What happened to Raja Jaichand of Kannauj?

Was Jaichand the Last Hindu Ruler of Kannauj? Did Ghori Subdue Kannauj?

Kannauj was the ancient capital of the Rajas of Hindustan. Benares and the north-western part of Gaur became the possession of the Rajas of Kannauj. Jaichand, also known as Jayachandra (1170-1194), the Gahadavala ruler of Kannauj, was often accused of bringing Islams to India. It is said that he made alliance with Muhammad Ghori against Prithviraj Chauhan, though no Mohammedan historian except Abul Fazl, who following the Hindu legends, accepts it. Colonel Tod also supports this view by saying that, "The princes of Kannauj and Patan invited Muhammad Ghori to aid their designs of humiliating Prithviraj Chauhan". There is no evidence to support the claim that Raja Jaichand betrayed his country, and invited Ghori to invade India. Further, there is no mention of Jaichand having invited Ghori to attack Prithviraj in the fictional work Prithviraj Raso too. Truth is that Jaichand did not provide any assistance to Prithviraj in his war against Ghori, due to to his jealousy, as a rival candidate for the supreme monarchy of India, than to revenge.

Raja Jaichand was the last powerful Hindu monarch of Kannauj. Muslim historians style him as the Raja of Benares (also known as Varanasi). Ibn Asir says that, the king of Benares was the greatest king in India and possessed the largest territory, extending from the borders of China to Malwa. Inscriptions show that Jaichand was a disciple of a Buddhist monk. According to Amir Khusru and Abul Fazl, Raja Jaichand was drowned in the Ganges.

Raja Jaichand was drowned in the Ganges: Amir Khusru says that Qutub-ud-din Aibak drove Raja Jaichand into the Ganges, where he was drowned, and took from him 1400 elephants. Abul Fazl informs us that "Ghori resolved to turn his arms against Jaichand, who in his flight was drowned in the Ganges".

Here are some other Persian records telling about the Raja's death:

Raja Jaichand of Kannauj

Tabakat-i-Nasiri: In 1193-94, Muhammad Ghori marched from Ghazni and advanced towards Kannauj and Benares, and in the vicinity of Chandwar, he overthrow Raja Jaichand. By that victory, above 300 elephants fell into his hands.

Riyazu-S-Salatin: News spread that Sultan Shahab-ud-din, had planned expeditions for the conquests of Kannauj and Banares. Qutub-ud-din marched forward and formed the vanguard of the imperial forces. Engaging in battle with the forces of the Raja of Banares, he routed them, and at length, slaying on the battle-field Raja Jaichand, he became victorious. Ghori then entered the city of Banares, and pillaging the whole of that tract up to the confines of Bengal, carried off as booty incalculable treasures and jewels to Ghazni.

Taj-ul-Maasir of Hasan Nizami: With 50,000 men, Ghori and Qutub-ud-din fought against the Rai of Benares. The king ordered Qutub-ud-din to proceed with the vanguard, consisting of one thousand cavalry, which fell upon the Hindu army and completely defeated it. The Rai advanced to oppose them with an army 'countless as the particles of sand'. The Rai, who prided himself on the number of his forces and war elephants, seated on a lofty howdah, received a deadly wound from an arrow, and fell into the ground. His head was carried on a spear to the commander. Immense booty was obtained, including 100 (some copies say 300) elephants.


Kamilu-t Tawarikh: Shahab-ud-din Ghori sent his slave Qutub-ud-din, to make war against the provinces of Hind, and this general made an incursion in which he killed many, and returned home with prisoners and booty. When Rai Jaichand was informed of this inroad, he collected his forces, and in 1194, entered the territories of the Muhammadans. Shahab-ud-din marched forth to oppose him, and the two armies met on the river Yamuna. The Hindu prince had 700 elephants, and his men were said to amount to a million. In the end the Hindus fled, and the Musalmans were victorious. 90 elephants were captured. The Raja was slain, and no one would have recognized his corpse but for the fact of his teeth, which were weak at their roots, being fastened in with golden wire. Ibn Asir speaks of a white elephant of Raja Jaichand. When the elephants were brought before Ghori, and were ordered to salute, they all saluted except the white one.

Raja Jaichand of Kannauj

From the Historical Introduction of James Bird Given in Mirat-i-Ahmadi: After the defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan, Qutub-ud-din subdued many other cities, and sent the inhabitants as slaves to his master Ghori at Peshawar. Jaichand prepared to revenge this cruelty, and commenced hostilities against the Mohammedan possessions with 700 war elephants and 1,00,00 cavalry. On hearing of this movement, the Sultan immediately returned to India, and effected a junction with the troops of Qutub-ud-din. The united armies of Ghor advanced to the banks of Yamuna; between Chandwar and Eta­wah, where they were met by the Hindus. In this action, the latter were defeated and Jaichand was slain. His death was not known till after the battle, when his body was identified by his followers by means of the golden studs with which his teeth, on account of extreme age, had been fixed in their sockets. Of the 700 elephants, 90 were taken, among which a remarkable white elephant refused to make obeisance to the Sultan.

Tarikh-i-Ferishta: Qutub-ud-din commanded that division when it defeated the Raja of Benares, who, on seeing his army retreat, urged on his elephant in despair. Qutub-ud-din, who excelled in archery, came in contact with the Raja, and shot the arrow which, piercing his eye, cost the Raja his life. His corpse was recognized by his artificial teeth, which were fixed in by golden wires. Ghori took possession of Benares as far as the boundaries of Bengal, and having destroyed all the idols, loaded 4,000 camels with spoils. Qutub-ud-din on this occasion presented the king with above 300 elephants taken from the Raja of Benares. Ghori sent the white elephant as a present to Qutub-ud-din, styling him son in his letter. Qutub-ud-din ever afterwards rode this animal; and at his death the elephant is said to have pined away with visible sorrow, and to have expired on the third day.

Ghori Captures Benares: After the death of Raja Jaichand, Muhammad Ghori (some historians say Qutub-ud-din) took possession of the fort of Asni, where the treasure of the Rai was deposited. Qutub-ud-din (some historians say Ghori) then took possession of Benares, as far as the boundaries of Bengal, and having destroyed all the idols, loaded 4,000 camels with spoils, and sent them to Ghazni. Benares and its government was bestowed on 'one of the most celebrated and exalted servants of the State'.

According to Atul Krishna Sur, Kannauj was not captured by Muhammad Ghori. Harischandra, the son of Jaichand, succeeded him in 1194 as the ruler of Kannauj. Kannauj was finally conquered by the Mohammedans in 1226 by Iltumish. It is still a mystery whether Raja Jaichand was killed in the battle field or plunged himself into the Ganges. 

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