Rāo Jodha Founds Jodhpur Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Rāo Jodha’s construction of the massive Meherangarh fortress symbolized the heart of the city of Jodhpur in Rājasthān. Jodhpur would become the center of the Marwar state, which would spread its influence throughout the region.

Summary of Event

It is important for modern historians to understand the city of Jodhpur and its rise within the context of the factional strife that characterized much of the early modern period in India, including times of foreign influences, especially Turkish and Muslim. Indeed, far from being a fortress constructed to maintain extensive domination in Rājasthān Rājasthān[Rajasthan] , the Meherangarh fortress is instead a product of a time of uncertainty and change for the Marwar Marwar state. Jodhpur Rāo Jodha Bābur Akbar Rāo Jodha

It is not surprising that the prominence of Jodhpur itself is a product of the protection and importance that the Meherangarh fort brought to the area surrounding it. This fortress city of the Thar Desert became, in time, the capital of Marwar, the largest and most influential of the Rājput states. The imposing fort, which now dominates the western district of the modern city, is the stronghold from which the Rathor clan methodically spread the influence of their state of Marwar (land of the dead, in reference to the inhospitable Thar Desert) over a massive section of Rājasthān. Jodhpur is also the seed from which has grown many popular notions about the martial prowess and chivalry of the Rājput states and peoples.

The period of rising Arab and Turkish interference in northwest India was most challenging for border locales such as Rājasthān, but these times also provided opportunities for the augmentation of the ancient prestige of the various Rājput families. These opportunities came in the form of legendary resistance (Prthviraja III, the Chauhan Rājput, defeated Muhammad of Ghor at Tarain in 1191) and creative political alliances (Raja Surender’s service with the Mughal emperor Akbar, including the capture of Gujarat).

Additionally, pressure from external forces seems to have awakened Rājput princes to the need to preserve the prestige of their rulers among the local populations. These factors were especially at play during two periods of occupation: the Delhi sultanate Delhi sultanate (1206-1526), a time of Turkish domination, and the rise of the Mughal Empire Mongol Empire (beginning in 1526). Indian history between the early twelfth century and the early eighteenth century is often framed as a struggle for control between the largely Hindu and Jainist peoples native to the Indian subcontinent and Islamic forces from the northwest. Islam;India Two factors are important to remember in this regard. First, the invaders were themselves rarely free from harassment by other forces (for example, the Mughals) and, second, the control of Indian states by foreign powers typically was exercised through a combination of conquest and diplomacy; various Indian states entered into a wide variety of relationships with the organizing and imperial forces. Those states, such as Marwar, that would emerge most successfully from this period were those that best understood how to read an increasingly complex and labile political scene.

Despite valiant resistance by Rājput and other Indian constituencies, the scene was set for the emergence of the Delhi sultanate by the end of the thirteenth century. A year after his heroic victory, Prthviraja III was defeated by Muhammad of Ghor (again at Tarain). In the following year (1193), Muhammad of Ghor captured the traditional Rathor stronghold, Kannauj, in north-central India, then under the command of Jai Chand. Chand’s descendants, however, were political leaders who soon reestablished Rathor dominance, with their seat of power in Mandore, a fort previously under Pratihara control, and their principal trading center in Pali, just south of the site of Jodhpur. Mandore became the official Marwar capital in 1381 under Rāo Chandra. Rāo Chandra’s son and Rāo Jodha’s father, Rainmal, was allied closely with his nephew, an heir to the Mewar throne and fortress at Chitor. Sadly, internal feuds between the Mewari and Marwari led to the assassination of Rainmal in 1438 and the establishment of Mewar and Marwar as separate kingdoms.

Rāo Jodha fled Rājasthān temporarily, returning in 1453 to recapture Mandore and establish Marwari dominance over the region. To consolidate his holdings and increase the Marwar state to what would be its largest extent, Rāo Jodha constructed a new capital, naming it Jodhpur, after himself. From here, the Rathor clan would build the state of Mawar into the largest Rājput state, one covering some 35,000 square miles.

With the rise of the Mughal Empire, Jodhpur initially aligned itself against the emperors and fought under Ganga Singh against Bābur.

At the accession of Akbar, however, Jodhpur changed sides and championed the cause of the emperors. This allowed Jodhpur and its rulers to bring increased stability to the region, maintain the prestige of their local rulers, and open up economic opportunities for the Marwar state and Rājasthān generally. Along with the economic advantages that accrued to Jodhpur from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth centuries, especially as a center of trade between Central Asia and the northern Indian coast (Gulf of Cambay), there were also cultural advantages. Jodhpur became a center of culture and arts, adding to its prestige. Trade;Jodhpur

Jodhpur’s period of cooperation with the Mughal Empire dissolved in 1658 after ՙĀlamgīr deposed his father, Shāh Jahān (r. 1626-1658); Maharaja Jaswant Singh I, then ruling at Jodhpur, had not anticipated that ՙĀlamgīr, who had asserted a claim to his father’s throne along with all three of his brothers, would prevail. Although Jodhpur would eventually gain independence from the Mughal Empire, it would fall under British control in 1818. The dominance that Jodhpur had built, starting from the foundation of the Meherangarh fortress, was enough to ensure that even in the British period the Marwari would play a major role in northwestern Indian politics.


During years of occupation and internecine struggle, the Rājput princes, especially the Rathores of Marwar, developed a sense of family identity that superseded ties to place, allowing the clan to maintain fierce internal loyalty despite moving their capital and shifting their allegiances. These characteristics opened the way to the foundation of Jodhpur as a new beginning for Marwar.

Jodhpur helped to localize Marwar pride, placing it in a critical position (locally and politically) to become an economic, political, and cultural leader in the region, and the largest of the Rājput states. Even in modern Indian history, successful bankers and traders from northwest India (even those who did not actually come from Marwar) are given the name “Marwari,” a name that continues the trading legacy of the great city.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Alam, Muzaffar, and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, eds. The Mughal State, 1526-1750. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Groups of four and five essays organized around central themes in Indian medieval history. All are written by experts and bring the time period into clear focus. Especially useful for those interested in the Rājput states is the section on “The Formation and Consolidation of Authority.”
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Chandra, Satish. Essays on Medieval Indian History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. Contains some of the most clear recent analysis of Rājput and Mughal relations in this period. This book is best suited to those who have already read some more general volumes on this period of Indian history.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Keay, John. A History of India. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000. The best written concise modern history of India now in print. Authoritative and compellingly written. This one-volume work relates the story of India from prehistory through the present. It includes a wealth of genealogical tables, maps, and full bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mehta, J. L. Advanced Study in the History of Medieval India. Brill Academic, 1980. Volume 1 of this set is organized around a series of interesting topics, providing insightful analyses of events in Indian history, especially of the Rājputs and of Marwari.

1451-1526: Lodī Kings Dominate Northern India

Mar. 17, 1527: Battle of KhĀnua

Feb. 23, 1568: Fall of Chitor

Categories: History