Synopsis : We often read the stories of great people who sacrificed their lives so that we could be free but can not imagine what they sacrificed and how much pain they suffered in the process. Indian history is replete with such great men and women who are the national heroes. The story of King Prithviraj Chauhan shines as the brightest star in the galaxy of great rulers of the past.
Today I will write about an incredible person of valor and chivalry, bravery and courage. I will take you back some 850 years to the year 1166 when a prince was born in the city of Ajmer in Rajputana now called Rajasthan to the Chauhan king Someshwar and was named Prithviraj by his adoring parents. It meant King of the world and he lived up to his name as we will see.
Like all Rajput princes, he was taught sword fighting, archery and horse riding but he excelled in archery the most and could hit a target blindfolded by listening to the sound of his target. He was a brilliant child who was very sharp in learning all the military skills at an early age.
He succeeded to the throne of Ajmer at the age of thirteen, in 1179, when his father died in a battle. His grandfather Angam, ruler of Delhi, declared him heir to the throne of Delhi after hearing about his courage and bravery. He once killed a lion on his own without any weapon. He was known as the warrior king.
Source : Google painting of King Prithviraj Chauhan
When he ascended the throne of Delhi, he built Qila Rai Pithora ( a fort) here. It is not known exactly when he ascended the throne in Delhi but assumed that he was a young man then. His whole life was a continuous chain of bravery, courage, chivalrous deeds and glorious exploits. He defeated the mighty Bheemdev, ruler of Gujarat, as a young man and is known to the historians for his love for his queen Samyukta .
In those days the princesses chose their own husbands from the assembly of many kings and princes who were invited to seek the hand of the princess often by inviting them to show their military prowess in archery or sword fights but the princess Samyukta had decided to marry Prithviraj Chauhan whom her father hated as a rival.
Her father put a statue of Prithviraj at the gate of his palace to mock him but the princess took a flower garland and put it around the neck of the statue declaring that she had chosen him as her husband. The young king who was not invited to the ceremony suddenly appeared and snatched the princess away on his horse and sped away to the great anger of her father who could do nothing .
Source : Google painting of princess Samyukta putting the garland on the statue.
Samyukta became the queen and together they ruled for quite some time until the scourge of Mahmud Ghori descended on them. After the defeat in the hand of the invader Ghori, Samyukta was repeatedly raped by the Muslim king until one day she took her own life. Her husband and the brave king was brought to Ghazni as a prisoner and treated very badly by Ghori . The rest is mentioned in his biography below.
Source : Google photo of Afghan king Mahmud Ghori ( a painting )
He expanded his empire but during this time Mahmud Ghori attacked India in 1191 who was defeated by Prithviraj at the first battle of Tarain. After defeating the army of Mahmud Ghori he was asked to attack the retreating army but in true Rajput tradition he refused to do so as it did not conform to the fair war rules. As a result Mahmud Ghori again attacked India and in the second battle of Tarain in 1192 Prithviraj Chauhan was defeated and captured. As a prisoner, he was brought to Ghazni in Afghanistan and tortured but he was defiant and looked straight at his captor.
It irked the Muslim ruler who asked him to lower his gaze but Prithviraj answered that as a Rajput he lowered his eyes at no one so Ghori ordered his eyes to be gouged out with hot iron. Thus he became blind but did not lose his courage. Helped by his court poet and friend Chand Bardai, he is believed to kill Mahmud Ghori with his “shabdabhedi baan”. ( the arrow that follows the sound )
His skill of hitting the target blindfolded just on the basis of sound made by it came handy and during the archery demonstration organized by Mahmud Ghori, he displayed his skill. When Mahmud Ghori praised him, he heard his voice and shot an arrow clean through his neck killing Mahmud Ghori instantly. In order to escape death at the hands of enemies he and his friend Chand Bardai then stabbed each other and died thus ending his glorious life in this sad way. The year was 1192. The place was Ghazni in Afghanistan.
