The Battle of Gangwana (1741) was a skirmish in between two rival kings named Jai Singh and Bhakt Singh. This war considered one of the most un imaginable victory of a weaker kingdom over the stronger one in the annals of Rajasthan.

Status prior to battle.

Due to the political weakness of the Mughals in the northern region of India because of many factors. Which included Nadir Shah’s invasion along with multiple raids by the Marathas in the south.

And in addition with the Sikhs empire had finally gained a decent foot hold in the northern region lead to a complete geopolitical collapse of the Mughals.

Out of the ashes rose the Rajput states once again. For a long time, they had to work under the Mughals but now was their time to shine.

One by one local Kings carved out their own kingdoms from the old remnants of the northern states.

One of the most powerful who recently became the king Rajas was Raja Jai Singh Kachwaha ll of Jaipur. Originally the Kachwaha were a minor clan and had no leading role in history.

But their rule along with the Mughals made them the lord of the entire plain, and their rulers took away large swathes of land.

Starting in 1721 Jai embarked on a campaign of political and military conquest in northern India. Using his reformed army and political will, he annexed or vassalized many smaller Rajas.

In 1727 he founded the Kingdom of Jaipur. And soon after adopted a policy of intervention towards the domestic affairs of other Rajas.

What he didn’t know was that this breeze of a campaign will come crashing down right before him.

In the early 1700s two Rathore brothers named Bhakt Singh and Abhay Singh, were the rulers of the region of Marwar. 

These brothers were strong, smart and extremely crafty. And were adept in using their Maratha allies tactically to destroy their opponents.

Needless to say, these actions estranged them from the Mughal government, which was at the time embroiled in a conflict with the Maratha.

Bakht Singh, decided in 1739 to go to battle against Bikaner, and called for his brother for help. Who was the then Raja of Marwar and Jodhpur. The Raja of Bikaner appealed to Jai Singh for assistance after the Marwar army besieged his capital.

Jai Singh of Jaipur sent a letter to Abhay requesting leniency for Bikaner, a request Abhay sharply refuted. Jaipur then threatened to invade Marwar unless hostilities were ended. Jai Singh also bribed Bakht Singh to sign a separate peace treaty with Jaipur.

Turning him against his brother.

All this estranged the two brothers and cornered Abhay Singh’s vassals against a large enemy.

 Jai Singh then stationed his army close to Jodhpur and threatened to burn it to the ground unless the siege was lifted. Abhay was forced to sue for peace, and signed a treaty in which the rules completely shamed the Rathors as it demanded:

  1. The state of Marwar would pay 1,00,000 Rupees in gold, 25,000 in Jewels and give 3 Elephants as Nazarana (Submission) to the Mughal Emperor.
  2. Marwar would pay 20,00,000 Rupees to Jai Singh as war reparations.
  3. The payment would be done in 4 days. Five barons and Raghunath Bhandari were to remain hostages for it.
  4. Marta will be handed over to Bhakt Singh.
  5. Marwar would not obstruct Jai Singh in his possessions of the Ajmer subah.
  6. No prince or baron of Marwar would be allowed to seek private audience with the Mughal emperor without Jai Singh’s permission.
  7. Marwar cannot keep foreign relations with the Maratha without the mediation of the Jaipur Raja.
  8. Abhay Singh’s Councillors must be men selected by the Jaipur court.

The peace treaty angered many of the Rathors, with the Rathod nobility claiming, “Our noses have been cut off by the Kachwaha.”

In 1741 Abhay Singh began to gather his forces at Jodhpur in preparation for revenge against Jaipur.

But his enemy was smart, Jai Singh detected these movements and marshalled his army, allies, vassals, and every nearby Mughal garrison to invade Marwar.

Meanwhile as the Jaipur army advanced, Bakht Singh arrived at Marta, the forward camp for the Rathod and Marwar army. He entered the Raja’s Durbar, where he was chastised by his fellow Rathors for betraying them. Bhakt accepted his wrongdoing, and promised to lead his personal cavalry contingent against the oncoming Jaipur.

