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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Debate : What is the BASIS of GreatNess ? From Akbar - Alexander to Pratap..

Hi friends,

This is a post with a difference, as normally i do not write posts related to 'DEBATES' on any topic.


This is a post for a discussion on the topic of GREATness. I am trying to figure out on what basis do we classify people as great. 

The origin of this writeup lies in a question, which a friend of mine asked recently. The topic under consideration was Maharana Pratap, the King of Mewar, who never  submitted to the authority of Mughal Emperor Akbar and waged a LONE battle throughout his life. The question put was the basis of GREATness. We had the mention of Ashoka, Alexander, Akbar - All GREATs.

It was then, it came to my mind to write a few words. And, here is the post i ended up writing. This post contains my own views. I would like to read more views on this subject from people around the world. Please note that this post has been written for a constructive debate and with a genuine urge to know what different people from different backgrounds think about this topic. I kneaded some philosophical insights with a dash of history. Let me start here.

This topic of greatness is a bit conflicting for me because there are many ways to look at it. The Great Man theory has been reduced to mere pages of history, but its allure continues to mystify one and all. When we talk about greatness, we assume that when the time comes, the right man - it is often assumed to be the right man only -  will take control of the most dire situations, will come out almost magically from all the tragic events and always emerge a winner. Often he is projected as a super hero, a super man of sorts, who can drive events and manipulate destiny, entirely on his own or by attracting the right people to do the job for him. This is what is the general image of a GREAT man, most often. But, we should see that it is RARE to find a GREAT man withOUT a fault..!


One can analyze it in philosophical terms as well. We can say GREATness is a state of superiority. It can be said to be a natural ability to be better than all others. Like an implication that the person, when compared to others of "similar types", has clear advantage over others. In some cases the perceived "greatness" of a person, might be agreed upon by many, but this does not necessarily finishes the debate, as the perception of "greatness" may be both fiercely contested and is highly individual.

With such disclaimers , i now, start my post..

There are not only Emperors Akbar, Ashoka and Alexander who are called great. Peter of Russia is also called GREAT. Then we have Pompey - The Great (Roman Emperor Julius Caeser died at his statue. Remember?) . We have the Turkish Emperor Suleiman - The 'Magnificent'. Shah of Persia - Abbas , who was a contemporary of Mughal Emperor Akbar, is also called GREAT. Likewise, there are many other monarchs called Great.

In Present discussion , i am restricting myself to Akbar, Ashoka, Alexander ; and the topic of Maharana Pratap, the ONLY Rana to have the prefix of 'Maha', meaning GREAT. I presume we know about the life of Emperors Akbar and Ashoka, mostly, this blog contains sufficient information about both of these Emperors. So, i am adding a few lines about Alexander here, to give a brief BG, since we need to know about him also...

A Brief Introduction to Alexander

Alexander - People like him are RARE. He is one of history's most famous conquerors and a legend of "almost divine status" in his lifetime. He belongs to the elite category of individuals who changed the history of civilisation and shaped the world as we know it today. More than 50 cities are still named after him, after more than 2000 years of his death. He destroyed many a beautiful city during his conquests, for which he is loathed at some places. But he is also acknowledged as a GREAT monarch at many places, from Babylon to the Pyramids of Cairo to the vicinity of the Sands of Thar.!

From a leadership perspective, Alexander was without a peer. He could be magnanimous towards defeated enemies and loyal toward his friends, and as a general he led by example, literally from the front. He died young more than 2,000 years ago, but his life offers important lessons even today. We can not compare him with Akbar or any other monarch. His time was different, his method was different, his area of rule was different. Though, one can compare "individual" acts of these "great" people, and can debate , but overall "objective comparison" of greatness among them is not possible.

Alexander set the example of excellence with his leadership style, which involved sharing his soldiers' triumphs and woes alike. When his troops went hungry or thirsty, he went hungry or thirsty. When their horses died beneath them and they had to walk, he did the same. This accessibility changed only when he succumbed to the luxury of court life, and that was the beginning of the end for Alexander.!!

From an early age he was an achiever. He conquered territories on a superhuman scale. He established an empire, until his times unrivaled, and he died young, at the height of his power. At the young age of 20, he inherited the powerful empire of Macedonia, which by then controlled Greece and had already started to make inroads into Asia. Later, he invaded Persia, and within a decade he had defeated the Persians, subdued Egypt, and pushed on to Iran, Afghanistan and even India. As well as his vast conquests, Alexander is credited with the spread of Greek culture and education in his empire, not to mention being responsible for the physical and cultural formation of the hellenistic kingdoms -- some scholars in fact argue that the hellenistic world was Alexander's legacy. He has also been viewed as a philosophical idealist, striving to create a unity of mankind by his so-called fusion of the races policy, in which he attempted to integrate Persians and Orientals into his administration and army. Thus, within a dozen years Alexander's empire stretched from Greece in the west to India in the far east, and he was even worshipped as a god by many of his subjects while still alive. On the basis of his military conquests contemporary historians, and especially those writing in Roman times who measured success by the number of body-bags used, deemed him great.

Some Drawbacks(?) of Alexander 

As i said in the starting, it is RARE to find GREAT men withOUT a FAULT. However, does a man deserve to be called 'The Great' when he was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of his own men and for the unnecessary, wholesale slaughter of native people ? Or whose violent temper on occasion led him to murder his friends and who towards the end of his life was an alcoholic, paranoid, megalomaniac, who believed in his own divinity? 
Just like the massacre at Chittor is a blot on Akbar, Alexander also carries the taint of wiping out large scale populations from their native lands during his conquests. Alexander is also criticized for continuous warfare instead of taking out time for consolidation and long-term administration.

These are questions posed as per the ethical standards of today, of course. In those times, such questions did not matter one bit; nevertheless, they are legitimate questions, given the influence which Alexander has exerted throughout history - an influence, which will no doubt continue. The first text which calls Alexander as Great was written around 200 BC by the Roman writer Plautus.

What Makes Akbar Great?

