The Obstinate Regainer of Chittor
The story of this great Maharana again reinforces the observation that the saga of survival and ascendance of kings to the throne of Mewar in this Sisodia dynasty has been quite bizarre, and how fate intervened to snatch victory from near certain defeats of Mewar, or saved the Maharanas and their armies from the very brink of extinction by a single stroke of luck. All this makes for the most compelling read ever recorded in human history. Sometimes, one is forced to believe that there was a divine power audaciously determined to keep the Hindu resistance alive in the subcontinent: how else was it possible for one single house to continue ruling Mewar as an oasis of resistance to unceasing Islamic attacks for one thousand years!
As friends turned foes, affluence to abject poverty, gaiety to sorrow, dances of celebrations to dances of death, as all the beauty of Mewar architecture, created over centuries, were plundered by Islamic marauders in a span of a few days and Hindu customs and traditions were crushed brutally, cities were destroyed and entire populations slaughtered to fulfill just one wish of the Islamic invaders, conversion to Islam, the resistance of the Mewar kings continued as determined as ever.
It is indeed baffling how these amazing kings, outnumbered and often outwitted by the Islamic invaders, managed to stand firm in their opposition to the murderous assaults on Hinduism. What was that singular force that made not only the maharanas stand against the raging forces of jehad, but the entire population of Mewar, and sometimes the whole of Rajasthan, stand united behind their kings?
After Ratan Singh was killed in 1303 AD by Allauddin Khilji, Chittor was taken by the Islamic forces for the first time and every haveli, temple and structure of consequence desecrated or destroyed. Before going out for Saka, after the Jauhar by Maharani Padmini and thousands of other Hindu women, Ratan Singh had instructed his sons and brothers to escape from the rear gate of Chittor at night. He ordered them to fight the Muslims and retake the fort at an opportune time. Almost nine generations of Ratan Singh died trying to regain Chittor, but finally Bhuvan Singh took the fort. Many great warriors like Rahap, Mahap, and Karan Singh laid down their lives trying to regain their ancestral place.
Bhuwan Singh was succeeded by Laxman Singh, and, in the meantime in Delhi, the throne had gone from the Khiljis to the Tughlaqs. Muhammad Bin Tughlaq attacked Chittor and Laxman Singh, along with his son Ari Singh, died defending Chittor, but once again Chittor was lost. The younger son of Laxman, Ajay Singh, escaped with severe injuries and built his capital at Kailwada where Jain munis sheltered and healed him. Laxman Singh had two sons, the younger Ajay Singh and the elder Ari Singh.
Once, Ari Singh went out to hunt boars in the jungles of Kailwada and came across a local lass who confronted him when Ari Singh wanted to enter a corn field while chasing a wounded boar. The girl asked Ari Singh not to overrun the farm and wait for her to return with the game. To Ari Singh’s utter amazement, the girl came back with the carcass of the animal. Then the girl asked Ari Singh to cook the boar in the village and enjoy his meal. As they were walking back, Ari Singh, already impressed with her, saw how carrying a milk pitcher on her head, she was effortlessly dragging two buffaloes. Ari Singh contemplated, ‘If I were to have a son from her, he would be a very powerful man indeed.’
Ari Singh inquired about the family, who were Chandana Rajputs, and asked for her hand from her father. Ari Singh married the girl, but because she was no royalty, kept the marriage hidden. He kept visiting the girl off and on and a boy was born to the Chandani girl who was named Hammir Singh.
Then Muhammed Bin Tughlaq attacked Chittor and won it after killing Laxman Singh and Ari Singh. The other son of Laxman Singh, Ajai Singh, who escaped from the war with Tughlaq, settled at Kailwada and had two sons of his own but both were weak and ineffective. Ajai Singh was constantly challenged by a local mountain chief, Moonja Balocha, but was too old to fight him. Then some Saamants loyal to Ari Singh told Ajai Singh about Hammir Singh, who was beckoned from his village Oondwa. Hammir Singh was all of 13 years of age.
Hammir set up his men and learned that Moonja would be coming to Semari village to attend a function. Hammir attacked and beheaded him, and came back to Ajai Singh with Moonja’s head on his saddle bow. Ajai Singh kissed his nephew, and there and then did a teeka on the forehead of Hammir with Moonja’s blood. Thus, Hammir Singh became the king of Mewar overcoming his circumstances by displaying extreme valor and an aggressive personality.
