Jauhar: A tale of our women who preferred death to being disrobed and raped

17th October 2020

17th October 2020

(The author, passionate on India undiscovered, presents his third and final piece around valiant Rajputs. While the first and second piece was centred around Haldighati, this third one is about the poignant tales of Rajput women who preferred Jauhar over sacrificing their honour).

When did the first Jauhar happen? Well, we know the instance at lest from 1303 CE when Padmavati/Padmini conducted it with 700-odd Rajput women to avoid misery at the hands of dreaded Alauddin Khili. But the other two Jauhars and massacres are lesser known.

The Second Jauhar happened when Rani Karnavati, the widow of Rana Sanga (who was killed at the hands of Babur at the Battle of Khanua) conducted it along with 8,000 brave Rajput Women in 1527 to escape any further humiliation at the hands of Qutub-ud-Din Bahadur Shah, Sultan of Gujarat, who had sensed the opportunity of Rana Sanga demise & attacked the Mewar kingdom with his huge army.

Rani Karnavati appealed to other Rajput rulers to help them save the honour of Chittorgarh. Meanwhile, the rulers advised Rani Karnavati to send both the princes Vikramjit and Udai Singh to Bundi for their safety. Rani Karnavati reached to the Mughal emperor Humayun by sending a Rakhi as a token to accept her as her sister & save Chittor & her honor from Bahadur Shah. However by the time the Mughal Forces had arrived it was too late. The Rajputs were prepared to fight till death with the advancing troops all dressed up in Kesariya clothes and turbans and exchanged paan with each other as a sign of parting. 

Rani Karnavati knew that with such unequal struggle, the Rajput army would surely perish. So she chose the way of Jauhar where women of Chittor led by Rani Karnavati jumped into the pyre of flames. Later the Mughal forces defeated the army of Bahadur Shah but couldn’t save Rani Karnavati. Mughala Emperor Humayun could only get to see the ashes of Rani Karnavati by the time he arrived in the Chittorgarh after his forces broke through the defenses of the Bahadur Shah. However, by that time Bahadur Shah had unleashed a reign of murder, loot & rape of the innocent civilians within Chittorgarh.

The third destruction ofChittorgarh was done by Abu’l-Fath Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar or simply ‘Akbar’. In the spring of 1568 CE, he wanted to conquer Mewar which was being ruled by the 53rd ruler of Mewar dynasty and the fourth son of Rani Karnavati and Rana Sanga, Rana Uday Singh. On the advice of his council of advisors, Rana Uday Singh left the fort to camp in the vast plains of Udaipur. Two brave army chieftains Jaimal and Patta were left behind to defend the fort along with 8,000 Rajput warriors. On the other hand, Akbar laid siege on the fortress.

(The original Jauhar Kund and the “Jauhar Sthal”, now beautified by ASI)

The Rajput army fought heroically. During this situation, Akbar even vowed to visit the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja at Ajmer to pray for divine help for achieving victory. Jaimal and Fatta Sisodiya estimated the incapability of victory the next day so he ordered Jauhar and on the night of February 22, approximately 14,000 women burned themselves down to preserve their honour.

Next day, the gates were opened and all the Rajput soldiers dressed up in saffron robes exchanged betel leaves and charged out bravely to fight the enemies committing Shaakh. Akbar was furious that the siege took so long and ordered the slaughter of more than 5,000 unarmed old men, women, and children of Chittorgarh. This enraged Maharana Pratap to the extent that he made up his mind of never to accept Akbar & was determined to thwart all his advances on Mewar based out of the Kumbhalgarh Fort.

Even today the current Rana of Mewar offers a pooja on behalf of the entire royal family and conducts havan or Yagna in the memory of those departed souls for their eternal peace.

Surya Sarathi Roy is an Operations specialist with a passion of Indian history and Great Epics Ramayana & Mahabharata. He pursues technology to touch lives around him. He runs a blog which showcases India we don’t read in history books.

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