In my opinion, Mughal Emperor Akbar is great, but certainly not because of his Empire. I say this because, if you talk about the extent of empire, then Aurangzeb and Shah Jahan had a bigger empire than Akbar. 

I already talked about the land Alexander won in his lifetime. Even the ancient Indian monarchs Chandragupta Maurya and Samudragupta had a bigger empire. Samudgragupta is also termed The Indian Alexander by historian Vincent Smith. Going down South, one can not forget the might of Raja Raja Chola, who even had the capacity to subjugate Lanka and eyed the Spice Islands. Art and Culture flourished in his reign. 

Ashoka was a "warrior reformer". His Empire extended upto Kandhahar beyond the Hindukush and Sravenbelgola in the south.!! 

Akbar is great because of the brilliant strategies, which he incorporated to keep his empire stable for a long time and the reforms which he carried out in this land, which was divided on the basis of religions. We had a ruthless conqueror in Akbar in the initial period of his life who wanted to win HIND at any cost. A determined monarch with fierce strategies, he has been compared to Alexander in battling prowess by his chroniclers. 

There is a difference between THE Akbar who wanted to expand his Empire in the "initial" period of his life and THE Akbar who executed these reforms for the welfare of ALL his people. 

Akbar showed through his reforms that he was tolerant and "accommodating". But he could also be a devil to those who did not accept him as their master. Who can forget Chittor ? It is TRUE that Akbar brought in all those reforms, after stabilizing his empire and safeguarding it from all sides. The Right TIME and the Right OPPORTUNITY are required for such watershed changes as also the ability to recognize when the time was right and to seize an opportunity when it presented itself. It was possible for Akbar to be daring in his reforms because he had that URGE and the required political muscle. From the perspective of Abul Fazl, Akbar is lent an almost divine status. 

Can Hitler and Napoleon Be Called Great?

In the said conversation, we talked about Hitler too. Why don't we call Hitler great ? After all, he was fighting for the "cause" of the German RACE and wanted to avenge the humiliation of First WW. There was a time in Germany when Hitler's book Mein Kampf was given to all newly married couples, to advocate his doctrine. But, we can not forget the genocide he unleashed on the Jews. Why don't we call Napoleon great ? In fact, Napoleon brought in some good reforms for his nation. As i said in the beginning, GREATness is a term which we decide from person to person. In addition, different people will have different criteria to define someone as great. 

Maharana Pratap - Does he Qualify to be called Great ?

Finally, coming to Maharana Pratap (MP), which was the original topic of my discussion. We can not compare MP with Alexander, as far as "extent" of political empire is concerned, but certain individual acts i would like to point out. Like Alexander, he too led from front, MP's wars were fought by him, "in person". He may not have that many resources with him as Alexander, Ashoka and Akbar, but nonetheless, he was second TO NONE when it came to IDEALS and PRINCIPLES. He never bartered his independence no matter what . Come what may, he faced it all.Even after being hunted from forest to forest and from cave to cave, he refused to submit to the Mughals.

Single-handedly, for a quarter of a century [1572-97], he withstood the mightiest empire of his times under one of the mightiest sovereigns to have ever walked on this earth. The story of the prolonged struggle between Maharana Pratap and Akbar is replete with incidents and produces the impression that it involved the Mughals in useless sweat and toil. Try as they did, the Mughal Emperor could not wrest back control of Mewar (with the major exception Chittorgarh) from Pratap, till the time he lived. 

Great warrior as Pratap was, it is to be admitted that Akbar was a master strategist who brought almost everyone into his fold whatever may be the means, except Pratap. Pratap's remaining aloof from that hold was an impediment to his task(as Abu'l Fazl says). Had Pratap joined the service of Akbar, his country could have been saved from plunder, continuous destruction and ruin.But Pratap's name is immortal in the history of this land as a great soldier of liberty. He focused on the moral aspect of the struggle without caring for material advantage or losses involved.

His was a war not aimed at increasing his dominions, but to uphold the independence of his race, and as long as this race lives, it will cherish with pride the memory of one who staked his all in a fight against the person "who wanted to imperialize him". As a great warrior of liberty, a devoted lover of noble cause and a hero of moral character, his name is to millions of men even today, a cloud of hope by the day and a pillar of fire by the night.

Pratap was nobly supported. The temptations of wealth and fortune could not sway his followers from leaving his side. With the aid of some chiefs with good judgment and experience, Pratap remodeled his government, adapting it to the exigencies of the times and to his slender resources. New grants were issued, with regulations defining the service required. Kumbhalgarh, now the seat of government, as also Gogunda and other mountain fortresses were strengthened. Unable to keep the field in the plains of Mewar, he followed the system of his ancestors and commanded his subjects, on pain of death, to retire into the mountains. During the protracted contest, the fertile tracts watered by the Banas and the Beris, from the Aravalli chain to the eastern tableland, were to be left. The range to which Pratap was restricted was the mountainous region around, though chiefly to, the west of the new capital, Udaipur. His writ ran from north to south, from Kumbhalgarh to Ricumnath, and from west to east, from Mirpur to Sataula.

Pratap was a gallant foe to Mughal Emperor Akbar and, despite his ill fortune, he made the latter fight hard for triumph. The people of Mewar rallied behind Pratap in excruciating living conditions and are worthy of remembrance. IMO, the vanquished were "greater than the victor"... IN short, one can term it a war between two people - a war that was all about "Love for one's freedom vs. Imperialism".

Had Mewar possessed her Thucydides or her Xenophon, neither the wars of the Peloponnesus nor the retreat of the " ten thousand " would have yielded more diversified incidents for the historic muse than the deeds of this brilliant reign amid the many vicissitudes of Mewar. Undaunted heroism, inflexible fortitude, that which " keeps honour bright ", perseverance -with fidelity such as no nation can boast, were the materials opposed to a soaring ambition, commanding talents, unlimited means, and the fervour of religious zeal ; all, however, insufficient to contend with one unconquerable mind - that of Pratap.

