The Story of Jaipur, Part 2 : A Dangerous Game of Cat and Mouse

Maharana Sangram Singh of Mewar and Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh of Amber, Public Domain Image, LACMA

Dear friends, the fanatical Emperor Aurangazeb is no more. His son, Shah Alam defeats his brother, Azam Shah, to take control of the Mughal Empire and crowns himself Emperor Bahadur Shah, the brave king. The hero of our story, the young royal from Rajasthan, ‘Sawai’ Jai Singh of the House of Amber, scion of the Kachchwa clan, is now a prisoner of the Mughals. He is evicted from his kingdom and forced to accompany the newly crowned monarch on a journey from Delhi to the Deccan plateau in chains. Will this signal the end of the House of Amber? Read on to find out!

The Mughal retinue continues its long and arduous journey to the south, following reports of further fighting in the Deccan region. Bahadur Shah, in an effort to prove himself, decides to lead the fight against the rebellious Marathas and restore some of the lost glory of the Empire. He is accompanied by a large battalion of soldiers and a group of prisoners, rebels from the Battle of Jajau. Bahadur Shah is taking his time to decide an appropriate punishment while the captured men anxiously await their fate.

In April of 1708, the Mughal convoy reached Malwa in south-eastern Rajasthan and set up camp for a few days. The soldiers were given time to stretch their legs and rest for a while. Jai Singh took advantage of a temporary lull to meet with Maharaja Ajit Singh of Jodhpur, a fellow prisoner and friend. Together, they hatch a plan to escape. With the help of a soldier who remained loyal to Azam Shah, they made their way to the kitchen camp. A number of grocers from the nearby town of Mandeshwar were assembled with supplies needed to feed the sizable retinue of the Emperor. The young Princes waited patiently for the cooks to unload their vegetables, meat, grain and spices. Spotting two large empty oil cans, Jai and Ajit Singh managed to squeeze inside them. The grocers passed the sentries at the head of camp without raising an alarm and carted the royal duo to freedom.

Although the royals were ecstatic at having escaped, they knew they were still in grave danger. They wasted no time and set off immediately for Udaipur, capital city of the formidable Maharana of Mewar. The Maharana was no friend of the Mughals and had traditionally kept out of Empire politics, including the recent war of succession between Aurangazeb’s sons. Jai Singh hoped that the Maharana would grant the two of them temporary asylum while they planned their next course of action. He was not disappointed. The kingdom of Mewar welcomed the two Princes with open arms. The Maharana promised the royals all the support they needed to win back their kingdoms, both monetary and military. In return, he asked that the Houses of Amber and Jodhpur break all ties with the Mughal Empire and become sovereign nations. The Maharana wisely saw this opportunity as a way to bring the Rajputs together as one nation and gradually shake off the dominion of the foreign overlords in Delhi. He also asked the young men to marry his own daughters, with the condition that his grandsons would be rightful heirs and that his grand-daughters would not be given to the Mughals as brides.

The two young men were overjoyed. They viewed the Maharana’s demands as divine gifts and in their excitement, failed to fully understand the extent of the Maharana’s ambition. With their new brides in tow, both Princes successfully recaptured their kingdoms and ousted the Mughal garrisons within.

Sawai Jai Singh, now all of twenty years of age, was the sovereign ruler of the House of Amber, momentarily free of the mighty Mughal Empire. He realized he was in an extremely precarious position. He could incur the wrath of Bahadur Shah at any time, the Emperor was still smarting from the fact that the upstart Rajput escaped from right under his nose. On the other hand, Jai Singh had to convince his clansmen and people that he was, indeed, a true ruler and worthy chieftain of his tribe. He needed a way to boost the confidence of his subjects without having to antagonize the Mughals enough to wage a war. He hit upon a novel idea, one that is remembered by generations to come as a masterstroke.

Curious? Stay with me till tomorrow to find out more!

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