The Story of Jaipur, Part 4 : Brother’s Keeper

Jai Singh's Camp at Sanganer

Young Jai Singh was quite pleased with himself. At the age of twenty, he had recaptured his kingdom from the Mughal Empire and symbolically declared his independence by performing the Vajpay Yagna, an ancient ritual reserved for absolute monarchs.  In the eyes of the Rajputs, the House of Amber had regained much of its lost glory and was shaping up to become a regional powerhouse. All seemed well for the newly-minted king until the day he received news: his brother was returning home, with the Mughal Army in tow.

The two brothers hardly knew each other. Very early on, their mother the Queen, fearing for her younger son’s life, had sent the child Vijay to live with her family. Her fears were not irrational. Younger male children in royal households were seen as a threat and were often killed or imprisoned to prevent wars of succession. The boys grew up apart, Jai Singh had all but forgotten of his brother’s existence. With Vijay in his late teens, the Queen Mother’s family saw an opportunity to gain favors with the Mughals. They sent the young boy to the Imperial Court in Delhi where Vijay was able to ingratiate himself to the Wazir, the powerful Prime Minister. Vijay’s family supplied him with gifts of jewels and silk to keep the Wazir happy, and in return, the minister took up the uprooted royal’s cause with the Emperor. The Emperor was keen to supplant the rebellious Jai Singh with a more docile Vijay, who had readily agreed to pay the Empire a handsome sum as tribute. They agreed to begin their campaign by demanding that Jai Singh give his brother control over Busswa, a fertile land within the Amber State.

News of this disturbing development reached Jai Singh’s court, where it caused much anxiety and dismay. It was obvious that the ambitions of both Vijay Singh and the Mughal Court would not stop at Busswa and the throne of Amber was in great peril. Jai Singh and his ministers sat in council for many anxious days to figure out the best way to circumvent an outright war. Finally, with the help of a crafty advisor within his Council, Jai Singh created an elaborate plan to outwit his sibling.

His first move was to call for a meeting of the clan chieftains. Jai Singh, in his position as king, was also the head of a council of Kachchwa elders or thakurs. With their approval, he sent word to the Imperial Court that he would be happy to part with a portion of his kingdom to please his brother. He then invited Vijay to formally accept his jagir or fiefdom. Vijay Singh was naturally apprehensive, but his fears were assuaged by the clan chieftains, who assured him that they would unseat Jai Singh if he did not keep his promise.

Thrilled by his success, Vijay agreed to meet his sibling in the presence of the thakurs, who hoped to reconcile the two brothers. The young royal, accompanied by a contingent of Mughal soldiers, set up camp at Sanganer, ten miles south of Amber. On the day of the meeting, Vijay Singh received news that the Queen Mother was eager to witness the reunion and asked that she be allowed to meet her sons in private. Both Jai and Vijay Singh deferred to the clan elders, who had no objections to the Queen’s presence.

Jai Singh’s trusted advisor took charge of preparing the Queen’s royal palanquin and convoy. With utmost secrecy, unbeknownst to even the palanquin bearers, he placed a rugged Rajput warlord and two armed men in place of the Queen Mother and her handmaidens. The royal retinue passed through the camp without being stopped. The warlord and his men, under the cover of purdah, planted themselves inside the tent meant for the royal lady.

Meanwhile, the two brothers met formally and Jai Singh presented Vijay with the title to Busswa. As a dramatic gesture, he even offered his throne to his long-lost sibling, who demurred, afraid to push his luck. With the blessing of the thakurs, the brothers proceeded alone to the Queen Mother’s tent.

Just before entering the inner chamber, Jai Singh unhooked his dagger and laid at the door, remarking that it would be unseemly to greet their mother armed with weapons. The unsuspecting Vijay followed suit, overwhelmed by the show of trust and courtesy. As soon as he entered the tent, he was bound and gagged by three burly men and carried to the palanquin. After an appropriate amount of time had passed, the Queen’s convoy set off, retracing its path to the city of Amber and right into the hands of Jai Singh’s council of ministers.

Jai Singh returned to the clan meeting alone, much to the surprise of the elders. When the chieftains demanded to know what had happened to the young man, Jai Singh joked that his brother was safe in his belly. He then explained the entire situation to the council and warned that offering support to the younger royal was akin to inviting the Mughals to return to Amber. The elders acquiesced and the Mughal soldiers were driven back. Very little is known of what became of Vijay Singh after his ill-fated meeting at Sanganer and subsequent imprisonment.

Jai Singh, triumphant once more, began to dream of immortality, of creating a legacy that would last through the ages and seal his reputation as a great monarch. His dreams began to coalesce in the shape of grand city, one that would bear his name forever. In the next installment, we will watch as Jai Singh begins planning a fantastic metropolis, a truly unique monument to his vision: Jaipura, the city of victory.

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