Jaichand Gaharwar, r.1173-1193

Jaichand Gaharwar or Jaichandra Gahadavala (ruled 1173-1193) was the last member of the Gahawar dynasty, which ruled large parts of the Gangetic Doab from 1090 until his defeat at Chandwar in 1193.

Jaichand ruled a kingdom that stretched from Benares and Kanauj east to Gaya and Patna, in the fertile area between the Tamuna and Ganges rivers. According to Hindu tradition he became involved in a feud with his neighbour Prithviraja III of Delhi which played a part in the successful invasions of Muhammad of Ghur.

The feud began when Jaichand performed the Ashvamedha, or 'horse sacrifice', a religious ritual in which a consecrated horse was let free to wander for a year. Anybody whose territory was crossed by the horse had either to fight or acknowledge the performer of the ritual as their superior. Prithviraja refused to acknowledge the ritual.

This story now merges with a romantic story preserved in the Prithviraj Raso, originally composed by Prithviraja's court composer. Prithviraja and Jaichand's daughter Sanyogita had fallen in love. Jaichand discovered this, and decided to hold a swayamvara, a ritual in which his daughter would be given a carefully selected choice of husbands, indicating her choice with a garland. Prithviraj was not invited to the ritual, but a statue of him was made and placed at the door, mocking him. This backfired when Sanyogita placed her garland on the statue, picking Prithviraj as her husband. He was waiting in the wings, and at this signal emerged to carry off his future bride.

Inevitably a prolonged fuel followed, and in around 1190 Jaichand is said to have invited Muhammad of Ghur, a Ghaurid prince who had just captured the last Ghaznavid strongholds in the Punjab, to attack Prithviraj, probably expecting him to launch a series of raids. Instead Muhammad led two major invasions of northern India. After suffering a defeat at Taraori in 1191, he returned in the following year and won a major victory on the same site (second battle of Taraori, 1192). By 1193 Delhi was in Muslim hands, and it was clear that Muhammad came as a conqueror.

Jaichand now realised that Muhammad or his generals would soon turn against him, and decided to make a stand. Muhammad learnt of this, and returned to India from his capital at Ghazni. The two armies met at Chandwar, on the Jumna River. Jaichand was close to victory when he was hit in the eye by an arrow and killed. His death took the heart out of his army, which fled the field, suffering very heavy losses during the pursuit.

An alternative tradition has Jaichand survive the battle and escape into the Kurnaon Hills with his entourage, where his descendants established a new kingdom.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (25 February 2010), Jaichand Gaharwar, r.1173-1193 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_jaichand_gaharwar.html

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