After Maharana Lakha, his son Mokal, who was born at an advanced age of Lakha, became the Maharana of Mewar. Mokal was equally aggressive and wise as his father Maharana Lakha and expanded the frontiers of Mewar while fighting and defeating the neighboring Muslim states of Malwa and Gujarat, and also a huge army of the so called Delhi Sultanate.
Unfortunately , Mokal’s rising career was abruptly cut off by his distant cousins Chaacha and Mera who got instigated by an unintended satire by Mokal and killed him in his sleep.
Before this tragic end, Mokal was an active king fighting Islamic murderers and expanding Mewar’s borders. He had multiple wives and two of his queens got pregnant almost simultaneously.
The folklore goes that the younger queen, jealous of the elder one, did some Tantrik trick on the elder queen such that the elder one went past the gestation period and still labor did not initiate. The Tantric spell was done through an earthen pitcher which was kept by the younger queen to be effective .
When royal well wishers heard of this, they traveled to Ramdeora in Marwar desert to a living deity Baba Ramdeoji for help.
Baba Ramdeoji had already decided to dissolve his body, and was in Samadhi , so he advised the Mewar chiefs to go to Dharmaswaroop ji, who was Baba Ramdeo’s uncle and had been bestowed similar metaphysical powers as him.
Dharmaswaroop ji consented to help and marched towards Mewar. En route he is supposed to have performed multiple miracles all along and even today, his temples and various melas are organized to remember his help to the house of Mewar.
But all his efforts to break the spell cast on the queen and induce childbirth failed. Then Dharmaswaroop ji told the Saamants to falsely announce the birth of a son by playing his drums and distributing sweets.
It is said that when the younger queen heard the noise of Nagaadas , in a state of fury she broke the pitcher which was the premise of the spell on the elder queen.
The elder queen immediately went into labor and a son was born to her in the year 1419 A.D.
A son, who had been in utero for 10 months, a full one month over the normal human gestation period.
An earthen pitcher is called Kumbha in Sanskrit, and interestingly, the new born child was named Kumbhakarna , or lovingly called Kumbha in Mewar.
Kumbha was to inherit a vast kingdom of Mewar, well preserved and plush with funds and riches collected by his past three generations – Hammir , Laakha and Mokal .
Kumbha went on to be one of the most successful kings of Mewar.
By a lot of modern age historians, he is considered to belong to the class of the all time great kings that ruled Bhaaratvarsha like Ashoka, Harsha, Samudragupta, or Chandragupta Vikramaditya.
Kumbha inherited a royal house which was at war with itself and along with his wise mother, the Rathore grandmother (who was married to Kumbha’s grandfather Lakha), maternal grandfather , Rao Rinmull Rathore and his other chieftains with conflicted loyalties.
It is not the domain of this book to take the reader through internal strife and manipulations of the Mewar family at that time, hence we will focus on the military campaigns, fortification of Mewar, art and architecture during Kumbha’s reign .
All of these scaled unparalleled heights during Kumbha’s four decade long rule on Mewar .
We will briefly talk about Kumbha’s personality that left irremovable marks on the trajectory of Mewar dynasty .
We will also detail how the life of Kumbha was spent destroying the joint forces of Islamic states of Malwa, Gujarat, and Nagaur.
It has rarely happened in human history to have possessed so many energetic and successful princes as happened with Mewar for several centuries.
Mewar was now in the middle path of her glorious rise premised on the ashes of her valorous sons and daughters who had laid their lives in protecting her from the Turk assassins.
A century had elapsed since the dance of death by Allauddin Khilji at Chittor where he destroyed every Hindu temple and building of consequence; the dissolution of Padmini and her consorts into Agni, and Mewar had bounced back with a vengeance of her own.
Chittor had recovered from the murderous assaults of Khiljis and Tughlaqs and all around Mewar, new defenders of Hinduism had sprung up.
As James Tod writes beautifully about the impending Turk invasion by Babur – ‘All that was wanting to augment her resources against the storms that were collecting on the brows of Caucuses and the banks of Oxus, and were destined to burst on the head of his grandson Saanga, was effected by Maharana Kumbha.’ Tod is referring to the clash between Kumbha’s grandson Saanga and Babur in 1527 at Khanwa .
With Hamir’s energy, Laakha’s fortitude and taste for arts, and genius combination of either, Kumbha succeeded in every venture he undertook and once again raised the “crimson banner” of Mewar on the banks of Ghagghar, where Samar Singh had laid his life fighting alongside the great Prithviraj Chauhan against Shahbuddin Ghauri.
