Should Rajputs succumb to “Jodha Akbar” jibe?

Yeshwant Shekhawat writes :-


Last few years have seen a flurry of articles, media presentations, live TV discussions and outright malicious online propaganda seeking to educate common public about the eternal military weakness of Rajputs and the resultant habit of “losing all wars”, their supposed misogynism and “selling their daughters to Mughals to save their principalities and fiefdoms”. And these nasty pieces of information are shared with much glee by many**. What’s scary is that not as many individuals see this for what it is, blatant mudslinging propaganda seeking to alienate and shame an entire community of Rajput people.**

There is obviously much to be said about the effects this malicious propaganda has on the psyche of modern day members of Rajput community, the social forces of marginalization** it has set in motion but that is beyond the scope of this article. From the whole gamut of malignant themes employed to shame Rajputs of their ancestry, it is the insinuation at Mughal-Rajput marital alliances that is most referenced.

In India, dominant ideologies, whether politico-economic or religious, often only end up playing into caste dynamics, benefiting some and harming others. Who gets benefited depends upon who is the supposed hero of the narrative pushed by the said ideology. And heroes are those who take lead in the ideology-driven movement. Like the Left, Hindutva has an enemy and by extension, everyone who allied with the enemy is also an enemy. Since 16th century saw many Rajput rulers in the west and central India concluding peace treaties with Mughal Emperors and contracting political marriages with the Imperial family, they get branded as traitors for fighting alongside Mughals and delaying Hindutva takeover of India. In traditionalist Indian society, where women are the honour of a family and a community at large, marrying them to the enemy can be utterly dishonourable. This idea is exploited by propagandists to shame and tame Rajputs. Apparently, Marathis and Jats have taken lead in bringing the idea home that Rajputs were allies of a “foreign occupying power”, nay, even blood relatives but Maratha Brahmins and Jats were the beacons of Hindutva, the warriors whose uncompromising military resistance brought an end to Muslim rule in India. “Jodha Akbar”, “Mughalo ke saale”, “daughter givers” are usual slurs, directed at Rajput men and women to shame them by social media trolls, irrespective of ideology.This onslaught leaves common Rajputs baffled and utterly ashamed of themselves. They try to google about it themselves, and they run into more pieces of propaganda put by well-known media and online press, often carrying a mix of both Right wing’s traitor-branding and left’s hatred.This creates a self-feeding loop, where ultimately the Rajput reader succumbs to the propaganda and begins to believe his ancestors were actually just daughter-selling cowards and did no greater deeds than doing just that, besides of course fighting under Mughal flag and again getting defeated by Marathas.

PART 1: Were Rajputs exceptions?

It is one thing to catch a propagandist leitmotif from the source and relay it to sink, it is another to actually find the truth out. A comparative study of socio-military history of concerned ethnic groups actually casts a zillion doubts about the propaganda and the intentions behind it.

To begin with Marathas, both Kunbis and Brahmins, have had a 400 year old history of serving Deccani Muslim Sultanates militarily and contracting marriages of their daughters to local Sultans and Moslem warlords even before the Mughals ever set foot in Deccan.

In fact the distinction of being the first Hindu monarch to give his daughter in marriage to a Delhi Sultan goes to Ramchandra Jadhav, the Maratha king of Deogiri whose daughter Jhatyapali was married to AlauddinKhilji. [1] This happened in as early as 1307, in fact a year before sack of Siwana where Rajput women preferred to immolate themselves rather than be in Khilji’s harem and Rajput warriors adorned with sacrificial saffron died fighting to last man and last breath rather than surrender and live as vassals of the Sultanate. And in just thirty years to follow, Rajputs regrouped and met the Sultanate in battle of Singoli(1336) where mighty standing armies of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq were routed and Sultanate’s territorial hold over Rajputana was put to an end. Not the same happened to Deccan though, Marathas faithfully and bravely served Deccani Sultanates which sprang up to replace the shrinked Delhi Sultanate weakened by twin mighty blows it received from Rajputs at battles of Kangra and Singoli;where Sultanate hosts were annihilated and as was systemic, the Sultanate which relied on immigrant foreigners for filling its military ranks found it hard to replace those it lost to Rajput blades and hence receded was Delhi’s ability to control far off territories such as Sindh and Deccan, both of which ultimately broke free of Delhi’s authority. It is not a mere coincidence that Bahmani Sultanate was established in Deccan just the year after Singoli.