Ajai Singh’s own sons, Sajjan Singh and Kshem Singh, were exiled by their father to prevent a civil war in the family. An act of extreme foresight and sacrifice for a father to skip the line of succession of his own sons for a worthier nephew. It is anyone’s guess what would have been the future of Mewar had Hammir not been chosen by Ajai Singh.
Sajjan Singh went to the Deccan where his progeny was destined to correct the wrongs done to Hindustan by the then Mughal ruler at Delhi, Aurangzeb. Sajjan Singh was the ancestor of the great Shivaji Maharaj, the founder of Satara throne of the great Marathas, and the lineage is also recorded in the chronicles of Mewar.
Thus, in one move, two lines of resistance to Islamic invasions were created by one just act of Ajai Singh’s.
Hammir made Kailwara his residence and the first act he did was to order the people of Mewar to vacate the plains and climb up the hills. This was done to render the plains of Mewar barren and useless for the enemy and create such hardships for the invading army that they would starve in absence of local farming and other commodities helping them. This evacuation of the plains and shifting the entire population to the hills was a movement that had been carried out by successive Maharanas of Mewar when countering Islamic invaders.
It was quite an amazing feat that Hammir achieved to even communicate such a message to the entire state in those difficult times. Even more baffling was the total trust the population had bestowed on their king and the joy and commitment with which they followed their Rana through a life of extreme hardship and adversity. One can only look back in awe at such trust and love showered by an entire population on their premiere and it is difficult to decide whose sacrifice among the two was greater — the Maharanas who chose to destroy the entire commerce of their state or the people who followed the Maharanas willingly into poverty and deprivation.
We will see this in the lives of the other Ranas of Mewar too whenever this practice of evacuation of the plains was implemented, but the most remarkable example of this practice being carried out successfully happened with Maharana Hammir, and two centuries later, with Maharana Pratap.
It was not an easy journey for Hammir, even after putting his people through all the hardships and destroying all local commerce, as Hammir did not get much military success, and a time came when he did not even have the money to pay wages to his army.
In the meantime, Tughlaq went back to Delhi giving Chittor to Maldeo Songara of Jalore. Though Kailwada provided the perfect retreat to the emigrants from the plains, with repeated failures at getting Chittor back, the Saamants and friends of the Royal House of Mewar began disintegrating. Hammir then went to Dwarka in Gujarat abandoning his home, dejected and defeated, where he camped in a village of Chaarans at night. There was a woman mystic by the name of Barwadi Bai whom Hammir met and shared his misfortunes with.
Barwadi looked at Hammir and proclaimed, “O brave brother! Go back to Kailwada! You will get Chittor. And when you get a matrimonial offer from the most unexpected place, don’t reject it, accept it. That offer will be instrumental in getting back your lost kingdom.”
Hammir replied, “Bai, how will I get Chittor back? I don’t have a horse to ride, nor men to fight for me and no money even to to feed my dear ones.”
Barnadi told Hammir that her son Biru will come to Kailwada with a caravan of 500 horses. “Build an army with them and pay me back when you have enough”, she said.
Hammir did not have anything to lose by following the Chaaran lady’s advice. He came to Kailwada and within weeks, Biru followed him with his 500 horses. Hammir saddled all of them and Biru was taken in as the Raj Kavi of Mewar and a lot of villages were given as grants to him. Biru’s descendants inhabit those villages even today.
Then a strange turn of events happened and Maldeo of Jalore, who was entrusted with Chittor by Mohd Bin Tughlaq, was advised by his well wishers that without getting the entire Mewar under their rule, the Songaras were merely watchdogs of Chittor, and to truly expand their frontiers, it would be a wise move to give a daughter to Hammir.
The historian James Tod writes that this Songara princess was a child widow and hence the offer was made, but other historians vehemently contest this opinion of Tod. Whatever be the reason, without doubt, Maldeo merely wanted to use the matrimony to augment his own power. Little did he know what fate intended for him.
