Any empire wanting control of Northern India has to face Rajputs. So did the Mughals in the reign of Akbar and Jahangir. The Mughals established peace with Rajputs through matrimonial or military alliances and used Rajput generals for their military endeavours in the subcontinent. Rajputs are known for their keeping their word. With Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahn they did this and Rajputana became an important pillar for Mughal empire in the north. Destroying this pillar would mean death of their empire. Aurangzeb either did not understand this political chessboard or he chose to ignore it owing to his religious and military ambitions. In this article I will examine how Aurangzeb spoiled relations with Marwad and Mewad. Which were principal royalties of not just Rajputana but India in general.
Seeds of then conflict lie in the War of Succession between Dara Shukoh and Aurangzeb (brothers). War of Succession among Mughal princes triggered military and diplomatic movements across the country. All the regional kings, chiefs, zamindars, mansabdars were expected to pick sides. Princes invested heavily in forging alliances with kings. In the war Dara managed to win many of the Rajput chiefs along his side, prominently Rathods, Hadas, Sisodias, Gaurs, Jhalas, Bundelas and Chandrawats ( Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb Vol 2, pp. 12–14 ).Early conflict with Dara. shaped Aurangzeb’s religious policy in later years. Dara was a declared Sufi and tolerant of Hindus. Aurangzeb deposed him on grounds of his apostasy, (Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb Vol 2, p. 214) to prove this decision right Aurangzeb had to signal himself as a Purist Muslim. After his crowning he took radical islamist titles like Nasruddin (Defender of the Faith), Shuja Bahadur Ghazi (Courageous Slayer of Infidels/Hindus) [ Truschke, Aurangzeb: Man and The Myth, p. 37 ]
Rathod house of Marwad ruling from Jodhpur, was lead by Maharaj Jaswant Singh. Previously his forefathers Mota Raja Uday Singh, Sur Singh had won great respect at the Mughal court. House of Marwad was one of the most trusted by mughal kings. Jaswant Singh wanting to continue his family legacy gave sincere services to Shah Jahn.
During War of Succession he sided with Dara ( as discussed above ). Later after Dara’s defeat Jaswant Singh had no option but to side with Aurangzeb. He did not want Jodhpur to be run over by Mughals and Aurangzeb did not want rivalry with a reputed royal. Their alliance hung on a lose thread of defensive mentality. It was not out of free will. The weakness of this alliance is exposed in the battle of Khajwah between Aurangzeb and Shuja (they too were brothers). Jaswant Singh was commanding from Aurangzeb’s side but he didn’t get his desired commanding position in the battle. He felt disrespected and angered. One night he attacked Aurangzeb’s camp from the back. He killed many Mughal soldiers and with whatever loot he got fled to Jodhpur [ Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb Vol 2, p. 146 ].
Was Jaswant Singh making a statement here ? If this rebellion continued could it shake the Mughal throne ? We do not know as Mirza Raja Jai Singh soon after mediated between the two sides and managed to get Jaswant Singh back on Aurangzeb’s side. Jaswant Singh for the next 18 years served Aurangzeb at various places like Gujurat, Deccan, Afghanistan. Hindu chiefs in the north trusted in him. His influence also kept a check on Aurangzeb’s religious policies [ Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb Vol 3, pp. 325–326 ]
Accepting this offer was the last thing the noble house of Jodhpur would do. Aurangzeb hastily came to Rajputana with imperial forces to crush Marwad forever. Thus began a 20 year long struggle with Aurangzeb lead by Durgadas Rathod. The Marwad forces had strategic advantage in this war. They were fighting in their homeland and knew the territory better than the back of their hand. They used guerrilla tactics against Mughals. Principal parts of Marwad were soon recaptured, they won a decisively [ Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb Vol 3, pp. 371–373 ]
I have avoided details of the battle but the point worth noting is that Aurangzeb was not trustworthy as a ruler and took advantage of his vassal state as soon as it was off guard. Let us even keep his moral duties as a king aside. Even if we look at this act from a shrewd, realistic angle; it was a political blunder.
If the case was that Jodhpur was rebellious and made it difficult for Aurangzeb to rule then his moves could be justified but as it was not the case this move highlights his religious zeal. Jaswant Singh and Jai Singh Kacchawah were two Rajputs who kept check on Aurangzeb’s religious policies. After death of Jaswant Singh there was no Hindu Mansabdar of note in the Mughal court. Aurangzeb was now free and we find that immediately implemented the Jaziya tax on Hindus in 1679 [ Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb Vol 3, pp.268–267 ].
Since the days of Jahangir there was peace between Mughals and Mewad. The Ranas of Mewad never visited Delhi, but they paid their homage by sending gifts and tributes. The relations were healthy, house of Mewad didn’t lose their honour as they were not completely crushed and Mughals got their tributes. Aurangzeb managed to spoil these relations in a short span.
After the conquest of Marwad, Mewad’s western part was now touching directly with Mughal territory. The kingdom got surrounded from all sides. It was evident that Aurangzeb wanted to subjugate Mewad too.[ Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb Vol 3, p. 337–339 ]
Ranas of Mewad patronised multiple temples. So the campaign served military and religious ambition. Aurangzeb took the possession of Udaipur and destroyed many of its great temples. Aurangzeb was so bent on crushing Hindu pride that in Mewad alone he destroyed 235 temples [ SR Sharma, Religious Policies of Mughal Emperors, p. 174 ].
Maharana Raj Singh Sisodia decided to hold his ground against Aurangzeb. Mewad is a hilly region with some tricky mountain passes. Mewadis knew their territory well and used techniques like cutting off supplies, night attacks, cutting communication. Even famous generals like Hasan Ali Khan got terrorised and refused to enter the hills of Mewad. We find that his army got lost for a fortnight in hills west of Udaipur. Aurangzeb’s plan to rampage Mewad to the core, miserably failed. Mughals lost two campaigns in succession, this showed signs of their approaching decay. [ Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb, pp. 344–347 ].
The last nail in the coffin for Aurangzeb was rebellion of Prince Akbar, puppeted by Rajputs themselves. Akbar was most loved by Aurangzeb and could be a possible successor. He was deputed in Rajputana by his father during the war. Aurangzeb wanted him to completely subjugate Rajputana. Instead the Rajputs subjugated Akbar’s mind. Durgadas Rathod and Rana Raj Singh of Mewad instigated him to rebel against his father. They convinced him that his father was a bigot and his actions would shake the foundations of their empire (which proved to be true). Rajputs demanded that Akbar take the throne and promised military assistance in this endeavour. Even though this rebellion failed, it was one of the most shameful things for Aurangzeb as an Emperor and as a father. All because of war in Rajputana [ Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb Vol 3, pp, 356–358 ].
In Aurangzeb’s 50 year reign Rajput-Mughal relations strained over several issues only some of which were discussed above. After death of Aurangzeb every Rajput state carved out their independent dominions. They began ruling as they were ruling before Turkic invaders came. It seemed as if 150 year Mughal rule left no political mark in Rajputana. It was because of leaders like Durgadas Rathod, Maharana Raj Singh, Maharaj Sawai Jai Singh that this feet could be achieved. There was a time during Akbar’s rule when Rajputs were chivalrous protectors of Mughal Empire but during the later years the whithering Mughals saw no support from Rajputs.
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