The Rathore Rajputs of Poonch

/By New Pak Historian/

The Rathores have clear traditions of migrations from the Marwar region of Rajasthan. They were originally the rulers of Jodhpur, historically called Marwar and latter extended their rule over Bikaner. Reference can be made to “khyats” (traditional accounts) written down in the seventeenth century, which refer to the fact that the Rathores were originally feudatories of the  Ujjain based Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty, and may perhaps have been domiciled in the vicinity of Kannauj in the heyday of that dynasty.

Pratihara-ruled Kannauj was sacked by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1019 CE, which ushered in a chaotic period for that area. A family known to us as the Gahadvala gained control of Kannauj and ruled for nearly a century; their best-known ruler was Raja Jaichand, their last king. The Gahadvalas were displaced from Kannauj by the invasion, in 1194 CE, of Muhammad of Ghor. It is said that Sheoji, a surviving grandson of Jaichand, made his way into the western desert with a group of faithful followers, finally settling in the town of Pali in Marwar, which was ruled by another branch of the Pratiharas.

Sheoji is regarded as the patriarch of the entire Rathore clan and all Rathores trace their patrilineage back to him. The tradition finds supports from a number of inscriptions found in the vicinity of Kannauj that mention several generations of a Rashtrakuta dynasty ruling there for two centuries. A very similar account is also mentioned in the “Rashtrayudha Kavya” of Rudrakavi, finished in 1595, who was the court poet in the court of the Rathore king, Narayana of Mayurgiri.

The Rathores gradually spread across Marwar, forming a brotherhood of landowners and village chieftains, loosely bound to each other by ties of clan and caste. An epoch in the history both of Marwar and of the Rathores was marked by Rao Jodha, a warrior who founded a kingdom that grew to encompass all of Marwar. He also founded the city of Jodhpur in 1459, and moved his capital from Mandore. One of his sons, Rao Bika, with the help of his uncle Rawat Kandhal, established the town of Bikaner in 1488, in the Jangladesh region lying to the north of Marwar; that town was to become the seat of a second major Rathore kingdom. The various cadet branches of the Rathore clan gradually spread to encompass all of Marwar and later spread to found states in Central India and Gujarat. The Rathore were actually recruited as soldiers in the Mughal Army.

In 1596, one such soldier of fortune, Raja Siraj-Ud-Din Rathore, the descendant of Rao Jodha and Rao Suraj Singh, was made by the Mughal emperor Jahangir the new ruler of Poonch. The establishment of the Rathore state led to the migration of several Rathore in the Poonch region. Not all the Rathore however converted to Islam, and there are several villages of Hindu Rathore Rajputs found mainly in Bhaderwah and Kishtwar areas of Jammu Province.

Siraj-Ud-Din had two wives, from his first wife’s son Raja Fateh Mohammad Khan (ruled – 1646-1700), descend the Rathore rulers of Poonch. From a second wife, who was a Chauhan Rajput had two sons Noor Mohammad and Khan Mohammad. His successors included Rajah Abdul Razak Rathore (1700-1747), on his death the throne of Poonch was usurped by Latifullah Tarkhan. With the help of Islam Yar Khan Kishthwaria, the Tarkhan was defeated and killed and Baqa Mohammad Rathore was made ruler of Sarhon and Kahuta. Meanwhile the throne of Poonch passed to the Kishtwaria chieftain. On his death in 1760, the throne returned to the Rathores, with Raja Rustam Rathore becaming next Raja (ruled – 1760-1787).

Rajah Rustam Rathore was born as Ali Gohar, and his period was considered a golden age of the Poonch principality. The territory of the Rathore then covered all of Poonch, including the what is now Haveli district of Azad Kashmir. He was succeed by Raja Shahbaz Khan who ruled from 1787-92, Raja Bahadur Khan who ruled from 1792-1798, who was overthrown by his vizier Ruhullah. The Rathore chiefs of Sarhoon, under Rajah Sher Baz Rathore expelled Ruhullah and assumed the thrown of Poonch. Sher Baz ruled from 1804-1808, when his state was conquered by the Sikhs. This put an to the main line of the Rathore, but two branches continued as jagirdars until the end of the Jammu and Kashmir State in 1948.

The territory of Sarharon and Kahuta is located north of Poonch city, and now lies largely within Pakistani Kashmir in what is now Haveli District. The Rathores of this chieftainship descend from the second son of Rajah Fateh Mohammad by the name of Mohammad Moazam Khan. This occurred in 1667, and the chieftainship lasted till 1787, when last chief Rajah Azamatullah Khan was defeated by the Sikhs. In 1846, the territory became part of the Dogra state of Jammu and Kashmir. Raja Sarandaz Rathore, the then ruler was granted a jagir within the Dogra state. His descendents maintained this position until the end of the Dogra state in 1948.

This branch of the Rathore claims descent from Raja Noor Mohammad Khan, who was the son of Siraj-Ud-Din Khan. He was granted the jagir of Shahpur, that lies just south of the line of Control in Indian administered Kashmir. The Rathore of Shahpur descend from the eldest son of Raja Noor Mohammad Khan, while those of Mandhar, also located close to the line of control, descend from the younger brother. These two minor principalities were never independent, but were feudal states loyal to the rulers of Poonch. When the Poonch State was annexed by the Sikhs, they continued as jagirdars until the end of the Dogra State in 1948.

The Rathore are now divided by the Line of Control, with Kahuta branch now found in Haveli District of Pakistani Kashmir, while those of Shahpur and Mandhar now found in Indian Kashmir.

In Haveli District and neighbouring Kotli, there are several Rathore villages such as Budh, Barengban, Chapa Najl, Jokan, Halan, Werha Khas, Padr, Palan Chaudriyan and Kalali.

Large number of Rathore are also found in Nakar Bandi (about 60 km East of Bagh) in Azad Kashmir.

The article was first published here by New Pak Historian website.