|SUN SYMBOL OF MEWAR|
Guhil grew up among the tribal Bhils and in 568 AD, when he was 11, became their chieftain. Guhil also founded a new clan known as the Gehlots, who derived their name from their founder. In the 7th century they moved north to the plains of Mewar and settled in the area around Nagda. Nagda is a small town around 25km from Udaipur and was named after Nagaditya, the fourth ruler of Mewar. The seventh ruler was accidentally killed by a Bhil in 734AD, and thus the three-year-old Kalbhoj became king, who later came to be known as Bappa Rawal (Bappa meaning father and Rawal a title of the Kshatriya caste).
|BAPPA RAWAL, MEWAR|
The Gehlots settled in Ahar, where they were known as Aharya. They maintained this title till they shifted to Sissoda. Sissoda arrived at its name when a prince of Chittor built the town right where he had killed a hare (Susso). Since then the clan has retained the title of Sisodia. However, another version says that the dynasty was so named from the word sisa or lead. It is said that a prince of the dynasty was accidentally made to eat beef. The Sisodias are staunch followers of the Hindu faith which holds the cow sacred. When the prince realised his folly he chose to atone for his blunder by swallowing molten lead.
The Chivalry and Honor of the Sisodia Clan
A century later they shifted to Mewar in Rajasthan. The valour and honour of the Sisodia clan is known everywhere – from the pages of history books to the folklore of Rajasthan. "O mother, give me only unto the house of the Sisodias, if you must" says the lines of a popular folk song. The Mewar dynasty is the world’s oldest surviving dynasty with a time span of 1,500 years and 26 generations and has outlived eight centuries of foreign domination. Extremely possessive about their culture, tradition and honour, the Sisodias have played an important role in medieval Indian history as tireless upholders of Hindu traditions. Maharana Pratap Singh once refused lunch with Raja Man Singh because he had given away his sister in marriage to Prince Salim, later Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Man Singh avenged this insult by defeating Pratap at the battle of Haldighati. Pratap’s son Amar Singh made peace with the Mughals but unable to accept his humiliation, he gave up his title in favour of his son Maharana Karan Singh. Amar Singh left Udaipur never to see its landscape again.
Maharana means Great Warrior, and the one from Udaipur is the acclaimed head of all the 36 Rajput clans. The title of Rana was adopted in the 12th century when the Parihara prince of Mandore awarded it to the Prince of Mewar. The Mewar dynasty descends from the sun family and is hence known as Suryavanshi (descendents of the Sun) with the sun as its insignia. The central shield on the coat of arms depicts a Bhil tribal, the sun, Chittor Fort and a Rajput warrior with a line from the Gita saying ‘God helps those who do their duty’. The Maharana of Udaipur is crowned only after being annointed with blood drawn from the palm of a Bhil chieftain, who then leads the Maharana to the throne of Mewar.
Sisodia Kings who ruled from Udaipur
Rana Udai Singh II – reigned 1568-1572
Maharana Pratap Singh – reigned 1572-1597
Rana Amar Singh I – reigned 1597-1620
Rana Karan Singh – reigned 1620-28
Rana Jagat Singh I – reigned 1628-54
Rana Raj Singh I – reigned 1654- 1681
Maharana Jai Singh – reigned 1681-1700
Rana Amar Singh II – reigned 1700-16
Maharana Sangram Singh II – reigned 1716-34
Rana Jagat Singh II – reigned 1734-51
Rana Pratap Singh II – reigned 1752-55
Rana Raj Singh II – reigned 1755-62
Rana Ari Singh II – reigned 1762-72
Rana Hamir Singh II – reigned 1772-78
Rana Bhim Singh – reigned 1778-1828
Maharana Jawan Singh – reigned 1828-38
Maharana Swaroop Singh – reigned 1842-1861
Maharana Shambhu Singh – reigned 1861-74
Rana Sajjan Singh – reigned 1874-84
Maharana Fateh Singh – reigned 1884-1930
Maharana Bhopal Singh – reigned 1930-55
Maharana Bhagwat Singh – reigned 1955-84
Maharana Arvind Singh from 1984-
Rana Udai Singh (1568-1572)
|RANA UDAI SINGH|
Maharana Pratap Singh (1572-1597)
Living up to traditional Rajput pride, Pratap had once refused to eat with Raja Man Singh of Amber because Man Singh had given his sister in marriage to Prince Salim. Man Singh avenged this insult at the battle of Haldighati (for more details see History of Amber). Pratap was defeated and driven towards Gogunda. In the battlefield a soldier placed the crown on his own head as a decoy. The Mughals mistook him to be the Rana and killed him while Pratap escaped. Unfortunately, Pratap’s favourite charger Chetak died in the battle, but not before saving the life of his master. The horse is supposed to have jumped over a mountain stream when pursued by two Mughal chiefs. Chetak died soon after he had seen his master to safety.
