Indian History Part 84 Aurangzeb Section III: Continuing Alienation of the Hindus – The Rajput War

Canberra, 2 February 2021

The Hindu Rajput princes were major allies of Mughal emperors, starting with Akbar and into the beginning of Aurangzeb’s reign, providing large military forces and unstinting, loyal and heroic leadership to the imperial Mughal army. In the chronicles of the day, the glorification of the military exploits of the Rajput princes and their armies overshadows any mention of the Rajput states and their relationship with the Mughal Empire. In a majority of narratives, the Rajput kings and princes are analysed as mere Mughal army commanders—their status as kings who ruled their own kingdoms, and the internal functioning of the Rajput kingdoms are mostly dealt with in a superficial manner. The history of the Rajput kingdoms during this period normally do not find a place in the broader chronicles of the time.  

The Rajput rebellion, which became a long-drawn war against Aurangzeb, provides an interesting insight into the Mughal-Rajput relationship, as well as the connections between the major Rajput clans. In analysing the Rajput War, and the irrevocable split in the amicable Mughal-Rajput relationship, more than one explanation has been put forward by different historians, most of which are true to some degree. There is also some amount of consensus that the rebellion turned war occurred as a repercussion to Aurangzeb’s focused effort to destroy the Hindu leadership in the frenzy of his religious bigotry. Aurangzeb’s unbridled religious persecution of the Hindus forced the Rajput royalty to reappraise their relationship with the Mughals and led them to initiate a national uprising in the defence of their country and religion. The evolving complexities of the relationship between Rajput clans and kingdoms also enveloped the more immediate nature of Mughal oppression. Rebellion became the only option available to the Rajputs who had been scrupulously loyal to the Mughal-Rajput alliance for over a century.

17th Century Rajputana

The land dominated by the Rajput princes, Rajputana, is also called Rajwarra in the Rajasthani language and Rajasthan in modern India. The central geographic feature of the region is the Aravalli Mountain Ranges that extend over 500 miles, from Ahmedabad in the south-west to Delhi in the north-east where it gradually subsides into the Indo-Gangetic Plain. By its orientation, Aravalli Ranges divide Rajputana into two distinct zones; the Western part to the north-west of the Range, dominated by the Thar Desert that contains some of the hottest regions in the sub-continent, where in the 17th century only scrub plants of the desert grew and cultivation was restricted to minimal areas around Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Nagor; and the Eastern part to the south and east of the Range, which contain sloping plateaus and monsoonal river basins where the soil is more alluvial and arable.

The two zones are distinctly different, and this peculiar geography has been an impediment to the political unification of the region. On the other hand, the ruggedness of the terrain permitted relatively easy defence of a desert or mountain fortress, which in turn made it simple for petty kingdoms to survive unharmed in relative security and independence. Therefore, Rajputana was divided into innumerable independent, or semi-independent, principalities. The same geography that fostered the proliferation princely states also engendered a distinctly parochial outlook amongst the people that ultimately proved to be their undoing, and in time fatal, to many of the principalities.

The parochial nature of the nobility made it impossible for the smaller principalities to unite, even for mutual benefit. Clan rivalries that ran for generations and monumental personal egos of the nobility prevented political alliances from taking root and made these small states easy pickings for a determined invader. It is a recorded fact that some chieftains cooperated more readily with external invaders than with other Rajput chiefs or clans. It is not an exaggeration to state that a distinct lack of communal feeling, attachment and empathy towards other clans combined with an intense concern for personal status and welfare among the leadership reduced this vibrant and extremely brave group of warriors of unmatched chivalry to permanent secondary status in the strategic realm of the sub-continent.

