Causes of The Rathore Rebellion of 1679

Raja Jaswant Singh Rathore

Copyright: Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi

In December 1678, Maharaja Jaswant Singh, the Rathore ruler of Jodhpur died at Jamrup in Afghanistan. At the time of his death, Maharaja Jaswant Singh had no son. But it was reported to Aurangzeb that two ranis of Jaswant Singh were expectant. At the time of his death, Jaswant Singh was indebted to the State. So Aurangzeb ordered that efforts should be made to realize the amount from the property of the deceased Raja, as was the customary law. But pending any final decision regarding the conferring of tika on any one, Aurangzeb waited for the birth of the child. Under the Mughals, the conferring of the tika had a political and administrative significance; it meant recognition of a particular person as a raja of a particular place by the emperor. The tika was applied on the fore head of the raja by the emperor himself.

After the death of Jaswant Singh, Rani Hadi, the chief queen of the late Raja, was pleading that the tika should be conferred on her. But according to the law of succession followed by the Mughals in respect of conferring the tika, it could not be conferred on a widow (who had no status in the Hindu law).

So the weakness in the Rajput case was that they had no candidate on whom the tika could be conferred.

In the meantime, one of the Ranis gave birth to a son who was named Ajit Singh. After the birth of Ajit, the situation slightly changed because now the Rajputs had a candidate for the gaddi of Jodhpur. Initially, Aurangzeb had not doubted the genuineness of Ajit Singh, which is evident from the fact that the fort of Pokhran which had been assigned to Askaran by Aurangzeb, was cancelled on the plea that a son had been born to Jaswant Singh.

But again, the weakness in the Rajput case was that the tika could not be conferred on an infant. At this stage, Aurangzeb ordered that Jodhpur be included in the khalisa.

A question which can be raised here is: why did Aurangzeb wait for 4 or 5 months after the death of Jaswant Singh for passing an order of inclusion of Jodhpur into the khalisa? Answer to this is that as it was reported to Aurangzeb that the two Ranis of the late Raja were expecting, Aurangzeb wanted that if they turned out to be daughters, the task would have been comparatively easy. However, even if they turned out to be sons, it would hardly make a difference as the tika could not be conferred on a child.

The Rathores resented the inclusion of Jodhpur into the khalisa. Durgadas fled with Ajit Singh to Jodhpur. Rani Hadi, the chief queen of the late Jaswant Singh protested against the order of the inclusion on the ground that no bhumiya (zamindar) had ever been dispossessed from their watan (native land). Why were Rathores who had done so much distinguished service, being humiliated and asked to leave Jodhpur at a time when ceremonies of the deceased Raja were being held? Durgadas and Sona Bhati spear-headed the cause of the Rathores and pleaded that the order for inclusion of Jodhpur into khalisa be revoked and the tika be conferred on Ajit Singh.

The resentment of the Rathores was genuine, but the difficulty with the Mughals was also genuine. The tika could not be conferred on a widow or a child. Sir Jadunath Sarkar has made an attempt to explain the causes of the Rathore Rebellion in the usual framework of the so-called hostility of Aurangzeb towards Hindus and the Rajputs. Sarkar, being a ‘scientific historian’, however concedes that there was a difficulty in conferring a tika on the widow – a technical hitch, and again, on conferring a tika on a child.

So the fact that the tika could not be conferred on either is conceded by Sarkar. But, he says, it could have been conferred on Inder Singh, who was the grandson of Amar Singh, the elder brother of Jaswant Singh, that is, a very near blood relation of Jaswant Singh.

Sarkar further argued that Inder Singh was a very seasoned commander and an accomplished general serving in the Deccan as a mansabdar of 1500/1000. So if Aurangzeb was honest enough to confer the tika on a suitable candidate, then he should have been given; but the territory was instead included in to the khalisa because, Sarkar argues, Aurangzeb wanted to deprive the Hindu community from a powerful centre against his anti-Hindu policies.

