Maharaja Chhatrasal Bundela
Undefeated Warrior of 52 glorious wars
Bravest among so many brave men was Rao Chhatrasal Bundelakhand Kesari (महाराजा छत्रसाल-बुन्देलखण्ड केसरी), the King of Bundi and the hero of fifty-two glorious wars. Of the 82 years he lived, Chhatrasal fought 52 battles during his 44 year old reign. He won all his battles and avenged few tactical reverses quickly, till his last fight with Mughal general Bangash Khan. This famous battle was won by the help of another great undefeated warrior Peshwa Baji Rao-I. Veer Chhatrasal had already defeated Bangash twice before this last battle.
Founder of Panna State
Maharaja Chhatrasal founded Panna State. He effectively dominated Bundelkhand region from 1671- 1731. He is now a legendary figure in Madhya pradesh and Southern Uttar Pradesh, the area between Yamuna and Naramda rivers. This huge part of central India was freed from Mughals clutches by Veer Chhatrasal only.
Chhatrasal Vs Aurangzeb war-Who won?
Once Chhatrasal had set his foot in any battle, he never lost it. Aurangzeb lost to him on every occasion. Veer Chhatrasal started from nothing and carved out his Kingdom right under the nose of Aurangzeb, defeating his armies every time without fail.
In Medieval India, Veer Chhatrasal stands along side with Chatrapati Shivaji and Maharana Pratap, Guru Govind Singh as one of the bravest fighters for freedom from the Muslim rule, a man who fought for freedom till the end of his life. His illustrious name shine bright in long list of Hindu warriors.
Bundelkhand Kesri Maharaja Chhatrasal along with Chhatarapati Shivaji and Guru Govind Singh forms a trinity of rebels who rose against Aurangzeb’s bigotry and tyranny in the late 18th century. Aurangazeb’s 3 most dreaded nemeses were Shivaji, Chhatrasal and Guru Govind Singh. These three rose around similar timeline and were the reason behind the final downfall and defeat of tyrant Muslim ruler Aurangazeb.
Neglect at the hands of history and the meek and unassertive nature of the Hindi speaking people are probably the two reasons why so few in India know so little about Veer Chhatrasal. There is famous saying about him:
‘‘इत जमना उत नर्मदा इत चंबल उत टोंस।
छत्रसाल से लरन की रही न काह होंस।’’
Meaning; From the banks of Yamuna in north on one side till Narmada in south , with Chambal in west while Tons river in East. Everyone was defeated and no one remained with guts to fight with him.
Budelkhand Kesri Maharaja Chhatrasal (4 May 1649 – 20 December 1731), was a Bundela Rajput warrior who chose to pick sword against the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and established his own kingdom in Bundelkhand.
Chhatrasal Birth and Family
Chhatrasal was born in Kachar Kachnai on the 4 May 1649, to Champat Rai and Lal Kunwar. He was a descendent of Rudra Pratap of Orchha and his ancestors were vassals of the Mughal emperor. His father Champat Rai had raised the banner for freedom a generation earlier but was killed in battle with the Mughals after himself killing the favourite of the emperor, Abu Fazl. Chhatrasal was just 12 years when his parents perished in fight against the Mughal Army of Auranzeb in 1661.
His Early years- Training, Bravery
Amidst the forests, the hills, under the shadow of the forest Gods, Chhatrasal was born in conflicted times, amidst cannons, swords and bloodshed. Along with his elder brother Angad Rai, Chhatrasal, moved to Delwara, to learn the art of warfare from his uncle Saheb Singh Dhander. He also got married to Devkunwari of the Panwar dynasty as promised to his father.
Along with his brother, he joined the army of Mirza Raja Jai Singh, where he undertook military training and through him served the Mughals. He participated in the siege of Purandar against Shivaji in 1665 and received a Mansab in recognition of his services. He was later sent on campaigns against Bijapur and Deogarh.
