History of the Jats:Dr Kanungo/Expansion of the Jat Power

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History of the Jats

By K. R. Qanungo. Edited by Vir Singh. Delhi, Originals, 2003, ISBN 81-7536-299-5.

Chapter III. Expansion of the Jat Power

Thakur Badan Singh, Founder of the Ruling House of Bharaipur

[p.35]:Thakur Badan Singh, father of Suraj Mal, started his career as a feudatory of Sawai Jai Singh of Amber (Jaipur), who had given him the lands and title of Churaman Jat in the reign Of the Emperor Muhammad Shah. Unlike his notorious uncle, he was a quiet and politic man, having no taste for a predatory life. He set up a legitimate ruler, sincerely desirous of promoting the arts of peace. He believed more in the steady expansion and consolidation of his dominions than in erratic and slippery conquests. The task which he took upon himself was not a light one; it meant transforming a robber-chief's "sphere of influence" into an orderly principality with a regular government. In this however, he succeeded eminently after years of patient toil and tactful administration. We do not hear of any diplomatic activity or brilliant exploit of arms on his part. Nevertheless,it is clear that within a few years of his accession, he grew powerful enough to shake off his dependence upon Amber. Badan Singh, then uniting himself with the rebels of Mewat, carried raids into the territories of the Raja of Jaipur, who had to conciliate him by a grant of lands, yielding 18 lakhs of Rupees a year.1 Taking advantage of the confused state Of affairs, he made some acquisitions in the Bayana district and built a fort at Wair, which was given to his youngest son Pratap Singh. His greatest achievement was the establishment of the authority of his house over almost the whole of the Agra and Mathura districts, partly by posing

1. Imad-us-Saadat, p. 55.

[p. 36]: as the protector of the Hindus against Muslim misrule, but mainly by clever matrimonial alliances with some powerful Jat families of those places. He married the daughter of a wealthy and influential Jat of Kamar,2 Chaudhuri Maha Ram (चौधरी मोहनराम) and took another wife from the laird (Zamindar) of Sahar. These marriages made him virtually the master of the entire Mathura district.

In the eyes of the Mughal Government, Badan Singh was still a plebian rebel who deserved the severest punishment, if only the corrupt and effete Court of Delhi could inflict it. Had Nadir Shah decided to stay in Hindustan a few months more, or made his intended pilgrimage to Ajmer3 the Jat chief would have been the first to feel the weight of the Persian's arm. Since his departure the timid gaze of the Mughal Court was mainly fixed on the north-west. In the meanwhile, Thakur Badan Singh silently consolidated his authority over many outlying districts, wiout much difficulty. People welcomed him because he meant to rule and not plunder them like his predecessors. His one dear object was to secure the title of Raja, and for this, he was even ready to bow before the imperial throne, which he could otherwise have safely defied. But he was not successful, perhaps owing to the jealousy of the ruler of Jaipur, who affected to look upon the Jats as his subjects. It was perhaps from this time that the ruling house of Bharatpur openly laid claim to the Yadava lineage and the title of Braj Raj, a claim if not sanctified by past tradition, at least justified by their complete sway over what is known as Brij-mandal or the Mathura region. Ajit Singh and Abhai Singh of Marwar, it is said, used to address Badan Singh as Raja. His ambition was certainy flattered, when he was invited to the Ashvamedha4 sacrifice of Mahara a Sawai Jai Singh, and the honour of a prince was accorded to his son Suraj Mal. Undoubtedly, Badan Singh worked and lived in a manner to deserve that title. He kept Court with adequate grandeur.

2. Kamar (lat. 27°- 50"; long.77° - 30'] is near Kosi in the Mathura district about 33 miles n.w. of Mathura. Sahar 18 miles n.w. (lat. 27° - 40'; long. 77°-44', ]. Growse, Mathura p. 23.

3. Irvine's Later Mughals, ii, 374.

4. Jawala Sahai's History of Bharatpur.

[p.37]: Several Muhammadan officers whom he had taken in service brought the requisite polish and dignity into his Court and served there as models of Court-life and teachers of etiquette to his rough tribesmen. His growing predilection for Islamic culture and aristocratic training became prominent in the education of his youngest and most beloved son, Pratap Singh.5

Badan Singh's taste for architecture

Badan Singh had some aesthetic sense and a taste for architecture too, which is testified by the remains of his numerous buildings and garden-palaces. He beautified the fort of Deeg with handsome palaces, which are known as the Purana Mahal.