I re-iterate, GreatNess of any person is seen in context of what is the benchmark we set. 
For some, it is the morals, principles and heroism of Pratap which make him GREAT. There were times when he had nothing to eat, when he lived in forests, feeding his family on wild fruits and water.!!. His family slept on an empty stomach. Pratap was a person who was born in a Royal House, whose ancestors ruled Chittor right from 734 AD, starting from Bappa Rawal. Was he born to lead a life like this.?? He could have easily accepted the suzerainty of the Mughal Emperor and led a comfortable life in a palace. But he rejected all this - for what ??  IDEALS and FREEDOM. He was a man who refused to act under the orders of anyone.! Just like Akbar was NOT accustomed to see anyone disregarding his orders, in the same manner, Pratap was NOT used to take orders from anyone, except his own SELF.

Aren't some of these qualities sufficient to concede a THOUGHT about the greatness of Pratap - the ONLY 'Maha'rana among all the Ranas ?? This is my question to all, as this was the question put to me also. 


For some, it may be the amount of land won by Alexander, which makes him GREAT. For some, the reforms of Emperor Akbar make him GREAT. Ashoka is called GREAT, not for the Kalinga massacre, but for the reforms he undertook after that. Even Pompey, Caesar, Abbas and Suleiman are 'GREAT' and 'Magnificent' in their countries. Just like Newton's laws are applicable in some " FRAME of REFERENCE " and they change their meaning from one frame to another, same is the case with the epithet, GREATness...

I am not passing any judgement on the GREATness of any individual here. This post is an attempt to know the varied viewpoints of the readers.

History can be judged by people from their own perspective. As i mentioned earlier, the criteria are set differently by different authorities. As far as i am concerned, none of the people, whose names i mentioned in this post, can be objectively compared. Their challenges were different, the people they governed were different, the resources they had access to were different, their ambitions were different. 

They had a multitude of dissimilarities but not an iota of similarity except the zeal to think BIG and to pursue their dreams in the face of all odds. 

Interestingly, most of the time, i find it hard to explain, how i am able to respect both Akbar and MP, who happened to be the MOST FIERCE RIVALS of each other during their lifetime. As much as i admire and salute the Maharana for his courage, principles & never say die spirit ; i also admire Akbar for taking on the established  orthodoxy and daringly carrying out various reforms including ones, which were considered BLASPHEMOUS at the time.

This post is mostly written from the perspective of Pratap, as the topic of debate was more about the Maharana and his status vis-a-vis the generally "taught" definition of greatness. I am going to play a devil's advocate here. And, the two people chosen are the contemporaries and bete noir - "Emperor Akbar and Maha Rana Pratap", both of whom happen to be the different sides of the same coin.! This is going to be interesting..

The article has been posted under the Mughals(Akbar) , Rajputs, Ashoka, and Miscellaneous section of this history BLOG.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

History of JaiMal and Patta : HEROes of the 3rd Siege | Battle of Chittor - With Portraits

The Annals of Mewar remember the heroic deeds of Rawat Patta Sisodia and Jaimal Rathore, during the 3rd and final Siege of the Fort of Chittor, 1567-68 in following words ---

There were many chiefs who defended Chittor in it's history.......But the names which shine brightest in this gloomy page of the annals of Mewar, the names immortalised by Akbar's own pen, are those of Jaimal of Bednor and Patta of Kailwa, both from the sixteen superior vassals of Chittor.......The first was a Rathore of the Merta house, the bravest of the brave clans of Marwar; the other was head of the Jugawats, another grand shoot from Chunda. The names, "Jaimal and Patta," always inseparable, are as household words in Mewar, and will be honoured while the Rajput retains a shred of his inheritance or a spark of his ancient recollections. When Sahidas fell at SurajPol , the command devolved on Patta of Kailwa. He was only sixteen. His father had fallen in the last siege, and his mother had survived but to rear this the sole heir of her house. Like the Spartan mother of old, she commanded him to put on the saffron robe (kesariya), and to die for Chittor; but, surpassing the Grecian dame, she illustrated her precept by example; and, lest thoughts for one dearer than herself might dim the lustre of Kailwa, she armed his young bride with a lance, and the defenders of Chittor saw the fair princess descend the rock and fall fighting by the side of her brave mother(in-law).

When their wives and daughters performed such deeds, the Rajputs became reckless of life. Seeing there was no hope of salvation, he resolved to signalise the end of his career. The fatal johur was commanded, while 8000 Rajputs ate the last 'bira' together, and put on their saffron robes
(kesariya). The gates were thrown open, the work of destruction commenced, and few survived to "stain the yellow mantle" by inglorious surrender(means victory of Akbar).  

----- The Annals of Mewar


This post is an attempt to recount the brave and heroic deeds of two well-known vassals of Mewar - JaiMal and Patta, their names have become inseparable from each other. In this post, i have tried to sum up the important details related to them.

Rawat Patta Sisodia

He was a direct descendant of Mewar Prince Rawat Chunda Sisodia, the founder of Chundavat offshoot of Mewar ; the eldest son of Rana Lakha of Mewar, Prince Chunda renounced the throne in favor of his younger brother and continued serving Mewar as an administrator for the King. Patta was the grand-son of Rawat Siha Ji, who was in turn the grandson of Rawat Chunda Sisodia. 

The sequence of rulers is : 
Rana Lakha(Mewar) -> Rawat Chunda Sisodia(Mewar) -> Rawat Kandal Ji -> Rawat Siha Ji -> Rawat Jaga -> Rawat Patta Sisodia(Kailwa).

There are many similarities among these legends of those times, which i am going to list here...

a. Rawat Siha Ji was a companion of Rana Sanga of Mewar. 
b. Similarly, their grand-sons, Patta and Maharana Pratap were also companions.

c. Rawat Siha Ji died fighting from the side of Rana Sanga, against Mughal Emperor Babur in the Battle of Khanua in 1527.
d. Similarly, his grandson Patta also died fighting from the side of Rana Sanga's grandson Maharana Pratap, against the grandson of Babur - Mughal Emperor Akbar.