Around 1560, Akbar had incorporated Rajputana as an imperial province, a subah, to the empire. Akbar’s subah stretched from around Ajmer in the east to Jaisalmer in the west and the extremities of the Ajmer region in the north to Banswara in the south. Important zinc and copper mines were situated in the province, and according to contemporary reports, it was one of the richest in the empire. Rajputana also straddled the major commercial link between Delhi/Agra and the western seaports of Gujarat and was therefore of strategic importance to the well-being of the Mughal empire. By the time of Aurangzeb’s reign, there were three major Rajput kingdoms, exercising independence and nominally accepting Mughal suzerainty; the Kachhwahas of Amber, capital at Jaipur; the Rathores of Marwar, capital at Jodhpur; and the Sisodias of Mewar with their capital at Udaipur. The actual territorial borders of their kingdoms were somewhat fluid and depended on the relative strength of individual rulers. However, the three kingdoms maintained a relatively stable status quo.

Background to the Immediate Cause of the War

Raja Jaswant Singh Rathore ruling Marwar was the senior most Hindu king in the Mughal court, and Marwar one of the most powerful Hindu kingdoms in the sub-continent. Jaswant Singh was a major casualty of the Mughal-Afghan war, dying in the Khyber Pass on 10th December 1678. Unfortunately, his only son Jagat Singh had died earlier in Afghanistan and therefore, on Jaswant’s death the kingdom was left heirless. As the overlord of the kingdom, the decision of succession was left to Aurangzeb. At the same time the vacant throne brought out into the open the Rajput fractiousness in such matters. The strongest claimant to the throne, Indra Singh, a grandson of Jaswant’s elder brother was not acceptable to almost the entire Rathore clan and Rajput nobility.

The situation was further complicated by the fact that two of Jaswant’s queens were pregnant at the time of his death. Aurangzeb, who was inclined to appoint Indra Sigh to the throne, was forced to wait for the queens to give birth before deciding on the succession. On the Raja’s death Aurangzeb had send Mughal officers to Marwar to administer the kingdom in the absence of a ruling king. They had escheated the dead Raja’s personal property in the name of the Mughal emperor, since the dead Raja owed large sums of money to the imperial treasury. This action was completely legal but soured the relationship between the Marwar nobles and the Mughal officers.

More importantly, the confiscation of the Raja’s property while he had died in Mughal service and subsequent actions initiated by Aurangzeb created anxiety in Marwar and other Rajput royal houses regarding his real intentions. The evolving situation became more volatile when Aurangzeb personally moved to Ajmer and the Muslim Mughal officers administering Marwar started to demolish temples across the country and build mosques on those sites. Meanwhile both the expectant queens had delivered boys. The situation became incendiary when Aurangzeb refused to name either of the princes as the successor to their father, reasoning that Mughal tradition did not permit a queen to be the regent during the minority of a king and nor would he appoint a noble to undertake the role. Of course, there was no such tradition, but Aurangzeb needed to justify his appointment of Indra Singh as king. Creating a fake reason to enforce a decision that he had already made was a familiar strategy that Aurangzeb employed to hide behind, like the fake charges he accused his brothers of and the kangaroo-court trials that he held before murdering them immediately after the war of succession.

Believing he had stabilised Marwar, Aurangzeb returned to Delhi on 12th April 1679. Immediately on reaching Delhi he imposed the jiziya tax on the entire country. The Rajputs, especially in Marwar, now believed that all Aurangzeb’s actions were inter-connected and had the sinister purpose of annexing Marwar. This impression was not without reason. Aurangzeb’s real objective for his actions remain obscure and have not been analysed conclusively, it continues to remain enigmatic. Superficially the concept of annexing Marwar would seem an act of no consequence or benefit to the Mughal Empire—Marwar was already a vassal state; it was no more a rich province, but a semi-arid poor region—nothing much was going to be gained by the imposition of direct Mughal rule. So, what prompted Aurangzeb to place such importance to controlling Marwar, prompting him to personally move to Ajmer to supervise the action?

