In the 7th and 8th century a group of people emerged who called themselves Rajputs which meant ‘Sons of Kings.’ They were warriors who hailed from Rajasthan and parts of Central India. They belonged to three kinds of ancestries; Suryavanshi, Chandravanshi and Agnivanshi. Under Agnivanshi were the clans of Pratiharas, Solankis, Paramaras and Chauhans. These clans established Kingdoms in Marwar, Ujjain, Malwa, Kannauj, Ajmer and Gujarat.
Rajputs were known for their courage and loyalty. Rajput women were trained for war and did not hesitate to go into the battlefield if their men were outnumbered. However, if the King and all his men were killed in a battle, Rajput women preferred to commit suicide rather than allow themselves to be taken as prisoners. This ritual was known as ‘Jauhar.’
One of the most prominent Rajput Kings was Prithviraj Chauhan. He ascended the throne at the age of 13, after the death of his father. He was adept at military targets and was known to hit moving targets merely by listening to the sound. He was a romantic, chivalrous and an extremely fearless person. His kidnapping of Princess Sanyogita is legendary. During her wedding to another man, Prithviraj bravely rode into the venue, abducted her and sped away.
Her father’s soldiers chased him but were unable to catch him. He got away and married his beloved.
In the meantime, he spread his empire and controlled most of Rajasthan and Haryana, unifying Rajputs against Muslim invasion. A Muslim conqueror named Mohammad Shahab-ud-din Ghori was capturing nearby kingdoms. As he covered more areas, he became a threat to Prithviraj’s territory.
Prithviraj prepared for war. The two clashed at the First Battle of Tarain. Prithviraj defeated him with his massive army of loyal soldiers. As Ghori retreated, Prithviraj was advised to attack the retreating army. The noble king refused to do so, and this proved to be his undoing as Ghori soon came back with his armies for a second attack.
At the second battle of Tarain, Prithviraj was defeated and captured. It is said that he was tortured and his eyes were blinded with red-hot iron rods. Thereafter in an archery contest, he displayed his skills by hitting targets in spite of being blinded. Ghori is said to have praised him for this feat. On hearing his voice, Prithviraj is believed to have aimed an arrow in his direction that killed his enemy. In 1192 AD, Prithviraj Chauhan died, ending an era of profound bravery, courage and mortality.
Maharana Pratap, Bappa Rawal and Rani Padmini have all made an indelible mark on the pages of Indian history. Maharana Pratap, the ruler of Mewar, is synonymous with Rajput valour and chivalry. He continued his combat against the Mughals and other infiltrators for the rest of his life. Gradually the power of the Rajputs dwindled as they were no match for the Mughals. When the British arrived in India, the Rajput states became colonies, this ending the reign of the Rajputs forever.
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