Who with a courage of unshaken root, In honour’s field advancing his firm foot, Plants it upon the line that justice draws, And will prevail or perish in the cause.
THE innate chivalry of Hindu character is well-known to those who have studied their history, or lived with them and studied their manners and customs. Their treatment of the female sex, their unwillingness to injure or take away life unnecessarily, their magnanimous treatment of their fallen foes, their unwillingness to take advantage of their own superiority to their adversaries, prove the chivalrous character of the Hindu race, The undaunted heroism and the unequalled valour of the ancient Hindus, their magnificent self-confidence, their righteousness of conduct, and, above all, the sublime teachings of their Shastras, containing the loftiest spiritual ideals yet conceived by humanity, made them the most chivalrous and humane people on the face of the earth. So much is the warrior caste of the Hindus even now identified with chivalry that Rajputi and Chivalry have become convertible terms.’ Rajputana is eminently the land of chivalry, and the Rajputs, the descendents of the ancient Kshatriyas, have preserved some of the latter’s virtues, prominent among which is chivalry. Rama, Arjuna, Karna, Krishna, Bhima, Bali,
as Baldeo ( Hercules) Sagara, and others were ideal characters: but coming down to modern times we find that Rana Pratap of Mewar, Durga Das of Marwar and Prithvi Raj of Ajmer were characters for whose equals in chivalry and patriotism we may search in vain the annals of other nations, European or Asiatic.
The annals of no nation record instances to outshine the romantic chivalry displayed by Sadoo, heir of the lord of Pugal, till lately a fief of Jaisalmer, or tha chivalrous conduct of his bride, Kurrarndtvi, daughter of the Mohil chief Manik Rao, who “ was at once a virgin, a wife and a widow.”‘
Colonel Tod says: “Nor is there anything finer in the annals of the chivalry of the West than the dignified and the heroic conduct of the Raja of Duttea,” who met with a glorious death in defence of the laws of sanctuary and honour, when on the death of Madhaji Scindhia, the females of his (Scinclhia’s) family, in apprehension of his successor, Daulat Rao, sought refuge and protection with the Raja.2
The author of the Annals and Antiquities of Rajas.. than pays the highest tribute to the valour and chivalry of the Raj puts when he says: “ Cur de lion (King of England) would not have remained so long in the dungeons of Austria had his subjects been Rajputs.”3
Professor H. H. Wilson says: “The Hindu laws of war are very chivalrous and humane, and prohibit the slaying of the unarmed, of women, of the old and of the conquered.”
1 See ‘Td’s Rajasthan, Vol. II, p. 629, 2Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol. I., p. 117, 3Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol, I, p. 161,
The innate chivalry of the Hindu character has given rise to a peculiar custom observed among all classes of people, irrespective of caste, nationality or age. It is the Rakhi (Rakshabandan), by which Hindu ladies command loyal, disinterested, and whole-souled service of men, whom they deign to adopt as their brothers, though in most instances they never behold them. “ There is a delicacy in this custom,” says Colonel Tod, “ with which the bond uniting the cavaliers of Europe to the service of the fair in the days of chivalry will not compare.”‘
The following incident will show the character of the Rajputs and the nature of their warfare. During the reign of Rana Rai Mal of Chitor, his younger brother, Suraj Mal, whom the prophetess of Charuni Devi at Nahra Mugra had promised a crown, made several attempts to gain one. With the help of Mnzaffar, the Sultan_ of Malwa, he took Sadri and Baturo and attempted even Chitor. Rai Mal met the attack on the River Gumbeeree. The second son of the Rana, Pirthi Raj, “ the Rolando of his age,” as Colonel Tod calls him, selected his uncle, Suraj Mal, whom he soon covered with wounds. Many had fallen on both sides but neither party would yield: when worn out they retired from the field, bivouacked in sight of each other.
Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol. I, p. 581. “It is one of the few (customs) when an intercourse of gallantry of the most delicate nature is established between the fair sex and the cavaliers of Rajasthan The Rajput dame bestows with the Rakhi (bracelet) the title of adopted brother; and while its acceptance secures to her all the protection of a cavaliere serv-ente’, scandal itself never suggests any other tic to his devotion.”— p. 312.
Colonel Tod continues :—” It will show the manners and feelings so peculiar to the Rajpoot, to describe the meeting between the rival uncle and nephew—unique in the details of strife perhaps since the origin of man.1 It is taken from a manuscript of the Jhala Chief who succeeded Suraj Mal in Sadri. Pirthi Raj visited his uncle, whom he found in a small tent reclining on a pallet, having just had the barber’ (nde) to sew up his wounds. He rose and net his nephew with the customary respect, as if nothing unusual had occurred; but the exertion caused some of the wounds to open afresh, when the following dialogue ensued
PIRTHI RAJ. Well, uncle, how are your wounds? ‘
“SURAJ MAL: Quite healed, my child, since have the pleasure of seeing you.’