Contemporary records confirm that Aurangzeb was already planning to complete his interrupted conquest of the Deccan. The shortest military and communications route from Delhi to the Deccan, as well as to the ports of western Gujarat, ran through the heart of Rajput territory with Marwar straddling it. Therefore, ensuring full control over the Rajputana region was strategically important for the future campaigns that the Mughals planned to wage. Even so, it is not clear whether Aurangzeb had conceived a master plan for the engulfment of the entire Rajputana, within which Marwar was only one, albeit critical, part.

Irrespective of the plans that he may or may not have prepared for the future of Rajputana, one fact remains unquestionably clear—Aurangzeb had absolutely no time or regard for the sensibilities of the Rajputs and treated them with contemptuous disdain. His predecessors, including Shah Jahan had scrupulously avoided the destruction or discomfiture of the old Hindu royal houses, since these dynasties were crucial for the continued stability of the Mughal kingdom. Conversely, Aurangzeb regarded the Hindu royalty as direct impediments to his ambitious dream of ‘Islamising’ India; in his calculations, the stronger and more powerful the Hindu royal house, greater their impediment to his grand design. This dislike, bordering on the loathing, was particularly directed at the Rajput kingdoms that Aurangzeb considered to be the standard bearers of Hinduism—Amber, Marwar and Mewar—which promoted and patronised the distinct Hindu-Indian culture, which was anathema to the Mughal ruler. The Rajput princes also served as symbols of the high stature conferred on the Hindus and the esteem in which they were held within, what in Aurangzeb’s mind was, a purely Muslim country.

From whichever direction or point of view it is discussed, there is no doubt that Aurangzeb definitely had intentions of discrediting, weakening and if possible, eliminating the Rajputs. He feared, rightly as it turned out, that the Rajput royalty could become the rallying point for the Hindus against his religious policies and persecution aimed at greater Islamisation of his kingdom. As far as Marwar was concerned, Aurangzeb harboured a distinct dislike for Raja Jaswant Singh Rathore, since he had sided with Dara during the war of succession. Aurangzeb was a petty-minded and vengeful bigot who would have liked nothing more than to seize the opportunity to ruin the ‘infidel’ Raja’s kingdom permanently.

The Rathore Rebellion     

In June 1679, Aurangzeb placed Indra Singh Rathore on the throne of Marwar, against the wishes of the entire Rathore clan, and collected 3.6 million rupees from the newly appointed raja of Marwar as succession fee. The intention seems to have been to sow division amongst the Rajputs by creating pro- and anti-Indra Singh groups. This ruse failed since the entire Rathore clan was unanimously opposed to the new raja. Mughal officers who had come as an interim measure to administer the kingdom had to stay behind to prop up the unpopular Indra Singh.

Now came a twist in the tale. Jaswant Singh’s widows reached Delhi with the surviving infant prince, Ajit Singh, the other child having died a few weeks after birth. The nobles accompanying the queens pressed the claim of Ajit Singh to the throne. Aurangzeb, canny as ever, decided to compromise—he agreed to transfer the throne to Ajit Singh on his coming of age, but imposed two conditions of his own. Ajit Singh would be brought up in the Mughal harem and had to convert to Islam. The proposal was in line with Aurangzeb’s policy of enticing senior Hindu nobles to convert to Islam; earlier he had bestowed the zamindaris of Deogarh, Mau and Jogigarh to rival claimants who has agreed to convert; and later in 1703, Aurangzeb followed the same policy, offering the throne to the captive Maratha Prince Shahu, Shivaji’s grandson, on condition that he convert to Islam.

Faced with a no-win situation, the Rathore’s decided to rescue their prince at any cost. The primary issue here was political and not religious, although the political implications were being brought about by overt and bigoted religious policies. At this juncture, the Rathore clan was fortunate to have a sagacious leader in Durga Das, the son of Jaswant Singh’s loyal minister Askaran. Durga Das has been described by J. N. Chaudhuri, in The History and Culture of the Indian People Volume VII: The Mughal Empire, as a man of ‘undaunted heroism, inflexible determination, unswerving loyalty, and combined in himself all the requisite qualities of an efficient general’. Durga Das also combined his unrivalled valour with shrewd diplomacy. Rathore bards would sing in perpetuity, ‘Eh mata put esa jin jesa Durgadas’, wishing every Rajput mother a son like Durgadas.