Battle of Gangwana

Jai Singh and the Jaipur army made camp at Kunchgaon, east of Pushkar Lake. Jai positioned a long line of guns in the direction of the Marwar to defend the encampment. The combined army totalled 50000-100000 men from Jaipur and the various states allied with Jai Singh.

The smaller unit’s are the Rathod horsemen. The larger one’s are Jai Singh’s retinue.

Bhakt’s army consisted of 1000 Rathod horsemen under his personal command. Bhakt Singh at first waited for reinforcements. As, however, no reinforcements arrived, Bakht Singh became determined to attack Jai Singh with his small force.

He had his honour at stake, and this time he would not lose it.

Feeling that Bhakt Singh’s army is way too small to overpower them, Jai Singh kept a merry time with less than adequate discipline. They were expecting an assault when the allies of their enemies would meet.

But his assumptions were wrong.

Bhakt Singh with less than a thousand Rajput’s charged head first against the stronger enemy at everyone’s shock.

With the speed of demons, the Rajput’s charged with all their might shattering the first line of the enemies. Jai Singh tried to Reorganised is contingent and tried a flanking Manoeuvre but the warriors of Bhakt sing were ready.

Rathod’s riders attacked them before they could form a straight line and were butchered by the sword.

Jai Singh’s last two contingent were of muskets and archers who in all the hassle fired at their own troops.

In all the chaos Bhakt Singh was wounded by a bullet and arrows, after seizing the opportunity to steal whatever they could, he ordered a tactical retreat into the woods.

Out of the thousand Riders, only seventy survived, but they took a heavy toll on their enemy, killing tens of thousands in their rage.

Jai Singh charged forward to fight in an honourable duel but his tired men could not catch up to the fast horses of Bhakt Singh.

According to the local legend when the Rathod Nobles heard of the challenge, they insulted Bhakt Singh to retreat in a cowardly fashion. But their leader was bleeding profusely and in too a ragged shape to fight any further, hence the King of Shahpur accepted the duel, but lost Against Jai Singh.

Bhakt Singh Realised that there was now no point in further bloodshed, and performed a tactical retreat through the region with safety.

For Jaipur kingdom this was a complete catastrophe. Jai Singh’s army lost several thousands of its soldiers in the battle. According to Harcharan Das, who was an eye-witness to the battle, claims that 10,000 of Jai Singh’s men were killed in the conflict, and another 14,000 were wounded. Though modern historians consider this account to be an exaggeration. However, they all do agree that the Jaipur army and their allies suffered heavy losses forcing them to retreat.

After the Battle

The Jaipur army held the field after the battle at Gangwana, but had been severely demoralized by the attack. The nobles considered it a victory but deep down they all knew that this was a major setback.

It was a pyrrhic one at best and a humiliating one at worst.

The Rathod’s had fought so well that the poets and bards of Jaipur started to even praise their courage and valour.

Jai Singh had no choice but to retreat. One month later (8 July) both sides exchanged captured war loot with each other. The Maharana of Udaipur mediated a peace between Marwar and Jaipur later that year

Bhakt Singh would be known far and wide by the local bards. After the death of Abhay Singh he would fight against his son and emerge as the ruler of jodhpur by 1751.

He still had a warrior streak as his first duty was to fortify his holdings against the afghans and the Mughals.

Unfortunately, he would die of cholera in 1752, which would lead to a civil war and an ultimate downfall of the Rathod clan.

Meanwhile Gangwana was the last battle fought by Jai Singh, as he could never recover from the shock he received from the outcome of the war and died two years later.

Notes

  • Jadunath Sarkar (1992). Fall of the Mughal Empire: 1789–1803. Orient Longman.
  • Jadunath Sarkar ((1994). A History of Jaipur 1503–1938. Orient Longman. 
  • R.K Gupta, S.R Bakshi (2008). Rajasthan Through the Ages, Vol 4, Jaipur Rulers and Administration. Sarup & Sons. 

P.S: If you like what I have written and wish to read more of such articles on a regular basis then click here

And If you wish to author a free guest post on this website then click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>