It is a noteworthy fact that after Prithvuraj’s defeat by Shahabuddin Ghauri, Delhi was ravaged by infighting among various Muslim invaders ranging from Turks to Afghans to Uzbeks and Tatars.
It speaks volumes of the barbaric power struggle in Delhi just like the violent conflicts for Caliphate in Arabia, that 24 rulers and 1 woman ruled Delhi through assassination, rebellion and dethronement in rapid succession .
Whereas in the same time period, only 11 rulers donned the Mewar crown, even though several of them died prematurely defending their religion from Islamic invaders.
This bloodbath in Delhi which was to continue from another 3 centuries is a statement on the kind of social and regal hierarchy Islam brings to a society. The incessant onslaught of predatory Islam on India makes a very educative example of how barbaric societies can destroy civilizations and equally vehemently it promotes the idea that if the defenders of that civilization have the inner ‘sankalp’ to fight and defeat such mindless slaughter , it is very much achievable, as the Maharanas of Mewar proved it with their life and works.
The so called Delhi Sultanate was already made to bite dust by Rana Hammir Singh and his son Rana Lakha.
There was no ruler of consequence in Delhi at the time of Kumbha.
The Islamic seed had spread its tentacles towards Central and Western India but the vast and strong Mewar kingdom stood as a bulwark to the Turk invaders.
According to the folklore and annals of Mewar, Kumbha fought 56 wars in his lifetime and did not lose even one. That makes Kumbha a warrior par excellence and a master strategist who anticipated all moves of his enemies and beat them comprehensively.
We will cover four such campaigns of Kumbha.
Kumbha defeated and subjugated the Muslim kingdoms of Malwa, Gujarat and Nagaur, and also won a small battle in Marwar to capture Mandore, and merge Marwar into Mewar, a feat no other king had achieved before him.
Malwa was ruled by a powerful Sultan, Mahmud Khilji who usurped the throne of Malwa by killing his father in law Hoshang Shah.
Mahmud was an audacious opponent of Mewar, cunning, battle hardened and religious zealot.
Kumbha’s first encounter with Mahmud happened around 1440 AD at Saarangpur in Malwa and Kumbha defeated him comprehensively.
Mahmud retreated to the fort of Maandu but Kumbha chased him and captured him there. Mahmud was brought to Chittor and kept prisoner for six months.
Unlike Hamir’s treatment of Tughlaq in similar circumstances, Kumbha treated Mahmud in a dignified manner and released him honourably albeit after extracting heavy penalties from him in terms of money and war horses and elephants.
This trait of Hindu kings not to terminate their Islamic enemies defies logic and has been one of the reasons of Islam not beeing weeded out of Bhaarat for good, forever.
Tod also wonders at this trait of Hindu kings like Prithviraj, Hamir and Kumbha and writes:-
“Such is the character of the Hindu: a mixture of arrogance, political blindness, pride and generosity.
To spare a prostrating foe is the creed of the Hindu cavalier and he carries all such maxims to excess.”
Although it is simplistic and unjust to examine the great Maharanas in posterity, but when we see a pattern of forgiveness to the most vile and dangerous enemies of Hindu Dharma and their people, one cannot help pondering as to why would Mewar Maharanas kept repeating such blunders !
It was these gestures of pseudo magnanimity that not only allowed the Islamic invaders left alive to re-group and continue attacking India but also made a mockery of all the hardships endured by the people and Mewar of India in fighting and subjugating these Islamic marauders.
It also sent a very wrong message to the invaders that even if we lose, we will not be killed and this knowledge emboldened them to repeatedly attack India.
Let us briefly review what the forgiveness of Ghauri, Tughlaq and Khilji cost us as a nation and Dharma.
Prithviraj’s leaving Ghauri alive after the first battle of Tarain made a vengeful Ghauri attack India again and this time the Turk invader won and blinded Prithviraj.
Prithviraj’s brother in law Samar Singh of Mewar was killed in this battle as were thousands of brave Rajputs because of Prithviraj’s earlier folly.
Islam, which had been prevented form entering India for 400 years by hand fought battles by Bappa Rawal, Khumaan, Nagabhatta and dozens of Hindu kings like them, gained entry into the heart of India because of one blunder of Prithviraj.