The Loss of Mutual Trust

From the time of Akbar, for over a century, the Rajputs had enjoyed a special status in the Mughal Empire. The Rajput kings and chieftains were nominally vassals of the emperor but were virtually independent rulers. This arrangement had for long satisfied Rajput pride and safeguarded Mughal prestige.

After Aurangzeb placed himself on the throne of Delhi, this delicate balance started to get upset with the crucial role of Rajput nobility in the Mughal administration declining rapidly. The Mughal emperor had started to induct other Hindu martial races, such as the Marathas, into the imperial army and by the second half of Aurangzeb’s rule, there were more Maratha officers in the Mughal army than Rajputs. As a result, for the first time in over a century, the Rajputs had stopped being a critical element in Mughal military campaigns.

This altered power balance in the imperial army and administration, further exacerbated Aurangzeb’s open disdain for Rajput valour and bravery, openly deriding it as being foolhardy. Aurangzeb was not a strategist or even a tactical warrior—although personally brave—he was an arm-chair tactician who had forgotten the quantum of Rajput blood that had flowed for more than a century to ensure the conquest and further stability of the empire that he was bent on Islamising.

On the other hand, the Rajputs also did not have any regard for Aurangzeb and mistrusted the intent of all his actions. By his religious bigotry, Aurangzeb had removed the corner stones of the foundation on which the Mughal edifice had been painstakingly built.   

The Mughal-Rajput alliance was now irrevocably broken, replaced by an environment of all-pervading mutual distrust. 

Aurangzeb now sent a force to take control of Ajit Singh and the queens, who were residing in Jaswant’s mansion in Delhi. The Rathore nobility accompanying them divided themselves into two groups, one opposing the Mughal forces who had arrived and the other under the leadership of Durga Das spiriting away the prince, and the queens dressed as soldiers, to Marwar. A boy of the same age as Ajit Singh was substituted for the Mughals to ‘capture’. The story here has two versions, one states that this boy was taken to the Mughal harem and considered the actual prince for some time. The second version does not mention any substitution, but states that frustrated at being thwarted from capturing the Rajput prince, Aurangzeb took a milkman’s son to the harem and proclaimed him Ajit Singh, while at the same time declaring Durga Das’s protégé an imposter. The milkman’s son was ‘converted’ to Islam and renamed Muhammadi Raja. Aurangzeb continued to call the real prince ‘Ajit-i-jali’, meaning the duplicate Ajit. Durga Das in the meantime kept the real prince safe in the interior of Marwar, in the thick of the Aravalli Ranges, and prepared for the inevitable Mughal deluge.

The Mughal – Rajput War

By spiriting the prince away to their kingdom, the Rathores had effectively taken up arms against Mughal imperialism. Aurangzeb had no option but to respond with the launch of a military campaign. He once again moved to Ajmer on 25th September 1679, and send his son Akbar with a large army against the Rathores. The Mughal army easily swept aside the brave but insufficient Rajput resistance, and Akbar entered Jodhpur, the Rathore capital, almost without resistance.

A Rani’s Offer

There are unconfirmed reports, that Rani Hadi, Jaswant’s widow, offered to destroy all the temples in the kingdom if Aurangzeb would recognise her son Ajit Singh as the raja and let her be the regent. An alternative story claims that she suggested the entire kingdom of Marwar be converted to imperial Mughal crown land, rather than give it to Indra Singh to rule. The second version is plausible, given the virulent and bitter nature of internecine feuds amongst the Rajputs. However, nothing came of these proposals, if indeed they had been made.

In any case, with or without the permission of the Rani, several temples were destroyed and a number of towns including Jodhpur, was plundered by the occupying Mughal army. There is no mention of the newly appointed raja, Indra Singh, and his status during the invasion and occupation of what was essentially his kingdom and capital.

