Maharanas: A Thousand-year War For Dharma. Omendra Ratnu. Prabhat Paperbacks. 2022. Pages 399. Rs 500.
Islam and Christianity, two cults that originated in the deserts of West Asia, have by now converted half the world’s population. But there is one crucial difference: while Christianity took centuries to subdue the pagan world and Christianise it, Islam managed to de-Christianise large parts of Asia, northern Africa, and even south-east Asia very quickly.
India has been one of the few geographies to defy this trend of quick and wholesale conversions. It is the only major civilisation that managed to hold back Islamisation despite the presence of brutal Islamic rulers on the sub-continent after the defeat of Raja Dahir Sen of Sindh by Muhammad bin Qasim in the second decade of the eighth century.
One reason why Islam did not succeed as well in India was the extraordinary courage and resistance put up by the Rajputs, especially the Sisodiyas of Mewar. The most famous among them was Maharana Pratap, the man who not only resisted Akbar’s armies, but is also seen by some historians as having won decisive battles against the Mughal Badshah. Mewar was never fully under Mughal control, even though its rulers suffered their share of setbacks.
A new book, Maharanas: A Thousand-Year War For Dharma, documents this Rajput resistance to Islamic tyranny, and which was instrumental in holding back the tides of Islamisation in India. The author, Omendra Ratnu, is an ENT surgeon by profession, but what marks out Maharanas from being just a general history book on the Rajputs is the passion with which he tells the story of Sisodiya efforts to keep India safe for Dharma with so little resources. They did this despite Akbar’s wily efforts to set Rajput against Rajput in order to neutralise the biggest threat to his dominance in Delhi and north India.
Ratnu’s story line is clear: he debunks the colonial, Islamist and Leftist rendering of history, where meek Hindus are always being defeated by stronger foes from abroad. The heroic resistance of the Rajputs against Arab and Turkish invaders, the battles fought by the Jats of Sind, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, and the contributions of the Kakatiyas of Andhra, Gowdas of Karnataka, the Ahoms of Assam, the Chalukyas, the Gurjar Pratiharas, the Rashtrakutas and the Rayas of Vijayanagar, seldom get equal prominence along with Akbar The Great. Only Chhatrapati Shivaji and the Marathas, who ultimately ended Mughal supremacy, get some credit for protecting Hindu Dharma, but even here the Left history is not about Shivaji’s Hindavi Swaraj, but his “secular” credentials.
In this well-researched and highly readable account of the Maharanas of Mewar, Ratnu uses the writings of James Tod and Shyamaldas Dadhwadiya (who wrote Veer Vinod), among others, to establish how just one family, the Sisodiyas of Mewar, managed to hold the Islamists at bay for nearly one thousand years.
The book is divided into three parts, with the first two being the most important. The last carries an exhortation to Hindus to stop believing that they were (or are) a pacifist people who let invaders walk all over them.
In the first part, Ratnu begins with the story of Bappa Rawal, descendent of a dynasty that traces its roots to Sri Rama’s son Luv. This dynasty later became the Sisodiyas of Mewar, a royal line that continues to this day. To Rawal is ascribed one of the earliest attempts by Hindu kings to form alliances to stop the marauding Arab forces that were seeking to establish control over India in the eighth century. He stitched an alliance with the Gurjara-Pratiharas of Malwa and Pulakesiraja and Jayabhatta of Gujarat, and it was this triple alliance that stopped the Arab armies from advancing deeper into India. Ratnu has done today’s Hindus a favour by telling us about the man whose contributions have been erased by biased history writers.
The first part also deals with the story of the jauhar (self-immolation) of Rani Padmini and the womenfolk of Chittor when the kingdom was about to be over-run by the forces of Alauddin Khilji. Regardless of the authenticity of the story, what the story typifies is the deep belief of Rajput Hindus that Islam was the enemy to whom no surrender is possible.
In this part, we also get the stories of Maharana Hammir Singh, who recovered Chittor and battled the Tughlaqs, and Maharanas Kumbha and Sanga.
In the second and core part of the Sisodiya history of fighting for Dharma, we get the full and authoritative account of Maharana Pratap, the man who would not bow to Akbar or accept his blandishments. While the outcome of the Battle of Haldighati is disputed (the author believes Maharana Pratap won the battle, since all of Akbar’s battle aims failed), the fact that the Maharana ruled Mewar without interruption from CE 1583-1597 suggests that he was not defeated by Akbar or his machinations.
Ratnu has done India and Hindus a huge favour by telling, or rather retelling, the story of the bravery and doughty fight to protect Dharma by the Maharanas of Mewar. It is due to their heroics that we still live in a Dharmic world. I strongly recommend this book as a must-read for anyone who wants India to remain a Dharmic nation forever.
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