Saffron Swords (Book-2): 52 Episodes of Sanatani Valor against Invaders
Lakhs of warriors from across India put up a brave resistance against invaders since the 8 th century. Marcus Garvey, a Jamaica-born political leader and social activist rightly said, “A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
Continuing on the roaring success of the inaugural volume of Saffron Swords, which chronicles 52 stories of immensely brave and determined resistance put up by unsung men and women, Saffron Swords (Book-2) brings to the readers, 52 more such untold episodes of Indic resistance to invaders, from 8th century to independence.
Saffron swords Book 2
Saffron Swords Vol 2
History is like Hollywood and Bollywood. Every film has a story, so does History. Almost every film, irrespective of what the theme is, projects and portrays equally both, heroes and villains, so does History. But does Indian History follow this justification of equal portrayal of both sides? No! It is only a one-sided and biased narrative supplemented with distortions. Even that one-sided narrative portrays only one aspect. If we consider Indian History from the eighth century till 1947 in our academic books, it is a portrayal of only the invaders, looters, and plunderers projected in detail in good light. Where are the heroes and heroines of the soil in the textbooks? Only a counted, select few warriors, find a place in the textbooks.
Were we always defeated? Were we on the losing side always? Did our warrior ancestors easily surrender? Didn’t our warrior ancestors offer resistance? These questions often lurk in lakhs of Bharatiya (Indian) minds because we have been projected as losers and as always having been defeated. A sense of inferiority complex and avoiding remembrance of the past thousand years prevail in our minds. This is a result of the one-sided, biased, and distorted historical narrative fed to us for decades. And this happens to such an extent that one robotically tends to think that all that is from foreign lands is better than what we have here.
But the truth is different. There are lakhs of warriors from the east to west, north to south–warriors who put up a brave resistance against Muslim invaders, rulers, and plunderers in battle and against British oppression. But their stories are missing in our history textbooks. When our history books blank the exploits of the warriors of the soil and when we read only about defeats, and no resistance by our ancestors, we end up alienating ourselves from a sense of belongingness for the nation. We do not know about our own historical roots. Hence, History needs to be retold.
We are the oldest surviving civilization in the world. Despite 1,300-plus years of loot, plunder, genocide, and atrocities, our civilization is still in existence. Many civilizations perished as a result of invasions. This is clear evidence of how over a period of 1,300-plus years, our warrior ancestors from all walks of life consistently resisted and sacrificed their lives to defend Dharma and the motherland. Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican-born political leader, and social activist rightly said: “A people without knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots.” The objective behind writing Saffron Swords is to present to the citizens of the country and the world our past history, our roots–about the brave exploits of our warriors of the last 1,300-plus years. This book is an effort to bring to the readers, the centuries of Indic resistance to invaders–tales of valor which we should feel proud of
Yogaditya Singh Rawal, research partner, especially on visits to historical sites across the country, and co-author of Saffron Swords Part I, says: “Let us trace the path of finding and knowing about the valor which we seldom or have never read before, about heroes, we never knew existed. Let us read about the stratagems, the pure valor, and the strength of our brave warriors who decimated the invaders.”
There are 52 episodes of Indian Valor in this book. Many of these warriors are unheard of. Few names are Dantidurga II, Rani Durgavati, Rani Bhavashankari, Samgramaraja, Chennabhairadevi, Sangoli Rayanna, Bhoja Paramara, Pratapaditya, Krishnadevaraya, Kurma Devi, Dhan Singh Gurjar, U. Kiang Nangbah, Chhatrasal, Birsa Munda, and Prafulla Kumari Devi. All of these warriors put up a brave resistance against Muslim rulers and British supremacy. Few of these warriors won battles against the Mughals, Turks, Lodhis, Sultanates, and the British.
This is Volume II of Saffron Swords. Through Volume I of the book, comprising of 52 episodes of valor, we have been able to kindle thousands of minds of all age groups to relive the glory of our past 1,300-plus years. There will be several volumes in this series with each volume portraying 52 episodes of valor of our warrior ancestors.
Saffron Swords is based on years of research that include visits to historical sites, meeting freedom fighters, descendants of freedom fighters and warrior ancestors, interpretations based on epigraphs and inscriptions, available historical records in the form of gazettes, and books written by both Indian and foreign historians over a period of several centuries. Few stories of valor, besides being based on one or more of the above research criteria, are also anchored in historical and cultural folklore from various regions. This statement: “Without the adequate exploration of folk culture, rewriting of people’s histories will always be incomplete”–quoted by Badri Narayan in the article ‘Popular Culture and 1857: A Memory against Forgetting’ in Social Scientist Journal, citing from two references books on History, holds ground on the folklore aspect. The book has a reference section, in the end, wherein all literary sources for each episode of heroism are mentioned.
