Prithviraj III, commonly known as Prithviraj Chauhan (1149-1192 CE) was a king of the Hindu Chauhan dynasty, who ruled the kingdoms of Ajmer and Delhi in northern India during the latter half of the 12th century.
Prithviraj Chauhan belonged to the Rajput Chauhan clan and was the last independent Hindu king before Hemu to sit upon the throne of Delhi. He succeeded to the throne in 1169 CE at the age of 20, and ruled from the twin capitals of Ajmer and Delhi. He received Delhi from his maternal grandfather Anangpal III of the Tomara dynasty in Delhi. He controlled much of present-day Rajasthan and Haryana and unified the Rajputs against Muslim invasions. His elopement in 1175 with Samyukta (Sanyogita), the daughter of Jai Chandra Rathod, the Gahadvala king of Kannauj is a popular romantic tale in India and is one of the subjects of the Prithviraj Raso, an epic poem composed by Chauhan's court poet and friend, Chand Bardai.
Prithviraj Chauhan is often praised as a brave Indian king, who stood up against the invasion of Muslim rulers. Prithviraj started displaying signs of his greatness at an early age. He was a very brave and intelligent child blessed with sharp military skills. Even as a young boy he could accurately hit targets only on the basis of its sounds. As the king he set out on several campaigns to expand his territories and became well-known as a valiant and courageous warrior. His battles with Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori are especially well-known.
According to the famous eulogistic Sanskrit poem ‘Prithviraja Vijaya’ Prithviraj III was born on the 12th day of Jyeshtha, which is the second month of the Hindu calendar and corresponds to May – June of the Gregorian calendar. ‘Prithviraja Vijaya’ does not talk about the exact year of his birth. However, it does talk about certain planetary positions at the time of Prithviraj’s birth. The description of these planetary positions later helped Indian Indologist Dasharatha Sharma to calculate the year of Prithviraj’s birth, which is believed to be 1166 CE. He was born to the Chauhan King Someshvara and his queen, Karpura Devi, in the present-day Gujarat.
As per ‘Prithviraja Vijaya’, Prithviraj was well educated and he learned 6 languages . It state that he was particularly proficient in archery also. He had the skill of hitting the target only on the basis of its sound.
Prithviraj ascended the throne when he was just 11 years old after the death of his father, Someshvara in 1177 CE. Prithviraj, who was a minor at the time, ascended the throne with his mother as the regent. His grandfather Anangpal, ruler of Delhi, declared him heir to the throne of Delhi after hearing about his courage and bravery. So Prithviraj ruled from the twin capitals of Ajmer and Delhi.
Conflicts with other rulers
In 1180, Prithviraj Chauhan was challenged by many Hindu rulers who tried to exert their influence over the Chahamana dynasty. One of his cousin Nagarjuna had revolted against the coronation of Prithviraj Chauhan. In an attempt to seek revenge and to flaunt his authority over the kingdom, Nagarjuna had captured the fort of Gudapura. Prithviraj proved his military prowess by besieging Gudapura. It was among the earliest military achievements of Prithviraj. Nagarjuna was a son of Prithviraj's uncle Vigraharaja IV and the struggle for the Chahamana throne had led to a rivalry between the two branches of the family.
After suppressing his cousin Nagarjuna’s revolt, Prithviraj turned towards the neighboring kingdom of the Bhadanakas. Since Bhadanakas often posed the threat of capturing the area around present-day Delhi, which belonged to Chahamana dynasty, Prithviraj decided to annihilate the nearby kingdom.
In 1182 CE, Prithviraj defeated Paramardi, a powerful Chandela king. After this victory, Prithviraj increases his number of enemies. He fought with Chaulukyas of Gujarat and Gahadavalas of Kannauj also. Jayachandra was the ruler of Gahadavala kingdom. He was also a powerful king. Prithviraj eloped with Jayachandra’s daughter Samyogita (Samyukta) and married with her.
Battle of Tarain
A massive territory to the west of the Chahamana dynasty was ruled by Muhammad of Ghor, who wanted to expand his empire towards the east. In order to do so, Muhammad of Ghor had to defeat Prithviraj Chauhan and hence, he waged a war against the Chahamanas. Over the next few years, Muhammad of Ghor consolidated his power in the territory to the west of the Chahamanas, conquering Peshawar, Sindh, and Punjab. He shifted his base from Ghazna to Punjab.
First battle of Tarain
Muhammad's original plan was to return to his base after conquering Tabarhindah but when he heard about Prithviraj's march, he decided to put up a fight. In 1191 CE, he set out with an army, and encountered Prithviraj's forces at Tarain. In the ensuing battle, Prithviraj's army decisively defeated the Ghurids. Muhammad of Ghor was injured and forced to retreat.
Prithviraj did not pursue the retreating Ghurid army, not wanting to invade hostile territory or misjudge Ghori's ambition. He only besieged the Ghurid garrison at Tabarhindah, which surrendered after 13 months of siege.
Second battle of Tarain
After defeat of first battle of Tarain, Muhammad of Ghor returned to Ghazna, and made preparations to avenge his defeat. He gathered a well-equipped army of 120,000 select Afghan, Tajik and Turkish horsemen over the next few months. In 1192, he then marched towards the Chahamana kingdom via Multan and Lahore, aided by Vijayaraja of Jammu. When Muhammad of Ghor returned to avenge his defeat, most of the Rajput allies had left Prithviraj, because of his conflicts with Hindu rulers. However, Prithviraj still managed to put up a good fight as he had an impressive army.
According to several sources, Prithviraj’s camp was attacked at night after Muhammad of Ghor had managed to deceive Prithviraj’s army. This enabled Muhammad of Ghor to defeat Prithviraj’s forces and capture Ajmer, the capital of Chahamanas. Prithviraj Chauhan was defeated and captured. He was treated very badly, his eyes were burnt with red-hot irons and he was made blind. But Prithviraj did not lose courage. Helped by his court poet and friend Chand Bardai, he is believed to kill Mahmmad of Ghor with his “shabdabhedi baan”. His skill of hitting the target just on the basis of sound made by it come handy and during the archery competition organized by Mahammad of Ghor, he displayed his skill. When Mahmmad of Ghor praised him he heard his voice and attacked him. Mahammad of Ghor was killed. In order to escape death at the hands of enemies he and his friend Chand Bardai stabbed each other.
At its peak, the empire of Prithviraj Chauhan extended from the foothills of the Himalayan in the north to the foothills of Mount Abu in the south. From east to west, his empire extended from Betwa River to Sutlej River. This implies that his empire included present-day Rajasthan, western Uttar Pradesh, northern Madhya Pradesh, and southern Punjab. After his demise, Prithviraj Chauhan was largely portrayed as a powerful Hindu king, who was successful in keeping the Muslim invaders at bay for many years. He is also often portrayed as a symbol of Indian power before the beginning of the Islamic rule in medieval India.
After killing Ghori Prithviraj and Chand Bardai killed each other in order to escape death at the hands of enemies. Prithviraj Chauhan died in 1192, with his death a period of bravery, courage, patriotism and principles came to an end. Prithviraj Raso of Chand Bardai and Prithviraj Vijay of Jayanak have immortalized deeds of Prithviraj Chauhan.
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