Historical Information on Chittorgarh
is one of the oldest cities in Rajasthan, and its history goes back to
early 8th century. Bappa Rawal is credited with establishing the city
of Chittor, but in fact it was occupied by the Mori tribe when Rawal
descended upon them from somewhere in Mewar in the middle of the 8th
century AD. However, for once the takeover was not through war but by
matrimonial alliance. Bappa Rawal is reported to be a descendent of
the Solanki dynasty and had strong familial ties with the Mori clan,
an offshoot of the Parmara dynasty of Malwa (Gujarat). In fact, he was
the nephew of every significant Mori around. So when Bappa left Mewar
and came to Chittor he was welcomed with open arms. The Mori king made
him one of the top brass in his kingdom, giving the 15 year old Bappa
Rawal a fiefdom and plenty of nobles under him.
¤ Bappa Rawali-The Founder of Chittor
But Bappa Rawal had an arrogant streak, and the nobles didnt
see eye to eye with him. So they decided to desert him and form their
own fiefs. But that was not to be, for now invaders appeared from
Afghanistan, forcing the Rajputs to ally themselves to retain their
lands and their honour. Who exactly was the commander of the Afghan
army is a bit mysterious, but in the battle he was certainly defeated.
Driven by this victory Bappa Rawal proceeded to his old home in Gajni
and overthrew Salim, the Muslim ruler. This went down very well with
the nobles who were disgruntled earlier and they lent Bappa their
support in taking Chittor from the Mori ruler.
By the time Bappa Rawal returned to Chittor he had married the
daughter of his Afghan foe. But he was a little confused perhaps, for
eventually he left Chittor and joined his once enemy and now
father-in-law in Afghanistan. He never came back for he was too busy
conquering new lands in Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan.
But Chittor had been built, and that is what were talking about
here. For a few hundred years its history was uneventful.
¤ The Glorious Beauty of Rani Padmini Initiated a Attack
That is, until the time Alauddin Khilji heard about Rani Padmini, the
queen of Chittor and the wife of Ratan Singh. Padmini was the daughter
of Hamir Shank of far away Ceylon (off the southern tip of India) and
was known for her beauty. It is said that she was so fair and delicate
that when she drank water it could be seen passing down her throat.
Alauddin Khilji, the Turk ruler of Delhi at that time, heard about her
delicate beauty and decided to take her as his wife.
No Rajput would tolerate that, and when Khilji met with a refusal he
laid siege to Chittor in 1290AD. But Rajput valour was at its peak,
and although Khilji did what he could he failed to take the fort. Left
with no other option, Khilji extended the hand of friendship. All he
wanted, he said, was a glimpse of the most beautiful woman in the
world. To this Ratan Singh agreed in reciprocation to Khiljis
act of friendship. It was decided that the Turk would see Padmini, but
not directly, for a Rajput could not allow an `infidel to gaze
upon his women. So it was arranged that Padmini would appear behind
her suitor and Khilji would see her reflection in a mirror.
Alauddin Khilji entered Chittor lightly armed with a few of his men.
This faith in the Rajputs was but a ploy, as it would be discovered
later. Khilji was no fool, and he knew that to win his
foe-turned-friends confidence he had to deliver himself without
any trace of hostility. After he had seen Padmini and was further
smitten by her, Khilji departed. As custom would have it, Ratan Singh
accompanied the Turk to the gates of Chittor. and beyond.
That was Ratan Singhs greatest folly, for Khilji had other
things on his mind. First was Padmini, whom he just had to have.
¤ Ratan Singh Was Caught
Like greased lightning, Khiljis men struck the unsuspecting
Rajputs. In one fell swoop they took Ratan Singh prisoner. There was
pandemonium in Chittor. In ransom Khilji wanted nothing else but
Padmini. A war council was held in which Padmini herself decided that
Ratan Singh had to be rescued. The heroics were left to Padminis
uncle Gora and his nephew Badal who devised a plan for Ratan Singhs
liberation. Word was sent out to the Khilji camp that Padmini would be
delivered to him the day his army pulled out of their trenches. But
there was a catch her entourage of female servants and friends
would accompany Padmini.
