Saturday, January 13, 2001

A fort that was ruled by Yaduvanshis

By Pankaj Shukla

THE Bhatnair fort in Rajasthan is one of the oldest forts of India. The foundation of the fort is said to have been laid about 17 centuries back in 286 A.D.

The fort preserves several interesting tales in its womb. It has witnessed great wars during the period time of Ghaznavi, Timur, Prithvi Raj Chauhan and the Rathores. But the most interesting aspect of the background of the fort is its ties with Lord Krishna’s Yaduvanshi generation.

According to History of Bhatnair by Hari Singh Bhati, Balbandh was the last ruler of the 86th generation of Yaduvanshis after Lord Krishna. Balbandh, who ruled in this part of the country from 227 to 279 A.D., had eight sons who were known as Bhatis instead of Yaduvanshis.

The Bhatnair fortThe grandson of Balbandh, Bhoopati Bhati, constructed this fort in 286 A.D. and so the fort is called ‘Bhatnair ka Quila’.

Bhatnair was also known as ‘Band’ or ‘Bindu’. There was a dense forest in the north-east of Bhatnair, while the Ghaggar flowed in the east, north and south. The river was known as Saraswati at that time. In the more than 1700 years of its history, the fort of Bhatnair experienced the rule of many emperors. According to historians, Mahmud Gaznavi attacked Bhatnair and conquered it in 1004. Before the first Trian war, Bhatnair was in the control of the Turks and during the war in 1191, Prithvi Raj Chauhan defeated Muhammad Ghauri and established his rule there. During the regime of Sultan Nasiruddin, Balban had total control over the state affairs and, in 1246, he appointed Sher Khan who was from Turkistan, as the Subedar of Punjab, Bhatnair, Multan and Sirhind. In 1250, Sher Khan did renovation work in Bhatnair fort, but in 1253, Mehmood Shah took back the charge of Bhatnair from Sher Khan. Balban was jealous of Sher Khan because of his bravery and leadership qualities, so in 1271, he killed Sher Khan, by poisoning him. The body of Sher Khan was buried in the Bhatnair fort and his grave was built there.


In 1351, Ferozeshah Tughlaq became the Sultan of Delhi and in 1360, the Bhatis re-established their rule in Bhatnair. The Bhatis ruled over Bhatnair for 38 years, and, in1398, Timur attacked Bhatnair and defeated Dulichand Bhati, the administrator of the fort and took control. The attack of Timur was very disastrous — the killings, rapes and looting went on for days. It is said that Timur took about two lakh children along with him, whose parents he had killed and after some time he killed the children too. Before leaving India, Timur handed over the Bhatnair fort to his ‘Amir’, Chigat Khan. The Bhatis made several attempts to regain control of Bhatnair and finally Bhiru Bhati was successful in regaining the seat. During rule of Bhiru Bhati, Chigat Khan’s son attacked Bhatnair thrice, and was successful in the last attempt. Bhiru Bhati entered into an agreement with Chigat Khan’s sons, as per which he converted his religion and became a Muslim.

In 1512, Ram Lunkaran, ruler of Bikaner, attacked Chayalwara, situated on the border of Hisar and Sirsa, and established his rule over 440 villages of Chayals. Their leader, Puna Chayal, after his defeat went to Bhatnair and in the same year he attacked and conquered Bhatnair. In 1527, the then ruler of Bikaner, Rav Jait Singh conquered Bhatnair by defeating Sadat Chayal, son of Poona Chayal, and appointed one Khetsi Kandhol as the administration there. This was the first victory of Rathores of Bhatnair.

After death of Babbar, one of his sons, named Kamran, became the ruler of Lahore. Kamran sent his army towards Marwar and from there in 1534, he attacked Bhatnair. Khetsi Kandhol, who was the administrator, was killed in battle and the Mughals gained control of Bhatnair. After this Kamran attacked Bikaner, which was ruled by Rav Jait Singh. In the battle, the Mughals were defeated by Rathores. Kamran then returned to Lahore.

During the regime of Sher Shah Suri in Delhi, Bhatnair was under the control of Ahmad Chayal. Rav Kalyanmal was the ruler of Bikaner at that time and his brother, Thakurasi, wanted Bhatnair. In 1549, when Ahmad Chayal was out of Bhatnair for the marriage of his son, Thakurasi attacked Bhatnair and took possession of the fort. In the book Brief History of Bikaner State, Dinanath Khatri has written that during Akbar’s regime, in 1560, the Bhatnair royal treasury was looted. Akbar ordered the Subedar of Hisar, Nizamulmulk, to attack Bhatnair. For many days, the Bhatnair fort was encircled by the Mughal army. Nizammulk put a stopped supplies to the fort. Thakurasi, who sent his family to some other place, was killed in the battle. With his death, the Bhatnair fort came under the control of Subedar Nizammulk.