Chand Bardai had earlier compiled the story of the life of Prithviraj Chauhan in his epic poem Prithviraj Raso. Prithviraj Chauhan died in 1192, with his death a period of bravery, courage, patriotism and principles came to an end. Prithviraj Raso of Chand Bardai and Prithviraj Vijay of Jayanak have immortalized deeds of Prithviraj Chauhan. (Wikipedia).
Mahmud Ghori was a Muslim king in Afghanistan who had gone to India and defeated a Hindu king whom he brought back as a prisoner and treated very badly but he is eulogized by the Muslims in his country and a big mausoleum is built for him but the defeated king Prithiviraj Chauhan was buried by the road side in a pauper’s grave covered with soil and the Muslims hit his grave with shoes to show their disdain and anger because he was a non-Muslim who had killed their king Ghori just before he took his own life. You can see the shoes kept near the grave for the Muslims to beat the grave with even after nearly 900 years. It was a deliberate insult to a great king.
Source : Google photo of the pauper’s grave of King Prithviraj Chauhan in Ghazni with shoes to beat his grave with.
Source : Google photo of Sher Singh Rana
This story was repeated in the newspapers and the media in India that came to the attention of a brave man called Sher Singh Rana who was serving a long sentence in the notorious jail in Delhi and decided to break out of his prison to go to Afghanistan and bring back the bones of the revered king for a proper burial. But Tihar jail is a maximum security jail that was not easy to break out of so he failed the first time and somehow succeeded in escaping on his second try although how he did so remains a mystery.
Many efforts were made by the Indian government to bring back the remains of their national hero but they did not succeed so how could an ordinary person like Rana without any resources do it?
This is where the story gets interesting and shows the great resolve Rana had to go to Afghanistan and find the grave of the king and dig out the bones so he first went to Dacca to get a Pakistani visa and then journeyed to Ghazni in Afghanistan by land disguised as a Muslim and grew a thick beard to look like one.
It was not difficult for him to find the grave of the king so he made an elaborate plan to dig out the bones in secret in total darkness as it was just by the roadside but video filmed the process. Ghazni is a dangerous area as most of Afghanistan is so he took great risk in doing so knowing that the Taliban would have killed him if they had found out that he was a Hindu removing bones from a grave even if they hated the king.
Sher Singh Rana then returned to India with the remains of the king Prithviraj Chauhan who had suffered ignominy for over nine hundred years in the hands of Muslims there and instantly became a national hero. He had succeeded in his effort when all others had failed so now all India rejoiced at his bravery and his deed because they all understood how much risk he took in escaping from his prison in Delhi and going to a war devastated country like Afghanistan to bring back the bones of the great king. He then surrendered to the authorities and went back to his jail cell voluntarily because he said that the justice system will eventually find him innocent and release him.
Soon he was granted bail and later acquitted. He had always maintained his innocence and said that he had been wrongfully detained for a crime he did not commit. By this time he had spent nearly 14 years of his life in jail but now he is a free man and a national hero.
Source : Google photo of the monument of Prithviraj Chauhan in Ajmer
The great monument of Prithviraj Chauhan is erected in Ajmer in Rajasthan and in many other parts of India where he is remembered as one of the great rulers of India who tried to protect India from the invaders from Afghanistan and died doing so in 1192. He was the last Hindu ruler of India to sit on the throne in Delhi before the Muslim invasion began in earnest of which Mahmud Ghori was only the first.
Indian history is replete with the stories of great bravery of kings like Prithviraj Chauhan who became the legend that the school children read about in their text books. He and his beautiful wife were great rulers who took care of their subjects but fought their enemies tooth and nail and died in the process. He did not invade other countries and force people to change their religion but defended his kingdom to the last drop of his blood. It is a sad story of a king and his queen of great valor and sacrifice.
This led to the subsequent invasion of India by the Moghuls who ruled India for over 350 years until overthrown by another invader called the British but that is another story.
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