Escape of Rana Pratap Singh
On his deathbed Pratap took an oath from his chiefs "by the name of Bappa Rawal" that they would not permit mansions to be raised till Mewar had recovered her independence. He made his successors vow that they would not live in palaces, sleep on beds nor eat off metal utensils until Chittor was recaptured. From then on into the 20th century the maharanas of Mewar continued to put a leaf platter under their regular utensils and a reed mat under their beds as a symbolic maintenance of this vow.
The End of The Great Soul
|MAHARANA PRATAP IN HALDIGHATI|
Rana Amar Singh (1597-1620)
Out of the 17 sons of Rana Pratap, Amar Singh was the eldest, and to him passed the daunting task of conquering Chittor. From his very childhood to the days of Pratap’s death, Amar had been a constant companion in his valiant father’s toils and troubles. A great warrior, he fulfilled his father’s last wish to capture the whole of Mewar; but not Chittor. Amar Singh remodelled his kingdom and revamped the functioning of his land. He built a small palace on the banks of the lake and named it Amar Singh Mahal, ‘the abode of immortality’. He was later persuaded by his courtiers to enter into a peace treaty with the Mughals. He wasn’t happy with the turn of events and thus never attended the Mughal court. His son Maharana Karan Singh attended the Imperial Durbar on his behalf. Amar Singh eventually left Udaipur never to enter it again. A great art connoisseur, Amar Singh’s name has thus been immortalized over and over again in Rajasthani poems and folklore.
Rana Amar Singh’s Successors
Karan Singh was the successor to the able son of Maharana Pratap, Rana Amar Singh, and mounted the throne of Mewar in 1620. Karan Singh has been depicted as a laid-back ruler but lacked neither in courage nor in conduct. He mostly acted as buffer between his self-righteous father and the Mughal court. The Sisodias soon acclaimed distinction among the Rajput underlings of the Mughals. Bhim Singh, Karan Singh’s younger brother, became the chief adviser and friend of Prince Khurram, later Emperor Shah Jahan. On Khurram’s request his father Emperor Jahangir conferred the title of Raja (king) on Bhim Singh and gave him a small kingdom, of which Thoda was the capital. Bhim Singh built a new capital city for himself and a palace, Raj Mahal, on the banks of a river. This palace was held for 40 years by his descendents till it lost its struggle for survival to time and weather. The ruins of the palace now merely display the excellent architectural ideas of Bhim Singh.
Rana Karan Singh died in 1628 just before the ascension of Shah Jahan and was succeeded by his son Rana Jagat Singh I. The 26 years of Jagat Singh’s reign were spent entirely for the development of art and architecture of Mewar. Jagat Singh was a highly respected ruler and a Sisodia king to the letter. He has been celebrated through the pens of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, the ambassador of England and in the chronicles of Mewar. He rebuilt the ancient capital of Mewar, Chittor, from its ruins and restored much of the city’s temples and bastions. He died in 1654 and was succeeded by the eldest of his two sons, Raj Singh, begotten from the princess of Marwar.
Rana Raj Singh I (1654-1710)
The last independent Maharana of Mewar, Rana Raj Singh ascended the throne in 1654 and ruled during the reign of Aurangzeb. The famous legend of Princess Roopmati of the kingdom of Roopnagar is associated with him. Aurangzeb was besotted by her and wanted to marry her. Roopmati refused, and requested Raj Singh to save her from the Mughal Emperor and offered herself as the reward of protection. She needn’t have offered herself, because for a Rajput the honour of his womenfolk is of prime importance. Called to uphold Roopmati’s honour, Raj Singh married her and consequently the Emperor’s wrath descended upon him. Aurangzeb despatched an army to defeat Raj Singh and bring Roopmati to him. While the Rana prepared for marriage his chief courtier Chandawut met the Mughal forces in battle.
