Battle of Gangwana (1741): 1000 Rathors of Bhakt Singh against 35000 enemy: The greatest cavalry charge in Rajput history

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One of the most outstanding examples of staunch determination where the handful of Rathors fought against a much bigger army of Maharaja Swai Jai Singh in order to save the honor and pride of Marwar.

The Battle of Gangwana was fought between the Rathore of Bhakt Singh and the combined armies of Jaipur Mughals and other Rajput clans under the leader of ever powerful leadership of Swai Jai Singh. This battle can be considered an ideal example of the greatest cavalry charge in the history of Rajputs and India. The Rathors who were only about 1000 collided their swords against an army of 35,000 consisting of several kingdoms and eminent military personnel.

Bakht Singh of Marwar 
Battle of Gangwana
Image of Bhakt Singh Rathore

The charge led by Bhakt Singh and his Rathors has been regarded as fierce as the charge made by Napoleon and his men in the Battle of Waterloo.  Most of the Indians are not aware of the fierce battle of Gangwana and its significance.

In this article, we will shed light on this forgotten yet interesting saga of bravery, pride, and honor which made the battle of Gangwana an indelible part of Indian history.    

Background: Marwar After Maharaja Ajit Singh

Maharaja Abhay Singh ascended the throne of Marwar in the year 1724 after the assassination of Maharaja Ajit Singh. The assassination of Ajit Singh is believed to have been planned by Abhay Singh and Bhakt Singh. Bhakt Singh got control over Nagaur after this incident.

Swai Jai Singh of Jaipur also played an important part in this assassination. Furthermore, Maharaja Jai Singh being the most successful and consequently powerful ruler of this period had interfered in the politics of several neighboring Rajput kingdoms in Jodhpur.

Maharaja Swai Jai Singh of Jaipur

On the other hand, the newly crowned king i.e. Abhay Singh wanted to expand the Marwar territories and for this reason, he launched an assault on the neighboring kingdom of Bikaner. Abhay Singh captured several regions of the outskirts of Bikaner.

At that moment the ruler of Bikaner was unable to stop the advance of the invading army of the Rathors. In order to save his kingdom the Raja of Bikaner asked the aid from the only power that might offer some resistance against the Rathors of Abhay Singh.

Maharaja Swai Jai Singh received the ministers of the Raja of Bikaner and promised him to protect his kingdom at all costs. Later the combined armies of Jaipur, Bundi, Kota, Karauli, and others marched against Jodhpur the capital of the Rathors.

Maharaja Abhay Singh later decided to settle terms with the combined armies of the invading forces of Jai Singh.

Note: Maharana Jagat Singh II also supported Swai Jai Singh.

Due to this Abhay Singh was forced to sign a peace treaty with Jai Singh and a sum of rupees twenty lakhs was to be given to Jaipur as Fauj-Kharch. Battle Raja Bhakt Singh felt disheartened after hearing that his elder had signed a truce with Maharaja Swai Jai Singh who had come to plunder his country.

Bhakt Singh and the Battle of Gangwana

For the Rathors who were known for their dauntless bravery, it was an act of shame to sign a truce without giving a pitch battle to the enemy. Bhakt Singh the ruler of Nagaur all of sudden went to his brother Maharaja Abhay Singh to offer a battle to the forces of Jaipur.

In return, the Maharaja issued a general order, and suddenly all the Rathors of Marwar assembled themselves in order to save their pride and honor. Some sources suggest the number of troops that went with Bhakt Singh was about 1000 while other sources suggest that the Rathore army was about 5,000 strong.

Note: However generally the accepted strength of the Rathor army in this battle was given as 1000 men.

When the news of this attack reached Jaipur, Jai Singh immediately gathered his troops supported by the Hadas, the Gours, Umed Singh of Shahpur, Mughals, and others. The combined armies of Swai Jai Singh and his loyal allies were about 35,000 strong which might prove too much for the handful of Rathors.

When both sides met on the battlefield of Gangwana on 21 March 1741 near Ajmer the heavily outnumbered Rathors of Bhakt Singh were pumped by their leader’s fiery speech which goes like this: Nagaur is far far away from this place and the enemy is just in front. No matter what comparison there may be in numbers, the battlements of Ajmer, Jodhpur, and Nagaur are looking at your brave deeds. If any person considers his relatives, hearth, and home dearer, the road is open for him.

None of the Rathore cavalrymen moved a bit after these epic words from their dauntless leader and it was the answer that Bhakt Singh had hoped. After this, he ordered to charge the enemy with full potential.

The Charge of the Rathores

With the chant of Har Har Mahadev, the Rathors charged the 35,000 troops of Swai Jai Singh. The charge from the heavily outnumbered Rathors was so fierce that it shattered the formation of Jai Singh’s army. The Rathors penetrated deep into Jaipur’s army and crushed everything that came in front of them.

A complete bloodshed occurred in which both sides lost their finest men. According to Jadunath Sarkar had described the gallant charge of Bhakts in his own words as like Tigers fell upon a flock of sheep.

According to several accounts, the Rathors lost around 4700 (930 on other sources where the initial strength of the Rathore army was about 1000) of their bravest men while the number of casualty of Jaipur and his allies were about 24,000 (12000 dead while the rest were wounded badly).

Bhakt Singh also got heavily injured in this battle which lasted for about four hours. The Rathors inflicted heavy casualties on their opponent’s army. Later Bhakt Singh retreated from the battlefield after the inception of the artillery fire from Mughal generals which generated confusion among the remaining Rathors band. Both sides claim victory in this battle.

However, it is believed that Swai Jai Singh never recovered from this setback and the damage done by the Rathors of Bhakt Singh. The battle of Gangwana was his last battle and Swai Jai Singh died on 21 September 1743.

Later a peace treaty was concluded between Marwar and Jaipur under the guidance of Maharana of Mewar which ended the domination of Jaipur over Rajput kingdoms. However, the act of unmatched bravery sacrifice, and valor displayed by Bhakt Singh and his handful of Rathors deserves immense appreciation for this act of determination toward his clan.    


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