Fall of Chitor Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The siege of Chitor formed a part of Emperor Akbar’s project of securing the capital city of Mewar along with its powerful fort. Chitor’s fall facilitated the Mughal conquest of a prosperous coastline province in western India, leading to the empire’s further expansion.

Summary of Event

Chitorgarh, or the fortress of Chitor (variation of the Sanskrit Chitrapura), the capital city of Mewar Mewar , was strategically situated between the headquarters of the Mughal Mughal Empire rulers in Delhi orĀgra and the prosperous coastal region of Gujarat. Emperor Akbar’s imperial project of unification of Hindustan Hindustan (India) under a central command called for securing the intractable chieftaincy of Mewar ruled by the ranas (chiefs) of the formidable Sisodia Dynasty Sisodia Dynasty (royal section of the Guhilot clan dating back to the seventh century). Chitor, fall of (1568) Akbar Singh, Rana Udai Khan-i Jahan Jaimal Rathor of Badnor Patta Sisodia of Amet Asaf Khan Abu-l-Fazl ՙAllāmī Akbar Abu-l-Fazl ՙAllāmī Singh, Rana Udai Jaimal Rathor of Badnor Patta Sisodia of Amet Asaf Khan Khan-i Jahan

Chitor’s fortress (along with the town of Chitor), probably the greatest of its kind in contemporary Hindustan, stands on a 3-mile-long ridge on the bank of the River Gambhiri, 500 feet above the surrounding plain, and about 1,850 feet above sea level. It has a circumference at the base extending a little more than 8 miles. The main entranceway zigzags up the hillside through seven gates (pol).

According to contemporary historian Abu-l-Fazl ՙAllāmī, Akbar’s operations against Chitor began on or about September 19, 1567, to teach the “audacious and immoderate” Rana Udai Singh a lesson for displaying hospitality toward an offending fugitive Mughal chief of Malwa (situated to the north of Ajmer) and, especially, for an incident involving the rana’s son at the nearby town of Dholpur.

In the early days of September, 1567, Akbar had set up a hunting camp in Dholpur to gather the loyal local chiefs to help him put down the rebellion of the sons of the Mughal noble Muhammad Sultan Mirza of Mordabad as rebellious fugitives. The emperor was attended on by Udai Singh’s son Sakat Singh (it is not known why he was at Akbar’s camp), whose help Akbar, reportedly jokingly, solicited in bringing his father Udai Singh to submission. When the young man fled upon hearing Akbar’s request, the enraged emperor contemplated attacking the Rājput stronghold of Chitor. A number of his trusted men, who had received fiefs in Malwa, were dispatched to Malwa to crush the rebellion of the Mirzas.

According to ՙAllāmī, the Mughal army occupied three forts and Akbar himself advanced with a small force toward the target city. Akbar’s party halted in the vicinity of Fort Gagrun near the town of Kotah. The Mughal strategy was to entice Rana Udai Singh into a pitched battle. However, the rana decided against giving battle and withdrew into the Girwa Valley in the Aravalli hills, leaving the fortress under the command of a number of chiefs, notably Jaimal Rathor of Badnor and Patta Sisodia of Amet, with a garrison of five thousand to eight thousand Rājputs and with enough provisions for several years. Udai Singh also carried out a scorched-earth policy, destroying crops in the surrounding areas of Chitor.

On October 20, 1567, Akbar set up a 10-mile-long camp outside Chitor to the northeast of the ridge and began a siege. After a careful reconnaissance, lines were constructed that surrounded the fort, establishing many batteries in the course of one month. Asaf Khan was dispatched to take Rampur and Khan-i Jahan to apprehend the fugitive rana, though to little effect. Following completion of the siegeworks, Akbar attempted to storm Chitorgarh but failed. According to the Rājput folklore, the Mughal forces were successfully repulsed by the courageous queen of the rana and the besiegers’ camp was broken up. Nevertheless, the Mughals persisted with grim determination.

Akbar decided on a siege by sap and mine process. Accordingly, two mines and a wide trench (sabat, wide enough so that ten men could walk side by side and high enough for a mounted elephant to pass) were dug and a 40-pound mortar was cast in the camp. The news of the gun persuaded the defending garrison to open negotiations, but, despite the Rājput offer of surrender and a hefty peshkash (tribute) to the Mughals, negotiations failed. Akbar, however, remained obdurate because he was bent on capturing the rana before accepting any offer.