India has not recovered till date from that defeat of Prithviraj in 1192 AD.
Then Hamir’s forgiveness of Tughlaq, made Tughlaq escape to Delhi, regroup and attack the Deccan kingdoms of Bhaarat.To the great fortune of India, the Vijayanagar Empire came up in the South at about this time and conclusively defeated Tughlaq.
In Kumbha’s case too, as we go ahead, we will find out that Mahmud Khilji took no cognizance of Kumbha’s benevolence and attacked Mewar at least six more times in his lifetime. Although every time he was defeated by Kumbha, but at what cost to the treasury!
Why the needless loss of lives!
Why risk the entire future of Mewar to such an act of chivalrous stupidity!
The acts of Hindu kings only demonstrate a distinct lack of understanding of Dharma and statecraft taught by Kautilya.
Sri Krishna offered no mercy to Kauravas.
At the end of Mahabharata war , even when only Duryodhan was left alive in the Kaurava camp, Sri Krishna stands beside Bheema and helps him finish the job of complete extermination of Adharma.
Kautilya too has nowhere advised mercy to the enemy of the state.
The forgiving acts of Hindu kings can only be explained on the basis of , ‘Saatvik Ahamkara’, where ego came wearing the cloak of ‘Satva’ – forgiving murderous plunders was an act of individual glory for which coming centuries of Hindus and even their progenies would pay heavily with their blood.
A note must also be made of the priesthood and Saamants of Mewar, none of whom is supposed to have advised these kings against these suicidal acts.
The Hindu ethos of the times perhaps allowed these acts of magnanimity, but when both Hamir and Kumbha had the example of Prithviraj in front of them they should have been more dharmic in their understanding and made the enemies rootless.
To great relief of Hindu society, we will see that Pratap never suffered from this disease of magnanimity as we will see in the chapter of Dewair, Pratap slaughtered everyone who stood in his way of eradicating Turks from Mewar.
Pratap , this shines out not only as a warrior but a visionary who learned from his ancestors and executed it with clinical acumen.
Let us now turn to Kumbha’s encounters with Ahmed Shah, the ruler of Gujarat. Kumbhas army used to regularly charge heavy duties from trade caravans through Mewar to Surat, Gujarat and the Islamic rulers of Gujarat had wanted to defeat Mewar for some time now.
Kumbha had also merged powerful kingdoms of Sirohi and Boondi into Mewar because Kumbha knew that these neighboring states of Mewar could align with Gujarat anytime and become an irritant.
Kumbha also annexed Gagraun, Ajmer, Chaksu and even far flung places like Saambhar near Jaipur into Mewar.
The rulers of Malwa and Gujarat (Ahmed Shah) forged an Islamic alliance against Kumbha in 1456, at Champaner and jointly attacked Mewar at Sirohi, the Southern end of Mewar bordering Gujarat.
The Islamic forces were very comprehensively defeated by Kumbha, and Ahmed Shah was forced back to Gujarat.
Mohammed Khilji made at least six attempts on Mewar in the coming years before dying in 1469.
The third conquest of consequence by Kumbha was the conquest of Nagaur.
At that time Jodhpur kingdom had not come into existence. Nagaur was under the rule of one Mujahid Khan. Mujahid’s brother Shams Khan wanted to be the king and approached Kumbha for help. Kumbha had long cherished to expand the borders of Mewar into Marwar. Kumbha came with a large army and defeated Mujahid to install Shams Khan as the king of Nagaur.
Kumbha extracted two promises from him
i) Shams will demolish all battlements at the fort of Nagaur.
ii) Hindu population of Nagaur will not be bothered by Muslims.
Shams did not keep both the promises. He started building new battlements at the fort and promoted killing of cows publicly to humiliate Hindus .
Kumbha came back and defeated him.
Shams ran to the Gujarat Sultan Ahmed Shah and Ahmed Shah despatched a huge army to fight with Kumbha in Nagaur. Kumbha waited patiently in Nagaur and when Gujarat forces reached Nagaur, they were slaughtered by Kumbha’s army. Shams and Ahmed Shah never returned to Nagaur after that. Nagaur was annexed along with Saambhar and Khandela and a Hindu vassal was appointed by Kumbha at Nagaur.
Kumbha personally oversaw the demolition of all battlements of Nagaur Fort and took the mighty gates of the Fort and an idol of Shri Hanuman ji back Kumbhalgadh. The gates and idols were installed and they exist as such till date known as ‘Hanuman Pol’.