Another interesting observation is that::
Rawat Chundavat, a close confident of Rana Udai Singh II of Mewar, was REAL nephew of Patta's grandfather Rawat Siha Ji. Hence, Patta was also a nephew of Rawat Chundavat.

Sisodia is a Rajput Dynasty. Chundavat is an offshoot of Sisodias.

 Patta took the reins of his estate of Kailwa at a young age in 1555, after the death of his father in a battle fought near Udaipur. Gradually, he became a prominent Sardar of Mewar. Hence, Rana Udai Singh II, appointed him an "Adhi pati" of Mewar in 1567, when Mughal Emperor Akbar laid a siege to the Fort of Chittor. In this battle, he fought bravely till his last breath, finally being trampled under an elephant. He died in the Rann Junjher (The LAST fight in battle - Saka) against Mughal Emperor Akbar in this 3rd Siege of Chittor in 1568.

It is said that single handed he cut a trail of destruction through the Mughal ranks till an elephant was sent charging against him. Struck by the charge he was killed, while his mother and a wife had been slain earlier.

Patta was one of the last chiefs who fell in the Saka. At dawn, on the morning after the Jauhar, Akbar rode into the fortress, mounted on an elephant, attended by many other elephants and several thousand men.

Akbarnama records Patta's end as follows, when Akbar entered the Fort in the morning of Saka : "His Majesty related that he had come near the temple of Gobind Shyam when an elephant-driver trampled a man under his elephant. The driver said that he did not know the man's name but that he appeared to be one of the leaders, and that a large number of men had fought around him with sacrifice of their lives. At last it came out that it was Patta who had been trampled to death. At the time he was produced, there was a breath of life in him, but he shortly afterwards died. "

Rawat Patta Sisodia

They committed Jauhar / some perished in the skirmish.
1. Rani Jiwa Bai Solanki
2. Rani Madalasha Bai Shekhawat
3. Rani Sarda Bai Rathore
4. Rani Bhagwati Bai Chauhan
5. Rani Padmavati Bai Jhalia
6. Rani Ratan Bai Rathore

7. Rani Balesha Bai Chauhan
8. Rani Bagdi Bai Chauhan
9. Rani Asha Bai Parmar

5 young daughters. 

Finally, all the daughters did Jauhar along with all of his wives, or perished in the skirmish.

6 sons. His 2 sons perished, they were minors, they were with their mothers during the Jauhar. 4 of his sons survived this war.
Eldest among these 4 sons was -> Rawat Kala Chundavat, who succeeded his father, Patta. He fought battles against Mughal forces from the side of Maharana Pratap, like the Battle near Jhunjhunu. Finally, he died in the Battle of Haldighati fighting along with Maharana Pratap on 18th June 1576.

Rani Sajjan Bai Songara Chauhan. She committed herself to the flames / perished on the battle-field during the 3rd Siege of Chittor. 

Note :
Songara is an offshoot of Agnivanshi Chauhan Rajputs. Interestingly, there is yet another similarity here. Maharana Pratap's mother Jaiwanta Bai Songara Chauhan, was also from the same Chauhan Agnivanshi Rajputs. They trace their lineage from the house of Prithviraj Chauhan(died 1192), ruler of Ajmer/Delhi.

Rawat Jaga. He had a great role to play in many battles he fought for Mewar. He died in 1555 while fighting in a battle on the river Som, near Udaipur.

Rawat Naga was the uncle of Patta. Like his younger brother - Rawat Jaga, he also took part in many battles fought by Mewar like -
a. In a battle at Suraj Pol, Chittor
b. In the 2nd Siege of Chittor after the death of Rana Sanga, he took the charge of army against Bahadur Shah of Gujarat in 1535. He died in the Saka in this battle, after the Jauher of ladies.

Grand Father of Patta::
Rawat Siha Ji, second son of Rawat Kandalji and his wife Rani Bar Kanwar Sankli ; and grandson of Rao Chunda of Mewar. He was granted the estate of Modva* initially, later Rana Sanga exchanged this for the new estate of Kothariya* in 1509; 

* Modva and Kothariya are towns in present day Rajsamand district of Rajasthan.

He fought many battles :
a. Fought against Kunwar Udai Singh I , 
near 1470. This Udai Singh is different from father of Maharana Pratap - Rana Udai Singh II.
b. Lead a wing of army of Mewar in the Battle of Samecha (year unknown).
c. Along with Kunwar Prithviraj Sisodia (brother of Rana Sanga ) of Mewar, against Lala Khan Pathan of Toda, in early 1500's.
d. Along with his friend Rana Sanga of Mewar, against Ibrahim Lodhi of Delhi in the Battle of Bankhrol in 1510's.
e. He died fighting against Mughal Emperor Babur in the Battle of Khanua on 17th March 1527, fighting along with his ally Rana Sanga of Mewar.

Did you notice, not only Patta Sisodia gave his life in the Saka at the 3rd Siege of Chittor, but also his Father, Uncle, Grand-Father, and even his own son, all of them gave their lives fighting for Mewar, on the battle-field. With Patta's name is associated all the glory a warrior can desire. Dying in the battle-field was a moment every warrior cherished, and the house of Patta had this unique distinction in abundance. Even, today the name of Patta(and Jaimal) are remembered with a sense of pride in Rajasthan.

Jaimal Vikram Rathore

He was a direct descendant of Rao Jodha(1415-1489), the king who founded of the city of Jodhpur in 1459. Rao Jodha had a son named Rao Dudha(1440-1515) from his queen, Rani Champa Bai Songara Chauhan. Rao Dudha was given the estate of Merta, and hence, he established the Merta offshoot of Rathores here.  

Born on 17th September 1507, Jaimal was a grandson of Rao Dudha. He was granted the estate of Bednor by Rana Udai Singh in 1554, in recognition of his exceptional services. Before Chittor siege, Jaimal had earlier, fought a pitched battle against Mughal Subedar Sharf-ud-din, brother-in-law of Mughal Emperor Akbar, in the Battle of Merta in 1562-63. This was also a siege of several months. Finally, being outnumbered, Merta was lost to Mughals, after carrying out the Jauhar and Saka. Later, JaiMal shifted to his other estate of Bednor.
The sequence of rulers is : 
Rao Jodha(Jodhpur) -> Rao Dudha(Merta) -> Rao Vikram(Merta) -> Rao JaiMal(Bednor).