At Wair in the Bayana district, he planted within the fort a large garden with a beautiful house and reservoirs in the centre, now called Phul-bari.

He also built palaces at Kamar as well Sahar, which are now in ruin, and dedicated a temple at Brindaban, known by the poetic name of Dhir Samir.6

Badan Singh lived to a ripe old age, which he spent in happy retirement at Sahar, leaving the management of his State to his most capable son Suraj Mal. He died on the 9th of Ramzan, 1169 A.H. - 7th June, 1756 (Waqa, 133) under the usual suspicion of being poisoned, though there was no imaginable ground for it.

Raja Suraj Mal: His character and early career

Raja Suraj Mal, the successor of Thakur Badan Singh, was a strongly built man of "above the medium height, with a robust frame, inclining to corpulence in his old age, and a very dark complexion. His eyes were unusually spark1ing, and all his appearance indicated more fire than one could notice in his conduct, which was very sweet and supple."7

5. The author of Imad-us-Saadat tells us that this young man grew up (in airs and graces) a high-bred Muslim grandee with good manners and elegant speech. In the sytle of tying his turban, the fashion of his dress as well as his favourite dishes, he imitated the manner of Delhi. Bahadur Singh, son of this Pratap Singh, went a step ahead of his father. He took to the study of the Quran and read up to the Sura Jami. Imad, 55.

6. Growse, p. 139.

7. Father Wendel, Orme MS., p. 51.

[p.38]: He had little of book-learning, and none of the courtly grace of his youngest brother, being plain and unassuming in dress and manners. He possessed great political sagacity, a steady intellect and a clear vision. "Though he wore the dress of a farmer, and could speak only his own Braj-dialect, he was", says the author of Imad-us-Saadat, "the Plato of the Jat tribe." In prudence and skill, and ability to manage the revenue and Civil affairs he had no equal among the grandees of Hindustan except Asaf Jah Bahadur8 (the Nizam). Hepossessed pre-emmently all the nobler qualities of his race, energy, courage, shrewdness dogged perseverance and an indomitable spirit that would never accept a defeat. But in the pursuit of an exciting game, whether in war or diplomacy, he was of no more delicate conscience than most of his contemporaries. In an age of intrigue and unscrupulous diplomacy, he equally baffled the dissembling Mughal and the cunning maratha. In short, he was a wary old bird that picked up gram from every net, without getting entangled in the noose.

Khemkaran Sogaria, fighting with Tiger

Suraj Mal's first exploit, during his father's lifetime, was the capture of the fort of Bharatpur in 1732,XIII by a daring night-attack upon its lord, Khem Karan Jat Sogaria. At that time, the place was only a small mud-fort without any of the formidable fortifications with which its name was afterwards associated. His untutored genius turned it into an impregnable stronghold, and around it grew up a prosperous city vying in grandeur with the imperial capitals of Delhi and Agra. The fame of his just and wise rule attracted men of all classes, professions and creeds to his principality, which was the only spot were peace and security reigned in-the midst of the chaotic plains of Hindustan. He early attached himself to Maharaja Sawal Jai Singh, the most powerful Rajput ruler of his time, in order to disarm the

8. Imad, p. 55.

XIII. The author mistakes Bharatpur for Fatehgarhi or Fatehpur of Khem Karan Sogaria (also known as Khema Jat) originally from Mauza Tuhiya. Suraj Mal captured Fatehgarhi in a night attack in 1733. After demolishing it he built the impregnable fort of Bharatpur at that place. On January 1743 (Magh Sudi 5, Sam. 1799) the foundation of Bharthpur was laid and the construction completed in 1750. U.N. Sharma, Jaton ka Navin Itihas, I. 193,325-330; II. p. 67; G.C. Dwivedi, The Jats: their role in the Mughal Empire, p. 90; Some people misunderstand 'Choburja' as Garhi of Khema [at. Ganga Singh, Bharatpur ka Itihas, I, pp. 131 - 135. - Ed.

