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Who was Prithviraj Chauhan?

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From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Prithviraj Chauhan

Mains level : NA

There is controversy around a new film where some communities of Rajasthan are laying claim over the 12th century emperor Prithviraj Chauhan.

Prithviraj Chauhan

  • Prithviraj Chauhan (1177–1192 CE) popularly known as a king from the Chauhan (Chahamana) dynasty who ruled the territory of Sapadalaksha, with his capital at Ajmer in present-day Rajasthan.
  • Ascending the throne as a minor in 1177 CE, Prithviraj inherited a kingdom which stretched from Thanesar in the north to Jahazpur (Mewar) in the south.

His legend

  • He aimed to expand by military actions against neighbouring kingdoms, most notably defeating the Chandela’s.
  • Prithviraj unified several Rajput clans and defeated the Ghurid army led by Muhammad Ghori near Taraori in 1191 AD.
  • However, in 1192 CE, Ghori returned with an army of Turkish mounted archers and defeated the Rajput army on the same battlefield.
  • Prithviraj fled the battlefield, but was captured near Sirsa and executed.
  • His defeat at Tarain is seen as a landmark event in the Islamic conquest of India, and has been described in several semi-legendary accounts, most notably the Prithviraj Raso.

Prithviraj in literary works

  • The image of Prithviraj as a fearless and skilled warrior that is now etched in the folk imagination can be traced back to his depiction in ‘Prithviraj Raso’.
  • This was a poem in Brajbhasha attributed to Chand Bardai, which is thought to have been composed in the 16th century.
  • James Mill’s ‘The History of British India’ (1817) categorized Indian history into the Hindu, Muhammadan and British periods.
  • In this formulation, Prithviraj Chauhan would be the last ruler of ‘Hindu’ India.

Why is he being revived?

  • To a vocal section of the Hindu right, Prithviraj Chauhan appears as “the last Hindu emperor” of India who made a valiant attempt to stop the radical invaders.
  • In the popular imagination, he is the heroic figure who symbolises the exalted ideals of patriotism and national pride.
  • However the historical evidence demonstrates rather different ways in which Prithviraj has been seen over the ages.

 

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