Intense fighting resumed on both sides. Despite heavy casualties, the besiegers brought two mines to the foot of the fort and exploded two charges on December 17, 1567. The first caused a large breach through which two hundred cavalrymen galloped, but about forty Rājputs were immolated when the second mine exploded. On February 23, 1568, the Mughal army entered the fort gate and engaged the defending garrison in a pitched battle in which Patta Sisodia and Jaimal Rathor were killed.

ՙAllāmī reported that Akbar shot a man, later identified as Jaimal, who had been seen supervising the repair of the Mughal breach. His death broke the morale of the garrison. The surviving garrison in the fort, some eight thousand men, proceeded to immolate the women inside through the ritual of jauhar and then, after donning their saffron robes and partaking of the last bira (an aromatic leaf laced with shell-lime and pieces of areca nuts), flung themselves at the enemy.

Akbar then ordered an assault of the fort with three hundred elephants in the charge, and Patta was trampled to death. Some forty thousand peasants, allegedly participants in Chitor’s defense by working for the garrison, were killed or taken prisoner. In ՙAllāmī’s reckoning, some thirty thousand soldiers perished in the battle. Remarkably enough, about one thousand expert marksmen from Kalpi, who were among the defending garrison, managed to escape from the besieged fort along with their families.

On February 28, Akbar left Chitor for a pilgrimage to the shrine of Khwaja Muin-ud-din Chishti in Ajmer, appointing Asaf Khan the new administrator of Chitor. It is also on record that the Mughal emperor had stone statues sculpted of his two valiant adversaries, Jaimal and Patta, and placed them at the gates of his palace atĀgra.

Significance

The conquest and fall of Chitor demonstrated the superiority of a Mughal military that combined mounted archers, effective artillery, and infantry with firearms. The sack of the fort facilitated Emperor Akbar’s control of the principalities of Rājasthān, thus marking a significant stage in the formation of the Mughal Empire.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Abu-l-Fazl ՙAllāmī. The Akbar Näma of Abu-l-Fazl. Translated by H. Beveridge. 3 vols. Delhi, India: Ess Ess, 1977. A detailed eyewitness account by Akbar’s court historian, manifestly pro-Mughal yet the most valuable source on the fall of Chitor.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mehta, Balwant S., and Jodh S. Mehta. Chittorgarh: The Cradle of Chivalry and Culture. Udaipur: Rajasthan Itihas Parishad, 1966. An excellent short introduction to the fort’s history and environs.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Roy, Dwijendralal. Mevar Patan: Or, Fall of Mevar. Translated by Dilip K. Roy. 2d ed. Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1970. An entertaining historical play written during the nationalist movement in India in the nineteenth century celebrating Rājput patriotism against Mughal imperialism.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Shastri, Pandit Sobhalal, comp. Chittorgarh. Udaipur, India: State Printing Press, 1928. A brief but very helpful historical and topographical guide for visitors to Chitor.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Smith, Vincent A. Akbar the Great Mogul, 1542-1605. 3d rev. ed. New Delhi, India: S. Chand, 1966. Concise, critical, and very well written. Long reputed in India as a standard biography of Akbar.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stratton, J. P. Chitor and the Mewar Family. Ajmer: Scottish Mission Industries, 1909. A relatively short narrative of the siege of Chitor.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Streusand, Douglas E. The Formation of the Mughal Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. A well-researched, succinct account of the siege of Chitor.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Tod, James. Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan: Or, The Central and Western Rajpoot States on India. Reprint. New Delhi, India: K. M. N., 1971. A classic and elegiac history of Rājputana.

1459: Rāo Jodha Founds Jodhpur

Mar. 17, 1527: Battle of KhĀnua

Dec. 30, 1530: Humāyūn Inherits the Throne in India

1556-1605: Reign of Akbar

Mar. 3, 1575: Mughal Conquest of Bengal

1580-1587: Rebellions in Bihar and Bengal

Feb., 1586: Annexation of Kashmir

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