The last conquest of Kumbha was of Mandore, the erstwhile capital of Marwar.
In a long and convoluted saga of intrafamily rivalry, which we briefly touched when discussing the life of Rana Lakha, led Kumbha to chase his cousin and uncle Jodha to Mandore.
Raawat Choonda who was the uncle of Kumbha was the main protagonist in Kumbha’s quest for Marwar.
Choonda captured Mandore and kept his sons in charge of the fort.
In the meantime, the grandmother of Kumbha convinced Kumbha of going soft on Rathores of Marwar as they were blood relatives and both had a common enemy in Islamic invaders.
Kumbha relented and let Jodha capture Mandore from Choonda’s sons and Jodha went on to set up the city of Jodhpur which became the second most powerful center of Rajputs and was crucial in containing the Mughal invasion and the eventual opposition of Ajit Singh and Veer Durgadas Rathore .
Kumbha’s benevolence towards Jodha and the Rathores would lay the foundation of a union that would last for centuries, coming to aid of Kumbha’s grandson, the great Rana Saanga in establishing a mighty kingdom of Mewar and jointly fighting the Islamic invasion of Babur.
It was this association between Sisodias and Rathores that eventually defeated Aurangzeb during the reign of Raj Singh in Mewar.
Thus we can say that Kumbha’s foresight and magnanimity laid the grounds for unity amongst Rajputs which was critical in uprooting the evil Mughal dynasty from the brow of Hindustan.
Now we turn to the architectural prowess of Kumbha. Of the 80 forts that litter the landscape of Mewar today, 32 were built by Kumbha alone. Can we imagine the amount of money involved, the mobilization of resources and manpower and the hunger of Kumbha’s creativity to have achieved this in a reign of 50 years !
Amongst these forts, the one that stands out singularly is the fort of Kumbalgadh which was to later become the capital of Mewar. Legend has it that it was originally a fort of Sumprit Raja, a Jain prince who was a descendant of Chandragupta.
Kumbha raised Kumbalgadh in such a manner that it was not only an architectural wonder but also impregnable to any invading army.
Built in the Aravallis at a height of 1100 m (3,600 ft) above sea level, the fort has a perimeter of 36 kms, making it one of the longest walls in the world. The frontal walls are 15 feet thick. There are seven fortified gateways. The fort boasts of 360 temples,300 of which are of Jain heritage.
Kumbalgadh sits on a vantage point that separates Mewar and Marwar and was used to keep an eye on both these regions.
Kumbalgadh is not only an architectural marvel but was the shelter point for entire Mewar when future Islamic attacks would happen at Chittor. Kumbalgadh was attacked repeatedly by Ahmed Shah and Mahmud Khilji during Kumbha’s reign but could never be won.
The presiding deity Baan Mata Temple at some distance from the fort was destroyed by Ahmed Shah of Gujarat in frustration. He turned the centuries old idol of the deity to powder and forced the locals to eat that dust in betel nuts. Ahmed Shah did this while Kumbha was engaged in other campaigns.
Kumbalgadh fell to Shahaz Khan, a general of Akbar in 1576, during the reign of Akbar for a brief period of eight years , but was taken back by Pratap in 1583 during the Dewair campaign.
Besides Kumbalgadh, he erected citadels of Achalgadh and Vasantgadh in the hills of Abu, within the fortress of the ancient Pramaras. He fortified the passes between the Western passes and Abu. He erected the fort of Vasanti at Sirohi, and Macheend to defend Deogadh
from the local mairs of Aravallis who were dacoits. He reestablished Ahore and many smaller forts to watch over the troublesome Bheels of Jahore and Panora and defined the boundaries of Marwar and Mewar.
He repaired the entire fort of Chittor as if in anticipation of the assaults it was to withstand in future by the fire power of Mughals. He constructed Vijay Stambh, a nine story tower to commemorate his victory over Mahmud Khilji of Malwa. Vijay Stambh is an architectural marvel that impresses any modern day architect too. He constructed innumerable Hindu and Jain temples around Mewar including Laxminath Temple at Chittor, Eklingi Temple and Ranpur Jain Temple in Godwar.
It is unbelievable that one king who was consistently traveling and fighting, made these structures all in 50 years of his reign.
Kumbha was also a great singer, veena player and an exhaustive writer. His literary work on Hindustani Ragas and Raginis, known as ‘Sangeet Raj’, is the largest written text on Music ever.
