On 26th August 1303, Alauddin Khilji of the Khilji Dynasty attacked and captured Chittorgarh in a historic battle.
With Alauddin Khilji began what is known as the Imperial Period of the Sultanate of Delhi. Alauddin Khilji came to power after murdering his uncle Jalaluddin Khilji, after which he came to Delhi and declared himself the new ruler amidst great celebration. However, soon after coming to power Khilji realized all the challenges that he had to face. To begin with there were repeated invasions from the Mongols, hostility from powerful nobles and opposition from Hindu rulers and other central authorities. Hence, Alauddin’s first task was to suppress all these rebellions, before he could establish Muslim rule all across India.
After suppressing the Mongol invasions using brutal force, Khilji began the expansion of his empire by the subjugation of Gujarat in 1299 CE and then Ranthambhor in Rajastan in 1301 CE. After these invasions, Khilji turned his attention towards Chittorgarh in Mewar, Rajasthan, ruled by Ratan Singh. There are believed to be two reasons behind why Kihilji attacked Chttorgarh. The first was that Khilji was enraged at Ratan Singh for not letting his armies march through Mewar to reach Gujarat and as legend had it, Alauddin Khilji had heard of the ethereal beauty of Queen Padmini, Ratan Singh’s wife and he wanted her to be part of his harem (this account, however cannot be authenticated).
Mewar was one of the most powerful kingdoms of northwest India and Alaudin Khilji having heard to the legendary beauty of Queen Padmini went to Chittorgarh intending to siege the fort, saying that he wanted to see Queen Padmini. Considering women in those days observed purdah, this was a grave insult. Even though Ratan Singh felt insulted by this, he gave in and asked his wife for her permission in the matter. Queen Padmini agreed and Khilji was allowed to see a reflection of Queen Padmini in a mirror. Upon seeing her, Khilji was so mesmerized by her beauty that he was determined to secure her for his harem. While this was going on, Khilji’s men were surveying the insides of the fort.
Alauddin Khilji got Ratan Singh to accompany him back to Delhi and used this opportunity to kidnap Ratan Singh. Upon hearing this news, Singh’s generals, Gora and Badal, decided to trick Khilji and had word sent to Khilji that Padmini would be sent to him the following morning. The next morning at daybreak 150 palanquins (in which royal ladies travelled) left Ratan Singh’s fort onwards to Alauddin’s camp. The palanquins stopped before the tent in which Ratan Singh was being held captive and Ratan Singh who thought that Queen Padmini had come in the palanquins was extremely embarrassed. But to his surprise, not his queen but armed soldiers came out of the palanquins; the men freed Ratan Singh and escaped towards Chittorgarh using Khilji’s horses.
Upon hearing that Ratan Singh had escaped, Khilji was furious and decided to storm the fort of Chittor, but as much as they tried they could not break into the fort. This is when Khilji decided to lay siege to the fort. Supplies to the fort were stopped and after a few days Ratan Singh sent word that the Rajputs will fight against Khilji’s army. This was an unequal battle, since Khilji’s army was much bigger than Ratan Singh’s army. Upon hearing this Queen Padmini knowing that it was next to impossible for the Rajputs to come back as victors decided to, along with the rest of the women folk, commit a form of suicide called Jauhar. This was done so that the women do not have to face being violated by Khilji’s army.
A large pyre was lit and followed by the queen, the rest of the women leapt into the flames and died. With all the women of their family dead, the men had nothing to look forward to and performed Saka. All soldiers dressed in saffron robes and turbans bravely fought and perished against Khilji’s army. After this grand victory Alauddin Khilji entered the fort, but was horrified to see only ashes and bones of the dead women.
Finally, Alauddin Khilji handed over Chittorgarh to his minor son Khizr Khan and a Muslim garrison positioned in the fort of Chittor. After his victory in Chittorgarh, Khilji remained a king to be feared in kingdoms in Northern India and continued to expand his empire, even venturing towards the south of India.
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