The Chauhan Dynasty: History of Rajasthan

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The Chauhan Dynasty

The Raja Saheb of Mainpuri, Head of all Chauhan clans

1. Songara Chauhan: Kuldevi is Chandi Devi. They are descended from the Rajas of Jalore, and had one branch, viz. Bhadoria

2. Khichi Chauhan: Kuldevi is Bhagwati. They are descended from Raja Bhagwat rai, Raja Gugalsingh and Raja Jaisingh of Khinchipur.

3. Hada Chauhan: Kuldevi is Ashapura. They are descended from Raja Manik Rai of Sambhar, and have the following branches, Udawat, Devra, Devre, Jaitawat and Chandrawat.

4. Bhadauria Chauhan: Their Kingdom was Bhadawar and are said to be a branch of the Songara Chauhan.

5. Bachgoti: Their name is derived from Vatsa Gotri and has two branches viz. Rajkumar and Rajwar.

The word Chauhan is the vernacular form of the Sanskrit term Chahamana. While the earlier versions of Chandbardai work Prithviraj Raso does not mention Chauhan as born from Agnikunda, the later versions do.

The 15th-century Hammira Mahakavya of Nayachandra Suri & Jayanayak’s Prithviraj Vijay considers Chauhans as Suryavanshi. Pandit Gaurishankar Ojha seconds this opinion.

Based on Bijloia Inscription (1170 CE), Dr. Dasrath Sharma considers that early ancestor of Chauhan was born at Ahichchhatrapura in the gotra of sage Vatsa. Ahichchhatrapura can be identified with modern Nagaur.

Chahamanas probably started out as petty rulers of Ahichchhatrapura. As the Chahamana territory expanded, the entire region ruled by them came to be known as Sapadalaksha. In course of time Chauhans formed ruling dynasties at various places.

Major Chauhan dynasties include:

  • Chauhans of Shakambhari
  • Chauhans of Ranthambore
  • Chauhans of Jalore

Apart from these, there are other ruling dynasties that claim Chauhan descent including:

  • Haras of Hadoti

Chauhans of Shakambhari:

Raja Guvaka I, 1st Raja of the Chahamana Dynasty at Harsha from 809 to 836, also known as Govindraj I, his predecessors were rulers at their capital of Purnatallakapura, initially he was the Samanta of Raja Nagabhata II of Kannauj, who had married his sister Kalavati Devi; he took part in a battle against the Muslims on behalf of Nagabhata II, and had defeated Sultan Beg Varisa; at some time he probably declared himself independent, and made his capital at Harsha, married and had issue. He lived around 815.

 Vasu-deva (c. 6th century CE)

  • Considered as founder of Shakambhari branch of Chauhans around 551 CE
  •  According to a mythical account in Prithviraja Vijaya, he received the Sambhar Salt Lake as a gift from a vidyadhara (a supernatural being).
  • Samanta-raja (c. 684-709 CE); identified as the legendary Manik Rai by R. B. Singh
  • Nara-deva (c. 709-721 CE)
  • Ajaya-raja I (c. 721-734 CE), alias Jayaraja or Ajayapala
  • Vigraha-raja I (c. 734-759 CE)
  • Chandra-raja I (c. 759-771 CE)
  • Gopendra-raja (c. 771-784 CE)
  • Durlabha-raja I (c. 784-809 CE)
  • Govinda-raja I (c. 809-836 CE), alias Guvaka-I: Constructed Harshnath Temple in Sikar
  • Chandra-raja II (c. 836-863 CE)
  • Govindaraja II (c. 863-890 CE), alias Guvaka II
  • Chandana-raja (c. 890-917 CE)
  • Vakpati-raja (c. 917-944 CE)
  • Simha-raja (c. 944-971 CE)
  • Vigraha-raja II (c. 971-998 CE)
  • Durlabha-raja II (c. 998-1012 CE)
  •  Govinda-raja III (c. 1012-1026 CE)
  • Vakpati-raja II (c. 1026-1040 CE)
  • Viryarama (c. 1040 CE)
  • Chamunda-raja (c. 1040-1065 CE)
  •  Durlabha-raja III (c. 1065-1070 CE), alias Duśala
  • Vigraha-raja III (c. 1070-1090 CE), alias Visala
  • Prithvi-raja I (c. 1090-1110 CE)
  • Ajaya-raja II (c. 1110-1135 CE): Moved the capital to Ajayameru (Ajmer) and Repulsed a Ghaznavid attack, and also defeated the Paramara king Naravarman.
  • Arno-raja (c. 1135-1150 CE), alias Ana: Defeated Turkish invaders and Constructed Anasagar Lake in Ajmer.
  • Jagad-deva (c. 1150 CE)
  • Vigraha-raja IV (c. 1150-1164 CE), alias Visala deva: Expanded the Chauhan territories, and captured Delhi from The Tomaras.
  • Apara-gangeya (c. 1164-1165 CE)
  • Prithvi-raja II (c. 1165-1169 CE)
  •  Someshvara (c. 1169-1178 CE)
  •  Prithvi-raja III (c. 1178-1192 CE): Better known as Prithviraj Chauhan and Defeated Mohd. Ghori in first Battle of Tarain in 1191

