An Honourable Man

Background:

Shah Jahan persuaded by his favourite son Dara, sent an army to stop Aurangzeb and Murad. The respective brigades were placed under Maharaja Jaswant Singh and Kasim Khan respectively. The troops left Agra on 18th and 26th December 1657.

The Battle of Dharmatpur, fought in the banks of Narmada saw Jaswant Singh opposing Aurangzeb. The battle was fought on 15 April 1658, fifteen miles from Ujjain. Jaswant could have attacked Aurangzeb but he allowed Murad’s armies to join Aurangzeb. He wanted to defeat both Mughal princes at once. However, the delay helped Aurangzeb. Now the Mughal general, Kasim Khan, being sent by Shah Jahan to help Jaswant was persuaded by Aurangzeb to join them. Kasim Khan defected as soon as the war started. Mukund Singh Hara of Kota and Bundi, Dayal Das Jhala, Arjun Gaur of Rajgarh and Ratan Singh Rathore of Ratlam along with the army of 30,000 Rathores of Jaswant fought bravely in the battlefield. Jaswant attacked both Aurangzeb and Murad and they barely escaped.  “Notwithstanding the immense superiority of the imperial princes, aided by numerous artillery pieces served by Frenchmen, night alone put a stop to the contest of science, numbers, and artillery, against Rajput courage”. In the battle Durgadas Rathore changed four horses and lost about half a dozen swords before he fell down wounded. The number was heavily in favour of the rebels. Finally the unequal contest ended with victory for the rebels and Aurangzeb named the place of victory Fatehabad.

After the victory at Dharmat, Aurangzeb pushed forward and defeated Dara at Samugarh on 30th May. He took possession of Agra fort on 8th June 1958 deposed his father and proclaimed himself as the emperor. Dara fled to Multan and Sindh after his defeat. He made a fresh bid to the throne of Delhi advancing to Ajmer in February 1659 invited by Jaswant Singh. Aurangzeb was busy and away from his capital to fight off Shuja at Khajwa near Fatehpur. Aurangzeb hastened back to meet Dara at Deorai, four miles south of Ajmer. Aurangzeb being angry with Jaswant sent an army of ten thousand imperial troops under Md. Amir Khan with guns and artillery to invade Marwar. Jaswant put up a brave front, but realised its futile. Ultimately he escaped to hill fort of Siwana. Aurangzeb soon understood he might need the support of Jaswant to get rid of Dara. He asked Jai Singh to write a friendly letter to Jaswant, seeking his friendship. Jaswant accepted this offer. Meanwhile Dara lost the battle and retreated towards Gujarat with only two thousand followers. Jai singh and Bahadur Khan went after him in pursuit. Jaswant joined in with Jai Singh before Sirohi. The drought in Gujarat gave Dara time to escape to Sindh through Rann of Kutch. Dara was on his way to safety at Kandahar, when a Baluch Chief Malik Jiwan of Dadar, treacherously captured Dara and handed him over to Jai Singh. On 10th November 1959, Jaswant’s Maharaja title was returned by Aurangzeb at the mediation of Jai Singh.

The Maharaja of Marwar, Jaswant Singh, was heartbroken with grief after the unnatural death of his son Prithviraj Singh on 8th May 1667 in Delhi. Prithviraj was presented with a dress by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. After putting on the dress he felt great pain and died. Perhaps the dress was poisoned. Prithviraj was noble and brave prince. He was the heir to the throne of Marwar. Jaswant could not get over the shock of his son’s death. He was very saddened because he had no male heir who could seek revenge. Aurangzeb had taken his revenge unfairly even after he had reclaimed Kabul for the Mughal emperor and was serving as a guardian of the Khyber pass.After one and half years Jaswant died on 28th December 1678 at Jamrud, near Peshawar. According to Todd he was poisoned by the Mughal emperor. The Chandravati queen was prevented from throwing themselves into fire at Mandore by Uday Kumpawat. And after two months Ajit Singh was born on 19th February 1679 in Lahore. As soon as Chandravati queen was able to travel with their infant prince, they prepared to return to their native land. The prominent nobles of Marwar went to Aurangzeb to plead recognition of Ajit Singh as heir to the throne. But Aurangzeb was carrying his vengeance towards Jaswant even beyond the grave. As soon they reached Delhi, they were forcibly detained by emperor’s order and commanded that the infant should be surrendered to emperor’s custody. The Mughal emperor has taken charge of Marwar. He put Inder Singh charge of Marwar.