What was started by Deogiri Jadhavs became more frequent and rampant under Bahmani Sultanate. Alauddin II Bahman Shah married a Maratha princess of Sangameshwar. Another Sangameshwar Maratha Princess was taken in marriage by Feroz Shah Bahmani [2]. In return, Bahmani Sultans conferred upon Marathas the Deshmukhiand Deshpandyagiriof lands, military ranks and Jagirs for maintenance of horses etc besides composing them into garrisons of the forts [3]. MukundRao, Ghatages and others had Mansabs under the Bahmanis [4].

Founder of the AdilShahi Sultante which replaced Bahmanis, Yusuf AdilShah(1489–1510) invaded Jamkhind and to evade destruction, its Brahmin Maratha ruler MukundRao gave his sister in marriage to Yusuf. She was later renamed Punji Khanam or PunjiKhatun and she mothered Ismail Adil Shah. AmirBarid of Bidar followed Yusuf Adil Shah’s example [5]. Adil Ali Shah’s mother was a Maratha Princess too [6]. This Maratha practice of marrying their daughters to Bijapuri Moslem Lords didn’t die down with Mughal annexation of the AdilShahi in 1686 but continued even inside the Mughal court where now both the Marathas and Deccani Muslims were Mansabdars. ShambhajiBhonsle married his daughter to Sikandar Khan Bijapuri’s son at Mughal court in which dowry of seven thousand rupees was presented by Aurangzeb himself. [7] Later Sambhaji’s brother Rajaram Bhonsle too married both his daughters to Gond-Muslim converts. [8] As Maratha confederacy rose later, so did its constituent Maratha Sardars prominent of whom were Scindias of Gwalior. Since much of Maratha revenue was extracted by plunder and loot of defenseless villages, Muslim Pindari marauders were very important to Maratha economy. To seal this alliance, Sardar Bapu Sahib Scindia, a relative of DaulatRaoScindia married his daughter on 25th march, 1822 to Crown prince Muhammad Wazir Khan, son of Amir Khan Pindari, Nawab of Tonk [9]. Many more Maratha women of lesser rank found Deccani Muslim spouses enumerating whom isn’t possible without exceeding the scope of this piece. (Maratha blood, Persian veins )

Similarly, after Mughal commander Mir Jumla invaded Assam, geographically very distant from Imperial Delhi, and defeated the Ahom king Jayadhwaj Singha, a truce was made which included a condition that the latter’s daughter Ramani Gabharu, a niece of Lachit Borphukan, was to be sent to Mughal harem. She was married to Qutb-uddin Muhammad Azam, who was Mughal emperor briefly, and took the name Rahmat Banu Begum. (Surya Kumar Bhuyan, Atan Buragohain and His times, p. 31). A dowry of 1,80,0000 rupees was given at Delhi.

Similarly, Harihar II of the Vijayanagar Empire, was succeeded by his son Deva Raya I, who was defeated by Firoz Shah Bahmani and had to pay ten lakhs of pearls, elephants as an indemnity. He also agreed to marry his daughter to the Sultan, which was celebrated with great pomp and show. (Sailendra Sen, A textbook of Medieval Indian History, pp. 103–108)