Mewar Is Invaded

Mewar was ruled by the Sisodia chief, Rana Raj Singh, who had been watching the escalating animosity of the Mughal ruler towards Rajputs in general, and Marwar in particular. Raj Singh realised the escalating pressure on the Rajput clans. Further, he had been ordered by Aurangzeb to pay jiziya for his entire kingdom, which was intended to humiliate the Rana, to say the least. Aurangzeb had also accused Raj Singh of repairing the fort at Chitor, against the terms of an old treaty signed at the time of Akbar with the then rana of Mewar. He also instructed the Rajput king to capture the fugitive Rathore prince, since Ajit Singh’s mother was a princess of Mewar.

Even with so many provocations, Raj Singh, a sagacious ruler if ever there was one, refused to be drawn into a hasty war with the powerful Mughal emperor. He ceded two districts in lieu of payment of the jizya that had been demanded and went so far as to declare that he did not support the Rathore actions. However, these conciliatory actions were not sufficient to mollify Aurangzeb who ordered the Mughal army to invade Mewar. Rana Raj Singh, unable to defend the plains against the numerically superior Mughal forces who also had the advantage of superior firepower, retreated to the hills. His capital Udaipur and the Chitor fort were occupied by Mughal forces who ransacked the capital and destroyed all temples in both the towns.

With these actions that drove the Rajputs into the hills, Aurangzeb seemed to have been satisfied with their humiliation and believed that the great royal houses of the Rajputs had been sufficiently humbled. The Mughal ruler, who had personally reached Udaipur by this time, now returned to Ajmer, leaving his son, Prince Akbar, in Mewar with an army. There was already a distinctive Mughal military presence in Marwar. However, the two Mughal contingents were geographically separated and could not have come to mutual assistance rapidly if they were attacked. Aurangzeb now believed that Rajputana was stabilised and would remain at peace. This was the wrong conclusion to be drawn from the events that had transpired—no doubt, the battle had been won, but the war was only beginning.

The War of Common Cause

The Rajputs now resorted to guerrilla warfare, with the Rathores of Marwar and Sisodias of Mewar making common cause against the Mughals. They feared that Aurangzeb was conniving to divide them so that they could be individually exterminated. After more than a century in support, the Rajputs had taken up arms against the spreading Mughal Empire. The Mughals and Rajputs would never again be united in battle. The guerrilla campaign focused on harrying Prince Akbar; the Mughal communication lines were continually interdicted and even his own camp was attacked one night. The Rajput leadership adopted a strategy of attrition, raiding Mughal outposts at times and places of their choice to inflict maximum casualties and destruction. Gradually, the Mughal forces in both Marwar and Mewar were placed under extreme pressure and became terrorised.

Aurangzeb was furious at the turn of events. He removed Akbar from Mewar, transferring him to Marwar and placed Prince Azam in charge of Mewar, establishing him in Chitor. The emperor drew up an ambitious plan for a three-pronged invasion of the Rajput strongholds in the Aravalli Ranges, to be led from three different directions by the three princes—Muazzam, Azam and Akbar. However, this plan did not materialise as envisaged because the three princes were incapable of putting together and executing such a complex and ambitious effort. Only Akbar managed to make some headway, reaching Desuri in southern Rajputana, where he halted in exhaustion.

The Rajputs were not only brave and valorous warriors, but also well-versed in the art of diplomacy and intrigue. Realising that Akbar was almost disgusted with the constant badgering from his father for not having progressed with the invasion plan for the hills, despite his relative success compared to his brothers who had not even set out towards the hills, the Rajputs planted the idea of rebellion in Akbar’s head. They informed Akbar that he would have their unstinting support if he attempted to usurp the throne from his father. The gullible prince was swept away by ambition and took up their proposal in earnest. 