Battles of Tarain: 1191 & 1192 :-The Battles of Tarain, also known as the Battles of Taraori, were series of two battles fought in 1191 and 1192 A.D between Prithviraj Chauhan III of Ajmer and Ghurid ruler Mu’izz al-Din Muhammad or Mohammed  Ghori. The battles were fought near the town of Tarain (Taraori), near Thanesar in present-day Haryana.

  1. To extend the boundaries of his empire Muhammad Shahabuddin Ghori entered into India in 1175 CE.
  2. He advanced to Gujarat in 1178 CE and advanced further by seizing Peshawar and Lahore and he ended the rule of Ghaznavid in Punjab with the help of the ruler of Jammu.
  3. As a result of successive conquests the boundaries of Ghori’s kingdom extended to the border of Prithviraj’s kingdom. In 1191, Muhammad Ghori attacked Sirhind or Bathinda on northwestern frontier of Chauhan kingdom. Prithviraj’s along with his army, led by vassal Govinda-Raj, rushed to the defense of the frontier, and the two armies fought a battle at Tarain. This is how the First war of Tarain began.
  4. Two wings of Turkic army was defeated and fled away while Muhammad Ghori could not recover from the blow and fainted from the shock. The army surrendered and Muhammad was made prisoner. Muhammad of Ghor begged for mercy and Prithviraj pardoned him.
  5. In 1192, Ghori after returning to his capital Ghazni challenged Prithviraj at the Second Battle of Tarain. Both Muhammad and Prithviraj increased their army’s strength. Muhammad divided his huge troop into 5 parts and Prithviraj increased army with the help of 150 Rajput kingdoms. Muhammad Ghori asked Prithviraj Chauhan to either change his religion to Muslim or be prepared to be defeated by him.
  6. Prithviraj Chauhan cease-fired.  Muhammad Ghori deceived Prithviraj with a letter of acceptance of the treaty. The Rajput arm mood. Suddenly Ghori`s army attacked Prithviraj`s army in the wee hours. At the end of the day Muhammad Ghori was victorious.
  7. About hundred thousand Rajput soldiers died in the battle. The second battle of Tarain opened the way for conquerors of India. Muhammad and his successors established an Islamic Empire in India as the Sultanate of Delhi. 

Muhammad Ghori: Muhammad Ghazni established the Ghaznavid Empire with capital at Ghazni. After his death, Ghazni was Oghuz Turks. Ghori defeated the Turks and laid foundation of Ghurid Empire. After having made his position strong and secure at Ghazni, Muhammad Ghori turned his attention to India.

In 1175, Muhammad Ghori captured Multan and occupied whole of Sind in his subsequent expeditions. He turned south across the desert towards Anhilwara (modern day Patan, in Gujarat). In 1178, suffered defeat in the Battle of Kayadara (Gujarat), from ruler of Gujarat, Bhimdev Solanki II (ruled 1178–1241). As a result, Ghori retreated back to Multan.