[p.39]: Rajput jealousy and allow the infant Jat Power to grow unhampered under the shadow of Amber. Besides policy, an inherent sentiment of loyalty to the throne of Amber moved to act thus. Suraj Mal's sincere devotion to the Maharaja was repaid with fatherly affection by that great ruler. After the death of the Maharaja, Suraj Mal, true to the dying wish Of his beloved patron, stood faithfully by his eldest son Iswari Singh whose rightful claim to the throne was unjustly disputed by his younger brother Madho Singh in pride of the Sisodia blood derived from his mother. To sweep Iswari singh off the throne of Amber Malhar Rao Holkar, Gangadhar Tatiya and the [maharana]] of mewar advance upon Jaipur with a huge army of Marathas and Sisodias, swelled by Rathor and Hada contingents from Jodhpur and Kota. Raja Iswari Singh, accompanied by Suraj Mal started from his capital with the levy of Amber and his Jat auxiliaries.

Bagru War 1748

On Sunday, 20th August, 1749XIV both armies, joined in dreadful conflict at Bagru;9 the contest was an unequal and unfair one: seven confederated rulers having combined against one prince. The Van of the army of Amber was led by Shiv Singh, the brave feudatory chief of Sikar; Suraj Mal was posted in the centre, and Raja Iswari Singh himself commanded the rear. The first day ended in an indecisive artillery duel. The second day closed gloomily for Amber, because the valiant Lord of Sikar, leading the Van died after an obstinate encounter. With the break of dawn on the third day, the eager enemy, confident of success, appeared in battle array. The army of Amber came out to meet them: the honour of leading the harawal (Van) devolved on Suraj Mal on this fateful day. The battle raged furiously throughout the line in spite of an autumn shower which failed to cool the ardour of the combatants. The clever Maratha chief Malhar sent Gangadhar Tatiya with a strong division to surprise the rear of Raja Iswari Singh. Gangadhar marched stealthily and fell upon Rao Sardar Singh Naruka, vasal of Uniara

XIV. The battle of Bagru took place in August 1748 not in 1749. Scholars differ on exact dates. According to J.N. Sarkar 3rd of August and U.N. Sharma, 13 August 1748. On 20th August Suraj Mal returned to his country. Thus the duration of this conflict is 1st August to 20th August 1748. Fall of the Mughal Empire, I (1988 ed.), p.146; Maharaja Suraj Mal Jat, II, 154, 158; also see, P.C. Chandavat, Maharaja Suraj Mal Aur Unka Yug, 62-63. - Ed.

9. Bagru is a town on the Ajmer-Agra Trunk Road about 18 miles south-west of Jaipur, (Rajputana Gaz. ii, 155).

[p. 40]: who commanded the rear Of the Amber army. He threw the, rear division into confusion and pressed vigorously upon the artillery posted in the centre. The gunners were cut down and the cannon spiked: defeat stared Raja Iswfui Singh in the face. Seeing everything lost, the Raja commanded Suraj Mal, his last hope to charge Gangadhar. The Jat chief bowed his head and without a moment's pause delivered a flank Charge upon a stronger enemy. An obstinate struggle between the half-victorious Maratha and the stubborn Jat lasted for two hours. At last Gangadhar turned his back, and Suraj Mal restoring the broken rear, and leaving Sardar Singh Naruka in command there, returned to the Van to breast the surging tides of the hostile army. In that supreme hour of peril, the Jat- chief fought with superhuman valour, "killing" says the enthusiastic native chronicler, "50 and wounding 108 of the enemy with his own hand." At last the darkness of night parted the combants. Suraj Mal triumphantly led back the army of Amber, after having snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat. The Rajput bard did not grudge the heroic Jat his due on this memorable occasion. The Bundi poet Suraj Mal commemorates the deed of his Jat namesake in the following spirited couplets:-

सह्यौ भलेही जटिनी, जाय अरिष्ट अरिष्ट।
जाठर तस रबिमल्ल हुव, आमेरन को इष्ट ॥
बहुरि जट्ट मलहार सन, लरन लग्यो हरवल्ल ।
अंगद है हुल्कर, जाट मिहिर मल्ल प्रतिमल्ल ॥
i.e., the Jatni did not in vain bear [the pain of travail].
The issue of her womb [Jathara] was Suraj [Rabi] Mal, the scourge of enemies, and the well-wisher of Amber.
Turning back [from the rear] the Jat began to fight with Malhar in the Van.
Holkar was the shadow [of night], and he the sun; the two champions well matched [in conflict].