“PIRTHI RAJ.--4 But, uncle (1caka), I have not yet seen the Dewanji.2 I first ran to see you, and I am very hungry; have you anything to eat?’
“Dinner was soon served, and the extraordinary pair sat down, and ate off the same platter; ‘ nor did Pirthi Raj hesitate to eat the ‘ pan’ presented on his taking leave.
“ PIRTHI RAJ.--’ You and I will end our battle in the morning, uncle.’
“ SURAJ MAL-4 Very well, child; come early! ‘ “They met, and the rebels were defeated and fled to Sadri. Pirthi Raj, however, gave them no rest, pursuing
1Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol. I, p. 296-97, The Rana is called Diwanji.
them from place to place. In the wilds of Baturro they formed a stockaded retreat of the dho tree, which abounds in the forest; and Sujah and his companion, Sarungdeo, were communing on their desperate plight when their cogitations were checked by the rush and neigh of horses. Scarcely had the pretender exclaimed, `this must be my nephew! ‘ when Pirthi Raj dashed his steed through the barricade and, reaching his uncle, dealt him a blow which would have levelled him but for the support of Sarungdeo, who upbraided him, adding, a buffet now was more than a score of wounds in former days: ‘ to which Suraj Mal added, ‘only when dealt by my nephew’s hand.’ Suraj Mal demanded a parley; and calling on the prince to stop the combat, he continued: If I am killed, it matters not—my children are Rajputs, they will run the country to find support but if you are slain what will become of Chitor? My face will be blackened and my name everlastingly reprobated.’
“The sword was sheathed, and as the uncle and nephew embraced, the latter asked the former, what were you about uncle, when II came? ‘Only talking nonsense, child, after dinner.’ `But with me over your head, uncle, as a foe, how could you be so negligent ?’
What could I do? You had left me no resource and I must have some place to rest my head.’’
An episode from the annals of Jaisalmer will illustrate the chivalrous nature of the Rajput and his desire to die fighting, as becomes a Rajput.
‘Tucl’s Rajasthan, Vol. 1, p, 298.
After a long course of victorious warfare, in which he subdued various tracts of country, even to the heart of the Punjab, disease seized on Rawul Chachick. In this state he determined to die as he had lived, with arms in his hand; but having no foe near with whom to cope he sent an embassy to the Langa prince of Multan, to beg as a last favour the jood-detn, or “gift of battle,” that his soul might escape by the steel of his foeman, and not fall a sacrifice to slow disease. The prince, suspecting treachery, hesitated; but the Bhatti messenger pledged his word that his master only wished an honourable death, and that he would bring only five hundred men to the combat. The challenge being accepted, the Rawul called his clansmen around him, and on recounting what he had done, seven hundred select Rajpoots, who had shared in all his victories, volunteered to take the last field and make (sankalp) oblation of their lives with their leader.’
On reaching Dhooniapur, he heard that the prince of Multan was within two toss. His soul was rejoiced. He performed his ablutions, worshipped the gods, bestowed charity, and withdrew his thoughts from the world.
The battle lasted two hours, and the Yadu prince fell with all his kith and kin, after performing prodigies of valour. Two thousand Khans2 fell beneath their swords and the Bhatti gained the abode of Indra.
‘Toil’s Rajasthan, Vol. H, pp. 258-9.
2These were Hindus [Solanki Rajputs] as was their prince. The Rawal Chachick had married Sonaldevi, the grand-daughter of HybEtt Khan, the Chief of the Seta tribe, or the Swatees. See Tod’s Rajasthan, ‘Vol, II, p. 233.
The chivalry of the Chief of Nimaj (a fief of Marwar in Rajputana), in the reign of Raja Maun Singh, excites the admiration of Colonel Tod, to which he gives expression in the following memorable words: “ The brave Chief of Nimaj has sold his life but dearly. In vain do we look in the annals of Europe for such devotion and generous despair as marked his end and that of his brave clan.”‘
Of Rana Raj Singh, the great opponent of Aurangzeb, Colonel Tod says :—” As a skilful general and gallant soldier, in the defence of his country, he is above all praise. As a chivalrous Rajput, his braving all consequences when called upon to save the honour of a noble female of his race, he is without parallel.”‘ “The son of Rana Pertap, Umra, the foe of Jehangir,” says Colonel Tod, “ was a character of whom the proudest nation might be vain.”3
Even of the Indians of the present day, Mr. Elphinstone says `4 “They often display bravery unsurpassed by the most warlike nations, and will always throw away their lives for any consideration of religion or honour.”
1Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol. 1, p. 197, Mercenary bands, to the number of 8,000, with guns, attacked Surtan Singh in his haveli [dwelling] at Jodhpur, under the orders of Raja Maun Singh. With 180 of his clan he defended himself against great guns and small arms as long as the house was tenable, and then sallied forth, sword in hand, and with his brother and 80 of his kin fell nobly in the midst of his foes.
2Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, Vol. I, p. 389.
3Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol. I, p. 133.
4Elphinstone’s History of India, v. 199.