In 1186 he attacked Punjab, and defeated Khusru Malik and added Malik’s empire to his dominions. Ghori returned back to Ghanzi to help his brother, only to return in 1191.

The first Battle of Tarain (1191): In 1191, Ghori proceeded towards India through the Khyber Pass and captured a fortress of Bathinda.

This brought him on northwestern frontier of Prithviraj Chauhans kingdom. Realizing their grave situation, the Hindu princes of north India formed a confederacy under the command of Prithiviraj Chauhan. Prithviraj’s army, led by his vassal prince Govind Tai marched on to Bathinda and met his enemy at a place called Tarain (also called Taraori).

Ghori was wounded in personal battle with Govind Tai and so Ghori’s army retreated, giving victory to Prithviraj Chauhan. However, Prithviraj did not pursue Ghori’s army, not wanting to invade hostile territory or misjudging Ghori’s ambition, instead electing to retake the fortress of Bathinda.

Alternatively it has also been mentioned that, Ghori’s army surrendered and Muhammad was made prisoner.

Muhammad of Ghor begged for mercy and Prithviraj pardoned him. Hence, Prithviraj Chauhan won the First Battle of Tarain, held in 1191.

After the First Battle:

Ghori return to Ghazni, and started preparations to avenge the defeat. When he reached Lahore, he sent his envoy to Prithviraj to demand his submission, but the Chauhan ruler refused to comply.

The Second Battle of Tarain (1192): In 1192, Ghori challenged Prithviraj and a battle ensued at the same place (Tarain). Both Ghori and Prithviraj increased their army’s strength. But Ghori changed his tactics as he did not want to engage in melee combat with disciplined Rajput warriors. He divided his huge troop into 5 parts and four units were sent to attack the Rajput flanks and rear. Hoping for Rajput attack, Ghori ordered his fifth unit to fast retreat. As Ghori expected, the Rajput’s charged the fleeing Ghurid unit. The Ghurids then sent a fresh cavalry unit of 12,000 and they managed to throw back the Rajput advance. Muhammad Ghori won the second Battle of Tarain.

Regarding, fate of Prthiviraj after second battle, two stories emerge.

  • The first story says that Prthivraj Chauhan was captured in the battle field and executed.
  • The second story, the more famous one in Rajasthan, is based on poem written by Prithviraj’s court poet Chandbardai. The story says that Mohammad Ghori attacked Prithviraj Chauhan unfairly at night, defeated his armies and captured him. Later Chauhan was taken to Ghor and presented in the court. Ghori ordered Prithvi to lower his eyes to which Prithvi retorted that the eyelids of Rajputs are lowered only on his death. Feeling insulted, Ghori blinded the Rajput prince.
  • Chandbardai entered the court of Mahmud of Ghori in a disguise. Chand Bardai told Ghori that Prithviraj was a very skilled archer, and he could take aim based only on sound, and did not even need to look at his target. Ghori disdained to believe this and asked for the display.

When Prithviraj was given a bow and arrows into his hand and asked to take aim. Sighting opportunity, Chandbardai recited in a poetic stanza the location where Ghori sat. The stanza is: “Char bans, Chaubis Gaj, angul ashta Praman, Ta Upar sultan hai, Chuke mat Chauhan.” (Four measures ahead of you and twenty four yards away as measured with eight finger measurement, is seated the Sultan. Do not miss him now, Chauhan).

  • Getting the direction and location Prithviraj shot his arrow through Ghori and killed him.

Consequences of Second Battle of Tarain on India: The second battle of Tarain was a decisive battle. It was a major disaster for the Rajputs and their political prestige suffered a serious setback. In 1193, Ghori’s general Qutub-Din Aibak took over Ajmer and soon established Ghurid control in northern and central India. Son of Prithviraj was moved to Ranthambore (laid foundation of Chauhan kingdom there). Further, in 1194, Battle of Chandwar took place, in which Aibak defeated Gahadavala ruler Jayachandra. In conlusion, the Battles of Tarain and Chandwar laid the foundation for establishment of Turkish rule in India.