Turning to Jats

Jats in northern India were an agrarian peasant caste. Due to their lower position in the hierarchy of power, their case of marrying daughters to Muslims hasn’t been acknowledged well enough in Sultanate chronicles.But the Jat practice of giving their daughters in as concubines to Kshatriya rulers, i.e. Rajputs is well known from various Rajput chronicles as well Jat legends themselves. Every Jat ruling house(Including Bharatpur [10] and most Jat clans claim descent from Rajput fathers and Jat mothers [11]. From Muslim Rajput Nawabs of Haryana, Punjab and western UP to Hindu Rajput chiefs of farthest sand dunes in Rajasthan, Jat women were preferred for concubinage [12]. Maharaja Bijay Singh of Jodhpur had a famously beautiful Jat concubine from Bharatpur named GulabRai [13], whom he unsuccessfully tried to instate as a full queen at par with his Rajput wives.

Jats also earned zamindaris from Mughals by submitting their daughters as tribute. As a result of this, the Jat clans who made this transaction were organised into a relatively higher social grade vis-a-vis their own brethren as they would only take daughters from other Jats but would only give their daughters in Mughal harem. Such grades came to be known as Akbari, Jahangiri, Shah Jahauni and Aurangzebi deriving from the regnal name of Mughal monarch in whose reign these leading Jat families made such transaction. [14].

Thus we glanced at the ethnohistories of Marathi Brahmins &Kunbis as well as that of Jats in relation with their marital alliances with Muslim men of rank, which by far outnumber and outweigh those of Rajputs.

Yet, the observable general tendency in media is to portray only Rajputs as “wife givers” which is not only distasteful, abhorrent and manifestly biased but also intellectually dishonest. But yet this ugly propaganda gets through because not only the perpetrators have well-connected support but the response from elite Rajputs is totally absent.

What aspect of Rajput-Muslim intermarriages do narrators omit?

Rajput-Mughal intermarriages or for that matter Rajput-Muslim intermarriages were not one-sided unlike what modern-day ghastly media portrayal would have us believe. Man Singh Kacchhawa I of Amber married Mubaraka Bibi,a niece of Emperor Akbar [15]. Before him, Maharaja Dharam Chand Chib of Kashmir also married both a daughter of Babur and a niece of Humayun [16]. Similarly, a Bhati chief Chachiga Deva was married to Sonal Devi, a daughter of Hybat Khan Baloch who gave him a dowry of 200 female camels (Tod, AAR, II, p. 206) while Rao Kelhan Bhati was married to the daughter of Jam Ismail Khan (Nainsi ri Vigat, p. 17).

Should common Rajputs be ashamed ?

Commoner Rajputs, like all Indians, are generally endogamous people who prefer match for their children only within their ethnic community. In such a social set up, it is obvious that political marriages contracted by some Royal Rajputs in the 16th century weren’t well-received [17]. Thus, only the most uninformed shall endeavour to associate the larger Rajput public with the marital choices of the royals.

Moreover, Royals married Royals and hence Royal Rajputs married Mughal royalty. Royal Rajputs married Oriya, Koch and Mughal royal families then, and they marry Maratha royals and even Jat ex-royals now.

PART 2: How did this slur “Jodha Akbar” come into being?

Ashutosh Gowariker is a fabulous Indian director, having directed Superhits like Lagaan (2001), Swades (2004) and other Kheley Hum Jee Jaan Sey (2010).

Surajmal as played by Manoj Bakshi in Panipat (2019)

However, Gowariker’s “Panipat-the Betrayal (2019)” revealed his own identity-centric biases. The movie accuses North Indian communities of betrayal while promoting “Marathas as saviors of India”. Mr Gowariker himself is a Karhade Brahmin, a subcaste of Marathi brahmins. But what was the most alarming aspect of the movie was that while playing songs like “Mard Maratha” on one hand and getting Marathi Brahmin characters played by tall men , it very openly parodied the Jat raja Surajmal as a “fat” “self-centred” and “stupid” individual who betrays the self-less Patriotic Maratha side.