Along with Patta, he took the reins of Chittor in 1567, when Mughal Emperor Akbar laid a siege to the Fort of Chittor. He is said to have died from a bullet fired from the match-lock - Sangram, of Mughal Emperor Akbar. 

But, Rajputana sources give a slightly different account. According to them, Jaimal was wounded, not died. According to one of the sources - " Udaipur Ka Itihaas " , which i read, says, Jaimal died between the place called "Hanuman Pol and Bhairav Pol" while fighting a soldier's death. Jaimal was indeed wounded during the attempt to fill a breach created by the Mughal mining. Due to this wound he was unable to mount a horse. Hence, when the Mughal soldiers started pouring in the morning after Jauher, he sat on the shoulders of a soldier and wielding swords in both his hands fought bravely like a normal soldier, not like a battle general, before he finally fell fighting near the SurajPol.

Jaimal Vikram Rathore

Akbarnama records Jaimal's end as follows:

On Tuesday, February 23, 1568, Akbar noticed at the breach a personage wearing a chief's cuirass who was busy directing the defence. Without knowing who the chief might be, Akbar aimed at him with his well-tried musket Sangram. When the man did not come back, the besiegers concluded that he must have been killed. Less than an hour later reports were brought in that the defences were deserted and that fire had broken out in several places in the fort. Raja Bhagwan Das, being familiar with the customs of his country, knew the meaning of the fire, and explained that it must be the jauhar performed at Chittor.

Early in the morning the facts were ascertained. The fortress, chief whom Akbar's shot had killed proved to be Jaimal Rathor of Bednor, who had taken command of the fortress.  As usual in India the fall of the commander decided the fate of the garrison. Shortly before Jaimal was killed a gallant deed was performed by the ladies of the young chieftain Patta, whose name is always linked by tradition with that of Jaimal.

I know the details of 2 of his sons. 

-> His eldest son Rao Mukund Rathore perished in the Battle at Kumbhalgarh Fort, during the Siege of Chittor in 1568. As we know, this battle was fought not only for Chittor, but also for the supremacy of other fortresses of Mewar. At other fronts also the battle was continuing.
-> His younger son Rao Ram Rathore perished in the Battle of Haldighati, 18th June 1576, fighting against forces of Mughal Emperor Akbar, alongside Maharana Pratap.


His mother is said to be Rani Gorajia Kanwar, Chief Queen of his father. It is not 100% sure to me if she was his biological mother. She was the daughter of Rana Raimal of Mewar(died 1508) and sister of Rana Sanga(died 1527). Hence, JaiMal was also related to Mewar just like Patta.

 His father was (the son of above mentoned Rao Dudha) - Rao Vikram Rathore, the ruler of Merta till his death in 1544.

About his siblings, i know of one. His elder brother was Pratap Rathore, who also gave his life in the Saka at Chittor in 1568. He was the ruler of the strategically important estate of Ghanerau, in present day Pali district of Rajasthan. Present on outskirts of Udaipur.

His son Gopal Rathore, actively served Mewar till his death in 1626, and constructed a beautiful castle here in 1606.

View of GhaneRau Castle


The bitter victory document issued by Mughal Emperor Akbar after the victory at Chittor bears testimony to the fact - the havoc wrecked across the Mughal ranks by the 2 Chiefs - Jaimal and Patta.

Though bitter, but still, the victory document of Mughal Emperor Akbar recognizes the bravery of these two 'enemies' in following words - "Jaimal and Patta who are renowned for their valor among the infidels.......are singly considered to be equal to a thousand horsemen in intrepidity and prowess......."

The names of Jaimal and Patta have become synonymous with the House of Mewar and the Fort of Chittor. Whenever, one talks about Chittor, names of Jaimal and Patta surely come to one's mind. Their deeds evoke a sense of deep respect and a pride to be cherished by the posterity. 

There are lesser known heroes who have earned a place even in the Mughal records for their valor, especially the name of Isar Das Chauhan - who fought an elephant with a bare knife, when it was sent to spread rampage and destruction in the battle-field. First, 50 and then 300 elephants were let loose after arming their trunks with swords in the battle-field. Among them was a favorite elephant of Akbar named Madukar, and Abu'l Fazl records, Isar Das took hold of it's tusk and stabbed it with a dagger and asked him to "convey his(Isar Das's) regards to His Master(Akbar)" in the following words - "Be good enough to convey my respects to your world adorning appreciator of merit".

Every one loves his/her land. In a war, there are two sides. For one side, the other side is an enemy. Same was the case here. Akbar wanted to capture Chittor. These people wanted to defend it. The war was different because this is one war, where one gets the written evidence of involvement of women-folk fighting alongside men for their beloved motherland. This post is a homage to those warriors who staked their all in fight for their principles.

Rawat Chundavat also gave his life in the Saka at the Battle of Chittor on 24th February 1568. Along with him, his ONLY son Kunwar Amar also died on the same day in the Saka at the Fort of Chittor.

Click here to Read about Saka and Jauhar : 
Jauhar and Saka - Ethos of Rajputana 

About Chittor Siege, i have the followung articles which give an in-depth analysis of the Chittor Battle....

