In this post I will look at interesting community of Chauhan Rajputs, those of the principality of Mandawar in Rajasthan.Throughout the middle ages, the region that now forms northern Rajasthan was made up of a number of principalities. One such principality was that of the Raos of Mandawar. These Chauhans were commonly referred to as Ranghars, and this term really began with them, and is now widely used for Muslim Rajputs that lived in Haryana and northern Rajasthan. The Roas belong to the Sankat sub-clan of the Kharak branch of the Chauhans. They are a distinct from the Qayamkhani Chauhans, who were also found in northern Rajasthan.
Map of Rajputana: Source Wikipedia
The word chauhan is the vernacular form of the Sanskrit term chahamana. Several Chauhan inscriptions name a legendary hero called Chahamana as their ancestor, but none of them state the period in which he lived. The earliest extant inscription that describes the origin of the Chauhans is the 1119 CE Sevadi inscription of Ratnapala, a ruler of the Naddula Chahamana dynasty. According to this inscription, the ancestor of the Chahamanas was born from the eye of Indra. Despite these earlier myths, it was the Agnivanshi (or Agnikula) myth that became most popular among the Chauhans and other Rajput clans. According to this myth, some of the Rajput clans originated from Agni, in a sacrificial fire pit. The inclusion of Chauhans in the Agnivanshi myth can be traced back to the later recensions of Prithviraj Raso. In this version of the legend, once Vashistha and other great sages begin a major sacrificial ceremony on Mount Abu. The ritual was interrupted by miscreant daityas (demons). To get rid of these demons, Vashistha created progenitors of three Rajput dynasties from the sacrificial fire pit. These were Parihar (Pratiharas), Chaluk (Chaulukya or Solanki), and Parmar (Paramara). These heroes were unable to defeat the demons. So, the sages prayed again, and this time a fourth warrior appeared: Chahuvana (Chauhan). This fourth hero slayed the demons. Descendants of these Chauhan Rajput ruled princely states in Western and Northern India until the pre-independence era. The progenitor of Chauhan dynasty was individual by the name Manik Rai (AD 685), who was a lord of Ajmer and Sambhar in what is now Rajasthan.
The Chauhan dynasty flourished from the 8th to 12th centuries AD. It was one of the four main Rajput dynasties of that era, the others being the Pratiharas, Paramaras and Chalukyas. Chauhan dynasties established themselves in several places in North India and in the state of Gujarat in Western India. They were also prominent at Sirohi in the southwest of Rajasthan, and at Bundi and Kota in the east. Inscriptions also associate them with Sambhar, the salt lake area in the Amber (later Jaipur) district (the Sakhambari branch remained near lake Sambhar and married into the ruling Gurjara-Pratihara, who then ruled an empire in Northern India). Chauhans adopted a political policy that focussed on campaigns against the Chalukyas and the invading Muslims. In the 11th century they founded the city of Ajayameru (Ajmer) in the southern part of their kingdom, and in the 12th century captured Dhilika (the ancient name of Delhi) from the Tomaras and annexed some of their territory along the Yamuna River. Prithviraj III has become famous in folk tales and historical literature as the Chauhan king of Delhi who resisted the Muslim attack in the First Battle of Tarain (1191). Armies from other Rajput kingdoms, including Mewar assisted him. However, Prithviraj was defeated in the Second Battle of Tarain the following year. This failure ushered in Muslim rule in North India in the form of the Slave Dynasty, the first of the Delhi Sultanates.
Raos of Mandawar
After the defeat of Prithviraj III, branches of the Chauhans remained independent or semi-independent. One such state was that of Mandawar, which remained independent till the territory was handed over to the Rajah Bakhtawar Singh of Alwar in 1803. The state was said to have been founded by Kanhadeva , an uncle of Prithviraj III. He had 18 sons, from whom descend a number Chauhans. He was known also known as Kaka Kanha, and constructed the Saraneshwara Shiva temple. Kaka Kanha’s son Bhimadeva was given the principality of Isagarh and Mathin. Bhimadeva had four sons, out of them eldest was Lakhan Singh, who was made ruler at Mathin. Mathin was later known as Mandawar. Lakhan’s son Haladeva faced Timur’s attack on Mandawar in which Haladeva was killed. His son, Chander became Muslim and was gifted with Mandawar in Jagir and given the Rao title by Timur.
