000 Hindus were killed in a single day. This was followed by demolition of the temples and other objects of art. After staying therefore sometime, the victorious Sultan left for Delhi, put-staying there his eldest son Khizra Khan in its charge. The fort was rechristened Khizrabad.

Controversies Regarding the end of Ratan Singh

Nothing is known about the Rana’s end. According to Nensi, Ratan Singh died a heroic death fighting the Sultan. Tod also accepts this version. But the writer of the Khazain-ul-Futuh says tat after the capitulation of Chittor, the Rana sought refuge in Alauddin’s camp and his life was spared. Isami supports this fact. Kakka Sur, a Jain writer, in his work Nabhinandana – jinodhara-prabandha, composed in 1336, says that Alavadiri(Alauddin) captured Ratan Singh, took away his property, and made him move like a monkeys from one city to another. According to Jatmal’s Gora- Badal –Chaupa (composed in 1613 A.D.). Ratan singh was imprisoned by the Sultan and he was ill treated. But if the traditional stories are believed, it appears that his imprisonment was the early affair. When Gora and Badal managed to rescue Ratan Singh from Alauddin’s camp, he went back to the for fort and there in an active action embraced death.

Later history of Chittor

Khizra Khan could not stay in Chittor for a long time. He had to leave it about the year 1311 A.D. The valiat Rajputs constantly harassed the royal troops garrisoned at the fort. As a result of this the Sultan ordered Khizra Khan to evacuate it. He then entrusted the charge of the fort to Maldeo, the Sonagara chief of Jalore. But the Rajputs did not bear the occupation of the fort by one who was a tributary of the Sultan. Hamir, the Sisodia chief, recovered the fort and it once again became the capital of Mewar about 1325 A.D.

The Historicity of Padmini

Many modern scholars are inclined to reject the story of Padmini altogether. They regard Padmini’s story a legend. The episode of Padmini has received a great deal of prominence, through the Padmavat of Malik Muhammad Jayasi written about 1540 A.D. According to him, Padmini was a princess of Ceylon. She was well-known for her beauty from a parrot, fell in love. He went to Ceylon in mendicants dress and succeeded in winning her love. She was then brought to Chittor. Once by chance, Raghavdev, a wizard, saw her. He was highly impressed by her superb beauty. He went to the court of Alauddin Khilji and reported to the Sultan about Padmini’s extraordinary charm. Alauddin in order to have her in his harem laid siege to the fort of Chittor. Finding the task of reducing the fort difficult, he tried to get her by some other device. He sent a message to the Rana that if Padmini’s reflection should be shown to him in a mirror, he would go back to Delhi. He agreed to gratify the Sultan’s wishes by allowing him to behold the princes through the medium of mirror. When the Sultan was going back after looking at the reflection of the fair Padmini and when Rana accompanied the Sultan up to the gate of the fort, as courtesy demanded, he was treacherously imprisoned and carried away to the Sultan’s camp. From his camp the Sultan sent word to the Rani that her husband would be released if she chose to come into his harem. In order to counteract the treachery of Sultan, the Rani expressed her willingness to do so. Hence under the leadership of Gora and Badal 1,600 covered litters, occupied by armed warriors, reached the royal palace and demanded for a private interview of the Rani with her husband. The Sultan readily granted. The brave Rajputs rescued the Rana and carried him off to Chittor. Then followed a deadly fight resulting in the end of the brave Gora and Badal along with their followers. In the meantime, Alauddin again invaded the fort and occupied it.

Some of the critics like Dr. Ojha, Dr. Qanungo, Dr. Lal etc. regard the story of Padmini a fiction, intermixed with romantic and adventurous tales. They are of opinion that Padmini’s story, which originated from Jayasi’s mind has been uncritically accepted as a true historical fact. Dr. Qanungo not only rejects the story of Padmini but also doubts the very existence of Ratan Singh. The major arguments for rejecting this story are: (1) Amir Khusrau, who accompanied the Sultan says nothing about it; (2) other contemporary writers also make no mention of Padmini; (3) the story has been borrowed from Padmavat, a later work of 1540 A.D., which is a romance rather than a literary work. It is nothing but a literary concoction of Malik Muhammed Jayasi. “Further, the later writers, who reproduced the story with varying details, flourished long after the event and differ from one another on essential points. It has also been argued that the invasion of Chittor was natural corollary to the expansionist policy of Alauddin and no Padmini was needed for his Casus Belli”.