From Hammir’s perspective, this offer was unacceptable because of very high chances of treachery, but Hammir was convinced about Barwadi’s prophecies and hence consulted his Saamants. The priests from Maldeo approached Hammir and told him about the traditional friendship between Jalore and Mewar. The priests also told him that the forefathers of Hammir were killed by Mohammedans, not Maldeo or his family.
Whether Maldeo’s offer was meant to entrap Hammir, or as an insult, Hammir calculated all possibilities and scouted all dangers in his mind; but in the end, the words of the mystic and his obsession to retake Chittor made him accept the offer. He told his assistants that ‘the coconut might be retained!’
He is supposed to have uttered, “My feet shall at least tread in the rocky steps in which my ancestors have moved. A Rajput should always be prepared for adverses; one day to abandon his abode covered with wounds; and the next to reascend with the crown on his head.”
Thus, Hammir undertook the most daring adventure of his life walking straight into the arms of the enemy with nothing except raw guts and faith in the mystic Chaarani’s words at his disposal.
The marriage happened at Chittor and the Songara princess won Hammir’s heart on the first night itself. The princess laid out the plans to him to win back Chittor. She advised Hammir to ask for Maldeo’s servant Mauji Ram for himself, to which Maldeo consented. Mauji Ram came to Kailwada with the newlyweds and immediately approached Hammir and said that now is the time to make your move, for which you had asked my loyalties from Maldeo.
Hammir followed Mauji Ram who took Hammir and his small army to Chittor at midnight and since the gatekeepers recognized Mauji Ram, the gates of Chittor were opened and Hammir captured Chittor, slaughtering whatever little resistance he faced.
Maldeo was furious when he learned of this and gathered his army to attack Chittor. Maldeo had five sons who fought for him. Hammir gathered all his former chieftains and repelled the attack of the Jalore army. Maldeo approached Tughlaq and the joint forces of Muhammed Bin Tughlaq and Jalore came to attack Chittor.
In the meantime, as the people of Mewar learned about Hammir’s ascendance to the throne of Mewar, the pride of ‘Hindwa Sooraj’ reinstated, they poured in streams from the Western highlands and the valley of Kumbalgarh to cheer their king. The glory of Chittor being restored was the signal for the people to return to their ancient abodes in the plains from the hills and other hideouts. Every chief of Hindu blood who wished to uproot the barbarians occupying his motherland rejoiced at the possibility of once more throwing off the barbaric yoke of the Islamic marauders.
Armed with such zeal and fervour of the people and Saamants of Mewar, Hammir collected a vast army and instead of waiting for Tughlaq to attack him, decided to march towards him and meet him at a place of his choice.
There are three routes to approach Mewar, the Western through Marwar, Central through Dewair, and Eastern through the plateaus of Aravalis. Tughlaq was ill advised by his counselors to approach through the East where his superior numbers were rendered useless by the intricacies of the narrow passes of Mewar.
Tughlaq assembled his army on the banks of Chambal at the village of Singoli. Hammir attacked him there, slaughtered his army, killed most of his generals, also killed Hari Singh, a son of Maldeo, in a single one on one combat and took Tughlaq prisoner.
So much for the mighty Delhi Sultanate which finds such eulogistic references in our history text books, a sultanate that was a mere occupation of a few hundred square kilometers, while all reference to Maharana Hammir and his critical victory over Delhi has been erased from our textbooks and civic life.
A note must be made that most of the Indian historians relied on Persian or Arabic record keepers for digging out the truth about Medieval India. One such writer has been Ferishta who has been quoted extensively by Indian historians. But Ferishta himself being loyal to his faith completely obliterates even the mention of this Battle of Singoli. Only a few inscriptions from Jain temples of the time and the return of Mewar to her lost splendor direct us to the truth recorded in the annals of Mewar.
It is a matter of shame for academicians and historians of modern India that they participated in this deliberate distortion of Indian history, the motives of which only they know. If teachers and record keepers start concealing truth and peddle white lies in a society, the total destruction of that society is inevitable sooner or later.
Hammir took Tughlaq to Chittor and kept him prisoner for six months. The ‘mighty’ Delhi Sultanate’s occupier was kept captive like a dog in the ordinary prison of Chittor but not one soul dared to lead an attack on Chittor to free him from the clutches of Hammir.
Does it require rocket science to deduce that Mewar was the real power center of India in the fourteenth century?
