Contemporary records over Gahadavala Jayachandra, the ill-fated king of Kannauj present a completely different picture than the vilification he is subjected to by Prithviraj Raso – the extent of which made the word Jaichand synonymous to a traitor. Jayachandra inherited a stable kingdom and not so hostile borders(he seems to have clashed only with Lakshmanasena of Gauda) and was destined to rule peacefully. He was a great builder of temples and a great patron of arts – Sriharsha, who wrote Naishadha, one of the five Panchamahakavyas of Sanskrit was his court poet.

But, there were two specific hiccups – one not known as a hiccup and the second was a disaster big enough that it swallowed not just his kingdom but the whole of North India in a matter of decades.

The first one is the Chahamana conquest of Tomaras during the reign of his father Vijayachandra. Tomaras were vassals of Gahadavalas and were in the line of raids from Lahore, the Indian side capital city of the Ghaznavids and Ganga plains and acted as the first line of defence for the Gahadavalas. But, because they being weak, Gahadavalas were forced to maintain a standing force on the western borders to protect them from invasions. In order to achieve this, the Gahadavalas imposed a levy called Turushka-Danda. Though a chance invasion by the Senas of Gauda prevented Vijayachandra to retaliate and roll back the Chahamana invasion, in due time, they realized the importance of it. There was no more the need for a Turushka-danda as the Chahamanas of Shakhambari were doing exactly what the Tomaras were doing, and infinitely more effectively. That was one of the first things Jayachandra did as a ruler – removal of Turushka Danda.

The second one was the rise of Ghurids. In 1187, Lahore fell to Ghurids and it was a matter of time they marched South. Chahamanas who didn’t support the Solankis of Gujarat in their fights against the Ghurids seem to have woken up only after Bhatinda fell to Muslims. Prithviraja assembed a force and defeated the Ghurids but a bigger force came after an year catching Prithviraja unawares – either he is killed or captured.

This in fact, is the reason why Gahadavalas kept Tomaras independent. One fatal mistake, the mighty kingdom of Chahamanas is gone. Had a supporting force is given to Tomaras, Chahamanas would have had a second go at the Ghurids. This was immediately followed by a general conquest of Chahamana country – the Sapadalaksha. Prithviraja’s son Govindaraja was installed as the ruler by the Muslims but Prithviraja’s brother Hariraja rebelled and ejected Govindaraja out of Ajmer and then invested Ranathambore where Govindaraja moved to.

Going back a decade, we have two competing narratives which showcase an enemity between Chahamanas and Gahadavalas. The conquest of the Tomaras is a reason enough but the two narratives – Prithviraj Raso and Alha-Udal Cycle give diverging narratives.

Prithviraj Raso says that Prithviraja eloped with Jayachandra’s daughter Samyogita during her Svayamvara and an angry Jayachandra retaliated by inviting the Turks. Alha-Udal cycle says that Chandela Paramardi Deva coveted the fort of Mahoba and ejected the ruling Rai Mahalsi, a Pratihara out of the fort. Rai Mahalsi petitioned Prithviraja and Prithviraja invaded the Chandela Kingdom of Jejabhukti and defeated them. According to Alha-Udal cycle, Paramardi Deva lost a son and his ally Gahadavala Jayachandra lost two sons. Other legends tell that a brother-in-law of Prithviraja died at Mahoba. Too many high ranking deaths and there is bound to be bad blood between them.

This battle of 1182 between Chandellas and Chahamanas would have broken the power of both the kingdoms but going by the signal defeat of Ghurids in 1191, it may not been that devastating an encounter. Did it even affect the outcome of these kingdoms falling like nine pins in less than two decades is something which cannot be assessed with the information we have. But the reality is that Jayachandra didn’t support Prithviraja for whatever reasons – most possibly, there was never a petition nor was there an expectation to support as we would notice that all of the kingdoms – Chahamanas, Gahadavalas, Senas, Chandelas, Paramaras and Chaulukyas of Gujarat – all fought their own wars. This lament was noticed in the later chronicles, but it is just a lament.

Inexplicably, after the fall of Prithviraja, Jayachandra marched with the main force towards Ajmer leaving his 19 year old son in charge and not towards Delhi to protect his borders – or at least sit out at Kannauj waiting for the Muslims to storm the fortified city of Kannauj. Whether Hariraja’s rebellion succeeds or not, the Ghurids are going to get weakened and he is going to have a better chance!! But, he marched towards Ajmer – to where Hariraja was rebelling. After an initial clash at the borders near Agra, Jayachandra crossed the borders only to be decisively defeated by Qutubuddin at Chandawar. What exactly was he doing there and whether he was there to support Hariraja is something which needs to be seriously researched on.

This was followed by a general plunder of the Gahadavala Empire and along with it fell the last bulwark of Hinduism in North India. The Muslims didn’t conquer the Gahadavala Empire, probably not to overstretch themselves but came back a decade later for decisive conquest. It is also important to note that Jayachandra was the most powerful king of North India and had the best and most numerous army. The same is attested by both Hindu and Muslim chronicles. Unless we are saying Jayachandra didn’t march with the main army(we know of serious resistance at least in two places – Ayodhya were contemporary accounts tell 20000 Muslims fell before the city was taken and at Rohtas where a vassal Pratapadhavala of Jagila repeatedly defeated the Muslims for at least 27 years), many questions will raise over how the best army of North India was destroyed in a single encounter.

