Hindua Suraj Maharaj Bappa Rawal
Statue of Bappa Rawal, Pratap Gaurav Kendra, Udaipur
|Date of birth||712-713 AD|
|Birth place||Anandapura, Rajasthan|
Bappa Rawal is one of the tallest historical figures of Rajput history. The founder of the Guhila line of rulers in Mewar, in his lifetime, he managed to successfully alter the course of his region’s history, sealing for himself a position in India’s hoary antiquity.
We must begin by examining the origin of the Guhila line of Rajputs, a theme for which there is little scholarly consensus. It was an off-shoot of the royal family of Vallabhi based out of Idar.
Based on a Chittor inscription dated AD 1274, Dr. R.D. Bhandarkar argued that Guhilas were originally Nagar-Brahmans. This is further attested by the Achleshwar Temple inscription, dated AD 1342. Scholar GH Ojha though refutes such an analysis by pointing out how the word ‘Mahadiva’ found in these inscriptions has been grossly misinterpreted. This term can be a referent for a king as well as a Brahman. Another group of scholars including DC Sirkar, GC Raichaudari and D.R. Bhandarkar call the Guhilas Brahma-Kshotras, which implied that one of their parents happened to be a Brahman, while the other was a Kshatriya. There are a number of inscriptions that assign the Guhilas a kshatriya status from the very outset. These include a Nagpur museum inscription dated 1026 AD, that associates it with the Solar race by using the phrase ‘Surya Vamsha Samutpanna’. [ref]
The first member of the Guhilot line is believed to be Guhadatta, and his dates can be assigned roughly to the first quarter of 6th century AD. Guhadatta established a small principality in the western part of the old state of Udaipur. Not much is known about the fate of the Guhila clans for two centuries, before the arrival on the scene of Bappa Rawal. The earliest seat of the Guhilots was Nagarhara (Nagada) and in the 10th century, its place was taken by Aghada (Ahar).
Bappa Rawal is considered to have been born in 712-13 AD in Anandapura, Rajasthan. [ref] There is a degree of epigraphic uncertainty about Bappa Rawal as a historical figure, as early inscriptions from Mewar do not mention him in their genealogical lists. The Atpur inscription of 977 AD does not mention Bappa Rawal, but he heads almost all succeeding lists. However, it does mention that the individual responsible for shifting the family’s base from Vallabhi to Mewar hailed from Anandapura. [ref]
This inscription identifies Guhadatta as the founder of the Guhila line. It is only later inscriptions and bardic legends that call Bappa Rawal as the founder of the Guhila mewar line. Most historians have associated him with ‘Kalabhoja’. Some, like RD Bhandarkar and R.C. Majumdar, argue that it is plausible to associate Bappa Rawal with Khummana I. However, it is largely well established that Kalabhoja is the same as Bappa Rawal.
Several land grants, inscriptions, gold coins and literary text refer to Bappa in a variety of ways - Bapp, bappak, Bappai, Baapaa etc. Historians have speculated that Bappa may have been a designation rather than a proper name. [ref] This view is ratified by the towering scholar of Mewar history, Kaviraj Shyamaldas in his book ‘Vir Vinod’. The name ‘Bappa’ could have been applied to a number of individuals to honour their paternal as well as valorous qualities as well.
The word ‘Rawal’ means small prince, and this may have pointed towards his initial status within the Mori kingdom of a prince in Idar. There are bardic legends that seek to explain the adoption of the title ‘Rawal’. One of them suggests that Bappa’s mother prayed to her local goddess who granted her a boon that her son will go on to be an extremely industrious and courageous ruler. This is what prompted him to change his title to ‘Rawal’. It can be said with some degree of certainly that the word ‘Rawal’ befits any brave Rajput warrior, and such an epithet fits into the personality of Bappa, who was an intrepid warrior. [ref]
Bappa Rawal is believed to have remained in disguise in the hills of Nagada, where he lost his father in an encounter with the Bhils of Idar. In fact, out of all male members he alone could survive the calamity that befell his family. He was brought up by a Brahman lady of Nagada, for whom he tended cows. All this while, he was accompanied by two faithful Bhil adherents, and when Bappa attained a position of authority, these loyal companions were granted jagirs of Oguna and Undri villages. [ref]
As a prince, Bappa ruled over the ravines inhabited by the Bhil community, and this equipped him with martial abilities that proved to be of immense utility in his future as a warrior. Bardic legends provide details about Bappa’s childhood. He received support from a few Bhils, among whom the names of Baleo and Dewa are particularly well known. Baleo is known to have applied the tika of sovereignty on Bappa’s forehead. [ref]
Almost all inscriptions and bardic sources converge on one undeniable fact- the association of Bappa Raval with the Pashupata saint Harit-Rashi. The story of the origins of any empire in India more often than not includes the blessings of a saint, helping founders and successors trace their linage to the hoary ‘sant-parampara’ of Bharat. The Pashupata sect of Shaivism has a significant presence in the hills of Mewar. Bappa Rawal’s ascent to power also can be determined to an extent by certain legends, that gained credence particularly after the 13th century, when the Guhilas became dominant in the region. The Ekalinga Mahatmya also furnishes some valuable details in this regard. [ref]
Bappa Rawal is recognised as a devout Shaivite and he held the idol of Ekalinga in great spiritual regard. He is known have constructed the famous Eklingji temple, and initiated the tradition of worshipping this deity, that is followed by his descendants to this day. He is also believed to have been a discipline of Harit Rasi, who according to the Ekalinga Mahatmya guided Bappa Rawal to move to Mewar and vanquish the the invading Arabs. Harit Rasi’s name-suffix ‘Rasi’ suggests that he belonged to the Pashupata Sect.
