What was the role of Hindu nobility in the war of succession?

Much has been said about the religious orthodoxy of Aurangzeb. His intolerance, his discrimination of Hindu officers in service etc. This is a rare opportunity for us to explore one such Hindu officer who had always landed on the wrong side of Aurangzeb only to be pardoned by him.

  • The first encounter with Jaswanth Singh was at the famous Battle of Dharmat.
  • Despite the pleas of Aurangzeb’s mediator Kavi Rai, Jaswant decided to fight him.
  • Following his defeat Jaswant fled the battlefield in shame and humiliation.
  • After the first coronation of Aurangzeb, Jaswant came back and pleaded for mercy.
  • Aurangzeb graciously pardoned him and showed him imperial favors and sent him to Delhi.
  • Then again his treachery would be exposed in the Battle of Khajwa against Prince Shuja.
  • Aurangzeb had given him the command of the right wing and in the middle of the night he deserted with his troops informing Prince Shuja of his betrayal.
  • By now Jaswant had retired to his Rajputana stronghold and waited in disgrace.
  • Aurangzeb sent out a strong force of 10,000 men to fight against him. Initially he resisted but he soon realized he could only hold out temporarily.
  • His opportune moment came when Dara marched out from Ahmedabad asking him to join forces at Ajmer for a combined attack on Aurangzeb’s forces.
  • Aurangzeb sensed that he had to break this alliance since Jaswant had almost 20,000 strong Rajput warriors.
  • He used the able persuasions of Raja Jai Singh in conferring a pardon and honors on Jaswant if he would not join Dara at the Battle of Deorai near Ajmer.
  • Raja Jaswanth sensing his fate lay in grasping this golden opportunity promptly ditched Dara who was left wondering what went wrong when Jaswant failed to show up.
  • On Aurangzeb’s 41st birthday Jaswant was pardoned in a ceremony and restored to the title of Maharaja.

However odd it might seem but it was the Hindu Rajputs who were sent out to pursue and fight important Princes like Dara, Suleiman Shikoh and Shuja by Aurangzeb in his war of succession.

  • After the Battle of Samugarh, Raja Jai Singh joined Aurangzeb. He was to be the most important Rajput noble of Aurangzeb’s court. He would be instrumental in many important battles and events during the reign of Aurangzeb.
  • Raja Jai Singh and other chieftains were sent in the pursuit of Dara towards Lahore.
  • Jaswanth Singh was given the command of the right flank to fight Shuja in the Battle of Khajwa a position which he deserted.
  • Raja Rajrup was sent to the hills of Srinagar to hold before Prithvipat, the zamindar of that place to surrender Dara’s eldest son Suleiman Shikoh which he later did and brought back to Aurangzeb.