P1050301 copy
The picture of Durgadas painted by A. H. Muller. Archibald Herman Muller (born March 11, 1878, in Cochin in the Southern Indian state of Kerala), was an artist of realistic paintings. Muller was born of German parentage, and lived and worked in India.Muller went to Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1911, then considered the haven of Art in India. He won the Gold Medal from the Bombay Art Society in the same year. He travelled a lot through Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and in the Himalayas, enjoying the patronage of various royal families of the time. His paintings included landscapes, portraits and scenes from the life of the Maharajas (Kings), historical subjects and incidents from the Indian Hindu epics – the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. His paintings have been acquired by the Buckingham Palace, London, the South Kensington Museum (now known as the Victoria and Albert Museum). Few also exist in the collections of the Museums at Sangli, Maharashtra Bikaner, Rajasthan, the Jodhpur Fort and the Royal Palace at Jaipur.

The Man:

Durgadas was the son of Askaran Rathore, a minister of Maharaja Jaswant Singh. He was a devoted follower of Jaswant in all his crusades. They decided to escape. As they retreated from the city on 16th July 1679 they were pursued by Mughal guards and fought several desperate and deadly rearguard actions in order to protect Durgadas, who had the Ranis and child with him. The pursuit continued till the evening, when the Mughals finally tired. Durgadas smuggled the young prince to Balunda, where the baby stayed with wife of one of the nobles. Aurangzeb hastened in pursuit and reached Ajmer on 25th September. The Rajput war begun which kept the emperor occupied for next two years. In the meanwhile the prince was shifted Mount Abu where the price grew up in anonymously. Aurangzeb deposed the incompetent puppet ruler of Marwar, Indra Singh placing it under direct Mughal rule. He substituted the son of a milkman for Ajit Singh, raised the child as if he was the rightful heir to Jaswant Singh and denounced the real heir as an imposter.

Durgadas carried out a relentless struggle against Mughals controlling Marwar. Rajputs of various communities, including the Rathores and the Sisodias, joined hands and started to use guerilla tactics. Marwar remained in a state of war for nearly three decades. Sultan Muhammad Akbar, a son of Aurangazeb, had proved his incompetency in charge of various forces in Mewar and Marwar. He eventually rebelled against his father and allied himself with the Rajputs. In June 1681, Durgadas assisted Akbar aiding his escape to the court of Maratha king Sambuhaji. Aurangzeb was forced to make peace in Mewar. Durgadas was in the Deccan during the period 1681-1687. He returned to join with the young Ajit Singh, who now came out of hiding, in taking command of Rathore forces opposing Aurangzeb. There was a change from the earlier guerilla tactics to a more direct opposition but still they were unable to wrest control of Marwar from the Mughals, although they caused much disruption. Akbar, who ultimately died in exile in 1704, had left his children in the custody of the Rathores. Aurangzeb wanted to have his grandchildren back with him and negotiated with Durgadas to this end. He gained custody of his granddaughter in 1694 and of his grandson in 1698. Aurangzeb was particularly grateful to Durgadas as he had arranged for his granddaughter to be schooled in the Muslim faith. But he did not returned Marwar to Ajit Singh, the agreement was limited to him pardoning and giving the lesser title of jagir to Ajit Singh and appointing Durgadas as a commandant in charge of an imperial force of 3000 men in Gujarat. The relationship between Aurangzeb, Ajit Singh and Durgadas remained tense. They viewed each other with mutual suspicion. In 1702, Aurangzeb order the governor of Gujarat to neutralise Durgadas by either arrest or murder. Durgadas became aware of this and fled to Marwar. Durgadas tried to raise a rebel group against the emperor but despite his reputation he was not successful. Marwar were tired and poor after so many years of war. Ajit Singh had also become independent of Durgadas. Durgadas took advantage of the disturbances following the death of Aurangzeb in 1707 to seize Jodhpur and eventually evict the occupying Mughal force. Ajit Singh was proclaimed Maharaja of Jodhpur. With the death of Durgadas on 22 November 1718, aged 81 years, on the banks of the Shipra at Ujjain, a glorious history of Marwar came to an end.

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