A rich heritage and culture identify India. Let’s bask in the glory, the valor of our ancestors.
–Manoshi Sinha Rawal
Chittor Rani Who Defeated and Wounded Qutb al-Din Aibak
Kurma Devi! Very few from Rajasthan and almost none from the rest of India know her!!! This Queen Regent of Chittorgarh defeated Qutb al-Din Aibak and wounded him in a battle near Amber. Since ancient times, Indian women not only proved themselves as leaders and administrators but also exhibited great courage on the battlefield. When Chittorgarh faced an emergency, Kurma Devi played the role of Shakti, saving her kingdom from Islamic invaders. According to the book Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, Vol. I by Lt. Col. James Tod, nine neighboring kings, and 11 chiefs extended their help to the Rani in that battle. The victorious battle of the Hindus against foreign invaders debunks the fake narrative that Indian kings were not united in battle against enemies.
In the early medieval period, Chittorgarh was a principality of the Mewar kingdom. Udaipur, Pirawa, Neemuch, Bhilwara, Rajsamand, including parts of Madhya Pradesh (Mandsaur), and parts of Gujarat were also parts of Mewar. Chittorgarh was the main base. Mewar’s defense was the formidable and well-fortified Chittor Fort, built during the seventh century. This fort, spread across 700 acres, had stood robust against the tides of time and attacks! This region carries a legacy of valor and bravery right from the time of Bappa Rawal, who decimated the Arabs in battle during the eighth century.
During the latter half of the 12th century, Samar Singh was the ruler of Mewar with the capital at Chittorgarh. Samar Singh was a descendent of Bappa Rawal. He married Kurma Devi in 1170 CE and Prithi Bai, the sister of Raja Prithviraj Chauhan in 1171 CE.
Written historical records mention the valor of Kurma Devi (also spelled Kurmadevi, Kormatdevi, Korma Devi), but do not mention her parents or childhood. According to historical folklore, she is described as the daughter of Naiki Devi, the Chalukyan queen of Gujarat. Lt. Col. James Tod’s book Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan: The Central and Western Rajpoot States of India–Vol. I mentions Kurma Devi as the princess of Putun (Patan in Gujarat, the capital of the Chalukyan kingdom). This reference also suggests her as a Chalukyan princess and thus the daughter of Naiki Devi. Among Samar Singh’s sons were Kalyan Rai from Prithi Bai and Karna Singh from Kurma Devi.
Samar Singh’s contemporary was Raja Prithviraj Chauhan (Prithviraj III), also known as Rai Pithora. We have read about the several battles between Mohd Ghori and Prithviraj Chauhan, and how the latter pardoned the former every time he was defeated. In the final battle–the Battle of Tarain in 1192 CE against Mohd Ghori, Prithviraj Chauhan sought the alliance of several neighboring Hindu kings. Raja Samar Singh along with his elder son Kalyan Rai not only extended military support to Prithviraj Chauhan with an army but also themselves participated in the battle.
Muhammad Ghori, the co-Sultan of the Ghurid Empire of Afghanistan led the first Indian expedition against Mularaja II, the Chalukyan ruler of Gujarat in 1178. As Mularaja II was a minor, his mother Rani Naiki Devi was then the Queen Regent. In the fierce battle that took place between the two forces, Rani Naiki Devi defeated Mohd Ghori and his forces at the Battle of Kayadara. The Queen had the military support of numerous neighboring Hindu feudatory chiefs. So devastating was his defeat and so heavy were the casualties on his side that Muhammad Ghori retreated to Afghanistan and avoided the idea of attacking India for the next several years. In the final Battle of Tarain in 1192 CE and all of Ghori’s military exploits, Qutb al-Din Aibak steered the forces as the chief general.
Raja Samar Singh and Kalyan Rai attained Veergati on the battlefield in the Battle of Tarain. Prithviraj Chauhan was taken prisoner. One of the key reasons why Prithviraj Chauhan lost was the surprise attack by Ghori at night before dawn. Since time immemorial, the Hindu army always followed rules of Dharma in warfare wherein battles were fought only between sunrise and sunset. Treachery was a part of the strategy of Islamic invaders, hence, Ghori’s attack at night when the city was asleep. Besides, not all Hindu allies with their army reached the battlefield and many of the allied forces were on their way towards Chauhan’s kingdom when Ghori attacked. The available Hindu army immediately made formations and offered resistance but in vain.