¤ Rani Padmini Rescued Her Husband-Ratan Singh
was perfectly fine with Khilji, and he gave the nod. As soon as his
army evacuated, the gates of Chittor were opened and out came not one
but 700 palanquins. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth was the
Rajput motto now, and Badal and Gora were going to use guile. Each
palanquin had an elite soldier within borne by six heavily armed
warriors, all disguised as women. The Turks had been requested not to
intrude while the women were together in their camp, and they obliged.
Ratan Singh was smuggled out with the returning palanquins while the
greater number of the Rajput contingent bided for time. But Alauddin
Khilji was growing impatient and he went forth into the womens
tents. Out jumped the Rajput warriors, but couldnt get to the
Sultan. So they did what they thought was best they fled back
to the fort. Khiljis army gave chase and each one of the rear
guard was slaughtered by the time they reached the gates of Chittor.
But their lives did not go in vain. Padminis husband was well
inside the fort.
This was Alauddin Khiljis first encounter with Chittor,
although all he got were dead bodies. 13 years later he was to return
for the same woman he had seen in a mirror, and this time he was going
to make no mistakes.
¤ The Impatient Alauddin Attack Chittor Again
In 1303AD Alauddin Khilji besieged Chittor again, this time first
occupying a strategically important hill towards the south of the
fort. 8,000 men had died in the rescuing Ratan Singh earlier, and
Chittor was not prepared for another attack so soon. To the warriors
in the fort it was apparent that this was an occasion in which they
would not emerge victorious, and the women echoed this feeling.
¤ The Largest Jauhar in the History of India
As the final assault on Alauddin Khiljis forces was being put
into action, the women of Chittor did what generations had taught them
to do in face of defeat and capture. They entered a subterranean
chamber and immolated themselves in one of the largest jauhars in the
history of India. Padmini, the queen for whom the war was being
fought, was the last to enter, closing that final door which stood
between life and death.
With nothing to come back to the Rajputs rode out in full glory, and
embraced death at the swords of Khiljis army. When the Sultan
entered Chittor all he found was desolation and death, the sordid
stench of 30,000 burning bodies rising into the air. Chittor had been
taken, the siege was complete, and Padmini was dead. The loss was
Alauddin Khiljis, and maddened with a catastrophe in victory he
destroyed everything in the fortress, sparing only the palaces of
Ratan Singh and Padmini. He then returned to Delhi after handing over
the fort to Maldeo, a Jhalawar chief.
¤ Chittor Reclaimed
Rana Ajay, Ratan Singhs son, was a survivor of this battle, and
he retreated to the Aravalli hills. He was never able to reclaim his
home, for Mewar was occupied by Khiljis army while Maldeo ruled
as his vassal. On his death attacks from local chieftains increased,
and Ajays sons were no good at fighting battles. So Hamir
succeeded Rana Ajay and made Kailwara his capital. He married a widow
of one of the princes of Chittor, thus establishing an alliance of
sorts with his ancestral home. This matrimonial collusion was the base
for Hamir in reclaiming Chittor.
Hamirs wife suggested to him that in dowry he ought to ask for
Jal, an officer of the troops in Chittor. With his help she won over
the confidence of the Chittor army, and a year later overthrew her own
father and placed Hamir on the throne. Word was taken to Delhi to the
Tughlaq (who came after the demise of the Khilji dynasty) ruler that
Chittor was no longer allied with Turkish rule. An army was despatched
to Chittor under a general called Mahmud who encamped in the eastern
area of the fort. This region was the most vulnerable, and out rode
the Rajputs, vanquished the Turk army and took Mahmud prisoner. Hari
Singh, a Chittor prince who had been a vassal of the Turks, was killed
in battle. Mahmud spent three months in confinement, and was finally
let off after he paid 50,00,000 rupees, a staggering amount in those
days, and 100 elephants. Also as part of the ransom Hamir got
Ranthambhore, Ajmer and Nagore.