7. Fatehnama-i-Chittor, Comparison & Pictures of Mughal-Rajput Weapons, Assessment of Akbar and Maharana Pratap, Old Portraits of Udaipur & Path for the Future Struggle of Mughals - Mewar | LONG Detailed Concluding Assessment..Last Post on Battle of Chittor Part 7

6. DETAILED Rajput Record of Jauhar, Saka & Massacre of Rajputs at 3rd Siege of Chittor(1567-68) | Description of Rajput Warriors & OLD pictures of Chittor Fort | Battle of Chittor Part-6

5. Mughal Record of Jauhar of Rajput Women & Saka of Rajput Warriors at 3rd Siege of Chittor(1567-68) + Mughal Victory Followed by Massacre of Rajput Civilians | Battle of Chittor Part-5 | With Portraits from Akbarnama & personal pictures of Chittor Fort

4. ACTUAL Struggle between Mughal & Rajput Forces - Course of War BEFORE Jauhar and Saka| Battle of Chittor Part-4 | With explained Portraits from Akbarnama

3. Battles BEFORE the Battle of Chittor - At Kumbhalgarh, Rampur, Udaipur, Mandalgarh | Part - III

2. Preparation of Rajputs - Battle of Chittor | Part - II

1. Why did Akbar attack Chittor | Part - I 

Remembering Maharana Pratap

More articles to be added in coming days.
This article has been posted under the Rajputs section of history_geek's BLOG.

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Emperor Akbar : Did He Inherit the Eclectism of His Ancestors?

I have been wondering for a long time just what it was that propelled a young, illiterate boy to all-time greatness. Was it him, his associates, his family background, or destiny that made Akbar truly great? It was perhaps a happy admixture of all these. This article looks at one of these factors - the family background of Akbar right from the time when his ancestors ruled the steppes of Central Asia. 

Let me start with a brief note. I am aware that when we consider the Mongol ancestors of Akbar, we are filled with repulsion and aversion for the trail of genocide and devastation some of them left behind, when they visited Hindustan and indeed many other parts of Central Asia. This article in no way aims to portray them as anything other than what they were NOR is it a COMPLETE study of them. It does NOT seek to justify those actions or gloss over the crimes against humanity.

It ONLY looks at ONE aspect of their personality. Their religious proclivity. This post is an attempt to look at their 'other side' which is not known to many of us.

They were, almost all of them, free-thinking. They switched their religious beliefs to suit their political goals. They  sought the company of learned men. They visited shrines and discussed the doctrines of various faiths with religious authorities. It appears ironic that these were the same people who had utter disregard for human life.     

Akbar incredibly reflects many of these traits, which is what intrigued me in the first place and led me to study his background. This article SIMPLY points out the traits that are common to Akbar and his ancestors. 

Mughal Emperor Babur, Humayun, Akbar and Jahangir - Portrait

The Family Background

Chengiz Khan

Chengiz Khan was a Shaman in religious belief. (A Shaman can mean a monk or a priest.) He believed in God but not in dogma, respected all religions and was often present at all the religious ceremonies of his subjects, for, from the state point of view, he found it useful that the people under his authority should give evidence of their faith in God. After the conquest of Iran, Chengiz brought some learned men to his court, and asked them for information on the doctrine of Islam.

This spirit of free-thinking and eclecticism was a common trait in the Mughals of Central Asia. They took part equally in Christian (of the Nestorian form), Muhammadan and Buddhist services. 

They didn't mind employing Christian generals and mercenaries. Though they carried the message of death and destruction in whichever direction they turned their eyes, still they carried to and brought from those lands, all the knowledge they could command. A spirit of inquiry was a native instinct. As transmitters of knowledge and method, if not originative, their influence upon history has been enormous.

{Akbar too gathered knowledge from all over his dominion and was ever filled with a child-like spirit of inquiry.}

Kublai Khan

Kublai Khan, grandson of Chengiz, sent to the Pope, in 1269, a mission asking for one hundred men of learning and ability to be sent to his court to establish an understanding. (Here was an opportunity for the Pope to fulfill their ambition of converting the great Mughals to their faith. But the two friars sent were unequal to the task.)

Inspired by the great Chinese sage, Chu-Tsi, Kublai Khan, the Mongol, accepted a Chinese name, for he was an Emperor of China. He tweaked the Shamanic cult in his own style. "He began to respect the religion and culture of the conquered and did not believe in the cultural superiority of the victors. He was kind to the learned, to the artists and poets, and gave them shelter, irrespective of their religion and tradition. He completely identified himself with the interest of his subjects. The efforts of Kublai to revive Chinese agriculture, his great struggle against famine, his financial laws (he ordered the printing of bank-notes) and his works of charity deserve admiration of all generations.”

{When I read these words in quotes, I instantly felt these words could have been written for Akbar, more or less.}

If Kublai was great as a ruler of Chinese soil, he was greater still as a ruler of Chinese soul. To decide what was the best among the religions of the people, he called a council of the wise men of all beliefs. Thus came the Muslim divines, Buddhist Shamans, Christian theologians to the Imperial Court and a very fascinating record of their discussions can be found in the writings of Rubrukis, the ambassador of Saint Louis, King of France.

The Christian Gospels were asked to be translated. Mati-Dhwaja, the great Lama, was at his court and was afterwards honoured with the seat of the Tibetan Dalai Lama. A great Lama, named Shakya Pandit from Tibet (probably of Indian origin) went over to his court and is said to have delivered three lectures on Buddhism; he ultimately convinced Kublai of the greatness of the teachings of Buddha and was accepted as the “ Phagspa” (or preceptor). He is credited with having invented a new alphabet for the use of Kublai's empire, combining the script of the Chinese, Mongols and Zoroastrians.

This spirit of enquiry, free thinking and absence of a steady religious background are mainly responsible for the changes of beliefs in the Mughal tribes in different parts of Asia.  

In China, Kublai had a precedent in Tai-Sing who called a similar council to decide the merits of Neostiian Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Laotzeism. Beginning from Emperor Ashoka Maurya of BharatVarshareligious conferences followed one upon the other at the court of the Asian rulers in search of a means of reconciling the different doctrinesThis is so similar to the religious discussions Akbar held in the Ibadat Khana

The Mughals in China adopted Buddhism; in South Russia and Western Turkistan, they embraced Islam ; in Kipchak, though Muslim by profession, they still retain most of their earlier traces of Shamanism. The Mughals of Ukraine reverted to Christianity, forming the Cossacks nomad half-civilised tribes in Russia and Poland. The pliability of the Mughals to some extent continued even when they reached India after two hundred years of their stay in Islamic environments.

