Chhatrasal started his career of rebellion or precarious independence in 1671 AD and within the short period of a year he established his absolute authority around Mau.
Then Chhatrasal led an attack on the Dhanderas to avenge the death of his father Champatrai. The Dhandheras offered tough resistance but proved no match to Chhatrasal. They suffered a crushing defeat and took shelter within the walls of the fortress of Sahra. The Bundelas laid siege to it and only an unconditional surrender saved the Dhandheras from utter ruin. They were completely humbled and the ties of friendship were cemented by the marriage of Chhatrasal with a Dhandhera princess.
Chhatrasal now marched towards Sironj(in Malwa) to where his reputation had traveled ahead of him and Muhammad Hashim, the Faujdar of the place, and Chaudhari Anand Rai Banka made preparation to meet the Bundela invasion. Meanwhile, one Keshari Singh Dhandhera also joined Chhatrasal at Kundagiri. The Bundelas then marched in the direction of Sironj. The Mughal forces under Hashim and Chaudhari Banka came out to give battle. About fifty soldiers were slain on the side of Hashim. The Bundelas emerged triumphant and the scattered forces of the enemy fled pell mell to take shelter within the fort of Sironj. Chhatrasal, without wasting his time in a regular siege of the town, took to the more profitable business of plundering the neighbouring villages.
The Bundelas then moved to the region around Onder(20 miles northeast of Sironj), where they captured one Jait Patel, a rich man of local importance who could only secure his release by the payment of a heavy ransom. On his return march, Chhatrasal overran Piparhat and camped at Dhaura Sagar, where a number of Gonds and a local Zamindar Damaji Rai joined him. Then he proceeded to the holy city Chitrakoot(35 miles southeast of Banda), to give rest to his soldiers and replenish his resources.
After sometime Chhatrasal resumed his activities in order to spread his campaign far and wide. Khaliq, the Faujdar of Dhamoni(24 miles north of Sagar), established military outposts in every village and assembled forces to ward off the anticipated invasion of Chhatrasal. The latter however, after having sacked Patharia(30 miles east of Sagar) and the neighbouring villages in the territory of Dhamoni, started moving towards the hilly region of Sidgaon, where he encountered the forces of Khaliq. In this fight, Chhatrasal seems to have suffered a reverse. He then returned to Mau.
Chhatrasal next overran Chandrapur(12 miles southwest of Dhamoni) and sometime later moved on towards Maihar. A tribute was levied and a ransom extorted from its Baghela chief. Soon afterwards a second engagement with Khaliq took place at Ranigir in 1672 AD in which the Bundelas avenged their former defeat. The Mughal standards, kettle drums and guns were seized. Khaliq however escaped with his shattered forces. Chhatrasal himself received sword wounds in this encounter. The military outposts were established and the Bundelas returned to Mau, which had been the base of the their operations.
After a short rest, Chhatrasal again moved towards the territories of Dhamoni. Near Bansa(16 miles southwest of Sagar), he encountered the forces of Keshavrai Dangi, the Jagirdar of the place. The latter was a warrior of no mean repute. He threw an open challenge to Chhatrasal to decide the issue in a one to one combat. Chhatrasal accepted the challenge and after a closely fought combat he emerged the victor by beheading his adversary by a well-aimed arrow. The hostile soldiers were easily dispersed after that. Chhatrasal himself received serious wounds that detained him at Bansa for about 2 months. He utilized this period to strengthen his hold over the territories around Bansa.
Chhatrasal was no doubt a ruthless warrior, profuse in bloodshed but was nevertheless a chivalrous foe, considerate towards the fallen enemy. After his recovery from the wounds he had received, he summoned Vikram Singh Dangi, the son of Keshavrai Dangi, and restored the Jagirs to him. In addition to it, he conferred another Jagir of fifty thousand with a title to him. Then Chhatrasal marched towards Patari and after having subjected it to heavy plunder, moved to the lands of Baqi Khan, where he stayed for some days.. It was here that he once went out hunting accompanied by only six or seven of his chosen warriors. Spies reported the news to a local officer Sayyid Bahadur who at once surrounded Chhatrasal from all sides. The remaining contingent of Chhatrasal by then got scent of the designs of Sayyid Bahadur who then became trapped between Chhatrasal and his forces that attacked from behind. Chhatrasal the captured Sagar and posted a garrison of two thousand men with seven canons. He then returned to Mau.
