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Rani Durgavati’s resistance against Mughal conquest of Garh Katanga| Mughal Gondwana war

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The kingdom of Garh-Katanga was named after a town, Garh and a village, Katangi which are now in the modern district of Jabalpur. Its population consisted mostly of Gonds, hence the tract was also called Gondwana. The eastern part of the kingdom adjoined Ratanpur in Jharkhand, and the western part was contiguous to Raisen, part of Malwa province. On the north was the state of Panna, and on the south was Deccan.

It was an extensive tract and was full of forts, and contained populous villages. The capital was the fortress of Chaura Garh. The state had many kings, e.g., the Raja of Garola, the Raja of Harya etc. Most of the soldiers of the state fought on foot, and there were a few horsemen. This state was never won by the Turks before the Mughal invasion.

When Khwaja Abdul Majid Asaf Khan became governor of Sarkar (District) Karra (Allahabad) and conquered the territory of Panna, the sovereignty of Garh-Katanga had come to a woman named Durgavati. She was the daughter of Raja Salivahan, a Chandel Rajput, Raja of Mahoba and Ratha. Durgavati was given in marriage to Dalpat Shah, an adopted son of Aman Das Gond alias Sangram Shah of Garh-Katanga.

Durgavati was distinguished for courage, counsel and munificence, and by virtue of these qualities, she had brought the whole of the state under her sway. Twenty-three thousand cultivated villages were under her possession, and in twelve thousand of these, she had Shiqdars (resident governors). The remainder were subordinate to her, and their headmen were under her control.

Though from old times, the ruling Gond family of Garh-Katanga was of high rank, yet it had nothing beyond reverence. Aman Das Gond had given valuable help to Sultan of Gujarat in the conquest of Raisen, the latter had increased his dignity by giving him the title of ‘Sangram Shah’. Aman Das Gond was son of Arjan Das Gond, son of Sangin Das Gond, son of Kharji Gond.

It was Kharji Gond who first increased the influence of the family. His son Sangin Das Gond carried on his father’s plan and collected five hundred cavalry and sixty thousand infantryMany Rajputs joined the army of Sangin Das Gond. Among them, two were most valuable, one was a Karchuli Rajput of Hamirpur and the other was a Parmar Rajput. With their help, Sangin Das Gond obtained great influence in his state. After him, the government came to his son Arjan Das Gond when the latter was forty years of age. After him, his son Aman Das Gond became ruler. Aman Das had no son, so he requested Gobind Das Kachhwaha, who was in his service, to allow his pregnant wife to be delivered in his house. If there was a son, Raja would take him as his own. That’s how Dalpat Shah, son of Govind Das Kachhwaha, became the king of the Garh-Katanga. He was married to Durgavati.

When Dalpat died, his son Bir Narayan was just five years old. Since then Durgavati had run the affairs of the state with the help of competent advisors. She was skilful both in the use of a bow and a gun, and it is said that whenever she heard of a tiger, she would not rest till she had killed it.

Although comparatively remote, the kingdom had to wage a series of wars both in Bhata (erstwhile state of Rewa) and with the rulers of Malwa.

The Mughal conquest of Malwa, and forcing Bhata to accept Mughal suzerainty, had made the kingdom vulnerable to Mughal pressure from both sides. The Rani had sent his minister, Adhar Kayastha, to Akbar for peace. The negotiations had failed, probably because Akbar demanded her submission and cession of some territories.

Asaf Khan, the governor of Karra, who had learnt of Rani’s fabulous wealth and the state of her affairs through spies and traders, had been itching for an attack on her kingdom and had been ravaging her borders.

Probably, his attack with ten thousand troops in 1564 A.D. was at first regarded as another such frontier raid because the Rani who had supposed to have a force of twenty thousand cavalry, numerous infantry and thousand elephants, was able to raise only a small force of about two thousand to oppose Asaf Khan. Her minister, Adhar Kayastha, advised her not to fight with such slender resources. But in the usual Rajput fashion, she considered retreat to be dishonourable. She advanced, and gained some success against Mughal advance guards and then retreated into her kingdom on counsel. She came to Narhi which was east of Garh. It was a ravine, a place surrounded by mountains.

Some Mughal commanders of Asaf Khan receiving the intelligence of whereabout of Rani had taken by force the head of the ravine which was the road of access, and Arjan Das Bais, a Rajput, who was fauzdar of the elephants of Durgavati had died fighting the invaders. Hearing this, Rani prepared for the fight and let the enemy enter the pass. When Mughal advance guards entered the pass, Rani’s force fell on them, routed them and pursued the fugitives. Rani came out of the ravine and wanted to attack the Mughal army that night, no one agreed to her proposal and Rani had to retreat. The next day Asaf Khan came with artillery and fortified entrance to the pass. Asaf Khan’s force now swelled to fifty thousand and included the forces of some of the subordinate Gond rajas of Durgavati who had defected from her. Rani was defeated this time, wounded, the Rani preferred to stab herself to death in place of capture and dishonour. Her rule lasted sixteen years.

Asaf Khan now advanced to the capital Chauragarh which was gallantly defended by Bir Narayan to his death. Women performed Jauhar. Asaf Khan got immense wealth, an uncalculated amount of gold and silver, jewels and thousand elephants.

Kamla Devi, a younger sister of Rani, and daughter of Raja of Pur-Garh who was to be married to Bir Narayan, had remain unhurt, were sent to the imperial harem.

Mughals had superior artillery while Rani had none, and some of her own subordinate Rajas defected and joined the enemy Mughal camp. Internal treachery and lack of technical expertise have always been the major draw backs of Indians which unfortunately is the case of our time too. We still are dependent of countries like Russia,Israel,France etc for the supply arms and ammunitions and we still have no dearth of our own people who can connive with the outsiders to weaken our own country as we have seen during Indo-China clash at Galwan last year when many of our own were doing the propaganda for Hans. Our history books need to be modified and students should be taught the reasons behind the successes and failures of the past to make them understand the reality.

Reference

  • Primary Sources: Akbarnama written in Persian by Abul Fazl and translated in English by H. Beveridge, ICS.
  • The Tabaqat-I-Akbari written in Persian by Khwaja Nizammudin Ahmad and translated in English by Brajendranath De, ICS.
  • Secondary Source: Medieval India, Part Two, of Satish Chandra

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