Bakhtiyar Khilji extended the domain of empire to Bihar destroying Universities of Nalanda & Vikramsila in the process. Later in 1202, his army completed the occupation of Hindustan by taking the province of Bengal.

Causes for the failure of Hindu kingdoms: The most important cause for the downfall of Hindu Kingdoms was that the lack unity. They were divided by factions and Rajput Kingdoms were engaged in eternal mutual conflicts. It was the result of these conflicts that Jai Chandra did not help, Prithvi Raj Chauhan in putting up a united front against invaders.

Secondly, the military methods of Indian Kingdoms were also out of date and inferior to those of Muslims. Indians continued to rely on elephants while the Muslims possessed quick-moving cavalry. More importantly, Ghori had spent the time carefully planning his campaign and his tactics proved a major winner in war.

1. Govinda-raja IV (c. 1192 CE): Banished by Hari-raja for accepting Muslim suzerainty and established the Chauhan branch of Ranthambore

2. Hari-raja (c. 1193-1194 CE): Hewas a king from the Shakambhari Chahamana dynasty of north-western India. After the Ghurid invaders defeated his brother Prithviraja III in 1192 CE, he dethroned his nephew Govindaraja IV, who had been appointed as a vassal ruler by the Ghurids. He ruled a part of his ancestral kingdom (in present-day Rajasthan) for a brief period, before being defeated by the Ghurids in 1194 CE.

Hariraja was a son of the Chahamana king Someshvara and Queen Karpura Devi. He and his elder brother Prithviraja III were born in Gujarat, where their father Someshvara was brought up at the Chalukya court by his maternal relatives. Prithviraja ascended the Chahamana throne after Someshvara death, but his reign ended in 1192 CE with a Ghurid conquest of the kingdom. The Ghurids appointed Prithviraj’s son Govindaraja IV as a vassal ruler in return for a heavy tribute.

Chauhans of Ranthambore

The Chauhan lost Ranthambore as a result of defeat of Prithviraja III in battle of Tarain 1192. By Mahmud of Ghori But, Prithviraj’s son Govindaraja IV accepted the Ghurid suzerainty, and ruled Ranthambore as his vassal.

  • Govinda-raja
  • Son of Prthvi Raja Chauhan III
  • Balhana-deva or Balhan
  • Prahlada or Prahlad,
  •  Viranarayana or Vir Narayan,
  • Vagabhata, son of Balhana;
  • Known as Bahar Deo in bardic chronicles
  • Jaitra-simha or Jaitra Singh
  •  Hammira-deva or Hammir Dev

In 1299, he defeated Allauddin Khilji’s army led by Ulugh Khan & Nusrat Khan.

  • In 1301, Allauddin Khilji again invaded his kingdom, which resulted in his defeat and death.

The Chauhans of Ranthambore and Delhi Sultans: After the subjugation of Chauhan kingdom of Ajmer and Delhi by Shihabuddin and his lieutenant Qutbuddin Aibak, Prithviraja Chauhans son and successor, Govindaraja was appointed Muslim nominee on the ancestral throne. Govindaraja rule over Ajmer was not favoured by Hariraja, probably due to his acting as a Muslim vassal and as a result, repeated attempts were made by Prithviraj’s brother Hariraja to dislodge Govindaraja. Hariraja was apparently dissatisfied with the Muslim rule and of his nephew acting as their nominee he attacked Govindaraja and succeeded in driving him away from Ajmer. However, due to timely intervention of Qutbuddin, Hariraja was re-installed on the throne of Ajmer.