Ruhullah Khan sent to Bundelkhand, 1673
The Mughal authority was set at naught and chaos and confusion reigned supreme in the territories around Dhamoni. These recurring raids of Chhatrasal in that region greatly unnerved Khaliq, the Faujdar of Dhamoni. He sent urgent messengers to Bahadur Khan Koka, who was then probably at the imperial court, imploring him for immediate help. When this was reported to the Emperor he sent Ruhullah Khan (23rd March, 1673) to take charge of Dhamoni with express orders to suppress Chhatrasal and his brothers. He was accompanied by 22 officers of rank. The chief of various neighbouring states including Datia, Orchha, Chanderi etc. and other local Mughal officers were ordered to render every assistance to the new Faujdar against Chhatrasal.
Ruhullah Khan advanced with a large army towards Garhakota(28 miles east of Sagar) where Chhatrasal was encamped. The battle which began in the afternoon continued till night. The Bundelas ultimately , by their tough resistance repelled the Mughal forces with hevy losses and Ruhullah Khan was forced to beat a retreat. Chhatrasal on his way back to Mahewa overran the adjacent territories of Dhamoni.
Encouraged by his initial successes, Chhatrasal now enlarged the sphere of his activities. He invaded Narwar((40 miles south of Gwalior) and acquired a rich booty from there. Even the imperial convoys carrying presents and other supplies to the court were not spared. Alarming news of the uprising and failure of the Mughal expedition reached the Emperor, who, therefore fined Ruhullah Khan and ordered him to suppress the Bundelas with the help of a contingent of Turks. Ruhullah Khan again advanced with a strong army and encountered the Bundelas at Basia(10 miles west of Sagar). In the engagement that followed the Bundelas made a dash upon the Mughal artillery. At that time gunpowder was being distributed among the gunners, which was set alight by the Bundelas and the resulting explosions created panic in the Mughal army. Taking advantage, the Bundelas swooped upon the enemy forces and routed them completely.
It was most probably shortly after this battle with Ruhullah Khan that Chhatrasal marched with his forces into the territories of Orchha. Sujan Singh, the former ruler of Orchha, who was friendly with Chhatrasal died in 1668 and was succeeded by his younger brother Indramani (August, 1667-1668). The latter not only displayed a hostile attitude towards Chhatrasal but courted firther bitterness by providing assistance to the Mughal officers deputed against him. Extremely enraged, Chhatrasal now directed his forces into the territories around Orchha. He overran Garotha(16 miles west of Rath), Jiron(8 miles south of Lalitpur), Jatara(16 miles south of Mauranipur on the way to Tikamgarh) and Kakar Kachnai(27 miles east of Jhansi) and advanced as far as the river Betwa on the banks of which Orchha is situated. Indramani, finding himself unable to repel the forces of Chhatrasal, had recourse to the conciliatory policy which his predecessor Sujan Singh had adopted in his last years. Nonetheless his actions must have made Chhatrasal realize that he could no longer rely on the rulers of Orchha who in turn were alive only to their own interests as opposed to the welfare of the state and its peoples.
His sphere of influence widens: 1675-1679
Sometime in the year 1675, Chhatrasal moved in the direction of Panna(home to the famous Panna diamonds) which was then held by a Gond chief who was easily ousted and rehabilitated by Chhatrasal to neighbouring regions. Panna now became the capital of Chhatrasal even as Mau still remained the base of his operations.
In November 1677, Chhatrasal made inroads into the region around Raisen. This was followed by invasions into the territories of Gwalior. He penetrated as far as Dhoom Ghat(6 miles from Dabra) where Munnavar Khan, the Faujdar of Rath and Maheba took the field against him. In the encounter that followed the Muslims were put to flight by the Bundelas. A booty of about 9 lakhs fell into the hands of Chhatrasal. Later Muhammed Hashim and Anandrai engaged the turbulent Bundelas near the jungles of Katia but in vain. Shortly afterwards Chhatrasal also conquered Patharia(30 miles east of Sagar), Damoh etc. in the region around Dhamoni and Sagar.