The crumbling outer wall of the fortIn 1605, after the death of Akbar, Jahangir sat on the royal seat in Delhi. In 1612, when the ruler of Bikaner, Raja Rai Singh, expired, his son, Dalpat Singh succeeded him. Dalpat Singh had six wives who were living in the Bhatnair fort. Jahangir had been unhappy with Dalpat Singh because of his rebellious activities. In 1612, Jahangir appointed Mirza Rustam as Hakim of Thatta and ordered Dalpat Singh to accompany Mirza Rustam to Thatta and not interfere in the affairs of Bikaner. Dalpat Singh dared to turn down his orders. Jahangir then ordered Javdin Khan, Subedar of Hisar, to remove Dalpat Singh from the royal seat of Bikaner and make his younger brother, Sur Singh, the ruler of the state. On January 25, 1614, Dalpat Singh was hanged in Ajmer and after a few days of his death, his six queens performed sati in the fort. This incident is written on one of the interior gates of the fort. In 1614, with the help of Joyias, Hayat Khan Bhati attacked Bhatnair, from Fatehabad. At that time, Thakur Udayabhan Singh was in charge of the security of the fort. In the battle, his 18 sons died and this incident proved a great setback to the Rathore army and Udaybhan surrendered. With Hayat Khan getting control of the fort, the Bhatis again got the seat of Bhatnair.

In 1799, Jabti Khan son of Hussain Khan Bhati became ruler of Bhatnair. In the same year, Maharaja Surat Singh, the then ruler of Bikaner, sent an army of two thousand soldiers to attack Bhatnair, under the command of Rawat Bahadur Singh of Rawatsar. In a battle which continued for many days, it defeated the Bhati army and took control of Dabli village. To celebrate this victory, a fort called ‘Fatehgarh’ was built near Bigor. To take revenge of his defeat, Jabti Khan moved towards Bikaner and on the way took control of Fatehgarh. The army of Bikaner and Bhatnair encountered each other at Sodhal village. An agreement was reached between Maharaja Surat Singh and Jabti Khan and the army of both sides returned. Going by the agreement, the Bikaner state constructed a fort on the border of Bhatnair and Bikaner. The new fort was given name ‘Suratgarh’, after the name of Maharaja Surat Singh.

In 1801, breaking the agreement, Maharaja Surat Singh attacked the Bhatis and once again took control of Fatehgarh. Moving ahead, the army also encircled the Bhatnair fort. At that time, Maharaja Surat Singh was not having good relations with the British commander George Thomas. The Bhatis entered into an agreement with Thomas, under which he was paid a sum of money to destroy Fatehgarh and to remove the Bikaner army from Bhatnair. When Thomas reached Bhatnair with his army, the Bikaner army moved back and Thomas destroyed the Fatehgarh fort. By this time the army of Maharaja of Patiala also reached Bhatnair to help Maharaja Surat Singh. On getting this news, George Thomas left the place, but the Bhatis continued to reign over Bhatnair.

In 1804, when Jabti Khan became a rebel, Maharaja Surat Singh, sent an army under the leadership of Amar Chand Surana to gain control over the Bhatnair fort. The Bikaner army kept the Bhatnair encircled for five months. On the conditions that he will not be killed and will be allowed to move to Rania village with his army, Jabti Khan left the Bhatnair fort and handed it over to Amar Chand Surana. As the Bikaner army took control of Bhatnair on Tuesday, which is believed to be the day of Lord Hanuman, the name of Bhatnair was changed to Hanumangarh after Lord Hanuman.

Bhatnair got importance as it was situated on the Delhi-Multan road. For any attack on India from Multan or Uch, the Maroth-Bhatnair road was used. As it was the only area, of the then ‘Jaangal Desh’ desert, which had crops during the whole year, so every ruler wanted to grab it.

During the rule of Maharaja Ganga Singh, the Bhatnair fort was repaired. After Independence, it was declared a protected monument. At present, there are numerous temples, including those of Lord Hanuman and Lord Shiva. There was a time when every ruler had his eyes on the Bhatnair fort, but now the fort is in ruins due to lack of maintenance.