The same spirit characterises the paternal line of Akbar. The early Turks who accepted
Islam, made it a condition precedent that, even when Muslims, they would not part with wine and would not kill cows. By no means was their profession of Islam orthodox. 

{In his autobiography, Babur mentions that cow slaughter shall NOT be acceptable to him. It was not so much a personal sentiment as the understanding that he would not be able to win over the people of Hindustan if he allowed this custom. As for drinking wine, this is evident in the lifestyles of most Mughals. 

Timur Lang

Timur-Lang is depicted in most diverse ways according to the authors. 
He is claimed as :
-> an orthodox Sunni, and still no less a Shia;
-> some credit him to be a Ghazi (slayer of infidels); 
-> others shun him as a Schismatic;
-> he is hated in Europe and India as a scourge of God and men. 
-> He is cursed by others as a pagan too. 

And there is more or less truth in every one of the epithets applied to him..!!!!

His conquest extended from the Mediterranean to the Ganges and from Peking to Moscow. The Sunni Muslims, whom he practically destroyed in Baghdad and Allepo, never accepted him as an orthodox Muslim and he was looked down upon by the Khalifas and Ullema as a pagan. {In simple terms, pagan means "nature worshipper".}

In his communications, he styled himself as "I, Timur, a servant of God.” He never changed his hereditary name Amir Taimur Gurgan. He had the Khutba read in his name and assumed the title of Khalifat-ul-lillah to pose as the greatest commander of the faithful, vindicating the superiority of Timurid arms to those of Abbassids Caliphs of Egypt. He gladly employed Christians as his envoys to different contemporary courts.

An Amir wears a commander's crest which is hereditary in his family. Gurgan means a son-in-law and it refers to Timur's ancestor Nuyun Karachar's marriage with a daughter of the family of Chengiz Khan.

Fariduddin Bey, in his famous work, Mustahat-i-Sultanat, states the occasion of his declaration of the Sunni creed. Yusuf of Khaput, flying from the wrath of Timur, sought shelter at the court of Bayezid of Turkey. Timur demanded the surrender of Yusuf from the Turkish ruler but Bayezid gave an evasive reply by introducing irrelevant reflections on Timur's faith and orthodoxy. This step drew from Timur a great profession of Sunni orthodoxy against the faith of Bayezid. The altercation ended in the famous and a highly destructive battle of Angora in 1402 in which Bayezid died.  The Ottoman Turks had to forcibly acknowledge his supremacy and accord to him the title of Khalifat-ul-lillah. 

We saw that a few hundred years later, his descendant, Akbar, also had the khutba read in his name and adopted the same title, but with diplomacy at work. Post Link: Jodha Akbar Shah-i-Iran Track Historical Update - The "Infallible" Daring Diplomatic MasterStroke of Akbar & Sheikh Mubarak | Part-2 }

Everyone, irrespective of faith, who dared challenge his supremacy, was to be put to the sword, devoid of any mercy. The speeches which Timur delivered on the eve of his expeditions were always more political than religiousThe peculiarity is that all his wars were fought against the Islamic countries except against Georgia and India. Professions of orthodoxy suited him as a conqueror. To us, it seems strange that he believed himself to be an agent of God on earth and that it was the commission of God on him to conquer the world. He believed that opposing him was akin to going against the command of God.

It was ironical that the man who did not hesitate to build "twenty towers of heads of believers in Allepo and Damascus" could pose as the champion of true Faith and to attempt at the conversion of the land of non-believers. To Timur, attaining his end was the ultimate ambition, for that he did not hesitate to shed rivers of blood. But, this insatiable thirst for blood was NOT dictated by religious fanaticismIt was more about conquering as much land as he could and establish himself as the lord of the world. This can be seen in the fact that when he attacked Hindustan in 1398 and plundered the city of Delhi, the victims were BOTH Hindus and Muslims. The people put to death did not belong to any particular religion. The actions taken by him were NOT communal in nature.

Yet wherever he found a shrine, Timur was prone to pray at it, asking protection from the dead saint who might be buried there. In the midst of the destruction he unleashed, he ordered saving colleges and hospitals. Every evening after the turmoils of the war were over, he called the group of pious and learned men and had discussions with them, which he prized muchTimur spent most of his hours in talk with holy men who had visited the Shrines of Islam and gained sanctity thereby. He used to have books read to him every evening.

{Akbar too, we know, visited shrines of Sufi saints and enjoyed the company of scholars and religious folk with whom he engaged in long discussions.}

Timur tells us, "Every kingdom which I reduced, I gave back the government of that kingdom to the prince thereof, and I bound him in chains of kindness and generosity; I drew them into obedience and submission. The refractory I overcome by their own devices, and I appoint over them a vigorous, sagacious and upright governor." This version exactly fits in with the spirit of Timur. To the refractory, he was a veritable instrument of ruthless destruction; to the submissive he was all bountiful. 

Before a conquest, he planted himself outside the city, raised a white flag as a sign of peace inviting submission ; if submission was not tendered, a red flag was hoisted, intimating the death of the nobles; if yet submission was not tendered, a black flag would fly as a signal for the burial of the city, which meant complete destruction.

{Akbar is also known to have used all means of submission before embarking on war against any kingdom. To those who submitted to his will, he was generosity personified. But to those who opposed him, he could be extremely ruthless. Case in point is the Massacre at Chittor in Mewar.}

One can only wonder how this conqueror, in the midst of his universal pillage, plunder and destruction, could "care to take with him the learned, even in his campaigns".

To him, the Sheikhs were as much a necessity as the soldiers. In war, the place of the learned was assigned at the farthest and safest corners. In the destruction of the city of Baghdad, he spared the learned men. This peculiar personality of "Timur the Terrible" and "Timur the Mystic" is indeed an interesting studyA mystic regard for Saints and an admiration for the learned went hand in hand with the cold-blooded disregard of human life.

It is a significant coincidence that Mars was present in the 5th House of Timur's horoscope too, just as it was in Akbar’s. The presence of Mars in the horoscopes of princes is highly desired and powerful. Akbar's horoscope is said to excel even that of Timur. It indicates glory and greatness, lofty rank, victory and dominion.