These early and rapid successes Chhatrasal spread his fame far and wide. The ghost of the Mughal invincibility was shattered by Chhatrasal. It greatly dispelled the fears and scruples of many wavering chiefs of Bundelkhand, who till then entertained doubts about the success of Chhatrasal against the Mughals. Most of them now flocked to the standards of the son of Champat Rai. His brother Ratan Shah who had on a previous occassion declared his projects to be most impractible now hastened to join him. Another brother Angad, Amar Diwan, Prithviraj, Jam Shah, Gaj Singh of Katera and the chief of Shahgarh and many others gatheres around Chattarsal. According to Chhatra Prakash sevnty princes of note, most of whom were the relatives of Chhatrasal, now allied themselves with him. Nevertheless, Chhatrasal's achievements failed to make any impression on the Bundela chiefs of Datia, Orchha and Chanderi, who continued to be loyal to the Mughal Emperor and readily joined expeditions against him. Thus in September 1678, Jaswant Singh of Orchha headed an expedition to punish the "Sons of Champat".
Chhatrasal had the sagacity not to underrate the odds of a long drawn struggle with the Mughals. He was particularly conscious of his limited resources. Then, there were enemies among his own people who would only rejoice over his fall. Chhatrasal, therefore, thought it wise to temporise for sometime and so offered submission to Prince Muazzam. He sought pardon for his offneces and expressded his willingness to join the imperial service. Prince Muazzam promised to intercede on his behalf with the Emperor and conferred a Khilat(dress of honour) on him. But apparently, he could not do much for Chhatrasal just then.
On the eve of the invasion of Rajputana, the Emperor Aurangzeb deputed Tahawwar Khan to proceed against Chhatrasal. On his arrival in Bundelkhand Tahawwar Khan at once marched to Sabar(16 miles south of Hamirpur) where the marriage of Chhatrasal was being celeberated. In the battle that ensued, the Bundelas fought fiercely and Tahawwar Khan was forced to withdraw with heavy losses. Another engagement between Chhatrasal and Tahawwar Khan took place near Ramnagar(2 miles west of Kalinjar) but the imperialists failed to gain any definite advantage over the Bundelas who having repelled the enemy moved down to Birgarh(13 miles southeast of Kalinjar). The pass of Birgarh was heavily guarded but the Bundelas after heavy fighting forced their way and attacked Patna(3 miles south of Birgarh). In the meanwhile, Tahawwar Khan, who had not left the neighbourhood even after his reverse at Ramnagar, moved in that direction to quell the disturbances raised by the Bundelas. When the Mughal forces came nearer, Chhaatrasal with his army vanished behind the surrounding hills. One day it so happened that Chhatrasal climbed up a hill and was enjoying the sight of a tank when Tahawwar Kahan arrived with a large force. He had received information of Chhatrasal's presence on that hill and , therefore, he surrounded it. The Mughals began ascent on the hill and the stray arrows of Chhatrasal proved ineffective. But just then the Bundelas got news of this attck and they hastened to the rescue of their beloed leader. Led by Lachhe Rawat and Bagraj Parihar the Bundelas successfully held the Mughals at bay and foiled their attempts to storm the hill. Hari Krishna Misra, Nandan Chipi and Kirparam, the valiant commanders of the Bundelas fell dead, but Chhatrasal made good his escape.
Tahawwar Khan once again took the field against Chhatrasal and engaged him near Hamirpur(28 miles southeast of Kalpi). After heavy fighting the Bundelas came out victorious and Tahawwar Khan was forced to beat a retreat with the remnant of his army.
About November 1679, Chhatrasal and his brothers conquered Irij(34 miles northwest of Panwari) and its neighbouring territories. The houses were set on fire and the Muhammadans fled in panic. Similarly Panwari(25 miles southwest of Mahoba) was also sacked. The agent of the sons of Subha Karan Bundela(Raja of Datia) who were then incharge of both the Parganas, did not even make a show of resistance and sedulously avoided any engagement with the Bundelas. About the same time Chhatrasal also ravaged the territories of Dhamoni, Sadruddin, the local Faujdar, failed to rise to the occasion and consequently his rank was decreased.