Because of the protests of the Rathores, and due to the indignation amongst the Rathores against the inclusion of Jodhpur into the khalisa, Aurangzeb changed his mind. At this stage, he doubted the genuineness of Ajit Singh being the legitimate heir to Jaswant. He doubted him to be the son of a milk woman or a maid-servant and as such, no significance was to be attached to him.

Fortunately for us, all despatches of the waqi’a nigar of Ajmer, which were sent to the emperor, are preserved and are a part of a two volume manuscript in the Asafiya Library, Hyderabad. A transcript of this ms. is present in our library as well. These despatches provide a first hand information regarding events which took place in 1679-80 and a correct appraisal of the situation as the waqi’a nigar is writing for the exclusive eyes of the emperor. To be fair to Sir Jadunath, these despatches were not discovered in his time. They provide extremely useful information regarding the Rathore rebellion.

The information contained by the waqa’i Ajmer have been used by M.Athar Ali in his article on the causes of the Rathore Rebellion which was published in the PIHC, Delhi, 1961.

Thus having in view the reaction of the Rathores against the inclusion of Jodhpur territory in the khalisa Aurangzeb cancelled the order of inclusion and conferred the tika on Inder Singh for a consideration of 36 lakhs of rupees. Another claimant was Karan Singh, who was not so closely connected but offered 45 lakhs. His offer and claim was rejected by the emperor. So the money motive is to be ruled out.

After the appointment of Inder Singh as the Raj of Jodhpur, the Rathores went to the extremes, sharply reacting to his appointment. Rani Hadi made a petition to Aurangzeb that if you want the destruction of the temples, we are ready for that and would do so willingly, but that the appointment of Inder Singh should be revoked. The inclusion of the territory to khalisa was better than the appointment of Inder Singh.

Had Aurangzeb been in spreading Islam or in destruction of the temples, he would have accepted and welcomed the petition and the proposal of Rani Hadi. But the plea of the Rani was rejected. Rani Hadi now took the extreme step of filing a suite in the court of Qazi Hamid praying to know what the legal position in Shariat was. He however boycotted the petition.

Two questions arise at this stage. Why was Inder Singh not acceptable to the Rathores at all? Reason was that Inder Singh was the grandson of Amar Singh, the elder brother of Jaswant Singh, who had been deprived and humiliated by Jaswant Singh and his family. Durgadas and the other Rathore leaders, and the widows of the late Jaswant feared that if he was appointed and allowed to come from Bikaner where he was presently residing, he might take revenge on behalf of his grandfather and other family members.

These internal tensions, strains and stresses were known to Aurangzeb, while Sir Jadunath seems to be either unaware or forgetful of them. When the appointment of Inder Singh was not cancelled, the Rathores made it clear that they would not let him enter.

So the cause of the Rathore Rebellion was the appointment of Inder Singh as the new ruler and not the inclusion of Jodhpur to the khalisa.

Let us now come to the fallacies of Sarkar. If his argument is to be accepted at the face value, that Aurangzeb wanted to deprive the people of a Hindu centre against the anti-Hindu policies of Aurangzeb, that objective could have been achieved easily by appointing Ajit Singh as the Raja of Jodhpur, even if his patrimony in the eyes of Aurangzeb was doubtful, as for about 20 years, he would have been incapable of ruling. Rathores would have been satisfied and Aurangzeb could have named an administrator to administer the territory till Ajit Singh was a child. This could have been the easiest way to weaken Jodhpur. Aurangzeb did not do that as Aurangzeb wanted Jodhpur to flourish as (a) it should flourish so that a continuous supply of soldiers be continued from the rank of the Rathores, who were excellent soldiers; and (b) the law and order be maintained as Jodhpur was situated on the highway of the trade route from Agra to Gujarat.

Sarkar committed a mistake while giving the reasons for the rebellion. The depth of the bitterness of the Rathores – Durgdas, Sonar Bhati and Rani Hadi – was against Inder Singh. And when the order was not withdrawn by Aurangzeb, the Rathores asked the qile’dar of Jodhpur, Iftekhar Khan, to leave the place as they were starting a rebellion.