On May 1665, Chhatrasal showed exemplary bravery in the Battle for Bijapur, and also played a crucial role in defeating the Gond king of Chhindwara too risking his own life. It was Chhatrasal’s horse “Bhalebhai” that saved it’s master from danger, else he would have lost his life. However when Chhatrasal did not receive due credit for the victories, and instead the credit went to relatives of Aurangzeb and court nobels, his self respect was hurt. He came to know that the Mughals were merely an occupying force, who never really cared for the Hindus. Also he was finding it difficult to adjust in the Mughal hierarchy, partly due to his father’s legacy.
Chhatrasal met Shivaji
One day he left the Mughal camp on the pretext of hunting and proceeded to meet Shivaji, whom he admired. Shivaji being the rising star of Hindu nationalism then, Chhatrasal felt it fit to ally with the great Maratha ruler. He made a long journey through the difficult terrain to meet Shivaji and received a warm welcome in Shivaji’s camp in the winter of They met in 1668-69.
Chhatrasal stayed with Shivaji for a few months. A letter written by Chhatrasal towards the end of his life he proudly talked about learning archery with Shivaji’s forces. Chhatrasal wanted to serve under Shivaji, but Shivaji advised him to start his independent resistance in Bundelkhand so that the Mughal energies could be divided.
This is what Shivaji told him “We shall rule over our independent kingdoms, kill the Mughals, destroy their army.” Chhatrapati Shivaji also gifted him the sword of Goddess Bhavani.
Motivated by Shivaji’s call for Swaraj, Chhatrasal, returned to his native Bundelkhand in 1670, however by now, most of it was under the control of the Mughals.
Chhatrasal returned to Bundelkhand
After returning to Bundelkhand, Chhatrasal raised the banner of revolt against the Mughals in Bundelkhand. While he didn’t get the support of other Bundela clans initially. Most of the local chieftains were vassals of the Mughal empire, his own relatives were not in a mood to oppose Delhi. Chhatrasal received no cooperation from any of the local rulers be it Sujan Singh of Orchha or Shubkaran of Datia, who advised him against conflict. Aurangzeb’s religious policy, especially his drive towards temple demolitions drew a strong opposition from Bundelas and many of them united under Chhatrasal’s banner.
Modest start with few friends but grew up Quickly
When the kings refused to support him, Chhatrasal began to rally the ordinary people against the Mughals , he was helped financially by his childhood friend Mahabali, due to which he was able to raise a small army of just 25 infantry and 5 cavalry in 1671 at the age of 22 years.
His modest army did not have any royalty, but were mostly made up of commoners like Telis, ordinary peasants, craftsmen etc.
His cousin Baldiwan also joined hands with him, and his first attack was against the Dhanderas of Sehore, who had betrayed his parents. The Mughal vassal Kunwar Singh was not only defeated and imprisoned, but Hashim Khan who came to assist him was roundly defeated. Sironj and Tibra, were attacked and the looted wealth was used by Chhatrasal to build his army and also to motivate people to join it. In no time, Chhatrasal managed to raise a large army and soon Pawai, Bansa, Damoh, Meher, were all conquered. Munawar Khan, the subedar of Gwalior was routed, and the treasury was sacked, and it came under his control.
Aurangzeb’s loss became Chhatrasal’s gain
The Bundela fight under the leadership of Chhatrasal, against the Moghuls became unexpectedly successful, conquering swathes of territory from them and paving the way for an independent state.
Furious at the loss of Gwalior, Aurangzeb sent a huge army under the command of Rohilla Khan which had 8 cavalry units, and an infantry of 30,000. In a pitched battle fought at Garhkot, Rohilla’s army was not just routed by Chhatrasal, but he himself had to flee from the battlefield to save his life. The victory made Chhatrasal that much more stronger.
Chhatrasal’s Kingdom Extent
Chhatrasal met with his Spiritual Guru
In 1675, Chhatrasal met Mahamati Prannathji the guru of the Pranami Sampradaya at Mau, through his nephew Dev Karanji who was a disciple of the Guru Pran Nathji. Chhatrasal highly impressed by Pran Nathji became his disciple.
When Maharaja Chhatrasal came to meet him first, he was going for a battle against Mughals. Swami Prannathji gave him his own sword and covered his head with a scarf.