¤ Chittor Started Entering a New Era
With Hamirs rule a new era dawned on Chittor, because for a
short while before he seized the fort it had been a part of the Delhi
Sultanate. There was much rejoicing amongst the Rajput chiefs
it was after a long time that a Hindu ruler had emerged and overthrown
Khaitsi, Hamirs son, ascended the Chittor throne in 1365AD, and
followed in his fathers footsteps by enlarging his kingdom. He
took Ajmer and Jahazgarh from its Patan ruler, and annexed Mandalgarh
to Mewar, defeating the Mughal emperor Humayun at Bakroli. Khaitsi
reigned till 1373 when he was murdered by Lakha Rana, a Chauhana
chief, after whose death Chittor passed into the hands of the
Rinmal was the Rathore ruler, and he was infatuated not by his queen
but her maid. Intoxicated with love, wine and opium, he sought solace
in his lovers arms. But there was treachery afoot for the maid
was in connivance with those who wanted the Raos death. She tied
him up with his turban while he slept. Death was nigh, and the Rao
awoke from his slumber and, arming himself with a brass pitcher, gave
a fight till a bullet went through his head. All this happened while
Rinmal was still tied to his bed, and years later his grandson would
sleep on a very light and small bed with his legs protruding so that
he could stand and fight if tied down.
By early 15th century Chittor had recovered from Khiljis siege
of 1303 in which more than 20,000 warriors had died, not to mention
30,000 women. The fallen had been replaced by virile Rajputs, and
Chittor was now the capital of the powerful Mewar kingdom. By 1496
Mewar had shaken off the spell of Muslim rule and had taken the Sultan
of Delhi captive in a battle on the plains of Malwa (Madhya Pradesh).
This victory was established by Rana Khumba, that valiant Rajput who
built a total of 32 out of the 84 forts erected to defend Mewar.
¤ Enter the Mughals
In 1520 Babur had already begun making inroads into western India.
Six years later after the battle of Panipat and the defeat of Ibrahim
Lodi he was the undisputed Emperor of Hindustan. But Rana Sanga, the
ruler of Mewar, had other plans, and the formemost amongst them was
not to yield to the founder of the Mughal dynasty. In February 1528
Rana Sanga laid siege to Bayana, a Muslim stronghold, upon which Babur
sent 1,500 men to counter the threat. The Rajputs slaughtered the
advance guard. Survivors took the news of defeat to the army which,
awed by Sangas guerilla tactics, entrenched themselves where
they were. Trenches were dug and cannons were placed in them, tied
with chains. It was while Babur was encamped here that, seeing the low
morale of his army, decided to give up wine. Flasks were broken and
orders were issued that no one was to touch wine till Sanga had been
March 16, 1528. The Rajputs attacked the right flank of the Imperial
army. The battle raged for seven hours; the Rajput forces were neither
able to neither reach the trenches nor were they able to silence the
artillery. and there was a traitor in the Rajput ranks. The general
commanding the Rajput vanguard defected to Babur, and Sanga was forced
to retreat. Many were killed, and a nearby hillock was covered with
the heads of Rajput warriors. Here Babur assumed the title of ghazi
(slayer of infidels).
Rana Sanga was forced to flee into the hills leaving his infant son
Udai Singh in Chittor, and he swore that he would never re-enter
Chittor until he had defeated Babur. But this was never to be, for
Rana Sanga died the next year in the forests of Mewar.
In 1530 Rana Ratna, who has a bit of a colourful history steeped in
romance and valour, claimed Chittor. He married the daughter of
Prithvi Raj of Amber without his knowledge. The marriage was a secret,
and a very well kept one at that. Surajmal, the ruler of Bundi, was to
marry Ratnas wife officially, and he had absolutely no idea that
his betrothed already had a husband. Surajmal proceeded to Amber where
the prospective bride was, married her and took her off to Bundi. The
Amber princess saw no harm in wedding the brave Hara Chauhana, so what
if she was already married to someone else? Surajmal had a glorious
past, famous for his battles and valour, and to the princess he seemed
a better prospect than Rana Ratna.
was what was on Ratnas mind, but he was related to Surajmal by
matrimonial alliance, and couldnt really do much. Except when
they met for the cursed annual spring hunt, the Ahairea (see History
Bundi and Ajmer). Legend has it that a sati (here: a widow on her way
to immolate herself on her husbands pyre) had cursed the rulers
of Mewar and Ajmer that whenever the two would meet here, one of them
would die at the others hands. This time too, the curse took
effect, and both Surajmal and Ratna died by each others swords.
Chittor was without a ruler once again.
Vikramjit was the successor, and was given to a life of pleasure.