After the ceremony was over Raj Singh was to join his Rajput warriors in the battlefield. While leaving he found his young wife looking at him from the corridor of his palace. He, therefore sent a servant to bring back something for her remembrance. Coming from the brave clan of the Hara Chauhanas, Roopmati thought that he would not be able to fulfill his mission and his attention would be diverted towards her. Raj Singh had asked for a momento, and for this Roopmati cut off her head with a sword and sent it as a farewell gift to her husband.
Apart from his acts of chivalry Rana Raj Singh had the historical Sanskrit epic ‘Raj Prasthi’ carved on 25 black stones.
Maharana Jai Singh (1681-1700)
Jai Singh (lion of victory) mounted the throne in 1681 after the death of his illustrious father Rana Raj Singh I. Although his father had long distanced himself from the Mughals, Jai Singh entered into a treaty with Aurangzeb, the Mughal Emperor. But this pact was not the usual one, for Jai Singh was a bit of a diplomat. What had transpired was that Aurangzeb’s military campaigns took the Imperial army once again to Rajputana, and consequently to the lands of Jai Singh. The generals were Prince Azim and Delhir Khan who were routed by the Rajputs. The two generals were taken prisoner. With Jai Singh gaining the upper hand, he made the duo sign a treaty in exchange for their lives.
The treaty was signed on the spot, accompanied by a nominal fine, the surrender of three districts. It was also agreed that the Mughal regal colour (crimson) of tents and umbrellas would be discontinued. However, in less than five years of the treaty the Rana was forced to leave the city to take refuge in the inaccessible Kamori. Even under such dire straits Jai Singh built a dam across a stream and formed the largest lake in India. He named it after himself, Jaisamand or the Sea of Victory. Near the lake he built a palace for his most favoured queen, Komala Devi, a princess of the Paramara race. Domestic unhappiness made the Rana unable to perform his state functions. Jai Singh now removed himself from his duties and started living in the palace of Jaisamand with his favourite consort, Komala. He left Amar Singh II, his heir apparent, in the hands of the Pancholi Minister at Udaipur.
Rana Amar Singh II (1700-16)
Amar Singh II was quite similar in character and bravery like his distinguished namesake, Rana Amar Singh I. Amar Singh II took advantage of the declining Mughal power and entered into a private treaty with the Mughal heir apparent Shah Alam. His reign witnessed continuous revolts in the Mughal Empire and the rebel kingdoms of Amber and Marwar soon came to him for help. The Rana welcomed them and the kingdoms of Udaipur, Amber and Marwar formed a triple league. Amar Singh sealed their friendship by giving his sister to Ajit Singh, Rao of Jodhpur, and his daughter to Sawai Jai Singh of Jaipur in marriage.
They set aside some rules for admission of other Rajput States to the alliance, in which they had to take an oath to deny all connections with the Mughal Empire. It was also specified that the sons of nuptial arrangements would be the heirs and if the issues were females they would never be dishonoured by marrying a Mughal. The alliance, however, turned out to be a failure when Ajit Singh allied himself with the Sayyids and renewed matrimonial ties with the Mughals. Nevertheless Amar Singh doubled his efforts to gain independence for himself as well as for the Rajput nation. An important document, Memorandum of Requests, was prepared with the consent of the emperor, keeping the independence of the state in mind. The second article of the treaty sanctioned the abolition of the jaziya, a religious tax on the Hindus. The very name of the document marked the subordination of the Rajput chiefs. The eighth article gave the Rana an air of protection from the emperor. This treaty was the the Rana’s final act consequence as the ruler of Mewar before he died in 1716. Rana Amar Singh II left behind a legacy of being an independent and virtuous prince who upheld his independence and the prosperity of his kingdom before the misrule of the Mughals.