Temporary submission, December 1679
The continued failure of the Mughal officers posted in Bundelkhand, to check the predatory activities of Chhatrasal alarmed the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Himmat Khan, the subedar of Allahabad, who was then in Rajasthan with Prince Akbar, Pahar Singh Gaur, the zamindar of Indarkhi and Amaanullah Khan, the faujdar of Gwalior were given stringent orders to suppress the 'sons of Champat'.
Chhatrasal, in view of the heavy odds arrayed against him, deemed further resistance futile and simply suicidal. Therefore, he offered submission through Tahawwar Khan who was then posted at Mandal(near Ajmer in Rajasthan) and was presented to the Emperor at the imperial camp at Phagwal on the 13th December 1679.
But soon after his return to Bundelkhand, Chhatrasal again resumed his predatory activities round about Kalpi, which prompted some official in the neighbourhood named Abdus Samad to proceed against him. The latter marched to Shadipur(in district Hamirpur, UP) where he had an encounter with the Bundelas. The latter suffered a defeat. Angad, the brother of Chhatrasal, received wounds and fled from the battlefield with his remaining forces. Abdus Samad was rewarded with an increase in his rank by 100 zat and 100 sawars.
But the defeat of Abdus Samad did not in any way dampen the spirit of Chhatrasal who continued his desultory warfare. Hence, fresh orders were issued on 26th February 1680, to Randullah Khan, Faujdar of the region around Sironj, Hifzullah Khan, the Faujdar of Narwar and Pahar Singh Gaur to suppress the 'sons of Champat'. On receiving the intelligence of the renewed efforts of Mughal officers, Chhatrasal shrewdly enough became quiet just then, in order to lull the Mughals into inaction, His brother Angad also applied to Khan Jahan Bahadur for being taken into the imperial service. But hardly a month had elapsed, when Chhatrasal once again resumed his predatory activities.
One Sheikh Anwar proceeded against the refractory Bundela chieftain and engaged him near Khairagarh(probably 130 miles south of Jabalpur). But the Sheikh was defeated and taken prisoner while attempting to escape. He, however, secured his release on the payment of the sum of Rupees two lakhs. Khairagarh and its dependecies fell into the hands of Chhatrasal.
Now on 14th April 1680, Mir Sadruddin, the Faujdar of Dhamoni, was ordered to proceed against Chhatrasal and his brothers. Sadruddin sent his agents to Chhatrasal, commanding him to submit to the imperial authority without delay, failing which he threatened Chhatrasal with dire consequences of a full-scale Mughal invasion on his territories. But Chhatrasal paid no heed to these threats and made a counter demand for Chauth from the Mir. Compromise with such an adversary was quite impossible. Sadruddin enlisted the aid of the neighbouring Mughal officers and marched stealthily with a strong force towards Chilga Naurangabad(35 miles northwest of Mahoba and 7 miles northwest of Rath), where Chhatrasal was then encamped and caught the Bundelas unawares. But once the first shock of the surprise attack was over, the Bundelas turned fiercely upon the enemy. Ram Mani Dauwa led an attack on the vanguard of the enemy. Narain Das, Ajitrai, Balkrishna, Gangaram Chaube and Meghraj Parihar displayed great valour and caused confusion in the Mughal ranks. Chhatrasal received wounds. Barigdas, a notable commander of Sadruddin and many others fell on the Mughal side. Sadruddin was taken prisoner. He paid Chauth and was released. Probably, it was due to this serious reverse that Sadruddin was recalled from the Faujdari of Dhamoni which was now conferred on Afrasiab Khan.
Chhatrasal after this battle returned to Chitrakoot, where one Hamid Khan led an attack on the Bundelas, but was repulsed with heavy losses. Chhatrasal then led his predatory hordes to the vicinity of Kalpi and Irij and laid siege to Kotra(14 miles south of Erach or Irij). Sayyid Latif, the local Faujdar put up a determined resistance for sometime but he could not resist the Bundelas for long and purchsed the safety of his possessions by paying a heavy ransom. The neighbouring zamindars, made some efforts to repulse the Bundelas but were completely humbled and swore obedience to the Bundela chief.