Day light brought the hostile armies again into conflict on the fourth day. In this way fighting continued or two days more, till at last the arduous struggle wore out the patience of the less persevering Maratha. Holkar proposed peace and Madho Singh had to content himself with the five parganas given to him as his appanage.10

10. Life of Maharaja Iswari Singh in Hindi (pp. 59-73) by Thakur Narendar Singh Verma, Vaidic Press, Ajmer.

Suraj Mal's first encounter with Mughals

[p.41]: In the reign of the Emperor Ahmad Shah, Saadat Khan, Amir-ul-Dmra Zulfiqar Jang,11 had been appointed governor of Agra and Ajmer. He entered into a league with Raja Bakht Singh Rathor, who had usurped the throne of Marwar by ousting his nephew, Ram Singh. Though driven out-of the capital, Ram Singh, with the support of the Raja of Jaipur, held out near Ajmer, waiting for the arrival of his Maratha allies. So the situation was full of danger for Bakht Singh who, therefore, sought the help of Saadat Khan. The Khan also required his assistance against Jats for recovering the greater portion of his Suba of Agra from their clutches. An understanding seems to have been entered into, to the effect that Saadat Khan, instead of marching to Agra by the Delhi-Agra royal road, should strike southwest from Delhi, through Mewat, unite his forces with those of Bakht Sing somewhere on the frontier of his principality, and thence turn towards Ajmer to crush Ram Singh: after the conquest of Ajmer, the subjugation of the Jat country would become easier, -so the Khan was made to believe. He began his march (1162 H.)12

11. In the original text of the Siyar-ul-Mutaqharin we do not find the name Saadat Khan (see original text. ii, 38), imported in the translation. This Saadat Khan has been confounded by the translator with his namesake, the uncle and father-in-law of Nawab Safdar Jang (vide vol. iv, index, p. 63). Burhan-ul-mulk Saadat Khan died during Nadir Shah's stay at Delhi (siyar, i. 316): the exact date being 10th March, 1739. The second Saadat Khan (Zulfiqar Jang) was appointed governor in the reign of Ahmad Shah who ascended the throne on Wednesday, 2nd Jamada 1., 1160 H. 1st May, 1747; Waqa, p. 35). He was created Mir Bakhshi by the Emperor Ahmad Shah on Thursday Raja 14,1160 H. (11th July, 1747) on the very same day that Raja Bakht Singh was appointed subedar of Gujrat (Waqa, p. 38).

12. Siyar's date 1163 H. is wrong (Siyr, iii, 312). In that year Suraj Mal was, according to better authorities, fighting as an ally of Safdar Jang against the Ruhelas. The correct date seems to be Safar 1162 H. The translator of Siyar, iii, 311, 20th line, omits the date, "the end of the year 1162" (text, ii. 38). The text is also wrong. This should be the end of 1161, as is evident from Waqa-i-Shah Alam Sani.

[p.42]: with a well-equipped army of 15,000 horse, and arrived at a place, Nimrani, on the northern boundary of Suraj Mal's dominion. The Jat Raja was watching the movements of the Mughal army, without any intention of showing his hand first. But some soldiers of Saadat Khan picked a quarrel with the Jat garrison of a small tort XV and drove them out. This was construed by the Khan as a great victory, and he ordered his drums to be beaten in rejoicing. He becameover-confident of his strength, and the sudden elation of an insignificant success Changed his whole plan of campaign. He made a halt there, and recalled his advanced guards from the direction of Narnol. In spite of the earnest remonstrances of some of the officers of his army, he decided to conquer the Jat country first and then go to Ajmer. Saadat Khan ordered Fath Ali Khan to go out on a forage in force. The party started in the morning from their camp near Sobha Chand's sarai. While at noon the foragers with their convoy were about to return, the Jat army commanded by Raja Suraj Mal selfself appeared. Fath Ali Khan, who was at a distance of two or three kos13 sent urgent requests for reinforcement, but it came tardily towards the sunset.