Maharana Sangram Singh II (1716-34)
Sangram Singh or the lion of battle succeeded Rana Amar Singh II in the year 1716 when the Mughal Empire was disintegrating. He ascended the throne about the same time as Muhammad Shah, who succeeded Farukhsiyyar, the Emperor. The empire was divided and several independent states sprung up, with each chief announcing his independence. Mewar during such times was isolated in its dominion expansion policies and kept it till the boundaries of Abu and the region from where the small states of Banswara and Dungarpur had crept up. The internal feuds within the state of Mewar decreased the chance of their expansion. These events made the state bring about a change in their internal policy, more defensive in nature. As Mughal influence gradually flipped downwards, this defensive system was abandoned. However, they continued to build forts to defend themselves from the Marathas and the Pathans as well as rebels.
Sangram Singh II ruled for 18 years. He recovered the lost territories of Mewar and the kingdom soon regained its lost respect. The Rana was a just and intelligent ruler, efficient in both his state and financial affairs. An indulgent master of his subjects he was ever watchful of their needs. His death in 1734 saw the emergence of the Maratha power during his successor Jagat Singh II’s rule.
Rana Jagat Singh II (1734-51)
The eldest of the four sons of Sangram Singh, Jagat Singh II ascended the throne in 1734. He started his reign with the revival of the tripartite alliance formed by Rana Amar Singh II (see Rana Amar Singh II in History for more details). This union of states was formed at Hoorlah, a town in Ajmer region. To ensure unity among the confederate states the Rana was given absolute authority regarding the execution of the treaty and heading the combined forces. The states were united in their aim to gain independence and to expand Rajasthan. They became the most powerful forces in India at that point of time, but unfortunately couldn’t hold on to their dreams.
Individual ambition reared its ugly head and the inevitable happened. The opportunities to recover Rajasthan all went waste and led to the Mughals annexing the whole of Rajasthan. This turn of events made the Rajput states come together again, brought about by the obvious step of matrimonial alliances. Later, Mewar also entered into a treaty with the Marathas that specified an annual tribute for a period of 10 years. This was the only regular engagement that Mewar entered into. According to the triple league signed during Rana Amar Singh II’s reign (see Rana Amar Singh II in History), Jai Singh’s eldest son Ishwari Singh was proclaimed the Raja of Amber. However, another party supported the Rana’s nephew, Madho Singh. Rana Jagat Singh backed his nephew and met the combined forces of Ishwari Singh and the Marathas in the battlefield. However, the results were in Ishwari’s favour and he took over the throne of Mewar. Ishwari went on expanding the kingdom but unfortunately had to commit suicide when plans were hatched by the Rana to depose him. Thereafter Madho Singh occupied the throne. From this period onwards the Mewar kingdom went into a downslide. Rana Jagat Singh II died in 1752 after a reign filled of misrule. He was more interested in the pleasures of life rather than governing his kingdom. A great patron of the arts, he enlarged his palaces, erected villages all over the valley and conceived most of the festivals that are still celebrated in Udaipur.
Jagat Singh II’s Successors
Rana Pratap II (1752-55), nowhere near his illustrious namesake, succeeded Jagat Singh in the year 1752. He ruled merely for three years, marked only by repeated invasions of the Marathas. He married a daughter of Raja Jai Singh of Amber from whom he begot a son who later succeeded him. Rana Raj Singh II took over the throne in 1755 and held it for seven years. This Rana was also far from possessing the qualities of his famous predecessor, and the full span of his reign saw the continuous marauding of his country. On his death the order of succession was reversed and his uncle, Rana Ari Singh occupied the throne in 1762.
Rana Ari Singh II (1762-72)
The incompetent successors and the ungovernable temper of Ari Singh led to the further decline of Mewar. He has often been accused of unfairly occupying the throne by removing his nephew, Rana Raj Singh II. Ari spent the first few days of his reign antagonizing and estranging the nobles of Mewar. The first to leave was the Sadri chieftain followed by Jaswant Singh of Devgarh. These hurt and angry nobles formed a group to depose the Rana and set up Ratna Singh as the future ruler. He was declared to be the son of Raj Singh II from the daughter of the chief of Gogunda. Needless to say the mission was a failure. However, Mewar did not remain safe any longer, with all sorts of invaders trying to acquire the state. The Marathas, the Scindias and the Holkars were all there to reap the wealth of Mewar. The Rana had to surrender the district of Nimbahera to the Holkars who threatened to sack Mewar if not complied with. Amidst such conflicts and battles for domination, Rana Ari Singh fell at the hands of the Bundi Prince.