He penned ‘Shooda Prabandh’ on Politics, ‘Chandi Shatak’ on mother Goddess, ‘Kamraj Ratisar’ on love and indulgence and a commentary on ‘Geeta Govind’.
It is said that Kumbha ordered presentation, translation and commentaries on 1800 different Hindu scriptures at his time and he invited Vedic scholars from all over India to do that.
Thus we see that it isn’t without reason that Kumbha was equated with Harsha, Vikramaditya and such great kings of Bharatvarsha.
His holistic persona and extreme commitment to Hindu Dharma make him truly the ‘Hindwa Soorya’ of all times. It is tragic that such a great king has almost been erased from our history books, while his contemporary Looters of the so-called Delhi Sultanate have dedicated chapters in their names.
Now we come to the circumstance around the death of the great king.
Kumbha was well into his seventies and still very active ruling Mewar. A few years ago, a Brahmin fortune teller had told him that Kumbha will be killed by a Chaaran. Hence , Kumbha banished all Chaarans from Mewar. All Jagirs of Chaaran chieftains were confiscated.
It was a major reversal of fortunes for Chaarans who were enjoying the fruits of state patronage since the times of Rana Hammir who owed his life and success to a Chaarani lady, Mata Barwadi.
Be that as it may, around 1468 AD, Kumbha went to Eklingji temple and a cow ranted loudly. From that day, Kumbha was possessed by mania and he kept repeating a half sentence, ‘Kaamdhenu Taandav Kariya ’ meaning the Kamadhenu cow dances furiously.
The chieftains and family were baffled by this behavior of Rana and the eldest son Raimall (father of Saanga) even asked him what was the meaning of his utterances. Kumbha lost his temper and exiled Raimall for being indecent.
Raimall retreated to Idar,his in-laws’ abode.
Then a Chaaran approached one of the Saamants of Mewar and claimed that I can complete the half line of the ‘Chchand’ that Ranaji is uttering and free him from his obsession.
The Chaaran composed a ‘chchand’ such that the line being uttered but Kumbha was incorporated in it and made perfect sense too.
Kumbha was very pleased and said to the Chaaran that though you claim to be a Rajput, only a Chaaran can compose such poetry. The Chaaran bowed to Kumbha and revealed his identity. Kumbha forgave him and reversed his order of confiscating Chaaran properties.
But Kumbha kept descending into incoherence and one such morning while bathing in the river of Mamdev in the Northern rampants of Kumbalgadh, Kumbha was attacked and beheaded by his own son, Udai Singh , also known as ‘Ooda’.
Thus ended the life of one of the most wise, gallant and visionary king of Mewar at the hands of his own progeny.
Kumbha’s murder is one of the darkest blots in the history of Mewar, as for once, Hindu royals displayed the streak prevalent only in the Islamic rulers of the time to kill and usurp power from their own relatives.
Ooda ruled for 4 years after murdering his father, when the Saamants of Mewar revolted against him.
A Saamants of Mewar, Rawat Kaandhal planned the overthrow of Ooda. He visited Raimall, the eldest son of Kumbha back from Idar, and when Ooda was out on a hunting expedition, Raimall was taken in and the gate of Kumbhalgadh closed on Ooda.
Ooda went on and aligned with the Sultan of Malwa. One day, Ooda was hit by lightning and killed instantaneously, a fair retribution by divine intervention to an act of extreme cowardice by a traitor, settled this feud in favor of Raimall.
There are a lot of fantastic stories about Kumbha which the people of Mewar believed in and attached to Kumbha’s life. Those are not of interest to us. There is no doubt though, that Kumbha’s conquests and amassing of immense wealth was something critical for his next generations to fight the further Islamic invasions of Mewar as will be demonstrated in the life of Saanga and Pratap.
But for Kumbha’s victories and amassing of immense wealth , the resistance of Mewar Maharanas to Islamic invasions would be unthinkable .
We as Hindus must be eternally grateful to Kumbha , the Mahapurusha for playing his role in keeping us free from the horrors of Islamic slavery in the subcontinent.
It is as though the five decades of success and prosperity of Kumbha were an interim for entrenching Mewar into the resistance to forthcoming Islamic invasions.
Kumbha was a genius who blessed the land of Rajasthan with his foresight and creativity.
A master strategist who did not lose a single war.
A passionate person who loved all good things in life.
A true king who will be remembered for all times to come.
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