Rathore of Bikaner
About 1465 Rao Bika, a Rathore Rajput, and an elder son of Rao Jodha, king of Marwar, provoked by a stray comment by his father, left Marwar (Jodhpur) with a small contingent of Rathore warriors (500 soldier and 100 cavalrymen) to create his own kingdom. He was accompanied by his uncle, Rawat Kandhal and his brother Rao Bida, who provided politico-strategic advice.
Encouraged by the mystic Karni Mata, whom he had met early in his travels, he took advantage of the internal rivalries of the Jat clans so that by 1485 he was able to establish his own territory and build a small fort called Rati Ghati at the city which still bears his name. In 1488 he began the building of the city itself. In the beginning the neighboring Bhati chiefs were suspicious of the new growing power in their vicinity. Karni Mata, who had become the kuladevi of Rao Bika brought the rivalry between the Rathore & Bhatis to an end by inspiring Rao Shekha – the powerful Bhati chief of Pugal, to give the hand of his daughter in marriage to Rao Bika. This consolidated Rao Bika’s power in the region and proved to be a milestone in the history of the state.
Upon Rao Jodha’s death in 1488 Rao Bika stormed Mehrangarh Fort, an event that was to lead to 200 years of intermittent wars between Marwar and Bikaner. Remains of the original small fortress Rao Bika built can still be seen around the walled city, near Lakshminath ji temple. The royal family of Bikaner lived there, till Raja Rai Singh Ji built a new fort called “Chintamani” (now Junagarh) between 1589 and 1593 AD. According to legend Bika Lunkaranji consulted a holy man called Jas nathji, who foretold that Bika’s line would reign for 450 years. While Bika was pleased with this prediction, his brother Gharsiji when he heard of the prediction thought a longer period of power should have been prophesied. He confronted the holy man while he was in a deep trance and roused him by thrusting burning incense under his nose. Jas nathji told him ‘All right take 50 years more or less but of trial and tribulation’.
The return of Humayun to power meant that Bikaner due to its involvement with Sher Shah Suri came into conflict with the Mughals again. However Kalyan Mal by using all the advantages of the harsh desert environment around Bikaner was able to defeat any invading Mughal army. The coming of Akbar to power saw the Mughal empire turn to diplomacy instead of force to bring the individual Rajput states into the empire. As a result, Raja Rai Singh, the sixth ruler of Bikaner was among the first Rajput Chiefs to make an alliance with the Mughal Empire. As a result, during the reign of the Mughal emperor Akbar the rulers of Bikaner were esteemed among the most loyal adherents of the empire and held high ranks as Mansabdars of special order in the imperial court. They served as military commanders in various Mughal campaigns all over the Indian sub-continent. In 1570, Akbar married a daughter of Rao Kalyan Singh. Kalyan’s son, Rai Singh, who succeeded him in 1571, was one of Akbar’s most distinguished generals and the first Raja of Bikaner. Two other distinguished chiefs of the house were Raja Karan Singh (1631–1669), who in the struggle of the sons of Shah Jahan for the throne threw in his lot with Aurangzeb, and his eldest son, Anup Singh (1669–1698), who fought with distinction in the Deccan, was conspicuous in the capture of Golconda, and earned the title of maharaja. With the decline of Mughal power in India with the death of Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707 AD, the bonds of Mughals-Rajput relationship slowly dissolved. Sujan Singh (1700–35) formally broke the connection with the Mughal throne and from 1719 based himself within his kingdom.
Following the collapse of the Mughal Empire in the 18th century, Bikaner, like the rest of Rajputana, became subservient to the Marathas, until it came under the protection of the British East India Company in 1818, following the British victory in the Third Anglo-Maratha War. In 1818, the Raja of Bikaner signed a treaty with the British, which protected Bikaner from invasion provided it was not the aggressor and guaranteed the royal succession.
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