Emboldened by his recent successes, Chhatrasal now became aggressive in his activities. He led an expedition into the far-off territories of Bhilsa(30 miles northeast of Bhopal). Abdus Samad, who seems to have been posted as local Faujdar offered resistance but was beaten back and the Bundelas ravaged the surrounding country.
These recurring Bundela raids into the imperial territories roused the wrath of another Mughal commander, Bahlol Khan, who advanced upon Madiaduh(or mariado is about 12 miles north of Hatta) from Damoni, with a large force of about nine thousand, The garrison within the fort of Madiaduh was commanded by Jagat Singh Bundela. When the Mughals were about eight miles from Madiduh, the Bundelas led by Jagat Singh made a surprise attack on the enemy and took a toll of forty lives. But Bahlol Khan moved on forward and laid siege at Madiaduh. The Bundela garrison under Jagat Singh, offered tough resistance. The siege continued for about seven days; but the Mughals failed to obtain any substabtial advantage and ultimately abandoned the siege. Then Bahlol Khan. with a view to retrieve his prestige marched to Rajgarh(8 miles southeast of Khajuraho) and began a regular siege of the fort. Chhatrasal received intelligence reports of the designs of Bahlol Khan, and he hastened with an army to relieve the beleaguered garrison. He found Rajgarh surrounded by the enemy. The Mughals were outmanouvered by the Bundelas. The commander of the vanguard of the imperialists who was seated on an elephant was killed in an encounter. His elephant driver turned and fled. When Bahlol Khan noticed the seat on the elephant vacnt, he was disheartened. He, however, resisted the Bundelas for three days more but on the fourth, he beat a retreat and proceeded to Dhamoni, where he died probably of wounds. Soon after in December 1680, Chhatrasal overran Khimlasa(33 miles south of Lalitpur) and Girdhalla(12 miles south of Khimlasa).
Joins Imperial service again, August 1681 - October 1682
Afrasiab Khan, who had replaced Sadruddin as Faujdar of Dhamoni, also could not achieve any notable success against Chhatrasal. Hence he was called to the court about February 1681, and was probably succeeded by Ikhlas Khan. It seems that Ikhlas Khan, by his tactfulness, stiffened by a show of force, was able to induce Chhatrasal to submit, as within some months, i.e. about August 1681, he is again found serving with the Mughal army in the Deccan. He received Pargana Khola in Dhamoni on the condition of maintaining 600 Piada(foot) and 500 Sawar soldiers.
Chhatrasal, however, again returned to Bundelkhand after a few months and renewed his hostilities with added vigour. He moved towards Jaso(25 miles southeast of Panna) and sohawal(17 miles northeast of Mahoba) which were plundered and set on fire. After having overran Kutro(region around Panna) his forces then descended on Pargana Mahoba(April 1682). Maudaha(18 miles northwest of Mahoba) was sacked and the local Amil was so much panic-stricken that he shut himself up in the fortress of Mahoba. Chhatrasal then marched to Sehunda(12 miles south of Banda) which was then held by Murad Khan, an agent of Diler Khan. Murad attempted to check the loot of his territories but was slain in an encounter and the region around Sehunda was deprived from him.
Shortly afterwards Chhatrasal made incursions into the territories of Dhamoni. Ikhlas Khan, the local Faujdar offered resistance to the Bundelas at Garhakota(28 miles east of Sagar), and was probably killed in the battle. The fort of Garhakota fell into the hands of Chhatrasal who now made it a forward base of his operations against Dhamoni.
Early in June 1682, Chhatrasal raided the region around Dhamoni. In absence of the Faujdar, Muhammde Kazim, 'Waqia Nivas' of the place took the field against Chhatrasal. The Bundelas were repulsed and Chhatrasal and his brothers recieved injuries. Kazim recieved no assistance whatsoever from Pahad Singh and Purdil Khan, the respective Faujdars of Ranoda and Bhilsa. Undeterred by this reverse at the hands of Kazim, Chhatrasal and his brothers kept the field and continued their predatory raids in the neighbouring region. Nusratgarh, Narsinghgarh(45 miles east of Sagar), Ranggarh(18 miles south of Banda) etc. now fell into the hands of the Bundelas. Emboldened by their successes they now ventured to push to the vicinity of the fort of Dhamoni with the intention