  1. Hariraja made another attempt by sending Jatwan (Jaitra – perhaps his general) towards Delhi. The second attempt to failed and after some resistance, Hariraja was obliged to take shelter inside the fortress, which being hard pressed by the Delhi forces, fell and consequently Hariraja immolated himself.
  2. By the close of 12th century, Govindaraja as a result of serious attacks by Hariraja, vacated his ancestral place and established himself at Ranthambhor. It is clear from all Muslims and Rajputs accounts that Hariraja succeeded in depriving Govindaraja of the territory of Ajmer whereupon the latter carved out an independent kingdom.
  3. The final battle was fought near the foot of Mt. Abu between Rai Vallahanadeva and Dharavarsha, the Paramara feudatories of Bhima II of Gujarat. Qutbuddin strategy and farsightedness won the day in battle and the Rajputs forces were completely routed. After the victory, Aibak marched unopposed to Narhwala, which too was completely sacked. The repeated attempts on the part of the Chauhans during the early years of establishment of Delhi Sultanate, to regain their lost territories failed not only due to their reliance on numerical strength of forces, rather than skill, fighting strength and methods of warfare, but also because of their energies being exhausted against the neighboring kingdoms, notably, the Chalukyas, Chandellas and Gahadavalas.
  4. In a short span of about six years Aibak thus led successful invasions into most of the Rajput territories. However, due to his policy of non-annexation, authority over the conquered Rajput states was a superficial one – His distant and nominal control could hardly bring any significant change in the Rajput ruling order and much went on as usual.

Chauhans of Jalore: Prathihar king VatsaRaja was the ruler of Jalore during 8th century. Towards the end of 12th Century, Parmars ruled here. Historians believe that the Jalore fort was built by Parmar rulers. It is known from a stone inscription of 1238 A.D. of fort that Parmar King Biral’s-queen Maludevi Powered Gold wins on Sindhu King.

Nadole king, Arhan’s, youngest son Kirtipala started Chouhan tradition in Jalore. The Chauhan lineage of Jalore is as under:

  • Kirtipala (c. 1160-1182 CE)
  • Samara-Simha (c. 1182-1204 CE)
  • Udaya-Simha (c. 1204-1257 CE)
  • Chachiga-deva (c. 1257-1282 CE)
  • Samanta-Simha (c. 1282-1305 CE)
  • Kanhada-deva (c. 1292-1311 CE)
  • Wrote Kanha-Prabhandha: Epic elaborating war between Kanha Dev & Alaudin Khilji.

Subsequent Rulers:

  • Rathore king Rao Maldev ruled the fort of Jalore in 15th Century.
  •  During Akbar’s rule, Abdul Rahim Khan Khana took it infinitely from Gazni Khan.
  • Jahangir built the walls of the fort.
  • After the death of Aurangzeb it permanently became a part of Jodhpur.

The kingdom of Jalore was one of the important possessions of the Chauhans. It appears that after the attack of Qutbuddin on Nadol in 1197 A.D., the Chauhans under Kirtipala migrated towards Jalore, where the latter succeeded in establishing a new kingdom of Jalore. From its foundation by Kirtipala up to its last ruler Kanhadadera, is appears predominantly in the history of Rajasthan. Many of its princes had to contest with the Sultans of Delhi in a bid to retain possession of this small kingdom. Like the kingdom of Ranthambhor it saw its rise and fall during the period of Delhi Sultanate. The kingdom founded by Kirtipala was successfully retained by his successors, Samar Simha Simla and Udaya Simha. The latter is credited with having taken possession of several adjoining territories (in possession of the Chalukyas and the Paramaras).

  • The increasing power of the Jalore Chauhans, ultimately brought Udaya Simha and Iltutmish face to face in the formers’ desert capital.
  • According to Tajul Maasir, the contemporary Persian account, Udaya Simha took shelter in the forests and after being hard pressed sued for peace.
  • The terms included the offer of one hundred camels and 20 horses, for being restored to his fortress. It may thus be safely assumed that Jalore campaign did not yield the desired result, probably because of its geographical position.
  • Though rulers apparently accepted the overlordship of the Sultan, the kingdom was never brought under complete subjugation. Within five years, when Iltutmish invaded the Guhilot of Mewar, Udaya Simla acted in league with the Gujarat and Marwar princess and the Sultan had to retreat without an encounter.
  • The traditional as it was, however, only under Sultan Alauddin that the fortress was annexed to the Delhi Sultanate.

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