A Prince Rebels

By inciting Akbar to rebel, the Rajputs successfully managed to convert their rebellion against Mughal religious persecution into a low-scale civil war for the Mughal throne itself. Although it was not foreseen at this juncture, Akbar’s rebellion would subsequently lead Aurangzeb into a self-destructive war against the Marathas. Both Durga Das in Marwar and Rana Raj Singh in Mewar assured Akbar of their full support. Akbar, relatively young though he was, had dreams of becoming the great unifier of Hindustan like his illustrious ancestor for whom he was named. However, Akbar was also pragmatic enough to understand that at the end of his father’s rule he would have to fight for his inheritance or lose his life in the bargain. The Mughal succession had degenerated into civil war and fratricide from the time of Jahangir. At this stage Aurangzeb was 63 and Akbar 23 years old—Akbar felt that a succession struggle was imminent.

Akbar was Aurangzeb’s favourite son and, unlike his brothers and other nobles, was not in awe of his taciturn father. When informed of Akbar’s intent and preparations to rebel, Aurangzeb did not believe the report and did not take any actions to contain it. The proposed rebellion was further delayed because of the death of Rana Raj Singh on 22nd October 1680 and the succession of his son, Jai Singh, to the throne. After settling down as king, Jai Singh also agreed to aid Akbar in his effort to usurp the throne from his father.

On 1st January 1681, Akbar declared himself the emperor of Delhi and started his march against Aurangzeb who was then camped at Ajmer. He was accompanied by a large, combined Rathore and Sisodia force. The emperor was almost defenceless at this time, since he only had a small force with him. Akbar’s forces outnumbered the imperial forces by as much as five to one. However, Akbar committed a tactical blunder that undermined all the advantages that he had at the beginning—instead of hurrying to cover the 170 kilometres to Ajmer from his location, he whiled away time in a leisurely manner. Aurangzeb hurriedly called for reinforcements, which arrived in the form of Muazzam and his army. By the time the two forces came face-to-face at Deorai, Akbar’s advantages had been neutralised and the window of opportunity had closed.

Deorai was the same battlefield in which Aurangzeb had inflicted a decisive victory over his elder brother Dara Shikoh during the earlier war of succession. However, in this instance no battle took place. Aurangzeb now resorted to his proven tactics of deceit and intrigue. He sent fake letters to Akbar, carefully planned to fall into the hands of the Rajput chiefs, congratulating him for luring the entire Rathore and Sisodia clans, ‘uncultured barbarians’, into the pre-planned Mughal trap. At the same time, Aurangzeb threatened Akbar’s commander-in-chief, Tahavvur Khan with the defilement of his family, if he continued to support Akbar. Tahavvur defected to the imperial army and was murdered by Aurangzeb’s personal guard. The Rajputs had already got hold of Aurangzeb’s letter, as was intended, and the defection of Tahavvur Khan convinced them that they were indeed being led into a trap. They left Akbar’s camp in the night and rode off home. Seeing the Rajputs leave, large numbers of Akbar’s forces defected to the imperial army.

Akbar was left with only a few soldiers of his personal bodyguards on the morning when battle was to be joined. Prudence prevailed and Akbar fled in the wake of the Rajputs, rather than fight and bear certain defeat and its consequences. Akbar evaded capture by the pursuing imperial forces and caught up with the Rajputs, who then realised that they had been tricked by the canny emperor. Characteristically, they took Akbar under their protection. Frustrated at not having captured Akbar, Aurangzeb took out his wrath on his own favourite daughter and Akbar’s sister Zebunnisa, who had supported Akbar. She was confined in the fort of Salimgarh.

The Rajputs were true to their ideal of hospitality and chivalry, even though deceit had been the weapon used against them. Durga Das personally led a contingent of 500 selected soldiers and escorted Akbar through Rajputana, Khandesh and Baglana to the Deccan, to seek shelter with the Maratha king Sambhaji. It was hoped that the Maratha king would assist Akbar to claim the Mughal throne. Akbar stayed at Pale, a village near Goa, as a guest of Sambhaji on a daily allowance of 300 rupees, for six years. Durga Das, true to his assumed responsibility to protect the Mughal prince, stayed with him for the duration. In February 1687, when all hopes of Maratha assistance to capture the throne of Delhi had been exhausted, Akbar embarked for Persia, where he was received with royal honours by the Shah. However, the Shah refused to provide military assistance for an invasion of Hindustan. Akbar died in Persia in 1704, three years before his father Aurangzeb.      