According another account, the city of Mandawar was founded in 1170, by Rao Madan Chauhan. Halaji, fifth in descent from Madan had three sons Hansa, whose grandson Chand became a Muslim and received the title of Rao. When Chand of Mandawar, the head of the family, became a Muslim, Mandawar ceased to be regarded as the principal seat, but was superseded by Nimrana.In the later half of the 18th century, during the chaos following the death of Aurangzeb (1707), Pratap Singh, a Rajput adventurer, created the State of Alwar in 1775. The Chauhan Roas of Mandawar therefore sank to the status of zamindars.
The territory of the Chauhan Raos is known as the Rath. It was one four divisions of the Alwar State and lies on the north-west border. With the conversion of Chander to Islam, the position of head of the Chauhans of the Rath passed Rao Rajdeo, the Rao of Nimrana, who was 6th in descent from Rao Madan Pal, founder of Mandawar about 1170. The Chauhans of Rewari, Mahindargh and Hisar all traced their ancestry to the states of Mandawar and Nimrana in the Rath territory. Captain Powlett author of the Alwar gazetteer, writing in the late 19th Century, said the following:
It is the country of Chauhan Rajputs, the head of whom claims to be the living representative of the famous Pirthvi Raj, king of Dehli, who fell in battle with the invading Musalmans. The Chauhans have continued to maintain their independence throughout the period of Alwar rule.
There are some contradictory traditions as to the lineage of the Rath Chauhans. The Chauhans of southern Haryana all have traditions that are immigrants from the Rath, and may be divided into two branches, the Nimrana and Sidhmukh or, as they call themselves, Bārā Thāl. The Nimranas who are descendants of Raja Sangāt, a great-grandson of Chahir Deo, brother of Pirthvi Raj III, are sub-divided into two clans, Rāth and Bāgauta, both of which came from Gurgaon, the former tracing their origin to Jātsāna. A historic name or Rewari is Bighota, which likely the Bagauta region. The Nimrana Chauhan Ranghar were found in villages throughout southern Haryana.
According to Chauhan traditions, Rajah Sangat Singh had 19 sons, from his older wife, among them were Harsh Dev Chauhan and Sahesh Mal Chauhan arrived in what is now Rewari District in Haryana. While his son Lah Chauhan, was made the ruler of Rath, was a son of raja Sangat Singh Chauhan by the younger Rani whose two sons became inheritors of Raja Sangat Singh’s territory of Rath with its headquarter at Mandhan when other 19 sons from the other wives were required to quit the kingdom as per the promise of Raja Sangat.
About Mandawar, the Alwar gazetteer has the following to say:
It has already been mentioned that Mandawar is the seat of the Musalman Rao of a great Chauhan family. The traders are of the Mahur clan, which supplanted the Khandelwal, formerly established at Mandawar. The ruin of the Khandelwal and the rise of the Mahur is attributed to the curse of a fakir, whom the former, notwith- standing their wealth, sent to be entertained by the latter. Khanzadas formerly occupied a hamlet of Mandawar, but abandoned it on discovering the intention of the Rao to destroy them. Besides the Rao’s residence, the buildings of note are mosques and tombs. One of the mosques has an inscription showing that it was constructed in Akbar’s time. Close to the town in the hills is a large and ancient tank known as the Sagar Sah. ( 140 ) When, many years ago, it was broken down the neighbourhood suffered much from the subsidence of water in wells. It was, however, restored in 1859, but requires cleaning out. There is a Thana, as well as a tehsil, at Mandawar.
The legends of around Ali Baksh a Rao of Mandawar are subject to a khayal, a type of folk play common in medieval Rajasthan.
In Alwar, the Chauhan Ranghars were found in the twenty villages of which the most important were Basni, Mulpur, Karwa, Baspur, Basni, Mainpur Mandawar, and Silgam. The Chauhan Ranghar of Rewari were a branch of the Mandawar Chauhans.
After partition in 1947, the Muslim Chauhans of the Rath region, and neighbouring Haryana all migrated to Pakistan. They are now found through out southern and western districts of Pakistani Punjab.