Guru Prannathji blessed him saying “You will always be victorious. Diamond mines will be discovered in your land and you will become a great emperor.” Pran Nathji came Chhatrasal’s spiritual guru and advisor.”
These famous line convey the blessing of Guru Prananath
छत्ता तोरे राज में धक धक धरती होय
जित जित घोड़ा मुख करे तित तित फत्ते होय।
Meaning: O Chaatrasal, in your rule, there will always be battles but wherever your horse proceeds you will see victory only.
Rapid Expansion of Chhatrasal’s Kingdom
Chhatrasal defeated the Gond ruler of Panna, and made it his capital as per advice of Pran Nathji. This would prove beneficial, as the diamond mines at Panna, bought him prosperity, and helped him to build a mighty kingdom.Swami Prannathji was not only the religious Guru of Chhatrasal, but he guided him too in political, social, and economic matters. It was by being granted the boon of finding diamonds in Panna by Swami Prannathji that Maharaja Chhatrasal became prosperous.
And soon the forts of Orchha, Sagar, Damoh, Kalpi, Mahoba, Ajner and Vidisha were conquered by Chhatrasal. The Mughal jagirdars themselves began to pay tax to Chhatrasal now. His victory march continued as far as Malwa, Punjab, Rajasthan, establishing the Bundela kingdom.
His Last Battle in Old Age
In 1730, The Subedar of Allahabad(Now Prayagraj), Mohd Khan Bangash, launched final attack on Chhatrasal capital Jaitpur. Chhatrasal was around 80 years then. Facing a defeat at Jaitpur, Chhatrasal sent a long letter to the Peshwa Baji Rao , reminding him of the need to protect the honor of the Bundelas. The seasoned warrior sent a letter to Peshwa Bajirao I, with these lines, now a part of popular folklore:
जो गति ग्राह गजेन्द्र की सो गति भई है आज ।
बाजी जात बुन्देल की बाजी राखो लाज ।।
Meaning: I am in the same plight in which the elephant king was, when caught by the crocodile. This Bundela is on the brink of losing, O Bajirao, come and save my prestige.
Bajorao’s Arrival and Chhatrasal’s Final Victory
Chhatrasal reminded Baji Rao of the assistance Bundelas gave to Marathas and requested him to help. With the advent of Baji Rao’s army, Bangash’s army had to suffer a humiliating rout, and Mohd. Khan Bangash himself had to run away from the battlefield in disgrace.
In gratitude Chhatrasal, adopted Baji Rao as his 3rd son, and also gave him the entire Bundelkhand region of Jhansi, Sagar, Kalpi etc, as also his daughter from a Muslim courtesan Mastani. The unity shown by the Bundelas and Marathas in repelling the Mughal forces and creating an independent kingdom in the Deccan is to date an exemplary episode in history. He also gave equal share of his kingdom to his two sons Jagatraj and Hirde Shah.
During the first ten years of his revolt he conquered a large tract of land between Chitrakoot and Panna on the east and Gwalior on the west and his domains stretched from Kalpi in the north to Sagar, Garah Kota, Shahgarh and Damoh in the south.Some of the Mughal generals who were defeated by him were Rohilla Khan, Kaliq, Munawwar Khan, Sadruddin, Sheikh Anwar, Sayyid Latif, Sher Afkan, Bahlol Khan.
Chhatrasal’s Demise due to old Age
Chhatrasal was not just a great warrior, but an equally able and wise ruler too, whose governance ensured, his kingdom always had a full treasury. Chhatrasal died on 20th December 1731, less than two years after the battle with Bangash at the ripe age of 81, near Chhatarpur.
The poet-warrior had lived a lived a long, vigorous life and his career trajectory had emulated that of his role model Shivaji in many ways. In hindsight, Shivaji’s advice had worked out quite well for him.
Relationship between Chhatrasal and Baji Rao I
the relationship between Chhatrasal and Baji Rao I was like that of father and son. Between 1728 and 1729, all of central India had gone out of Mughal control, never to return. Marathas were now staring in all directions – especially Orissa, Bengal and Delhi. The Mughal Empire was crumbling and it’s foundation was being hammered hard by a young and impatient Peshwa who, clearly, had the “head to plan and the hand to execute“.
