Durgadas Rathore: The Legendary Rajput warrior who fought for decades to protect the independence of Marwar

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The warrior community of the Gallant Rajputs had a glorious past. From their very existence, they had fought countless wars with Arabs, Turks, Mughals, and even with the British.

For centuries the Rajputs had maintained their hegemony over northern India with fierce resistance. Their story of indomitable courage and sacrifice is still alive in this country’s folklore.

Durgadas Rathore
Image of Durgadas Rathore

But during the medieval era, things were very bleak for them. The powerful Mughals who came from central India had conquered the subcontinent and were becoming a symbol of the powerful Islamic Empire.

The only Rajput Clan which never bowed in front of Mughals was the Kingdom of Mewar and their invincible kings. Men like Rana Sanga, Rana Uday Singh, and the legendary Maharana Pratap did everything they could to protect their freedom.

But there were some other Rajput clans who fought against the Mughals for their independence. In this article, we will cover the story of Durgadas Rathore who fought against the decadent rule of Aurangzeb.    

Rise of Durgadas Rathore

Durgadas Rathore was born on 13 August 1638. He was the son of Askaran Rathore who was a general in the army of Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur.

To this day he is remembered as the savior of the Marwar Kingdom as he alone fought against the wrath of Aurangzeb.

Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Marwar appreciated the loyalty of Durgadas. Alamgir i.e. Aurangzeb sent Jaswant Singh to counter the Afghan rebellion at Kabul. But in 1678 the Maharaja of Marwar died at Peshawar without an heir for the throne of Marwar. 

The cunning Mughal emperor took this incident as an ideal opportunity and decided to declare Marwar as a Jagir of the Mughal Empire and made Indra Singh Rathore its ruler.

Note: Indra Singh Rathore was the nephew of Jaswant Singh.

Jaswant Singh had two wives and at the time of his death, both were pregnant. Both his wives gave birth to sons and the elder son was named Ajit Singh.

Aurangzeb ordered to bring the young children of Maharaja to Delhi (At Shahjanabad). But the Rathores did not accept this move of Alamgir and under the leadership of Durgadas, they went to Delhi with the aim of naming Ajit Singh the next Maharaja of Marwar.

The Epic Journey and the Suicide Charge of the Rajputs

Aurangzeb initially promise to give a jagir to Ajit Singh. But when the Rathores refused he offered that Ajit Singh will become the king of Marwar only if he accept Islam and was raised as a proper Muslim in his harem.

Hearing this Durgadas decided to take both the queens and Ajit Singh back to Jodhpur. Durgadas devised a clever plan and disguised an infant child as Ajit Singh and took the queens and the prince out of the fort.

Aurangzeb sent a contingent to stop Durgadas Rathore. The handful but courageous Rajputs went on a long and tiring journey towards Jodhpur. But it was not possible for all of them to safely reach Jodhpur so some of the Rathore decided to give a fight to the chasing Mughal army.

Initially, it was Raghunath Bhatti who decided to put a fight with his one hundred gallant troops. This was nothing but a suicide charge by the Rajputs to buy some time for their infant king and Durgadas.

For an hour and a half, Raghunath Bhatti and his men stopped the Mughals. But later all of them perished. After this Ranchhor Das Jodha and his men fought the Mughal while Durgadas and the royal family continued their journey toward Jodhpur.    

This tactic was repeated several times and many Rajputs made the highest sacrifice for their infant king. At last, only Ajit Singh along with Durgadas and the queens reached Balunda.

It is believed that from Delhi Durgadas left with 300 Rahtore’s out of which only 7 reached Jodhpur.

Here a noble gave shelter to the queens and Ajit Singh while Durgadas went towards Aravalli to prepare for a war of Marwar’s independence.

