Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Gohil Rajput Clan - Chapter 21 of Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘A Maharaja’s Turf’

Coat of arms of Rajpipla State, ruled by Gohil Rajput dynasty for over 600 years until merger with Union of India in 1948.

Bardic tales and genealogical records suggest that in the ancient times the Gohil Rajput clan ruled over Saurashtra, Kathiawar, in present-day Gujarat. Alexander Kinloch Forbes observed in his Ras-Mala, “The Gohil Rajputs of the solar race to which belonged Ramchandra and the Vallabhi dynasty, migrated to Mewar after the destruction of Vallabhi (in Saurashtra).” The story goes that in the year 542 A.D. Vallabhi was raided and a massacre took place in which King Shiladitya was killed along with rest of the clan. The pregnant queen Pushpavati escaped because she was away on a pilgrimage. She gave birth to a boy in a cave in the mountains of Mallia, handed the baby to Kamlavati, a Brahmin lady from Birnagar, and went away to commit sati.

This orphan prince was named Muhideosur Gohadit or Guhil, derived from ‘guhu’ which means cave. His clan came to be known as Guhilputra or Guhilot, and thus a new line of Suryavanshi Rajputs came into being, which was eventually named Gohil. Young Guhil grew up among the tribal Bhils in Anandpur and when he was 11 years old became their chieftain, holding sway over a hilly forested tract near modern Idar in north Gujarat.

The dynasty flourished and Kalbhoj, who came to be known as Bappa Rawal, eighth in descent to Guhil, seized Chittor and became ruler of Mewar in 734 A.D. The Guhilots consolidated their hold over Mewar, and in 977 A.D. their chief Salivahan migrated with part of the clan to Marwar, leaving behind his eldest son Shakti Kumar in Mewar with the rest of the kinsmen. The Guhilots under Salivahan settled down at Juna Khergarh on the Luni River (present-day Bhalotra, south-west of Jodhpur). There is still a village called ‘Gohilon ki Dhaani’ that perpetuates the memory of this valiant clan in Marwar.

The Guhilots had a chequered existence in Mewar until the seige by Alauddin Khilji’s army in 1303. The subsequent massacre of the menfolk and jauhar by the women forced the Guhilots to appoint Hamir Singh, removed by 13 generations, as chief. Hamir Singh, hailed from Mount Sisoda, and so the Mewar clan was named Sisodia. Hamir Singh seized Chittor in 1326 and assumed the title of Rana. From the Sisodias of Mewar emanated other princely states like Dungarpur, Banswara, Pratabgarh and Shahpura in present-day Rajasthan, Dharampur in Gujarat and Barwani in Madhya Pradesh. The Bhonsle rulers of Kolhapur, Satara, Sawantwadi and Nagpur trace their lineage to Mewar as also the royal family of Tanjore and the Ranas of Nepal.  
The Gohils continued to rule Marwar until the early years of the 13th century when they were displaced by the Rathores who had been expelled from Kannauj following the invasions of Muhammad Ghori and the establishing of the Sultanate by the Slave Dynasty in Delhi. The Gohils marched back to Saurashtra after a lapse of five centuries, where they became governors of the Chalukyas, and then carved out their own principalities. The most famous of their chiefs during this period were Sejakji, Ranoji and Mokhdaji, and their descendants founded the princely states of Bhavnagar, Rajpipla, Palitana, Lathi and Vallabhipur.

Mokhdaji Gohil, Chief of Ghoga, with capital at Perimbet in the Gulf of Cambay.
The Ruling Princes and Chiefs of India published by The Times of India in 1930 stated, “No single portion of the vast and vulnerable land of Ind is wrapt deeper in the fascinating glory of immemorial legend, tradition and romance than is Kathiawar, the ancient territory of the Vallabhi kings. To Kathiawar journeyed the mighty Gohils, that historic Rajput tribe whose very name signifies ‘the strength of the earth’, centuries before Norman William fought Harold Saxon at Senlac. Originally, as it would seem, vassals of the Vallabhi kings, the Gohils, by degrees conquered the greater portion of Kathiawar, until they permanently rooted themselves in the soil of Saurashtra. They were fighters ever, these men - warriors to the bone and marrow. Sejakji - Ranoji - Mokhdaji - what memories of raid and foray, of pitched battle, of fierce siege do these names not recall! It was Mokhdaji, it may be remembered, who took Gogha from its Mohamedan defenders and made of Perim a royal capital. Mighty in physical stature as he was in deeds of derring do, he died fighting against Muhammad Tughlaq on Gogha soil, leaving behind him a name never to be forgotten in the annals of Saurashtra.”  

Maharana Gambhirsinhji of Rajpipla (seated second from left), with his eldest son Yuvraj Chhatrasinhji to his right, two younger sons to his left, and courtiers, in 1875.
The Gohils ruled Rajpipla until exactly 601 years after Mokhdaji’s death. It was a throne that his younger son Samarsinhji had succeeded to, assuming the name Arjunsinhji. The clan held on to the principality in the face of fierce onslaughts by the Sultans of Ahmedabad, the Mughals and the Gaekwars of Baroda. The British intervention provided welcome respite, even though it was not an easy relationship until Maharana Chhatrasinhji acceded to the gadi in 1897. And who would have thought that his son Maharana Vijaysinhji would go to Britain and win their most coveted race, thereby earning the felicitations of the King and commoners alike, and being lauded the world over as few Indian princes have ever been.

Maharaja Vijaysinhji, the last ruler of Rajpipla.
(Author Indra Vikram Singh, grandson of Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla, can be contacted on email Follow Indra Vikram Singh on Twitter @IVRajpipla).

A Maharaja’s Turf
ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3
Published in India by Sporting Links
Fully Illustrated
Hardcover 8.75 x 11.5 x 0.6 inches (landscape)
140 Pages
MRP Rupees 1995

Indra Vikram Singh’s latest books published by Sporting Links:
A Maharaja’s Turf  ISBN 978-81-901668-3-6
The Big Book of World Cup Cricket  ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3
Don’s Century  ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0
Crowning Glory  ISBN 978-81-901668-6-7
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