28 Apr 2013

Prithviraj Chauhan: The Great Warrior of India

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Prithviraj and Samyogita riding on horse

Please note that this is the history of Prithviraj Chauhan according to Hindu legends. For the real history of Prithviraj Chauhan, also known as Rai Pithora, please read Muhammad Ghori's Invasion of India

Prithviraj Chauhan (1179-1192), the second last Hindu ruler of Delhi, was one of the greatest and most powerful rulers of India. He was born in 1168 to Someshwara Chauhan, the ruler of Ajmer, and his wife Karpuravalli. He succeeded his father at the age of 11 and ruled from the twin capitals of Ajmer and Delhi.

From his childhood days, Prithviraj Chauhan was famous for his chivalry and courage. Prithviraj also learned the art of "Shabd Bhedi Baan" ie, using a bow and arrow to shoot without seeing the target, purely on the basis of sound. 

Prithviraj Raso: The Prithviraj Raso was composed by Prithviraj's court poet, Chand Bardai, who accompanied the king in all his battles.

Elopement with Samyogita: His love story with Samyogita, the daughter of Jaichand Rathod of Kannauj is very famous. Jaichand, who was jealous of Prithviraj’s achievements and brave nature, arranged a Swayamvar (a ceremony where a bride can select her husband from the assembled princes) for Samyogita. He invited all the princes of the country to the ceremony but deliberately ignored Prithiviraj. He even made a statue of Prithiviraj and kept him as a doorman. Prithviraj got to know of this and on the said day, at the time of the Swayamvar, Samyogita passed all the princes and finally garlanded Prithviraj's statue. Prithiviraj who was hiding behind the statue in the garb of a doorman, whisked her away and put her up on his horse to make a fast getaway to Delhi. This was great insult to Jaichand and he invited the Afghan ruler Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori to defeat Prithviraj.

Muslim Invasion of India: Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori, an Afghan ruler, invaded India in 1175. He wanted to establish his empire in India. After the conquest of Multan and Punjab he advanced towards Delhi. 

First Battle of Tarain (1191)

Muhammad Ghori captured the fortress of Bhatinda in Punjab, on the northwestern frontier of Prithviraj Chauhan's kingdom. Prithviraj's army led by his vassal Govinda Raj, rushed to the defense of the frontier and the two armies met at Tarain. Muhammad Ghori was defeated and captured by the Rajput army. He begged Prithviraj for mercy and release. Prithviraj's ministers advised against pardoning the aggressor however, the chivalrous and valiant Prithviraj respectfully released Ghori.

Second Battle of Tarain (1192)

In 1192, Ghori appointed Qutb-ud-din Aibak as his commander and returned to Tarain with a larger army. Ghori, with support from Raja Jaichand, attacked Prithviraj’s army in the very early hours of morning in surprise. The Hindus incidentally followed a hoary practice of battling only from sunrise up to sunset. Thus Prithviraj was defeated and taken captive to Ghor (Afghanistan). Samyogita committed suicide instead of surrendering to Ghori. After establishing his empire, Ghori returned to Afghanistan, leaving Delhi in the hands of his trusted general, Qutub-ud-din Aibak.

At Ghor (in Afghanistan), Prithiviraj was brought in chains before Muhammad Ghori. Ghori ordered him to lower his eyes but Prithviraj declared that the eyelids of a Rajput are lowered only in death. On hearing this, Ghori ordered to burn Prithviraj's eyes with red hot iron rods.

Note: In 1193, Ghori returned to India and defeated Jaichand in the Battle of Chandwar.

Ghori's Death

Prithviraj's childhood friend Chand Bardai went to Ghor and gained Ghori's trust. Chand Bardai met Prithviraj in the prison and told him of his plan. When Ghori announced an archery competition, he told Ghori that Prithviraj knew Shabdbhedi Ban, but since he was a king, he would do so only on the orders of another king. Ghori agreed and ordered him to shot. When Ghori asked him to shoot, Prithviraj aimed at Ghori's voice. Chand Bardai gave him further indication of where Ghori was seated by composing a couplet: 

"Char bans, chaubis gaj, angul ashta praman, Ete pai hai Sultan, (Taa Upar hai Sultan), ab mat jhuko Chauhan." (Ten measures ahead of you and twenty four feet away, is seated the Sultan. Do not miss him now, Chauhan).

Based on Chand Bardai's couplet, he sent an arrow aiming Ghori's throat. Thus Ghori was killed (1206). After this event Prithviraj and Chand Bardai stabbed each other. The death of Prithviraj Chauhan marked the beginning of Delhi Sultanate.

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