A.D. 1389 TO A.D. 1514
For over a hundred and twenty years India remained free from a master
hand. It is true that the puppet-king Mahmud, who had fled from Delhi
on that fateful night of the 15th of January 1389, returned to it,
first as a mere pensioner, afterwards as nominal ruler; but the whole
continent had split up into petty principalities governed by Mahomedan
rulers. Guzerat, Malwa,
Kanauj, Oude, Karra, Jaunpur, Lahore,
Dipalpur, Multan, Byana, Kalpi, Mahoba, these were but a few of the
countless kings who rose up and warred with one another.
Beyond these, again, to the southward, lay the great kingdom of the
Dekkan, which one Allah-ud-din Hassan had reft bloodlessly from
Mahomed Toghluk. This Hassan had a curious history. The servant of a
Brahman astrologer, he appears to have lived a life absolutely without
colour, until one day, when ploughing, the share caught in a chain
attached to an old copper vessel full of antique gold coins. This
treasure trove introduced him to the king's notice; he was made
captain of a hundred horse, so rose gradually to power. And wherever
he went he took with him his former master, the Brahman Ganga, who
long years before had predicted for him great distinction. When Hassan
reached royalty, the Brahman became finance-minister, and from this
fact the whole dynasty was called Bahmani, or Brahmani. It lasted for
close on two hundred years; a most unusual stability for India. But
ere the period now before us had closed, the Dekkan also had split up
into five separate states--Bijapur, Golconda, Berar, Ahmudnagar,
About the time of Timur's invasion, the Brahmani dynasty was in the
zenith of its fortunes. We have in the description of it, then, a
picture of Eastern despotism that fits in with the preconceived ideas
of most Westerns on this subject. Absolute power, untold wealth,
munificence, cruelty, passion, pride, prejudice; all the concomitants
of an Eastern potentate are there. The celebrated Turquoise Throne
itself fills the imagination with its "enamel of a sky-blue colour,
cased in gold which was in time totally concealed by the number of
precious ornaments"; but when we add to this the golden ball over the
throne "all inlaid with jewels, on which sate a bird of paradise
composed entirely of precious stones, in whose head was a ruby of
inestimable price," we desire no more. The Eastern glamour is
So the kings of the Dekkan went on ruling, every now and again letting
themselves loose on some minor rajah, and killing a few thousand
Hindus for the sake of the Faith; every now and again ruling wisely
and well, but as often as not badly and brutally. Sometimes they
combined the epithets, as in the case of Mahomed Shah Bahmini, A.D.
1358-1375, during whose reign it is said "all ranks of the people
reposed in security and peace," and that "nearly five hundred thousand
unbelievers fell by the swords of the warriors of Islam, by which the
population of the Carnatic was so reduced that it did not recover for
Some of these precious potentates died in their beds, a larger
proportion of them were assassinated. This much, at any rate, may be
said of Indian public opinion in these times, that it sided with
morality, for the most condign punishments on record are invariably
meted out to the biggest villains. Perhaps the most picturesque of
these records is that concerning King Ghiass-ud-din Bahmini and
Lalchi, one of the principal Turki slaves of the household. This man
possessed a daughter of exquisite beauty, whom the seventeen-year-old
young monarch happened to see and instantly desired. The father
refused, the king persisted. So Lalchi laid his plans. He invited the
passion-struck lad to an entertainment at his house, plied him with
wine, and then induced him to order his attendants to withdraw, in
order that the exquisite beauty might appear. The half-intoxicated
prince attempted flight when Lalchi returned from the harem not with a
girl, but a naked dagger, rolled down some steps, and the next instant
both his eyes were blinded; whereupon Lalchi coolly sent for the royal
attendants one by one, as if by the king's order, and put them to
death severally as they appeared. As these were mostly nobles and
officials of high rank, he found no difficulty in deposing
Ghiass-ud-din, who had only reigned for six weeks!