This open display of chauvinism reminds one of his another “historical-film” — Jodha Akbar (2008). One wonders if Gowariker’s “Jodha-Akbar” was just an innocent attempt at “interfaith love story” as it is made out to be, given that he skipped examples closer home (as already discussed above). It is only after this, that many television production houses, editorials, columnists, writers picked this up — gradually created the current public perception that “all or most” Rajput clans gave daughters to the Mughals and there was an alliance between the entire Rajput ethnic group and the Mughal family (the simplistic phrase “Rajput-Mughal alliance” is often used even in academic discourse often unthinkingly). While the complete absence of discussion on Marathi brahmin,Maratha or Jat marriages created an impression that there were “no” instances of such marriages at all. Hence, while “Jodhabai” became a tool to malign all Rajputs, from Sindh to Bihar , Jammu to Malwa, other examples are lost in voluminous Archives.

Afterall there is no denying that we live in a period when public perception about different communities and narratives on them, are shaped, written and shown as per the whims of Marathi brahmins & Punjabi Khatris.


  1. History of Khaljis, K.S. Lal ↩︎

  2. History of Dekkan, translation of Ferishtah by Jonathan Scott, pg 113 ↩︎

  3. Duff Grant, History of Mahrattas, Vol. I, 1974, pg 25–29 ↩︎

  4. Tarikh-e-Ferishtah by Muhammad QasimFarishtah ↩︎

  5. Impact of Hindu culture on Muslims by MoesinSaeediMadani, pg 127 ↩︎

  6. Position of Marathi in the kingdom of Bijapur, Dr Abdul GaniImratwale ↩︎

  7. Maasir-e-Aalamgiri, translated by JadunathSarkar, pg 287 ↩︎

  8. History of Aurangzeb by JadunathSarkar, Volume-V ↩︎

  9. ↩︎

  10. Social and Political History of the Jats, BharatpurUpto 1826.Shodhak. pp. 28–29. Balchand, a young YaduvanshiJadaun Rajput prince of Karauli, had no family by his own wife and made his Jat prisoner’s lady as his concubine and by her had two sons. This is how Bharatpur house came into being. ↩︎

  11. ( Origins and history of Jats and another allied Nomadic tribes of India(900 BCE to 1947 AD) by Bakhshish Singh Nijjar ↩︎


  13. ↩︎

  14. Among the Jats the only social distinctions are the well known ‘Akbari’ or Darbarimakans — 35 in number according to the usual accounts.But in Amritsar the Akbari is only the highest of a series of four grades,theAurangzebi(those admitted to this rank during the rule of Aurangzahib),Khalsai(or those admitted during Sikh times) and Angrezi(of those admitted since British ruler began) being the other three,and no less than 150 villages,all generally speaking in the Manjha,now claim Darbaristatus.There is also a Shahjahuanigrade,theSansiJats,of Raja Sansi,having been admitted in the reign of Shah Jahan.The origin of the Akbari group is thus described.When the emperor Akbar took in marriage the daughter of MihrMithan,aJat,of the Manjha,35 of the principal Jat,and 36 of the leading Rajput families countenanced the marriage and sent representatives to Delhi….The AkbariJats follow some of the higher castes in not allowing remarriage of widows,and in practisingdarbara,which is a custom of giving vails at weddings to the mirasis of other Akbarifamilies.Below the Akbari is the Darbarigrade,descendants of those who gave their daughters to the emperor Jahangir….” by F.A Rose, Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North West …, Volume 1 — page 377. ↩︎

  15. Akbarnama, AbulFazal ↩︎

  16. See Baba ShadiShaheed, a presently revered Sufi saint formerly Dharam Chand Chib of Kashmir. He has both Hindu and Muslim desendants from his Hindu Rajput and Mughal wives, respectively. ↩︎

  17. Often, such marriage proposals saw fierce resistance from clansmen of the Rajput ruler. See, for example, the rebellion of Kalyandas Rathore against Mota Rao Udai of Jodhpur ↩︎