Tughlaq was forced to surrender Ajmer, Ranthambore, Nagamand and Shivpuri to Hammir, besides giving Rupees 50 lakhs as fine and one hundred elephants as a penalty. Thus, almost the whole of Rajasthan and parts of Sindh and Punjab came to Mewar.
Hammir was so confident by now that while releasing Tughlaq, he did not even extract any promise from him of no further attacks on Chittor. Hammir was reported to have said this to Tughlaq as he stood in chains in the royal courts of Mewar: “If you were ever to attack Chittor again, be prepared that I will defend Chittor, not from within but outside her walls”.
Thus humiliated and defanged, Tughlaq was released by Hammir and this decisive victory over Islamic imperialists remains one of the most crucial yet unsung story of a great king who was the sole Hindu power center left in India. Banbeer, the other son of Maldeo, aligned with Hammir and went on to become one of the trusted lieutenants of Hammir.
Hammir is quoted to have said this to Banbeer, when granting him the Jagirs of Neemach, Ratanpur and Kairar: “Eat, serve and be faithful. You were once the servant of a Turk, but now of a Hindu of your own faith. For I have taken back my own, the rock moistened by the blood of my ancestors, the gift of the deity I adore, and who will maintain me in it; nor shall I endanger it by the worship of a fair face, as did my predecessor.”
Hammir is probably referring to Lord Shiva here who was the presiding deity of the house of Mewar. His reference of a “deity of fair face” might refer to Lord Vishnu or a fair form of a goddess, which can only be surmised.
Hammir’s adversary, Maldeo, died of old age in Jalore later. Banbeer was a Songara prince and this alliance of Sisodias with Songaras would prove critical to the survival of the Sisodiyas as we witness in the ascent of Maharana Pratap to the throne and his relentless fight against the Turk imperialist, Akbar.
Hammir became the sole prince of power in India surrounded by three Muslim states of Delhi, Malwa and Gujarat but capable of expelling all three simultaneously.
The Hindu chiefs of Marwar, Amer, Boondi, Gwalior, Chanderi, Raesen, Sipri, Calpi, Aboo, etc brought their levies and paid homage to the prince of Chittor. Mewar saw unprecedented wealth and prosperity in the times of Hammir. The trade routes flourished and the people of Mewar became the richest in India. The architecture and the scale of the buildings, columns and temples of these times bear witness to this unprecedented prosperity.
Hammir invited the Chaarani mystic, Mata Barwadi from Gujarat, and kept her in Chittor in affluence and with full honor. He even constructed a temple in her memory which was called the Annapoorna temple and stands till date at the fort of Chittor.
Hammir’s story from birth to death is a surreal saga of what Sisodia princes endured in medieval India to keep themselves free from Islamic imperialists and maintain Hindu dharma at the core of their lives. That Mewar came back from the brink of extinction by the miraculous intervention of Mata Barwadi is a well documented incident of Mewar history. It not only demonstrates the deep influence of Chaarans on the Sisodia clan but also the fact that they were the well wishers, protectors and providers of this valorous clan of Rajputs when all had abandoned them. Why else would a mystic lady of Gujarat rebuild the Mewar kingdom from scratch, investing her goodwill and resources, risking enmity with Islamic imperialists and other houses of Rajasthan, if not for the unflinching trust that the great Sisodias of Mewar were the only hope for Hindu survival in the subcontinent.
Hammir’s conquest of Delhi Sultanate and imprisonment of Mohd Bin Tughlaq was like a dagger driven into the heart of Islamists who were dreaming of Islamizing the nation after capturing Chittor and the near decimation of the Sisodia Rajput clan of Mewar.
Hammir ruled for almost sixty years, uninterrupted, rebuilt Hindu temples all over India up to Gaya and Benares, died at a ripe old age due to natural reasons, leaving behind a name venerated in Mewar, as one of the unbeatable Hindu kings who reestablished the supremacy of Mewar in India and created such wealth and nurtured such powerful alliances that Chittor remained the beacon of Hindu dharma for two centuries.
This article is extracted from Shri Omendra Ratnu’s forthcoming book on the true, hitherto largely unrevealed, Mewar history to be soon published by BluOne Ink in India. The article is copyrighted and no part of it may be reprinted without permission.