The history of the Dekkan finds echo in the kingdoms of Kandeish,
Malwa, Guzerat, all of which came into existence about the same
period. But in addition to these Mahomedan principalities a great and
powerful Rajput confederacy--for the semifeudal system of the race was
antagonistic to empire--was springing up among the hills in Mewar, the
"middle mountain" country now called Oudipur, and in the deserts of
Marwar or the "Region of Death," now called Jodhpur and Jeysulmeer.
The two former kingdoms were ruled by princes of the Sun, but
Jeysulmeer claimed, as it does now, descent from the Moon.
Such slight differences, however, were as naught before a common
enemy, and ever since Mahmud of Ghuzni had defeated Anangpal, Lunar
king of Delhi--representative of a dynasty which, legend has it, had
lasted since the days of Yudishthira of Mahabharata fame--down through
the time when Mahomed Ghori had annihilated Prithvi-Raj, grandson of
the last Anangpal, and Kutb-uddin Eibuk, his Slave-general, had
carried on his butchery, until the present day, the common enemy of
every Rajput had been the Mahomedan.
So, naturally, the conflict of the conquerors was the opportunity of
It is true that the young Ajey-si, saved from the sack of Chitore by
so much bloodshed, did not fulfil his father's hope that the child
should recover what the man had lost, but his appointed heir, Hamir,
more than redeemed the promise; for, during the two centuries
following on the recapture of his kingdom, it rose to a pitch of power
and solidarity never before touched, and received the homage of all
surrounding principalities. The story of Hamir's success is a strange
one, and is reminiscent of the legend of Sir Gawaine, or the Knight of
Courtesy, since the success came as a consequence of chivalry to
Hamir's perseverance had brought him to the very walls of Chitore, but
the real struggle for possession was before him. At this juncture the
city gates opened, and a peaceful procession passed out, bearing the
recognised symbol of a marriage proposal, a cocoa-nut. It came from
the mercenary but highborn Hindu Governor of Chitore, offering his
daughter as a preliminary to peace. The young prince's advisers voted
for a return of the offer. Hamir bid its retention, boldly saying
that, come what might, his feet would thus tread the rocky steps which
his ancestors had trodden.
Forth, therefore, with but the stipulated five hundred horse, went the
Bridegroom-Prince. He was met at the gate by the bride's five
brothers, gloomy of face, solemn of mien. But on the city portal was
no mystical triangle of marriage, no wedding garlands decorated the
streets. Yet ceremony was not absent. The ancient hall of his
ancestors was filled with chiefs awaiting him with folded hands; the
bride's father welcomed him gravely. One can imagine the young man,
ready to take what the gods chose to give for the sake of a hold on
Chitore, waiting while the bride was led forth.
No cripple this! The young heart must have breathed more freely as the
slim, veiled figure stood silent by his side. A promise of beauty
here, surely! The young blood shivered through his veins, as the
strong sword-hand met the soft, slender fingers; then seemed to flow
almost tumultuously towards the new, the unknown, as the attendant
priest knotted the marriage garments together. Yet still no smile, no
word of congratulation. What did it mean? What matter! it was for the
sake of Chitore.
So to the marriage chamber, where the family priest lingered
hesitatingly to preach patience.
Patience! with a bride before one, every fold of whose veiled figure
told of beauty!
Beauty indeed! but--one glance was enough--she was a widow!
He had been tricked indeed! A virgin widow, no doubt, and beautiful,
exceedingly; yet still a widow, and accursed, almost unclean.
What did she say to him? History does not tell us. All we know is that
"her kindness and vows of fidelity overcame his sadness."
Doubtless, the pity which is akin to love swayed him, but it was her
cleverness, and not her kindness that gained the victory. For that
strange marriage night was spent in a woman teaching a man how to win
back his ancestral kingdom. Not by war, that was too crude. The people
must be won over. Let her husband ask next morning as the marriage
gift which no Rajput bridegroom is refused, for one Jal, a humble
scribe of the city.
So Hamir went home burdened by a widow-wife and a scribe.
A year passed, and a prince was born; another year spent in what wiles
and guiles only the widow mother and her scribe adviser knew, and the
little prince, sick, had to be taken back to Chitore in order to be
placed for healing before the shrine of Vyan-Mata. Taken, oddly
enough, while his grandfather, the mercenary governor, was away with
most of the troops on an expedition.