The chivalrous character of the Hindu has handicapped him in his fight against -his unscrupulous foes, To the advantage derived by the opponents of the Hindus from the latter’s mutual jealousies and disunion was added also that of their (Hindu) unwillingness to do anything against the dictates of humanity or the demands of chivalry. Unlike other nations they do not believe in the maxim, “everything is fair in love and war.” “To spare a prostrate foe,” says Colonel Tod, “ is the creed of .the Hindu cavalier, and he carried all such maxims to excess.”‘
If the chivalrous nature of the latter-day Hindu had only been tempered with political discretion, India would not have suffered the misrule that characterized some of the subsequent reigns. Sultan Shah-bud-din Ghori, when captured by Pirthi Raj on the field of Tilaori, was liberated and allowed to return to his country, only to come back with a fresh army, and with the assistance of the traitors of Kanauj and Patun and of the
Haoli Rao Hamir, to overturn the Hindu throne 0f Delhi.
Again, when Mahmud, the G-hilzi King of Malwa, was de-
feated and taken prisoner by the Maharana of Chitor, not only was he set at liberty without ransom, but was loaded with gifts and sent back to Malwa.
When during the invasion of Mewar by the Imperial forces of the Emperor Aurangzeb—when all the resources of the mighty Moghal Empire were placed at the disposal of the Mussalman generals, and the Emperor himself repaired to the scene of action to direct the operations in person—the heir-apparent of Delhi and his army, cut off from all assistance, were at the absolitte mercy of the heir of Mewar, the magnanimous Rajputs, in pursuance of
1 god’s Rajasthan, Vol. I, p, 287.
mistaken notions of chivalry and humanity not only spared the whole army, but gave them guides to conduct them by the defile of Dilwara, and escorted them to Chitor. Nay, we learn from the historian Orme, that Aurangzeb himself owed his life to the clemency of the Rajputs. He says :—” The division which moved with Aurangzeb himself was unexpectedly stopped by insuperable defences and precipices in front; while the Rajputs in one night closed the streights in his rear, by felling the over-ballerina. trees; and from their stations above prevented all endeavours of the troops, either within or without, from removing the obstacle. Udeperri, the favourite and Circassian wife of Aurangzeb, accompanied him in this arduous war, and with her retinue and escort was enclosed in another part of the mountains; her conductors, dreading to expose her person to danger or public view, surrendered. She was carried to the Rana, who received her with homage and every attention. Meanwhile, the Emperor himself might have perished by famine, of which the Rana let him see the risk, by a confinement of two days, when he ordered his Rajputs to withdraw from their stations, and suffer the way to be cleared. As soon as Aurangzeb was out of danger the Rana sent back his wife, accompanied by a chosen escort, who only requested in return that he would refrain from destroying the sacred animals of their religion which might still be left in the plains; but Aurangzeb, who believed in no virtue but self-interest, imputed the generosity and forbearance of the Rana to the fear of future vengeance, and continued the war. Soon after, he was again well-nigh enclosed in the mountains. This second experience of difficulties beyond his age and constitution, and the arrival of his sons, Azim and Akbar, determined him not to expose himself any longer in the field, but to leave its operations to their conduct, superintended by his own instructions from Ajmer, to which city he retired with the households of his family, the officers of his court, and his bodyguard of four thousand men, dividing the army between his two sons, who each had brought a considerable number of troops from their respective Governments. “1
Well may Colonel Tod exclaim: “But for repeated instances of an illjudged humanity, the throne of the Moghals might have been completely overturned.”
Twice owing to political indiscretion on the part of the Ranas of Mewar, in the reigns of Akbar and Jehangir, did the Hindus lose their chance of supremacy. Were it not for the ill-fated interview between Rana Pratap and Maim Singh of Jaipur on the Udaisagar lake, on the latter’s return home from the conquest of Sholapur, Akbar would never have succeeded in consolidating his power and founding the Moghal Empire in India, which, after a brilliant career of two centuries, was finally shattered to pieces by the Mahrattas.
‘‘Pod’s Rajasthan, Vol. 1., p. 383.
2Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol. I., p. 379.
3” To him Akbar was indebted for half his triumphs, from the snow-clad Caucasus to the shores of the golden Chersonese.’ Let the eye embrace those extremes of his conquests, Kabul and the Paromamisan of Alexander, and Arracan (now well-known) on the Indian Ocean; the former reunited, the latter subjugated, to the empire by a Rajpnt prince and a Rajput army,” p, 336. “ Prince Selim (afterwards Jeliangir) led the war against Rana Pratap guided by the councils of Raja Matta and the distinguished apostate son of Sagurji, Mohahat Khan “— Vol. 1, p 337.
Again, when during Jehangir’s reign, Mewar conceived the idea of putting up Prince Khurrain against the Emperor Jehangir, any t, in the Civil War, to wrest the supremacy for the Hindus, Bheem’s indiscreet taunt to Raja ,G-aj Singh of Marwar at the critical moment alienated the Rahtores, and the design was frustrated.