As against this. Dr. A. L. Srivastava feels that these arguments are based on a superficial reading of Khusrau’s work and are fallacious. He further says, “Amir Khusrau” does throw a hint about the episode when he compares Alauddin with Solomon, refers to his Seba as being in the fort of Chittor, and of himself as ‘Hud-Hud’, the bird that brought the news of the beautiful Bilquis, queen of Seba, to king Solomon of Ethopia. Khusrau’s narrative makes it clear that Alauddin entered the fort accompanied by him before it had capitulated, a fort to which birds were unable to fly. The Rana came to Alauddin’s tents and submitted only after the Sultan had returned from the fort. After the Rana’s submission, the massacre of 30,000 Hindus took place by the disappointed Sultan’s order. Reading between the lines brings to light the main incidents of the story. Khusrau, who was a court poet, was not in a position to write anything more, than he actually did, and we know that he had omitted many an unpalatable truth, such as, Allauddin’s murder of his uncle, Jalauddin, the Sultan’s defeat at the hands of the Mongols, the Mongols’ siege of Delhi etc. it is wrong to say, as Mr. Ojha and Dr. Lal and others have contended, that the incident was concocted by Jayasi. The fact is that Jayasi wrote out a romance, the plot of which he derived from Amir Khusrau’s Khazain-ul-Futuh. Most of the romantic details of Jayasi’s Padmavat are imaginary; but the main plot of the story that Padmini was coveted by Alauddin and was shown in a mirror to the lustful Sultan who had her husband arrested, is most probably based on historical truth. It seems the women performed Jauhar after Ratan Singh’s arrest and then the Rajputs fell on the invaders and rescued the Rana. But they were out down to a man, and the fort and the country passed into Alauddin’s hands. Those critics who have classed the story of Padmini as fiction have forgotten the fact that traditional lore’s have some historical background. The bardic chronicles and some Persian histories preserved the current story of Padmini from Mewar tradition. The story was so popular that Ferishta and Hajiuddabir gave place to the story in their works. Even Manucci records the events related with Padmini, Raja’s imprisonment and the clever strategem of litters. Col. Tod also repeats the story of Padmini in glowing terms. Nensi and Surajmal Mishran too do not miss to refer the Padmini affair. The varied accounts of Padmini’s story narrated by the writers, poets and travelers offer a strong testimony to draw that it is not the case of imagination but an event borrowed from current tradition. Dr. Ishwari Prasad is right to suggest that the mewar tradition which accepts the story is a very old one, handed down from generation to generation, and if Padmini episode was a mere ‘literary concoction’ why did it gain so wide a currency in Rajputana ? The views of S.Roy also deserve due consideration in this connection. He says, “it should be remembered that Alauddin’s lust for a Hindu queen is proved by the known instances of Queen Kamla Devi of Gujarat and the daughter of King Ramchandra of Devagiri. It is to be remembered also, that Abul Fazi definitely says that he gives the story of Padmini from “ancient chronicles.” Which cannot obviously refer to the Padmavat, an almost contemporary work. On the whole, it must be admitted that there is no inherent impossibility in the kernel of the story of Padmini devoid of all embellishments, and it should not be totally rejected off hand as a myth. But it is impossible, at the present state of our knowledge, to regard it as a definite historical fact."

Causes of the Fall of Chittor

The fall of the fort should not be ascribed to the inferiority of the Rajput defenders as soldiers, and to the superiority of the Turks who came from the cold region, and used the superior skill of warfare. The Rajput soldiers have been superb is a fact which no one would deny. For centuries they showed their mettle in the field of battle. The fact that the Rajputs offered heroic resistance for about seven months is a strong proof of Rajput valour and strength. Again, the fact that the siege was a prolonged one emphatically proves that the garrison was determined to defend the fort to the last man. The main cause of the fall of the fort is to be traced in the political disunity. When Chittor was passing through the moments of critical crisis, the neighbouring Rajput clans and fellow rulers did not come to its aid. The Rawal of Chittor had to fight single handed. No effort was made to put up a united defence against the invader. Dr. Lal has rightly remarked. “It is not known if the neighbouring princes came to the rescue of Ratan but considering the constant rivalry and callous indifference of the kingdoms of Rajputana towards one another, it can easily be surmised that the newly crowned king of Chittor had to fight single handed.” In the field of military equipment and tactics, the Rajputs were stationary. They were, therefore, outclassed in weapons and out maneuvered in tactics. The Rajput swordsmanship and arrowmanship proved ineffective against the onslaughts of the marjniqs. By closing the door of the fort and allowing the civil population of the neighbouring region to seek protection within the citadel, the defenders were deprived of the provision that was stored for a longer siege. The enemies on the other hand devastated the towns and villages, and collected material through their swoop and shock – tactics. Moreover, creating a second defense line or military station, was sadly missed by the Rajputs, while the Sultan had several military outposts from Delhi onward for the supply of arms and provision. The Sultan had also taken special care to survey the site and pitched his tent between the two rivers Gambhiri and Berach, the natural defense lines. By occupying a hillock, known as Chittori, he made his task easy for directing the operations of the siege personally. The mobile Turkish troops encircled the town and the right and left wings of the army encamped on other side of the fort. This arrangement was made to exploit the weaknesses of the Rajputs and to dishearten and demoralize the civil population. Thus the superior military organization of the Turks rendered the heroic resistance futile in long run.



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