A beautiful injured queen, a lovely baby prince, a hero husband ready
to regain the throne of his ancestors, a devoted adherent prepared for
every emergency; these were the factors in the sudden acclaim by which
Hamir, in consequence of his courtesy, was able once more to raise the
standard of the Sun on the walls of Chitore. Where it remained for
long years gloriously, comparatively peacefully; for while in
Mahomedan Delhi no less than twenty-five monarchs were needed--such
was the perpetual procession of assassinations, rebellions,
dethronement--to bridge the period between Kutb-ud-din's seizure of
Delhi and Timur's invasion of India, in Chitore--that is to say,
Mewar, or as it is now called, Oudipur--eleven princes had sufficed to
fill the throne.
But in addition to Mewar we have to reckon with Marwar, or Jodhpur and
Jeysulmeer. The former, however, was at this time a comparatively
modern principality. After the defeat of Jaichand, the Rajah of
Kanauj--who had so unavailingly performed the Sai-nair rite at which
Prithvi-Raj had carried off the Princess Sunjogata--his grandsons
Shiv-ji and Sayat-Ram, set out towards the great Indian Desert, hoping
to carve fresh fortune from its barren stretches. They succeeded; but
it was not until A.D. 1511 that Prince Jodha laid the foundation of a
new capital, and brought Marwar into line with the other great Rajput
Jeysulmeer had a longer record. Headquarters of the Bhatti clan, its
legendary history goes back to the eighth century; but from A.D. 1156
the chronicle is fairly continuous, and is full of romance and
interest. Proud, passionate, clean-lived princes, these descendants of
the Moon--for they were of the Yadu race--seem to have been. One of
them, still quite a lad, giving way to Berserk rage, struck his
foster-brother. The blow was returned; whereupon, stung with shame,
both at the insult and the lack of self-control which brought it
about, the offender stabbed himself with his dagger. Another still
more typical story is told of the passing of Rawul (an honorific title
equalling Rajah) Chachik, who, finding disease his master, sent an
embassy to the Mahomedan ruler of Multan, begging from him the last
favour of jud-dan, or the gift of battle, "that his soul might
escape by the steel of his foeman, and not fall sacrifice to slow
The challenge was accepted, after the Mahomedan had been assured that
honourable death was the sole end and aim.
So on the appointed day Rawul Chachik, followed by seven hundred
nobles, who, having shared all his victories, were prepared to follow
him to death, marched out "to part with life."
"His soul was rejoiced, he performed his ablutions, worshipped the
sword, bestowed charity, and withdrew his thoughts from this world.
The battle lasted four hours, and the Yadu prince fell with all his
kin, after performing prodigees of valour. Two thousand Mahomedans
fell beneath their swords, and rivers of blood flowed in the field;
but the Bhatti gained the abode of Indra, who shared His throne with
Such, then, were the people who were gradually recovering some of the
possessions and the prestige which they had lost when Prithvi-Raj fell
victim to Mahomed Shahab-ud-din Ghori.
Meanwhile, at Delhi the thirty-six years of kinglessness passed into
seventy-three, during which the government was in the hands of three
comparatively strong men, Belol Lodi, Secunder Lodi, Ibrahim Lodi.
The first was a warrior, the second a bigot, the third a tyrant. Of
the three, Belol did most for his country, since at his death his
empire extended eastwards as far as Benares.
Secunder seems to have subordinated policy to religion. He destroyed
every image and temple which he could see, or of which he could hear,
and promptly put to death a Brahman who preached that "all religions,
if sincerely practised, were equally acceptable to God."
Tolerance was not a virtue in those days.
It was during the reign of Ibrahim Lodi that Babar, the first of the
great Moghuls, entered India in A.D. 1514; but this was an event of
such vast importance that it will be necessary to hark back some
thirty years to the little kingdom of Ferghana, where Babar was born
on the 14th of February, A.D. 1483.
[Map: India to A.D. 1483]