Prithviraj Chauhan and Sanyogta of Kannauj: Fact or Fiction?




Drawing “Wedding Procession” courtesy of Susnatha Poddar and By permission. The image is copyright and cannot be reproduced without the artist’s permission.


 Prithviraj and Jaichand: The Fatal Quarrel


On the face of it, the story of Sanyogta and Prithviraj may seem to have nothing to with the latter’s wars and campaigns. But if it is true that Sanyogta’s father Jaichand, already a rival of Prithviraj, was angry that she eloped with the Chauhan king, then the bad blood between Chauhan and Rathore is a definite backdrop to the geopolitics of the time. Also, if – as it is said – Prithviraj was so besotted with Sanyogta that he neglected his kingdom to the extent he was oblivious to the danger Mahmud of Gaur presented, then again we can legitimately discuss Sanyogta.


After all, this is no ordinary king we are discussing, but the man who was the last Hindu emperor of Delhi, a man of immense contradictions, and who appears to have lost his empire to the Muslims despite his magnificent warrior qualities because of a lack of diligence and a preference for the good and soft life. So from this angle, too, Sanyogta is important.


The problem is, according to R.C. Majumdar, there is no evidence to back the story. It originates from the Prithviraso, which was written much after the events it narrates.


It’s also worth noting that Prithviraj and Sanyogta are supposed to have eloped in 1175. Even given that she was his youngest queen, if 17 years later the man is still so infatuated with her that he cannot think straight, we can legitimately ask if the story is as told. Kings had their favorite wives, but they had many wives. It would be a bit unusual for a wife to have such a hold for so many years that she is the cause of the king’s neglecting his duties.


Our difficulty originates with the part concerning Prithviraj’s antecedents. The popular story has it that two daughters of Anangpal, King of Delhi, married rival kings: Someshwar Chauhan of Ajmer, and Vijaypal Rathore of Kannauj. Prithviraj was born to Someshwar and his wife Kamladevi, Jaichand was born to Vijaypal and his wife Roopsundari. This would make Prithviraj and Jaichand first cousins, though Jaichand was much older to Prithviraj.


Furthur, Anangpal of Delhi, having no son, decided to leave his kingdom to Prithviraj, because young as Prithviraj was, he was clearly a better soldier than Jaichand. This discrimination by the grandfather in favor of the junior grandson further exacerbated the hostility Jaichand bore Prithviraj.


The problem with this story is several-fold.


First, Prithviraj’s mother was not the daughter of the King of Delhi, but of Achalaraja, the Kalachuri king of Tripuri, which is today’s Jabbalpore in Madhya Pradesh. Her name was Karpuradevi and not Kamladevi.


Second, Prithviraj inherited the kingdom of Delhi from his father, Someshwar of Ajmer, not from any king of Delhi. Delhi was a vassal of Ajmer, so when Someshwar died, Prithviraj got Delhi as well as Ajmer.


Third, there was no Anangpal ruling Delhi during Prithviraj’s time. The closest Anangpal we have been able to locate is the jagirdar of Bhatnar [modern Bhatinda?]. He was a decendent of Bhimpal, last Shahi king of the Punjab – who was disposed of his kingdom by Mahmud Ghaznavi in the 11th century.


Anangpal, according to the story, was an Aruyvaid herbalist doctor who became close friends with Prithviraj. The later liked him so much he added to Anangpal’s jagir at Bhatnar, and this inspired Anangpal to attack and recover his lost inheritance of Lahore 1179. However, he could not hold on to Lahore, was pushed out by the Muslims and died. His son Gorakrai was brought back to Bahtnar, and later became a luminary at Prithviraj’s court.


Be that as it may, insofar national psyches are shaped by legends, the story of Prithviraj and Sanyogta is one of the most powerful of Indian legends. For Indians, the romance is on par with the most famous of all Western civilization romances, Paris and Helen of Troy.  So while as historians we must remain skeptical, as Indians we should remain free to enjoy the story.