Now we look at some of the lesser known ancestors of Akbar and how he shared a passion for learning with them and patronized masters of art, literature and science.

Mirza Shah Rukh

Shah Rukh (1304-47), Timur’s son, was interesting, though in another way. "He desired not to extend but to repair the ravages committed by his father." This prince encouraged men of science and learning at his court, just like Akbar did. The empire founded by Timur was refined by the efforts of Mirza Shah Rukh. It is an extraordinary fact that the son of one so hard-hearted should be so kindly, amiable, gracious and friendly to learning, showing favour and courtesy to all, especially to scholars and men of parts.

On Friday and Monday evenings, he would assemble those who knew the Quran by heart and made them recite the entire scripture in his presence.

Mirza Shah Rukh’s Children

Bysundar , son of Shah Rukh, was a great patron of learning and the founder of the most elegant style of book production in Persia. Poets, artists, scholars and painters found a lord bountiful in him. They came from Iraq, Pars, Azerbaijan and from all parts of Asia. 

Ulagh Beg, another son of Shah Rukh and an excellent mathematician and astronomer, built at Samarkand his famous observatory and compiled the famous astronomical tables known as Zich-i-Ulagh Beg.

There’s a crater on the moon named Ulugh Beg. It was named after him by German astronomer Johann Heinrich von Madler in 1830. There’s also an asteroid named after him, 2439 Ulugbek. It was discovered by N. Chernykh in 1977. Ulugh Beg seems to be quite a well-known name among astronomers.

The Timurids, it seems, were refined men, scholars, loving art for the sake of art alone. In the intervals between their battles, they enjoyed thinking of their libraries, and writing poetry, many of them having composed poetry that far excels that of their poets.

Umar Shaikh

Umar Shaikh, father of Babur, "had a great liking for the poets and could recite poetry. He had a poetical temperament but was not solicitous of writing verses, spent most of his time in reading books, historical and poeticalThe Shahnama was often recited before him." He had a great respect for Darweshes and Saints and often would sit at their feet for wisdom.


Umar Shaikh's son, Babur, combined in him the blood of the two houses of Chengiz Khan and Timur-Lang.

He had to defend his homeland of Farghana against enemies who included his own uncle. It really passes the imagination of an ordinary man how, in the midst of the vicissitudes and turmoils of his life, he could maintain an equanimity of spirit, sufficient for composing couplets or for reciting them. In him the intrepid spirit of a Mongol was softened by the mystic element of a Turk; he was as much an orthodox Muslim as an apostate. Babur had, in his religious beliefs, many elements to which an orthodox Muslim would seriously object.

{When I read the words in italic, I instinctively thought of Akbar who too often faced the displeasure of the orthodox.}

The political necessity which drew from Timur his profession of orthodox Sunnism (in answer to Bayezid's reproach), was equally responsible for making Babur profess the Shia doctrine of Shah Ismail. As a mark of his respect to his orthodox Shia suzerain, Babur had to accept the Shia-i-Taj (a customary cap worn by a Shia). He struck coins bearing the Shia texts immediately on his arrival in India. Later however he struck coins bearing the names of the first 4 khalifas

This implies he started professing Sunni faith now! Yet Babur hardly followed the Sunni orthodox social system either which is a part of the Islamic creed; he enjoyed the prerogative of social freedom. He enjoyed wine as much as any other member of his family, an enjoyment strictly prohibited.

Religion seems to have had anything but a powerful influence upon him, as regards submission to the will of God and belief in the efficacy of prayer.


Humayun in point of religion was no better and no worse than his father, Babur. Though he was under the influence of a saint, he accepted the Shia-i-Taj, and wore the khelat (robe of honour) offered by the Shia King of Persia. He went so far as to make a pilgrimage to the tomb of a Shia saint in north-western Persia near the Caspian Sea. His change of the title of Sultanate of Hindustan to 'Musnad-e-Emarat’ implies a complete surrender to Persian influence.

If his father had steeped himself in wine, Humayun fumed himself with the smoke of opium. Love of books, association with the learned men, and visits to tombs and saints --- the characteristics of his line were all present in him, {as in his son Akbar too}.

Dynastic group portrait of Emperors Babur, Humayun, Akbar and Jahangir with the poet Sa'di on the left and an attendant on the right. Hashim


In short, a spirit of cultural eclecticism, almost unfettered by the limitations of Islam, though they had accepted it 150 years before, existed in these two houses of Central Asia from which the Chagtai family of Hindustan traced their descent. They continued their old social system, with love of Shamanic customs, their love for literature and literary men, with their drinking bouts and with their cruel propensities and disregard of human lives. The Torah of Chengiz Khan was still quoted, and when necessary, put into practice. The kettledrum and horse tails were still the signs of the dignity of a Chagtai.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, so far as India was concerned, a tendency towards a fusion and rapprochement between Hindu and Muslim cultures, was already in evidence. The Sufi teachers were then in possession of the field, the Hindu saints had prepared the soil, and seeds of eclecticism, partly conscious and partly unconscious, had been sown. 

The time was ripe for the advent of a MAN and a great ruler who would co-ordinate the jarring elements of the two. He appeared in 1542 in the desert of Amarkot in Sind, that cradle of Sufis wherefrom had sprung for the last 400 years myriads of saints. He was born of a mother who had behind her a great legacy of the culture of Central Asia. He was born in the house of a Rajput Raja of Amarkot who, out of pity, had given shelter to Humayun. It was no mere accident but a phenomenon, associated with a love for the subjects which this Emperor manifested.

Uncannily, Akbar showed much of the traits of his ancestors, so far removed from him in time and place, as we have seen.  The mystic in Akbar would often compel him “to seek loneliness where he would chant for the whole night the praises of God”. By nature, Akbar was contemplative. Badayuni writes of “the Emperor sitting on a stone, lost in meditation.” From his inherited leanings to the formulation of the Din-i-ilahi was a slow but natural process.  

This article has been posted under the Mughals(Akbar) and Miscellaneous section of history_geek's blog.

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