Durgadas and his struggle for Independence

Note: This long period of Durgadas struggle can be divided into four parts

1 From 1681 to 1687 when Durgadas was in Deccan

2 From 1687 to 1696 during which period Durgadas and Ajit fought against the Mughals

3 From 1696 to 1701 a period of truce

4 1701 to 1707 liberation of Marwar.

With the arrival of Durgadas and Ajit Singh at Marwar Aurangzeb realized the gravity of the situation and dethroned Indra Singh. On 17 August 1679, Alamgir sent faujdar Sarbuland Khan with a huge army.

Aurangzeb then imposed the Jaziya tax on Marwar and sent a Mughal army to capture Marwar. Many Hindu temples were demolished. A titanic battle was fought near Lake Pushkar where the outnumbered Mairta Rathors fought against the Mughal in order to save the Varaha Temple.

It is believed that after three days of continuous fighting the Rathors fell and the temple was demolished. After this, the Rajputs began guerilla warfare.

The Mughals divided Marwar into different administrative units under several Mughal Faujdar. Prince Akbar was also sent to put down any rebellion. The streets of Jodhpur went into total chaos. Temples were demolished villages were looted and plundered.

Ajit Singh was sent to Sirohi by Durgadas where the latter trained the young prince in the art of warfare. From 1681 to 1687 Durgadas relentlessly fought the Mughals through guerilla tactics.

He was also helped by fellow Rajputs like Mahakam Singh of Mairta, Hada Durjam sal, etc. Together they slayed many Mughal contingents and even targeted territories near Delhi.

In 1690 Durgadas defeated the governor of Ajmer and distributed the new territories to the Rathore nobles.

Durgadas attacked the treasuries of the Mughals. Durgadas also bribed Akbar the son of Alamgir to revolt against his father. Akbar on the behest of Durgadas declared himself emperor in an open rebellion.

Through hit and run tactics, the Rathores targeted the trade route of the Mughal Empire and looted treasuries from Rajasthan and Gujarat regions.

Durgadas also went to Deccan to gain the support of another gallant warrior Sambhaji Maharaj.

In 1691 when Durgadas was helping Maharana Raj of Mewar the Mughals decided to present an agreement to Durgadas in return for Prince Akbar’s children. But nothing happened as Alamgir refused Durgadas’s demand of putting Ajit Singh on Jodhpur’s throne.

Meanwhile, Akbar’s two children lived under Durgadas’s care who took the responsibility of their education and also raised them as a Muslim

But Aurangzeb was desperate for his grandchildren, especially for Safiyat-un-Nisa, so in 1694 negotiation was again started on1694. But in 1696 Durgadas sent the young princess without any demand and Aurangzeb was astonished by this move. 

Legacy of Veer Durgadas Rathore

Aurangzeb was pleased by this move of Durgadas and wanted to thank him through royal rewards. In 1698 an agreement was reached between the Rathore and Mughal in which Akbar’s son Buland Akhtar was sent free by the Raptors and in return, Ajit Singh received the Parganas of Jalor, Sanchor, and Siwana as his Jagir.

The year between 1696 and 1701 enjoyed some peace as there was no such big hostility between Marwar and the Mughals.

Later around 1706 the struggle between the Rathore and the Mughal began again. To suppress the Rathore the aging Aurangzeb followed the same path of warfare. But nothing resulted in his favor as no big pitch battles were fought.

After the death of Aurangzeb Durgadas decided to make his move. On 17 March 1707, the Rathors captured Jodhpur and the whole of Marwar and installed Ajit Singh as the King of Marwar. Ajit Singh expelled the Mughal commandant of the garrison and also disintegrated their settlements.

The Rathors purified the fort of Jodhpur with Ganges water and Durgadas’ goal was finally full filled after fighting for several decades.   

Later Durgadas left Jodhpur and lived in Sadri, Udaipur, Rampur, and Bhanpura. He died on 22 November 1718 at Ujjain. His canopy in red sandstone is still at Chakratirtha Ujjain which had become a pilgrimage site for those who still followed the path of loyalty.

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