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  Bundelkhand Kesri Maharaja Chhatrasal (1649-1731) alongwith Shivaji and Guru Govind Singh forms a trinity of rebels who rose against Aurangzeb's bigotry and tyranny in the 18th century. Neglect at the hands of history and the meek and unassertive nature of the Hindi speaking people are probably the two reasons why so few in India know so little about this great warrior, statesman, ruler, patron of art and literature and poet of distinction. Only five of his works have come to light so far. His contribution to the liberation and struggle against Mughal Imperialism was by no measure less than any of his contemporaries. The odds against Chhatrasal at the beginning of his military/political career are summed up beautifully in this phrase:




Chhatrasal was a born leader, an awesome warrior and a supreme strategist - Son of the able Champat Rai and the brave Lal Kunwar. He was born in Kachar Kachnai on 4th May, 1649.

With the object of understanding Mughal warfare practises he enrolled in the Mughal army first. On an expedition to suppress Shivaji under the command of Mirza Raja Jai Singh of Jaipur he met with dissappointment at the shabby treatment of his bravery by the Mughals. Disillusioned and estranged, Chhatrasal deserted the Mughal forces soon and met Shivaji at Raigarh with the aim of joining him. It was then that Shivaji recognizing the potential of Chhatrasal advised him to return back to his motherland and take up cudgels against the Mughals there and put an end to their rule.

Chhatrasal raised the banner of revolt against the Muslims in Bundelkhand at the age of 22 with an 'army' of 5 horsemen and 25 swordsmen and with the blessings of Swami Narharidevji in 1671. In the first ten years of his fight for emancipation i.e. between 1671 and 1680 Chhatrasal met with enviable success. His relatives after sitting on the fence for all these years gradually joined him in the fight for liberation from the Mughals. Within the first ten years he had conquered a large tract of land around the region between Chitrakut and Panna(in Bundelkhand) in the east, upto Gwalior in the west and from Kalpi in the north to Sagar, Garah Kota and Damoh in the south. In 1675 he wrested Panna from a Gond ruler even as his forces were mainly stationed at Mau-Mahewa. Many reputed Mughal Faujdars(Generals) were humbled by him (To name a few: Rohilla Khan, Kaliq, Munawwar Khan, Sadruddin, Sheikh Anwar, Sayyid Latif, Bahlol Khan, Abdus Ahmed as well as their Hindu supporters like Keshav Rai Dangi whom Chhtrasal killed in a one to one duel).

In the second phase of his struggle- between 1681 and 1707 Chhatrasal suffered a few reverses, but undaunted he continued his raids on the Mughal territories aided by the fact that Aurangzeb had also to protect his southern territories which were being constantly attacked by the Marathas. The Mughal 'Faujdars' were so terrified by Chhatrasal that they offerred to give him 'Chauth' on their own. This was obviously very annoying to the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb but he could do nothing to stop it. He could never contain Chhatrasal. Later the Mughals, however, established cordial relations with him.

Chhatrasal, a hero of 52 battles had still one more score to settle with the Muslims when Mohammed Khan Bangash invaded Bundelkhand in 1721. This ten year prolonged battle broke the backs of the Bundelas who were now being led by Jagatraj and Hirdeshah, the sons of Chhatrasal. The old chieftain now looked to the Marathas for help. Chhatrasal wrote this in the famous letter to the Peshwa Baji Rao asking for help:



The Peshwa responded immediately and within a week was in Bundelkhand to the rescue of the Bundela clan. The tables were now turned on Bangash whose army starved and perished inside the besieged fort of Jaitpur.In lieu of the unconditional and magnanimous help accorded by the Peshwa, Chhatrasal by virtue of adopting him as his third son after Hiredshah and Jagatraj, gave him one third of his kingdom.

Chhatrasal's illustrious career which was full of struggle, sacrifice, success and dedication came to an end on 20 December, 1731 when he was 82.   His motto was:




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