Muhnot Nainsi, a 17th century scholar from Rajasthan, also suggests that Harit Rasi- a great devotee of Ekalinga- propitiated Shiva and obtained the boon of the kingdom of Mewar for Bappa, who tended cows and served him for twelve years. [ref] The Chittor inscription of 1274 and the Mount Abu inscription of 1285 also elucidate upon Bappa’s years in a position of regal supremacy in Mewar. The Ekalinga Mahatmya is another source that points towards Bappa receiving a boon from Ekalinga Sankara and subsequently becoming the first king in his lineage. This boon is often considered to be that of a golden valaya for his foot, an indicator of sovereignty, given by Harit Rasi for his profound devotion towards Shiva.
There is numismatic evidence as well to suggest that Bappa Rawal received the benediction of a Pashupata sage. Bappa’s gold coin depicts a Shivalinga with a trident and Nandi on either sides. GH Ojha highlights a number of legends that illustrate how Harit Rashi pleased Lord Shiva. One legend ascribes how Haritrasi had served a goddess and requested for a boon to hand over the kingdom of Mewar to Bappa Rawal. The goddess beseeched him to please Lord Shiva, as only he could possibly hand over territory to any individual. Thus, Lord Shiva appeared as Ekalinga, and this went to become an object of worship for everyone in the Guhila line. [ref]
Upon collation, all these sources seem to unanimously underline the Shaivite underpinning of Bappa’s ascent to power. While there is a degree of uncertainty about the exact date when he became king as well as the existence of a saint called Harit Rasi, it can be surmised from the above evidence that the Guhilas sought to legitimise their position by associating themselves with the Pashupata sect, that had grown in prominence by the second millennium.
His greatest achievement, for which he continues to be revered, was in vanquishing an Arab army that was being led by a commander named Junaid. The Arabs had overrun Mewar from c. 735- 748 AD, and Bappa is known to have defeated this formidable force. Junaid was a very powerful leader who according to Arab writer Al-Biladuri, overran Kathiawar, Kutch, Saurashtra, Mandor. Defeating him was a stellar achievement and helped Bappa secure a position for himself in the league of the greatest warriors to have taken birth on this land. The Navasari Plates of Avani-Janshreya Pulakesin too mention Arab raids in several regions of Gujarat. This grant, dating 739-40 mentions the Arabs attacking the Mori kingdom, along with Chavotaka, Kaccha and other states. It is believed that Bappa Raval may have allied with Nagbhata, king of the Pratihara dynasty in the war against the Arabs. Dhawal of Hadoti also apparently allied with these two powers in the Later, Bappa also sided with the Pratiharas in their conflict with the Rashtrakutas. Bappa set up many trading posts at every 100 kilometers with 100 troops while returning to Mewar after defeating the Arabs. One of them was Rawalpindi, named after him. These efforts helped extend the sway of Mewar up till Iran. He is known to have gone up till Ghazni, defeated and slain Commander Salim, and then place Salim’s nephew on the throne. Such evidence illustrates how Bappa Rawal had emerged as one of the strongest political leaders in India in the 8th century AD.
Bappa Rawal dethroned the Mori king Manuraja (or Kukadeshwar, as per Somani) and occupied the fortress of Chittor in approximately 745 AD. [ref] The reasons behind this major event could range from the weak nature of the ruling class in Mewar to the damage caused by the Arabs. Bappa Rawal’s ambitions to occupy more territory can also not be ruled out. Bardic tradition also denies any major confrontation between the Mori king and Bappa Rawal. Rather, a lot of the Mori officials were assimilated into the Guhila apparatus and this helped lay a stronger foundation for the state. It won’t also be incorrect to assume that Bappa emerged as a protector of his state, and there are historians who do argue that he may have enlisted himself in service with the Mori king along with fellow Bhil clansmen. Scholars also speculate that the incumbent Mori king might have died childless, leaving the political space open for challengers. [ref] Regardless, the Mori lineage certainly ceased after Bappa took over Mewar, and this led to the emergence of an illustrious line of rulers in Chittor - the Guhilas.
Bappa Rawal is known to have lived a very long life, perhaps exceeding even hundred years. He is known to have married multiple times, and blessed with numerous progeny. He ruled from around 19 years, before abdicating his throne and retreating to the forests to spend the remainder of his life as a recluse. His age at the time of abdication may have been around 39, as speculated by Kaviraj Shyamaldas in ‘Vir Vinod’. Given his Shaivite affiliation, it can be surmised that he devoted his old age to worshipping Lord Shiva. He died at a ripe old age. However, Bappa Rawal had surely laid robust foundations for his successors to build upon. Founded way back in the 730s, this illustrious line still subsists in the 21st century. He was succeeded by his son Khuman, who also repulsed Arab incursions through his tactical ouvre.