Chittorgarh echoes with history of India full of heroism, sacrifice under the ritual, known as jauhar and Hindu resistance against the Mughal invaders. Travel to Chittorgarh the heroic city of Rajasthan India and visit Bhainsrodgarh fort, the famous fort of Chittorgarh. Chittorgarh travel guide also provides information on history of Chittorgarh and offers travel vacation packages for sightseeing trips in Chittorgarh.

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Historical Information on Chittorgarh

Chittorgarh TowerChittor 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 didn’t 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 we’re 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 Khilji’s 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-friend’s 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 Singh’s 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, Khilji’s 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 Padmini’s uncle Gora and his nephew Badal who devised a plan for Ratan Singh’s 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

Rani Padmini MahalThat 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 women’s tents. Out jumped the Rajput warriors, but couldn’t get to the Sultan. So they did what they thought was best – they fled back to the fort. Khilji’s 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. Padmini’s husband was well inside the fort.
This was Alauddin Khilji’s 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.
Except one.

¤ 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.

Jauhar kund
¤ The Largest Jauhar in the History of India

As the final assault on Alauddin Khilji’s 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 Khilji’s 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 Khilji’s, 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 Singh’s 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 Khilji’s army while Maldeo ruled as his vassal. On his death attacks from local chieftains increased, and Ajay’s 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.

Hamir’s 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 Hamir’s 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 Muslim domination.

Khaitsi, Hamir’s son, ascended the Chittor throne in 1365AD, and followed in his father’s 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 Rathores.

Chhatri's of Chittorgarh Rao 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 lover’s arms. But there was treachery afoot for the maid was in connivance with those who wanted the Rao’s 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 Khilji’s 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 Sanga’s 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 defeated.

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 Ratna’s 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.

ChittorgarhVendetta was what was on Ratna’s mind, but he was related to Surajmal by matrimonial alliance, and couldn’t 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 husband’s pyre) had cursed the rulers of Mewar and Ajmer that whenever the two would meet here, one of them would die at the other’s hands. This time too, the curse took effect, and both Surajmal and Ratna died by each other’s 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 Sultan’s 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 Sanga’s case, his nobles betrayed him and returned to Chittor to guard the fort. This betrayal was to protect their women and Udai Singh, Rana Sanga’s 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 Rajput’s 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 wasn’t really a very pleasing sight. But the disaster could have been averted had Emperor Humayun not been in far away Bengal.

ChittorgarhFor 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 Humayun’s 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 Rajput’s 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 Sanga’s 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. Prithviraj’s (a chieftain and a Chittor noble) son Banbir was placed on the throne and Vikramjit was put to death.

Banbir was ambitious, as those who walk the corridors of power are. At this time Rana Sanga’s son Udai Singh II was aged six, and Banbir perceived him as a future threat. However, Udai’s nurse Panna swiftly removed him from the cradle and placed her own son in it. When Banbir asked her of Udai’s 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 Sah’s 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 Sanga’s 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 Singh’s well being, Banbir’s nobles and chiefs deserted him to join Rana Sanga’s son. The gates of Chittor were thrown open by Udai Singh’s 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 Sanga’s son had not even one virtue of a ruler, and in comparison Banbir’s 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 Akbar’s 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 Mughal hands.

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, Akbar’s 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 wasn’t 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) Jaimal’s 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.

ChittorgarhAkbar’s 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, Akbar’s 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.

Akbar’s predecessor in assaulting Chittor, Bahadur Shah, had not ventured to turn his wrath on the desolate fortress. Bahadur Shah’s 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 Chittor’s history had come to a conclusion with Akbar’s 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 ruled.

¤ Akbar Regime Formed Alliances With Rajputs

Akbar, Chittor’s greatest foe, had died and Jahangir was now the Emperor of Hindustan. During Akbar’s 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 Akbar’s best general’s 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 Jahangir’s sovereignty the tradition continued. But there would always be factions rejecting any other rule than that of themselves, and Akbar’s 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 wasn’t long before Mewar once again rose up in revolt. This time it was Umra, the ruler of Mewar, who rebelled and defeated Jahangir’s 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 Akbar’s 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.

ChittorgarhChittor’s desolation beckoned Sugra’s 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 Jahangir’s 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 Jahangir’s empire. But here Rajput dignity was involved, and Umra’s 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.

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