Whatever the veracity of the story, Merutunga’s Prabandha Chintamani explores an option – treachery. It is interesting to note that the Muslims were invited in revenge and Jayachandra was destroyed – a near replica of Prithviraj Raso where Jayachandra invited the Muslims to destroy Prithviraja. Did one influence the other? We may never know.

The story of Prabandha Chintamani as translated by CH Tawney goes thus.

Then, in the town of Benares, a king, of the name of Jayacandra cherishing the fortune of a mighty kingdom, bore the title of the cripple, because he was so embarrassed with the multitude of his forces, that he could not march anywhere without resting on the two staves of the Yamuna and the Ganga. Once on a time, the wife of a head of a family who was a citizen of that town, a lady named Suhava, surpassing in beauty the females of the three worlds, had been playing in the water in the season of terrible heat, and was standing on the bank of the rirer of the gods. That wagtail-eyed one saw a wagtail sitting on the crest of a snake, and thinking that omen a most incomprehensible one, she fell at the feet of a certain Brahman, who had come to bathe, and asked him for an explanation of it. That man learned in omens said to her, “If you will always observe my command, I will tell you the explanation of it.” She said, “That command shall be reverenced by me as if it were the command of a father ; I will always carry it on my head.” When she promised this, he said to her, “On the seventh day from this you will become the head wife of this king.” Thereupon they both returned home.
Then, on the day fixed by that Brahman learned in omens that king, on returning from his royal circuity saw in a certain street that young wife of a householder, whose body, though she was unadorned, was sanctified by infinite beauty, and accepting her as the thief of all the wealth of his heart, he made her his head wife. Subsequently, she, out of gratitude, remembered her promise to the Brahman, and after she had told the king of that augury of Vidyadhara, that Vidyadhara was summoned by beat of drum, and the king, seeing that seven hundred men named Vidyadhara arrived, separated that one after he had been recognized, and duly honoured and dismissed the others, and then he said to Vidyadhara, who was distressed with adversity, “Ask what you like.”. He was delighted with the king’s command, and said “Let me always attend on your royal person.” The king consented, saying, “So be it !” and afterwards, observing his boundless cleverness, he made him bear the chief burden in all the business of the state. So he gradually accumulated wealth, and every day he had made for the thirty-two ladies of his harem ornaments perfumed with abundance of genuine camphor, and had the old ones flung into the rubbish-hole, as if they were flowers offered to a deity, and like a visible incarnation of some god, he continued to taste heavenly enjoyments ; but he never tasted food himself, until he had given to eighteen thousand Brahmans the food that they desired. Then, once on a time, though possessing fourteen sciences, he was sent by the king to make war on a foreign monarch, and as he plunged into country after country, at last he encamped in a region utterly devoid of fuel ; and when the time came to cook for those Brahmans, he supplied the cook with robes, and pieces of fine cloth smeared with oil, by way of fuel, and so managed to feed the Brahmans according to custom. Then he conquered the enemy that opposed him, and returned in triumph, and when he reached the environs of his own city, he heard that the king was angry, because he had burnt the pieces of fine cloth in order to procure food. So he caused his own house to be plundered by petitioners, and went off with the desire of worshipping holy places. The king followed him up and tried to conciliate him, but he through high spirit pointed out that his desire was due to the king’s disposition, and with great difficulty managed to take leave of him, and brought his life to a conclusion. Immediately after that, the queen Suhava asked the king to bestow the office of crown prince on her son, but he admonished her, saying, “It is not fitting to bestow the sceptre of our race on the son of a keep.” So being desirous of killing her husband, she summoned the Mlecchas.
Then the king heard of that circumstance by a report that came from his representatives, so he respectfully asked a certain Digambara, who had won the favour of a boon from Padmavati, for an augury, and he informed the king that the goddess Padmavati had certainly issued an order forbidding the approach of the Mlecchas. Then the king, hearing after some
days that the Mlecchas were drawing nigh, asked the Digambara, “What is the meaning of this ?” So the Digambara that very night began a sacrifice before Padmavati in the presence of the king. Then Padmavati, brought there by his perfect power of attracting spirits, appeared within the garland of flame in the sacrificial pit, and said that she had forbidden the approach of the Turuskas. Then the naked mendicant, in a fit of rage, seized the goddess by the ears, and said, “As the Mlecchas are approaching, do you, even you, say what is false?” When he reproached her in these words, she said, “That Padmavati, whom you question so devoutly, has fled from the might of my prowess; while I, being the family deity of the Mlecchas, encourage people with false speeches, and by means of the Mlecchas rob them of breath.” When she had said this, she disappeared. The next morning the king found out by actual deeds that Benares was surrounded by the army of the Mlecchas, for the twanging of their bows drowned the sound of fourteen hundred pairs of kettle-drums,^ and as his mind was bewildered by the mighty host of the Mlecchas, he placed that son of queen Suhava on his own elephant, and plunged, elephant and all, into the waters of the Ganges.

The only question one would have then is, is there any truth in this narrative – it need not be Suhuva who played the traitor. It can be anyone in the kingdom who revealed the location of Jayachandra’s army to get it ambushed or forced him into an unfavourable position in battle, whatever their motives.

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