Successors of Rana Ari Singh
Ari Singh was survived by his two sons, Hamir and Bheem Singh. Hamir succeeded the Rana in 1772. He did not rule long; only for a period of six years and died in 1778 even before he could consolidate his territories. Rana Bheem Singh (1778-1828) succeeded his brother and was the fourth minor in a span of 40 years to inherit Mewar. He occupied the throne at the young age of eight and ruled for half a century. The first thing that the Rana did was to try and recover some of the lost lands of Mewar, even if it meant to do so through payment. His reign saw the invasions of Ahalya Bai of Holkar, Zalim Singh of Kota, and the attacks of the Chondawat rebels on Chittor. The Rana asked for help from Madhaji Scindia, which led to the surrender of the rebels. A few years later the Holkars again attacked Mewar and had the Nathdwara priests confined. The Marathas were also not far behind, but unfortunately this time they were defeated by the Rana. Zalim Singh later liberated the Maratha leader, Bala Rao. In 1818 he finally signed a treaty accepting the paramountcy of the British. Though able and wise as a ruler, the Rana had numerous weak points. He was well versed with the past history of his kingdom, but his trivial entertainment and shows of vanity negated all his kingly qualities.
Maharana Fateh Singh (1884-1930)
Maharana Fateh Singh was the 73rd maharana in line, and he also tried his best not to submit to British reign. During his rule Udaipur underwent a change; several schools, a college, hospitals and dispensaries and a railway line connecting Udaipur with Chittor were built. He enlarged the Fateh Sagar Lake and also completed the Shiv Niwas Palace to be used as a guesthouse for his visitors. In 1903 Fateh Singh travelled to Delhi with full ceremony manner to attend Lord Curzon’s Imperial Durbar. However, he returned to Udaipur without even getting off the train. The reason behind this action of his was that he had discovered that he had been placed after the states of Hyderabad, Mysore, Kashmir and Baroda. Likewise, he also refrained from attending the 1911 Durbar. The British Empire later curbed his powers and he remained the head of the state of Mewar in name only.
Maharana Bhopal Singh (1930-55)
Bhopal Singh occupied the throne of Mewar in 1930 and was one of the first out of the 500 princely states to merge with the Indian Union in 1947. Later in 1949, 22 princely states of Rajasthan merged to form the Union of Greater Rajasthan, acknowledging Udaipur as their head.
Several generations ago, Maharana Sangram Singh II (1710-34) had four sons out of whom the eldest Jagat Singh II succeeded him. The other three founded the Bagore, Karjali and Shivrati lines of families. The subsequent ranas of Mewar were linear descendents of Sangram Singh II and Bhopal Singh. The first natural born son to ascend the throne after five consecutive adoptions was a great and liberal ruler. Paralysed from the waist down from the early age of 16, Bhopal nevertheless was an expert hunter, going out on hunts strapped onto his horse. He was also interested in education and built several schools and colleges in Mewar. In 1939 he adopted the 17 year old Bhagwat Singh, from the Shivrati branch of the family, still a schoolboy in the Mayo College, Ajmer.
Maharana Bhagwat Singh (1955-84)
One year after the ascension of Bhagwat Singh on 1st November 1956, the state of Rajasthan came into being. The Rajasthan rulers gave up their sovereignty but enjoyed privy purses until 1970 when the Indian Parliament decided to abolish the institution of royalty. In 1971 the rulers of the former princely states were derecognised and their privy purses and titles were snatched away. Bhagwat Singh took the decision of selling Jag Niwas, Jag Mandir, Fateh Prakash and other estates on the shores of lake Pichola to ensure the survival of his property. He converted Jag Niwas to a charitable trust called the Maharana Mewar Foundation run in the City Palace complex. The money earned from here is used for social welfare and education. The maharana added another trust called the Maharana Mewar Institution Trust of which the Managing Trustee is his second son, Maharana Arvind Singh. In 1983 Bhagwat’s elder son Mahendra Singh filed a civil suit seeking a share in the family inheritance. Mahendra Singh thus cut himself from his family and Bhagwat disinherited him. In 1984 proclaimed his second son Maharana Arvind Singh as his successor. Arvind Singh, the 76th generation of the Sisodia dynasty, now administers the House of Mewar alongwith his wife Princess Vijayraj, the grand daughter of the ruler of Kutch.