Jauhar was a practice of self immolation of the ladies of the royal families along with their children to escape rape, slavery in the hands of Mughal invaders. The word Jauhar was derived from the Sanskrit word Jau which means life and har means to take, which together put meant to take ones life.
The practice of Jauhar was developed during the time of Mughal invasion and the country witnessed three Jauhars during the Mughal rule. The first incident of Jauhar happened in the year 1303 at the time of Allaudin Khilji, 1535 when Bahadur Shah occupied Chittor and during Akbar’s regime in 1568.
But what is very interesting is, Jauhars by the Rajput families were only followed during the Mughal invasions. Although many other Hindu kings of Maratha dynasty did conquer Chittor fort, there have been no records of Jauhar performed by the royal women.
The main reason was because the Hindu kings who conquered the Chittor fort treated women with respect and gave the honour they deserve. However, in the hands of Mughals, the Rajput women underwent the most inhumane treatment of sex slavery, rape and humiliation. It is said that on several occasions, the Rajput Kings set terms for peace with Mughals and agreed that winner would grant the opponents family the dignity and respect they deserve. But however when the Rajputs were made to surrender, the Mughals betrayed their trust and slaughtered the husbands and took away women and children as sex slaves.
The treachery of the Mughals made the Rajputs lose faith which became the main reason for them to start the practice of Jauhar. The other main reason why Rajput women chose the most painful death of self immolating was because the Mughals after victory are said to have raped even the dead bodies of kafir women. In order to prevent such blasphemy, the Rajput women chose Jauhar over drinking poison so that the Mughals do not find their dead bodies as well.
Of the three Jauhars recorded, the Jauhar of the 1303 AD is remembered the most.
It was the time when Rana Ratan Singh was ruling the Chittorgarg fort. The fort was considered one of the largest forts in the country and believed to be built by the Mauryans in the 7 Century A D. The wife of Rana Ratan Singh was none other than Rani Padmini or Padmavati who was regarded the most beautiful women in the royal family. She was well known for her bravery and courage. Allauddin Khilji who tried to invade Chittogarh fort in the 13th century heard about the beauty of Rani Padmavati which made him want to marry her.
Since Padamavati was a royal princess, no person was allowed to see her without permission which irked Allauddin Khilji. He sent a proposal to King Rana saying if he was only given the glimpse of Rani Padmavati, he would spare the fort of Chittorgarh and return back to Delhi without harming his people. The biggest mistake Rana Ratan Singh committed was to trust Allauddin Khiliji.
Ratan Singh agreed to Khilji’s demands and allowed Allauddin Khilji to enter the Chittogarh fort to get a glimpse of Rani Padmavati. Khilji came unarmed and got a glimpse of Rani Padmavati through a set of mirrors arranged for the event.
While Rana Ratan Singh was escorting Khilji back, the guards of the Sultan attacked Ratan Singh from behind and held him captive. They treacherously killed the King’s body guards and took away the King.
When Rani Padmavati heard about the betrayal act by Khilji, she meticulously worked out a plan to rescue her husband from Allauddin Khilji.
Rani Padmavati wrote to Khilji saying she was ready to come along with him but put preconditions saying she wanted 700 women of her status to accompany her. Khilji agreed to her terms and 700 palanquins were set up to bring the women. Padmavati secretly planted armed Rajput warriors in the palanquins and helped 2000 men sneak into Allauddin Khilji’s camp. The warriors ambushed Khilji’s camp and rescued Rana Ratan Singh in most dramatic way.
This incident is regarded as one of the bravest acts of Rani Padmavati who single handedly rescued her husband from the clutches of Khilji. She is said to have guided 2000 soldiers most efficiently to cross all barriers and save Ratan Singh. Allauddin Khilji who was defeated in the first battle fled back to Delhi along with his troops.
But Khilji could not digest the fact that he was defeated by a woman and decided to take revenge for the defeat. Khilji returned back to attack Chittorgarh fort after a year with well prepared army. The second battle with Khilji could not save the Chittorgarh fort and Rana Ratan Singh was killed in the battle.
Padamavati who knew Khilji would not spare her, decided to take up Jauhar along with 300 other women and children whose husbands were killed in the battle. This was the first incident of Jauhar recorded in which 300 innocent women and children self immolated themselves to escape slavery in the hands of Allauddin Khilji. It was marked as one of the saddest days in the history of Rajputs.
The women who committed Jauhar left their hand prints on a clay wall which can be still seen in the forts of Chittorgarh today.
So, women of Rajput royal family did not follow Jauhar as a cowardice act, but to protect their honour and dignity. Today, those people who make fun of these brave women and call Khilji brave should understand that Allauddin Khilji did not conquer Chittorgarh fort by his courage and valour but by sheer treachery for which they should infact feel ashamed.