Warrior, Poet and Exemplary Administrator
Veer Chhatrasal, a great warrior, builder of an empire in Bundelkhand, an equally good writer and an able administrator too. Praises to the Lion of Bundelkhand, Bundel -Kesari, a truly great hero and son of Bharat. His name rightly deserves be among most famous Indian kings. Our biased Historians have mistake of undermining his achievement. Carving out a great long lasting empire right under the most cruel Mughal rule, by routing their best generals in nearly fifty battles, is no small feat by any means.
Sharp as his sword was, equally sharp was his pen too. An excellent poet himself, he would felicitate and honor other poets too.Chhatrasal was a patron of literature, and his court housed several noted poets. When the great poet Kavibhushan came to Bundelkhand, Chhatrasal himself carried the palanquin bearing him. His eulogies written by Kavi Bhushan, Lal Kavi, Bakhashi Hansaraj
It is a great example of sheer determination, wit, courage, audacity and display of political and tactical acumen of highest level.
‘Veera Bhogya Vasundhara.’
Places & Institution named after Maharaja Chhatrasal
A memorial for him was built in Dhuvela, the expenses for which were shared by his sons – Hirde Sah, Jagat Raj and Bajirao. , but he would remain forever in the consciousness of Bundelkhand. His giant footprints can be seen in the landscape of Bundelkhand and in the oral traditions of Bundeli people.
Chhatarpur town & Maharaja Chhatrasal Museum
The Royal family still resides in Chhatarpur, Bhagavānadāsa Gupta, Life and times of Maharaja Chhatrasal Bundela, New Delhi.
Indian Governement issued a postal stamp of this illustrious Budel Rajput ruler in 1967.
Maharaja Chhatrasal Bundelkhand University
Maharaja Chhatrasal Bundelkhand University, (Short form MCBU) Chhatarpur has been established after his name. Maharaja Chhatrasal Bundelkhand University is a state university in Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh, India. It serves as an affiliating university for colleges of five districts Damoh, Panna, Sagar, Tikamgarh and Niwari.
the Chhatrasal Stadium in Delhi is also named after the Maharaja Chhatrasal. Chhatrasal Stadium is a multi purpose stadium with state of the art facilities. Located in North Delhi, is the home ground of international wrestlers like Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar. Build in 2000, the stadium was renovated during 2010 Commonwealth Games to suit international standards, and has both indoor and outdoor facilities to host games like basketball, archery, tennis etc.
Some related interesting articles
List of related posts of Hindu warriors’ bravery:
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- Brave Kuyili sacrificed herself life to win over Britishers 1780
- Queen of Ullal- Braveheart Abbakka Chowta
- Queen Hadi Rani who sacrificed herself for Rajput Honour
- Kiran Devi with her dagger on Akbar’s throat
- Story of Brave Lady Onake Obavva
- A Tale of Bravery and Chivalry : Rajputs
- Maharaja Chhatrasal Bundela- Victor of 52 glorious wars
- Overview of Brave resistance of Hindus against Islamic jihad in Kerala
- Braveheart Prataprao Gurjar – Battle of Salher, 24 February 1672
- Jaimal Rathore of Badnor and Patta of Kelwa
- Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar who defeated British every time
- King Sambhaji Raje & Knight Williams Wallace- Two warriors, similar life
- Tanaji Malusare -The Lion of the Famous Singhgadh Fort War
- Freedom fighters Periya Marudhu and Chinna Marudhu
- The 27 Years Maratha War(1681 to 1707A.D.) which saved Hinduism
- Battle of Kamrupa-King Prithu annihilated and Bakhtiyar Khilji finally
- King Suheldev routed out 10 lac strong army of Invader Salar Masood
- Sardar Jasaa Singh Ahluwalia- Abdali’s Nightmare
Aurangazeb’s 3 nemeses Shivaji, Chhatrasal and Guru Govind Singh
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