Aftermath

Akbar’s dream of a unified Hindustan was a nightmare for Aurangzeb. Throughout Akbar’s rebellion, Aurangzeb had repeatedly attempted to lure the prince back into the Mughal fold. Akbar, fully aware of his father’s deceitful and vengeful nature, had refused to be enticed. Under these circumstances, Aurangzeb was forced to make a deal with Mewar and start his move towards the Deccan in order to contain the rising power of the Marathas, with whom Akbar had taken refuge. He was acutely aware that with Akbar’s collusion, the Maratha king could threaten the very legitimacy of Mughal rule and make an indirect bid for the throne of Delhi.

Aurangzeb’s hurried departure from Rajputana was also fortuitous for Rana Jai Singh, who was reeling under continuous Mughal pressure. Mewar got a much-needed reprieve from the possibility of being fully crushed under the Mughal might. Although they had continued guerrilla action without a break, Mewar was at the end of its tether and the peace suited the weary Rajputs. The Peace Agreement was signed in June 1681, on honourable terms for both parties. Aurangzeb’s forced shift in priority to the Deccan saved Mewar from almost certain annihilation.

Marwar was in even worse shape, although they too continued to mount sporadic guerrilla raids on the Mughals. In 1687, Durga Das returned after Akbar had been seen off to Persia and gave direction to the Rathore guerrilla campaign. He brought out Ajit Singh, now eight years old, from concealment and made him the de facto Rana. The Rathores thereafter won some spectacular battlefield victories, after which they arrived at a negotiated peace with the Mughal commander Shujaet Khan in 1694. According to the treaty, Ajit Singh was given three parganas in southern Rajputana as his jagir. He was not returned to the throne of Marwar. The Rathores, tired of years of war, hiding and flight accepted the deal as a chance to settle down and recuperate. When Aurangzeb died in 1707, Ajit Singh, now a 28-year-old commander of Rajput forces, led the Rathores boldly into Jodhpur, expelled the Mughal commander, and once again established Rathore rule over Marwar. This ended the 30-year Rathore struggle—finally in triumph.

The long-drawn Rajput War did not cripple the Mughal Empire. However, it was sufficiently damaging to permanently dent the imperial Mughal prestige and concept of invincibility. More importantly, the uneasy truce made the Mughal lines of communication into the Deccan extremely vulnerable—and Deccan was the emperor’s latest priority. Unknown to him, it was also where the Mughal Empire’s fate was going to be decided. At the strategic level, more important factors were at play. The Rajput War, once and for all ruptured the Mughal-Rajput politico-military partnership, which had so far been the foundation for the prosperity and stability of the Mughal Empire. At the warfighting level, without the Rajputs, the imperial army moving to invade the Deccan did not have sufficient commanders and soldiers of calibre needed to win against the Marathas. Without taking into cognisance this critical factor, Aurangzeb marched into the Deccan to start his last and losing military campaign. The path to decline and downfall of the Mughals was being carved in stone.

© [Sanu Kainikara] [2021]
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About Sanu Kainikara

Sainik School Kazhakuttam (Kerala), National Defence Academy 39/A, 108 Pilot's Course IAF, fighter pilot, QFI, FCL, psc, HACC, Voluntary Retirement as Wing Commander. Canberra-based Defence Analyst specialising in air power and national security. PhD in International Politics from University of Adelaide Executive Masters in Public Adminsitration (ANZSOG) Adjunct Professor, University of New South Wales, Distinguished Fellow Institute For Regional Security (IFRS) Distinguished Fellow Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS)

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