This was not in good taste of the general well being of Rajputana as
the chieftains were divided the kingdom lay open to attack. This time
it came not from Delhi but from the south.
¤ The Sultans Siege
Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat, had his eyes on Mewar, and he
moved into Bundi with a huge force. Bahadur Shah was a formidable foe
and had acquired military glory in defeating Mahmud Khilji while
annexing Malwa (Gujarat) in 1532. His siege was the second of Chittor,
and like the first one it culminated in disaster for the Rajput.
The Rajput forces marched to where Bahadur Shah was stationed near
Bundi and engaged the enemy. Vikramjit led the Rajputs, but once again
as in Rana Sangas case, his nobles betrayed him and returned to
Chittor to guard the fort. This betrayal was to protect their women
and Udai Singh, Rana Sangas infant son, for Vikramjit was not
really popular with his nobles.
The very name of Chittor is enough to bring awe, and also to make
Rajput blood churn in loyalty. From all over Rajasthan forces gathered
in Chittor, willing and wanting to protect it from the Muslim invader.
But this time artillery was being used, not by the Rajputs but by
Bahadur Shah who had enlisted the services of one of the best
cannoneers of that time, Labri Khan. In one barrage 500 defenders
became cannon fodder at Bika rock. The wall had been breached, and
Rajput soldiers and women gathered around the break to defend it. But
the defending garrison was losing ground, and the enemy was almost
upon them. Once again the grisly act of jauhar was contemplated. There
was hardly any time for ceremonial preparations. Gunpowder was brought
and laid in excavations in the rock. As the fuse was lit, 12,000 women
blew up in one huge blast. The gates of the fort were then thrown
open, and the Rajputs in their saffron war robes thundered out
onto the swords of the enemy. Valour in death, but in vain.
The storm had lasted 32 days. Goliath had fallen again.
Bahadur Shah entered Chittor, but all he found was death all around.
32,000 Rajputs had died, and it wasnt really a very pleasing
sight. But the disaster could have been averted had Emperor Humayun
not been in far away Bengal.
Hindus, the rakhi is a sacred thread tied by a sister around the right
wrist of a brother to ensure protection. From Chittor a rakhi was
despatched by queen Karnavati to the Emperor of Hindustan, Humayun,
binding the two in a bond which is the epitome of brotherly
protection. Humayun responded immediately and set out from Bengal. But
the distance was too great, and by the time he approached Chittor had
fallen. In fact, news of Humayuns proximity was what forced
Bahadur Shah to exit Chittor and return to Gujarat. However, this
retreat is disputed by historians, and one school insists that the
Mughal army did engage Bhadur Shah in battle, defeated him and forced
him to flee to Gujarat.
Humayun was true to the power of the rakhi and it is believed that he
felt honored that a Rajput queen had chosen him as a brother. The
Emperor of Hindustan took Mandu and reached the deserted Chittor
where, in a perfect demonstration of Imperial grace, he handed the
fort back to Vikramjit.
¤ A Rajputs Strange Ways
But Vikramjit, as mentioned earlier, was more concerned about his
vices than anything else. Now in possession of Chittor, he renewed his
insolence on court nobles, going to the extent of striking Karamchand,
Rana Sangas benefactor in his bad times, in full court view.
This was the final straw for the nobles of Chittor, and they rose in
unison against Vikramjit. Prithvirajs (a chieftain and a Chittor
noble) son Banbir was placed on the throne and Vikramjit was put to
Banbir was ambitious, as those who walk the corridors of power are.
At this time Rana Sangas son Udai Singh II was aged six, and
Banbir perceived him as a future threat. However, Udais nurse
Panna swiftly removed him from the cradle and placed her own son in
it. When Banbir asked her of Udais whereabouts, Panna pointed to
the cradle and before her eyes saw her son being killed. Udai Singh
was smuggled out of Chittor in a fruit basket, and the nurse,
accompanied by a barber, fled north. Udai Singh was deposited in the
custody of Assa Sah, a chief near Jodhpur.
While Banbir ruled Chittor, Udai Singh grew up as Assa Sahs
nephew. At age six the secret was out that Udai was really the son of
Rana Sanga, the most valiant and honoured ruler after Bappa Rawal.
Chiefs assembled from across Mewar, promising allegiance to Udai
Singh. A court was hastily formed, and Rana Sangas son was
declared the ruler of Chittor.