The news of the defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan and martyrdom of Raja Samar Singh and Kalyan Rai reached Mewar. Prithi Bai, due to her triple loss–defeat of her brother, death of her husband and son, no longer desired to live. She jumped into the funeral pyre of her husband. Karna Singh was then a minor, aged 12 years. Kurma Devi became the Queen Regent of her kingdom and pledged to attack Ghori.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Ghori had retreated to Multan, leaving Qutb al-Din Aibak in-charge of Delhi and Ajmer. Qutb al-Din Aibak was a native of Turkistan. During his childhood, he was sold as a slave to a Qazi at Nishapur in Persia. Under the Qazi, Aibak learned the art of warfare including horse- riding and archery. The Qazi then sold him to Muhammad Ghori in Ghazni. Soon he rose to the position of a general from a mere officer at the stables by dint of his skills and dedication. He became a favorite of Ghori. After the death of Ghori, Aibak declared himself the Sultan of Delhi. As he was a slave, his dynasty came to be known as the Slave Dynasty.
Kurma Devi decided to attack Qutb al-Din Aibak. Her mother Naiki Devi too had become a widow and as her son, the heir to the throne was a minor, she undertook the responsibilities of her kingdom and led from the front in battles. Drawing inspiration from her mother’s brave exploits, Kurma Devi built her forces, garnering support from neighboring Hindu rulers. Mewar had lost a huge force in the 2nd Battle of Tarain. Kurma Devi re-strengthened the Mewari forces in no time.
In 1193, with the support of nine kings from neighboring kingdoms and eleven feudatory chiefs, Rani Kurma Devi marched towards Delhi, leading from the front. Meanwhile, during the same time, Aibak and his army were advancing towards Mewar. Both the forces met at Amber, today’s Jaipur. Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, Vol. I by Lt. Col. James Tod describes how both the armies met near Amber. According to this book, Kurma Devi entered the battlefield after her general fell wounded.
Kurma Devi motivated her forces like never before. She addressed the soldiers and hailed their bravery and together pledged to fight and die for the motherland. Stimulated, the Hindu army fell upon the enemy forces like lions on their prey. With sword swinging high, killing the Ghurid soldiers as fast as the lightning’s stroke, Kurma Devi drove deep into the ranks of Aibak’s army. She marched towards Qutb al-Din Aibak. She soon confronted Aibak and challenged him to a personal duel. In the fight that followed, Kurma Devi wounded Aibak so severely that the latter fell from his horse on the battlefield. His forces started dispersing seeing his fall. Surmising him to be dead, a victorious Kurma Devi left the battlefield and marched towards Chittorgarh. But the heavily wounded Aibak was not dead. His followers managed to take him out of the battlefield to safety and provided him medical care.
Back at Chittorgarh, Kurma Devi installed her 13-year-old son Karna Singh to the throne of Mewar. According to historical folklore, she lit a pyre and immolated herself, as she desired no longer to live without her husband. She considered it equivalent to burning herself at the funeral pyre of her husband.
Qutb al-Din Aibak recovered and had declared himself as the Sultan of Delhi. He destroyed the ancient Vishnu temple and Nakshatra temples and renamed the site with the tower as Qutub Minar. After a few years, he marched towards Mewar with a huge army to avenge his defeat at the hands of a woman warrior. He plundered the city and looted its wealth. He took Karna Singh prisoner along with the king’s ornamented horse Subhrak to Lahore. Karna Singh tried to escape but in vain.
In 1210, Aibak ordered the beheading of Karna Singh in Lahore at a polo match ground. He decided to play the polo match with Karna’s head. As decided, he arrived at the venue riding on Subhrak. Karna Singh was in chains. Subhrak instantaneously recognized his master. When the Hindu king was released from his chains for the execution, Subhrak suddenly turned violent and uncontrollable. Qutb al-Din Aibak fell to the ground and Subhrak attacked the enemy Sultan several times. Aibak died on the spot. Before Aibak’s army realized what happened, Subhrak ran towards his master. In seconds, Karna Singh mounted his horse and soon vanished. It was only after Subhrak reached safely the boundary of the Mewari kingdom that he fell dead. Karna Singh mourned aloud the loss of his loyal horse.