Prithviraj Chauhan was the last independent Hindu king, before Hemu, to sit upon the throne of Delhi. He succeeded to the throne in 1179 CE at the age of 13, and ruled from the twin capitals of Ajmer and Delhi which he received from his maternal grandfather, Arkpal or Anangpal III of the Tomara dynasty in Delhi. He controlled much of present-day Rajasthan and Haryana, and unified the Hindu rulers against Turkic invasions. His elopement in 1175 with Samyukta (Sanyogita), the daughter of Jaichand, the king of Kannauj, is a popular romantic tale in India, and is one of the subjects of the Prithviraj Raso, an epic poem composed by Chauhan’s court poet and friend, Chand Bardai.
Chauhan defeated Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori in the First Battle of Tarain in 1191. Ghauri attacked for a second time the following year, whereupon Chauhan was defeated, captured at the Second Battle of Tarain (1192) and executed.
Battles against Hindu rulers
Prithviraj assumed the reigns of administration at the age of sixteen, and immediately began a process of vigorous expansion. Prithviraj’s targets were the smaller states of Rajasthan, but his most famous expedition was against the Chandelas of Khajuraho and Mahoba. He gained a significant victory against the Chandelas under Paramardi (1165-1202) and was consequently able to acquire significant booty.Prithviraj then had a five-year struggle from 1182 against the Chaulakyas of Gujarat in which he was defeated by Bhima II. He then began a struggle with the Gahadvalas of Kanauj for control over Delhi and the upper Ganges doab. By leading so many military campaigns against his neighbours Prithviraj succeeded in isolating himself politically. This may have impacted him during his subsequent clash with Muhammad Ghori.
First Battle of Tarain, 1191
In 1191, Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori captured the fortress of Bhatinda in East Punjab, leaving a garrison of 1200 men, which was located on the frontier of Prithiviraj Chauhan’s domains. Prithviraj marched to Bhatinda and met his enemy at Tarain (also called Taraori), near the ancient town of Thanesar. The Ghurid army initiated battle by attacking with cavalry who launched arrows at the Rajput centre. The forces of Prithviraj counter-attacked from three sides and dominated the battle, pressuring the Ghurid army into a withdrawal. Meanwhile, Mu’izz al-Din was wounded in personal combat with Prithviraj’s brother, Govind Tai. Prithviraj succeeded in stopping the Ghurid advance towards Hindustan in the first battle of Tarain but did not pursue Ghori’s army, not wanting to invade hostile territory or misjudge Ghori’s ambition. Instead, he retook the fortress of Bhatinda.
Between the First and Second Battles of Tarain
Prithviraj seems to have treated the fight with Ghori as merely a frontier fight. This view is strengthened by the fact that Prithviraj made little preparations for any future clash with Ghori. The Prithviraj Raso accuses Prithviraj of neglecting the affairs of the state and of spending his time in merry making during this period (between the first and second battles of Tarain).
Second Battle of Tarain, 1192
In 1192, Ghori reassembled an army of 120,000 men and returned to challenge Chauhan at the Second Battle of Tarain. According to the Persian historian Firishta, Prithviraj’s army consisted of 3,000 elephants, 300,000 horsemen, and considerable infantry. This is most likely a gross exaggeration to emphasize the scale of the victory.
Ghori divided his troops into five parts and attacked in the early morning hours, sending waves of mounted archers. They retreated as the Chauhan elephant phalanx advanced. Ghori deployed four parts to attack the Rajputs on four sides, keeping a fifth part of his army in reserve. General Khande Rao of the Chauhan forces was killed. At dusk, Ghori himself led a force of 12,000 heavily armored horsemen to the centre of the Rajput line, which collapsed into confusion. Chauhan attempted to escape but was captured. The Rajput army broke ranks and fled, thereby conceding victory to Ghori.Chauhan was put to death.
Prithviraj Raso, a folkloric poem written by Chand Bardai, says that the death of Ghori (also referred to as Mu’izz al-Din Muhammad) was caused by Prithviraj with the help of Chadravardai and that afterwards they killed each other, which is not borne out by historical documents.