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History of Rajasthan

Rajasthan

The north-western region of India, which incorporates Rajasthan, remained in early history for the most part independent from the great empires consolidating their hold onthe subcontinent. Buddhism failed to make substantial inroads here; the Mauryan Empire (321-184 BC), whose most renowned emperor Ashoka converted to Buddhism in262 BC, had minimal impact in Rajasthan. However, there are Buddhist caves and stupas (Buddhist shrines) at Jhalawar, in southern Rajasthan. Ancient Hindu scriptural epics make reference to sites in present day Rajasthan. The holy pilgrimage site of Pushkar is mentioned in both the Mahabharata and Ramayma.

The fall of the Gupta Empire, which held dominance in northern India for nearly 300 years, until the early 5th century, was followed by a period of instability as various local chieftains sought to gain supremacy. Various powers rose and fell in northern India. Stability was only restored with the emergence of the Gurjara Pratihar as, the earliest of the Rajput (from 'Rajputra', or Sons of Princes) dynasties which were later to hold the balance of power throughout Rajasthan. The emergence of the Rajput warrior clans in the 6th and 7th centuries played the greatest role in the subsequent history of Rajasthan. From these clans emerged the name Rajputana, by which the collection of princely states came to be known during the Muslim invasion of India. The Sisodias of the Suryavansa Race, originally from Gujarat, migrated to Rajas-than in the mid-7th century and reigned over Mewar, which encompassed Udaipur and Chittorgarh.The Kachhwa has, originally from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, travelled west in the12th century. They built the massive fortress at Amber, the capital later being shifted to Jaipur. Like the Sisodias, they belonged to the Suryavansa Race. Also belonging to the Suryavansa Race, the Rathores (earlier known as Rastrakutas) travelled from Kanauj, in Uttar Pradesh. Initially they settled in Pali, south of present-day Jodhpur, but later moved to Mandore in1381 and ruled over Marwar (Jodhpur). Later they commenced construction on the stunning Meherangarh Fort at Jodhpur. The Bhattis, who belong to the Induvansa Race, driven from their homeland in the Punjab by the Turks, installed themselves at Jaisalmer in 1156. They remained more or less entrenched in their desert kingdom until they were integrated into the state of Rajasthan following Independence.

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The first external threat to the dominance of the Rajputs was that posed by the Arabs who took over Sind in 713. The Gurjara Pratiharas' response to the Arab threat was largely defensive. The Arabs were repulsed by the Gurjara Pratiharas led by their king, Nagabhata I, founder of the Pratihara Empire. The Arabs also tested their strength against the Rastrakut as. Unfortunately, when not pitting their wits against the Arabs, the Pratiharas and Rastrakut as were busy fighting each other. By the third decade of the 8th century, anew threat was emerging in the form of the Turks, who had occupied Ghazni in Afghanistan. Around 1001 AD, Mahmud of Ghazni's army descended upon India, destroying infidel temples and carrying off everything of value that could be moved. The Rajputs were not immune from these incursions; a confederation of Rajput rulers assembled a vast army and marched northwards to meet the advancing Turks. Unfortunately, how-ever, it was a case of too little, too late, and they were decisively and crushingly vanquished. The Pratiharas, then centred at Kanauj, fled the city before the Turks arrived, and in their absence the temples of Kanauj, as with so many others in northern India, were sacked and desecrated, Towards the end of the 12th century, Mohammed of Ghori invaded India to take up where Mahmud of Ghazni had left off. Hemet with a collection of princely states which failed to mount a united front. Although initially repulsed, Ghori later triumphed, and Delhi and Ajmer were lost to the Muslims. Ajmer remained a Muslim stronghold over the centuries, apart from a brief period when it was retaken by the Rathores. Today it is an important Muslim place of pilgrimage.

Mohammed of Ghori was killed in 1206, and his successor, Qutb-ud-din, became the first of the Sultans of Delhi. Within 20 years, the Muslims had brought the whole of the Ganges basin under their control. In 1297, Ala-ud-din Khilji pushed the Muslim borders south into Gujarat. Ala-ud-din mounted a protracted siege of the massive fort at Ranthambhore, which was at the time ruled by the Rajput chief Hammir Deva. Hammir was reported as dead (although it's unknown if he did actually die in the siege) and upon hearing of their chief's demise, the womenfolk of the fortress collectively threw themselves on a pyre, thus performing the first instance of jauhar, or collective sacrifice, in the history of the Rajputs. Alu-ud-din later went on to sack the fortress at Chittorgarh in 1303, held by the Sisodia clan. According to tradition, Alu-ud-din had heard repute of the great beauty of Padmini, the consort of the Sisodian chief, and resolved to carry her off with him. Like Ranthambhore before it, Chittorgarh also fell to the Muslim leader.

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