Thinking a retreat by night before a stronger enemy dangerous, they sent word to Saadat Khan proposing to pass the night on the spot, expecting him to march with the whole army to their relief in the morning. This was objected to and this immediate return was insisted upon by the Khan. The Jats surrounaed the retreating column; their mounted matchlockmen close in small bodies and discharged volleys upon the confused Muslim troopers without dismounting. Such a mobile force as Suraj Mal's mounted matchockmen could hardly be brought to the grapple in the darkriess of night. A great many of the Mughals died helplessly, and the rest lost heart when Hakim Khan was shot dead and All Rustam Khan wounded - the two gallant officers who had brought reinforcements. The retreat became a panic-stricken flight. The main camp was also thrown into confusion by the rush of fugitives and the appearance of the advanced

XV. This small fort was Nimrana garhi (33 miles south-west of Pataudi), which was captured b the Mir Bakshi, Saadat Khan from the Jat garrison on 30th December, 1749. P.C. Chandavat, Maharaja Suraj Mal Aur Unka Yug, 70; G.C. Dwivedi, The Jats: their role in the Mughal Empire, 116 f.n.10 for references. -Ed.

13. This is omitted in the translation of the Siyar.

[p.43]: party of the enemy, close on their heels. A greater disaster was averted by the firmness and decision of Saadat Khan's more discreet captains, who did not hesitate to prevent by force their master's flight. The Lords of Lords writhed in agony in then grip till the panic subsided. "Luckily", says the author of the Siyar, whose uncle was an eye-witness of the affair, "as the Jat chief, for his own safety, did not wish to gain the evil repute of having caprured or slain an Amir-ul-umra, he contented himself with besieging the camp for two or three days together, at the end of which he offered terms through Fath Ali Khan, an officer with whom he was acquainted. The Amir-ul-umra, considering it to be a great gain, consented to them." Suraj Mal sent his own son Jawahar Singh, to the Amer-u-umra and concluded an agreement on several conditions, two of which were, that the dependents of the viceroy should not cut any pipal tree, nor offer any insult or injury to the Hindu temples in the country. 14 This Victory over the Amir-ul-umra of the empire brought great prestige and self-confidence to Raja Suraj Mal. Soon afterwards he entered the political arena of Hindustan to play a bolder and more honourable role.

Suraj Mal's marriage with Rani Kishori

Raja Surja Mal followed his father's policy of extending the dominion of his house by politic marriages. He had his ownson Nawal Singh married to a daughter of Sardar Sitaram, the powerful castellan of Kotman15, and himself married to a daughter of Chaudhari Kashi, the head of a strong and prosperous Jat family of Hodal, 53 miles north-west of Mathura. This lady was the gifted queen Rani Kishori,16 commonly known by her pet name, Hansia (the

14. For this campaign, see Siyar, iii 313-315 Perse text Part II, pp.33-39. The translation is wrong in many places.

15. Situated in the Mathura district on the Agra-De1hi Trunk Road about three furlongs to the south of the boundary line dividing the Gurgaon and the Mathura districts.

16. I have not been able to find out the date of Rani Kishori's marriage. The descendants of Chaudhari Kashi still occupy a respectable position at Hodal. Some of them, e.g., Chaudhari Ratan Singh, still serve in the Bharatpur State. The magnificent palaces, built by their ancestors, are now in ruins. Chaudhari Devi Singh Zaildar, Daulat Singh, Ratan Singh and Hari Singh are the most prominent living members of this house. The last-named gentleman is a personal friend of mine and entertained me very hospitably in the mahal or inner apartment of his ancestral palace.

[p.44]: smiling one), who figures prominently in the history of the house of Bharatpur. The story goes that one day while Raja [[Sura] Mal]], mounted on a huge elephant, was passing through a street of Hodal, a group of girls, returning from the well, ran away terrified at the sight of the mighty beast; only one girl refused to move and stood gazing with unshaken nerve upon the strange animal and the gorgeous equipage of the princely retinue. The Raja, struck at the intrepidity of the girl, enquired about her, and demanded her in marriage from her relatives. Whatever may be the element of truth in this popular story, her courage and constancy in the face of grave disasters in later life are testified by authentic history. Her genius and resourcefulness saved the fortunes of Bharatpur many a time from almost inevitable ruin.

Chapter III. Expansion of the Jat Power

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