Word reached south to Banbir in Chittor, where his arrogance and
insolence was continuing. With news of Udai Singhs well being,
Banbirs nobles and chiefs deserted him to join Rana Sangas
son. The gates of Chittor were thrown open by Udai Singhs
combined force and he was proclaimed king. Banbir was pardoned and
allowed to live, and he retired to the Deccan with his family.
Rana Udai Singh II ascended the throne of Chittor in 1541. But Rana
Sangas son had not even one virtue of a ruler, and in comparison
Banbirs reign seemed better when it came to valour and upholding
the Rajput spirit of battle.
By this time the Mughal emperor Humayun was dead, and Akbar sat on
the throne of Delhi. Both he and Udai Singh were 25 years old, and it
would be Akbar who would launch the final siege of Chittor.
¤ Doomed to Immortality
According to chronicles in Akbars time, there was just one
attack on Chittor by Mughal forces. But in his Annals and Antiquities
of Rajasthan, James Tod mentions two the first in which the
Imperial army was driven back, and the other when Chittor fell into
Udai Singh was a wimp of a ruler, and conveniently stayed out of
joining in the defence of Chittor. Surprisingly it was his wife who
led infiltrations into the Mughal camp, and in one such foray the
Rajputs reached the heart of the camp. Perhaps the reason why these
skirmishes were not recorded by Farishta, Akbars chronicler, was
that they never really led to a full scale battle.
However, these acts of bravery from a woman while the sovereign took
it easy wasnt the Rajput way of fighting a war, and the nobles
of Chittor put her to death. At this point it seems that Akbar was
going to give up the siege, but internal strife within Chittor
prompted him to unleash another attack. The Imperial army camp was
massive and was encamped on an area of a full 10 miles. Intimidated by
this, Udai Singh was determined to leave Chittor and sought safety in
flight, leaving his chiefs to defend the citadel.
Rana Sanga had been a brave warrior, and although his son turned out
to be a coward there were courageous Rajputs willing to give up their
lives for Chittor. Amongst them were the teenagers Jaimal and Patta,
who died fighting the Mughals at the gates of Chittor (Jaimal fell at
Bhairon Pol (gate) with his mother and wife while Patta was cut down
at Ram Pol) Jaimals death was perhaps what turned the tide of
the battle, and it was Akbar himself who claimed his life with a shot
from sangram, his trusted matchlock.
¤ The Fall of Chittor
The northern walls had been breached, and once again it was
inevitable that Chittor must fall.
Another jauhar was prepared, and as the women lept into the raging
flames their husbands, nephews, uncles and fathers rode out in the
saffron robes which heralded death in battle. When it was all over
Akbar had necklaces collected from the necks of those who had fallen,
amounting to 800 pounds in weight. 32,000 Rajputs had been killed, and
13,000 of their women had chosen death by fire. The Mughal army had
incurred losses too, and Akbar was furious that the siege had taken so
long (October 20, 1567 to February 23, 1568) and had resulted in the
deaths of so many. He had the gates to Chittor removed and taken to
Delhi along with two massive nagaras (drums) used to announce the
departure and arrival of Chittor princes. A huge candelabra from the
Kallika Mata temple was also removed and taken to Agra. Chittor was
razed to the ground so much so that two centuries later it became the
haunt of wild animals. After Chittor fell, other Rajput rulers
submitted to Mughal rule. The first was Rai Surjan Hara of
Ranthambhore, followed by Raja Ramchand of Kalinjar. By 1570 the
rulers of Bikaner and Jaisalmer also yielded to Akbar and gave their
daughters to him in marriage.
sack of Chittor was one which put a blot on his character, for it was
the first time the Emperor had ordered the destruction of Hindu
monuments. and this is surprising, because Akbar was the only Mughal
emperor who formed extensive matrimonial alliances with Rajputs. Also,
Akbars court included Rajputs nobles like Man Singh of Amber
apart from others. It is understood that Akbar took on the Chittor
campaign solely for personal gratification, for the fort was
considered one of the strongest in Rajputana and was guarded by the
bravest of Rajput warriors.
