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Prithviraj Chauhan

  • Published
    25th May, 2022
Context

The Gurjars and Rajputs in Rajasthan have locked swords over an upcoming movie called Prithviraj, after the late royal.

  • The Akhil Bhartiya Veer Gurjar Mahasabha claimed that Prithviraj Chauhan belonged to the Gujjar community, and demanded that the film depict him as such.
  • The Shri Rashtriya Rajput Karni Sena, countered that Prithviraj was a Rajput. It announced that they would oppose the film unless the word ‘Samrat’ was prefixed to his name in the title.
About

Prithviraj Chauhan:

  • Prithviraj belonged to the Chauhan or Chahamana dynasty of Ajmer which emerged after the decline of the Pratihara Empire in the 11th century AD.
  • He ascended the throne in 1177 or 1178, and very quickly expanded his kingdom, defeating many of the smaller Rajput states.
  • However, he struggled against the Chalukyas of Gujarat, and was forced to look towards the Ganga valley instead.
  • The young Prithviraja inherited a kingdom that stretched from Sthanvishvara (Thanesar; once the capital of the 7th-century ruler Harsha) in the north to Mewar in the south.
  • While Prithviraj’s army was able to decisively defeat the invading Ghurids in the First Battle of Tarain (present-day Haryana) in 1191, he was defeated in the Second Battle of Tarain in the following year.
  • The battle marked a watershed moment in the history of medieval India, paving the way for the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate and the beginning of Muslim rule.

Different Literary texts about Prithviraj Chauhan:

  • Prithviraj Raso:
    • Prithviraj Raso was written by Chand Bardai, around 1400 in pingal script (a combination of Braj and Rajasthani)
    • It referred to Prithviraj’s father Someshvar as a Gurjar.
    • The ‘Prithviraj Raso’, which was probably composed at a time when Muslim rule was well entrenched in North India, does not use dehumanising expressions for Prithviraj’s rivals.
    • Also, instead of the conflicts with the Ghurid armies, Prithviraj Chauhan’s war with Jaychand of Kannauj is the central episode of the text.
    • It is not only the longest, but also the most pivotal moment, as he loses many of his soldiers in this battle.
    • In the finale of the poem, after losing the Second Battle of Tarain (1192 AD) against Muhammad of Ghor, Prithviraj is captured and taken to Ghazni in modern-day Afghanistan, where is blinded and imprisoned.
    • The Ghurid king challenges Prithviraj to demonstrate his proficiency in archery by piercing seven metal gongs with an arrow.
    • But the blinded king instead aims the arrow at Muhammad, placing his location by using his voice, and kills him before dying himself.
    • Most other historical sources indicate that the victorious Muhammad executed Prithviraj at the end of the Second Battle of Tarain.
  • Prithvirajavijaymahakavya:
    • ‘Prithvirajavijaymahakavya’ was written in 1191-21 by Kashmiri poet Jayanak, who worked in Prithviraj Chauhan’s court.
    • The ‘Prithviraja Vijaya’ the earliest Sanskrit ‘mahakavya’ sees Prithviraj Chauhan and Muhammad of Ghor as rivals who could never come to terms with one another.
    • The ‘Prithviraja Vijaya’ describes the Ghurid king as a wicked eater of cows, and his ambassador as an extremely ugly character.
    • The Muslims are labelled “turuska” (Turk) and “Yavana” (westerner), but also “raksasa” (ogre) and “asura” (demon).
    • ‘Prithviraja Vijaya’ also dehumanised other rivals of Prithviraj such as the Hindu Chalukya rulers of Gujarat.
  • The History of British India by James mill: James Mill’s ‘The History of British India’ (1817) categorized Indian history into the Hindu, Muhammadan and British periods, using the religious affiliation of the dominant political power to define each period.
    • In this formulation, Prithviraj Chauhan would be the last ruler of ‘Hindu’ India.
  • Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan by James Tod: The description of Prithviraj as “the last Hindu emperor” can be traced to the British colonial official James Tod’s ‘Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan’ (1829).

First Battle of Tarain (1191):

  • Muhammad of Ghor invaded the Chahamana territory and captured Tabarhindah between 1190 and 1191 CE (identified with Bathinda).
  • He entrusted it to Zia-ud-din, the Qazi of Tulak, who was backed up by 1200 horsemen.
  • When Prithviraj learned of this, he marched with his feudatories, including Delhi's Govindaraja, to Tabarhindah.
  • The Ghurids were decisively defeated by Prithviraj's army. Muhammad of Ghor was wounded and had to flee.
  • Prithviraj did not pursue the retreating Ghurid army because he did not want to invade hostile territory or misjudge Ghori's ambition.

 Second Battle of Tarain (1192):

  • The first battle of Tarain appears to have been treated by Prithviraj as merely a frontier battle.
  • As a result of his wars against the neighbouring Hindu kings, Prithviraj had lost all allies.
  • Muhammad Ghori arrived with a larger force, and Prithviraj was defeated and captured by Ghori.
  • Muhammad of Ghor reinstated Prithviraj Chauhan as a Ghurid vassal after capturing him. This theory is supported by the fact that after the Battle of Tarain, Prithviraj issued coins with his own name on one side and Muhammad's name on the other.
  • Prithviraj Chauhan's death is quietly debated and controversial, with one theory claiming he killed Ghori before dying, and another claiming he was killed for treason by Ghori.
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