Consequences of The Rathore Rebellion During the Reign of Aurangzeb

Copyright: Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi

As pleaded by Khan-i Jahan Kokaltash and other nobles, and not withstanding the niceties of law and tradition which were evoked, the issue of the accession to the gaddi of Jodhpur was not dealt with sympathetically by Aurangzeb. It ultimately resulted in the rebellion of the Rathores and also a continuous struggle throughout the reign of Aurangzeb, i.e., from 1679 till his death with the Rajputs asking that Ajit Singh be declared to the gaddi. War continued for about 20 – 25 years with the result that Aurangzeb was deprived of the services of the Rathore soldiers, especially in the Deccan wars: the Rathores were familiar in fighting in the mountainous regions, a tactic needed in the Deccan of which thus the Mughals were deprived of. This rebellion also resulted in much confusion between Aurangzeb and the Rajputs. The feeling that Aurangzeb was against the Rajputs still prevails.

The Rathore rebellion in continuing for 25 years in one form or the other, contributed in the confusion that Aurangzeb was not only anti-Rajput but also anti-Hindus. The whole issue had started on technicalities – zābita in ast wa zābita in nīst. But the personality of Aurangzeb was hurt because of it.

Another important consequence was that to some extent, the flight of Prince Akbar from Jodhpur and his shelter in the court of Sambhaji, directly involved Aurangzeb in the affairs of the Deccan. Aurangzeb resisted involvement in the Deccan for 22 years and was opposed, as emperor, in the Forward policy being followed in the Deccan. But the flight of Akbar and his shelter in the court of Sambhaji, placed Aurangzeb in a dilemma: it was because of this dilemma that Aurangzeb had to leave north for the Deccan in 1681.

Once the policy was adopted, it had to be accomplished to its logical end and the policy of annexing of the whole of the Deccan involved immense military commitment on the part of the Mughals on the one hand and the dangerous consequences of this process on the other. It will not be safe to argue that the involvement of Aurangzeb in the Deccan was solely because of the flight of Prince Akbar. But it certainly compelled Aurangzeb to get involved. Once this policy was adopted, fully knowing the consequences of the involvement, neither Deccan nor the Mughal Empire would have been the same again. Whether one agrees or not with Sarkar that Spanish Ulcer ruined Napoleon, Deccan Ulcer ruined Aurangzeb. Fact remains that involvement after 1681 had serious repercussions in the functioning of the empire and the apparatus of the empire.

Perhaps if not completely avoided, the process of involvement would have been delayed if Prince Akbar had not fled. Flight of Akbar was a direct result of the Rathore rebellion. But it will be incorrect to assert that as a result of the Rathore rebellion, Aurangzeb became anti-Rajput. The Rajputs continued to serve Aurangzeb till the last days of the empire. And in the last 10 years [1698 – 1707], when Aurangzeb died, there were only 3 generals conducting military operations with their full contingents, against the Marathas: Ram Singh Hada, Dalpat Bundela and Jai Singh Sawai. These three nobles were the only persons who were serving the emperor with their full contingents, as they had a separate income from their watan jagirs.

When the doli of Princess Nadira Begum, the wife of Prince Azam, was surrounded by the Marathas while going from Islampuri (where Aurangzeb was at that time situated) to Gilgit, and no re-inforcements could reach to rescue her, Ram Singh Hada was with the princess with 750 of his soldiers. The surrounding Marathas were around 10,000 in number and wanted to kidnap the princes to dictate terms to Aurangzeb. Since the princess was travelling on a doli, the Hada contingent had to follow on foot. So there was no horse available either. The Marathas surrounded the doli. The contingent of the Hadas was at a distance as the princess observed purdah.

When the doli was surrounded, Nadira Begum sent word to Ram Singh, summoned him and told him that: “asmat-i Rajputiya wa Chaghtaiya yak ast”, i.e., ‘the honor of the Chaghtais is identical with that of the Rajputs.’ “agar īn roz asmat-i Chaghtai raft, ba māra be asmat-i Rajputiya raft!” Ram Singh could understand Persian but could not speak it. So in a broken Persian he replied, ‘the malichhas (the unclean, i.e., the Marathas) will not be permitted even to look at the dola and there is no question of their even coming near it!’

Throughout the 17th Century such stiff resistance was never given to the Marathas as was offered by Ram Singh and his Hada contingents in spite of the heavy odds. Ram Singh Hada ultimately succeeded; around 300 Rajputs and 3-4 sons of Ram Singh Hada lost their lives and true to his words, the malichhas were not even permitted to have a look at the dola of Nadira Begum. This was the confidence between the Rajputs and the Mughals: a Mughal princess at a critical hour could appeal to a Rajput as to a Mughal!

This took place in 1699. So it would be incorrect to say that Aurangzeb lost the Rajputs because of the Rathore rebellion. But it is a fact that he was deprived of good soldiers who could have been of immense use to him in the Deccan.

Apart from the matrimonial alliances and sentimental attachments, the natural interest between the two was also identical. So long as the Mughals expanded or continued to expand, the Rajput states flourished and remained prosperous. When the Mughal Empire declined, as it did in the 18th Century, the grand houses of Rajputana were plundered by the Marathas. So practically throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries the Mughals and the Rajputs swam together and sank together.