Akbars predecessor in assaulting Chittor, Bahadur Shah, had not
ventured to turn his wrath on the desolate fortress. Bahadur Shahs
victory resulted in a similar departure because Humayun was breathing
down his neck and there was no time to defile Chittor. For that matter
Humayun too found the fortress deserted and for his taking, but he
just gave it back to Rana Vikramjit.
¤ Udai Singh Found Refuge In The Mewar Forest
Udai Singh had fled Chittor in the face of battle and found refuge in
the forests of Mewar and later in the Aravali hills. But he did have a
positive side to him, and in 1568 he laid the foundations of that
beautiful city of lakes called Udaipur. Rana Udai Singh II died in
1572 at the age of 42, leaving behind no less than 24 legitimate sons.
His favourite son Jagmal succeeded him in Udaipur, for Chittors
history had come to a conclusion with Akbars sack four years
earlier. From here onwards Udaipur was to become the ultimate bastion
of Mewar, for there was nothing left in Chittor to defend (see Udaipur
history). Consequently Chittor passed into oblivion for the next
century, coming into deliberation in 1666. The only time that it
figured between 1568 and 1666AD was when Shah Jahan ordered the
destruction of the fort walls.
This act had two reasons one was that Jahangir had issued a
royal command that no one would be allowed to rebuild Chittor's walls,
and Rana Jagat Singh went and built them. Understandably, the Emperor
was miffed. Also, the Mughal Imperial army had been defeated thrice by
the Persians while attempting to capture Kandahar, and Shah Jahan had
to show somebody that he was still the end-all-be-all in Hindustan.
Hence, the returning army was ordered to take a short detour to
Chittor, and while there demolish the fort walls. Another reason may
have been that Jahangir feared that his dismal military campaigns
could provoke Rana Jagat Singh to make Chittor a base for attacks on
the Mughal army.
In any case, the walls were razed to the ground. and Shah Jahan
¤ Akbar Regime Formed Alliances With Rajputs
Akbar, Chittors greatest foe, had died and Jahangir was now the
Emperor of Hindustan. During Akbars reign numerous alliances had
been formed with the Rajput states and most of them had recognised
Mughal supremacy. Raja Man Singh, as mentioned earlier, was one of
Akbars best generals and governors. Akbar understood that
the key to Rajasthan lay within it, and to further his empire he had
proceeded on a mission of diplomacy and warfare. What he could not
achieve with the sword he consummated with matrimony, marrying into
royal Rajput families and ensuring that they followed his dictats. In
almost 50 years of ruling, Akbar consolidated his empire,
incorporating Rajasthan into the Mughal dominion.
and so during Jahangirs sovereignty the tradition continued.
But there would always be factions rejecting any other rule than that
of themselves, and Akbars death did nothing to help (Akbar
poisoned himself by mistake while trying to poison Raja Man Singh of
Amber). Rajput trust had been betrayed and it wasnt long before
Mewar once again rose up in revolt. This time it was Umra, the ruler
of Mewar, who rebelled and defeated Jahangirs forces not once
but thrice in quick succession.
This was enough cause for alarm in Delhi, and Jahangir hit upon a
plan to counter the rebellion. He had a brilliant idea after
all, Chittor had been the citadel from where Mewar had been ruled a
century ago, and what could be better than to ignore Umra for the time
being and install a parallel ruler in the ancient bastion? Sugra, the
Rajput general who had defected to Akbars camp during the siege
of Chittor was chosen as the would be, and Jahangir hastily installed
him in the ruins of Chittor. It had been over a century that Chittor
had been occupied, and what were left in the old citadel were ruins.
desolation beckoned Sugras conscience. There was not a place
where he could sit without being reminded of the glorious struggle his
ancestors had put up against the very Mughals with whom he was allied.
Chittor haunted Sugra, and he realized he was a traitor to Rajputana.
Proceeding to Jahangirs court he pulled out a dagger and stabbed
himself to death.
Umra took possession of Chittor, and 80 chiefs of Mewar allied
themselves with him. The fort was returning to the lost glories of
past centuries, but Umra eventually succumbed to Mughal rule, uniting
Chittor and Mewar with Jahangirs empire. But here Rajput dignity
was involved, and Umras treaty was clear he would never
attend the Imperial court and could never be summoned by the Emperor.
Henceforth Chittor remained with the Mughals as part of Mewar and
consequently passed on to the British.