Maharaja Suraj Mal was a Jat ruler of Bharatpur in Rajasthan, India. A modern historian had described him as "the Plato of the Jat tribe"

Suraj Mal – the Plato of the Jat Tribe

Maharaja Suraj Mal or Sujan Singh was a Jat ruler of Bharatpur in Rajasthan, India. Under him, the Jat rule covered the present-day districts of Agra, Aligarh, Bharatpur, Hathras, Mathura, Mewat, Meerut, and Rohtak.

A modern historian had described him as “the Plato of the Jat tribe” and by a modern writer as the “Jat Odysseus“, because of his “political sagacity, steady intellect, and clear vision”.

The Jats, under Suraj Mal, defeated the Mughal army at Agra. Suraj Mal was killed in a trap by the Mughal Army on the night of 25 December 1763 near Hindon River, Shahadra, Delhi. In addition to the troops stationed at his forts, he had an army of 25,000 infantry and 15,000 cavalries when he died.

Battle of Kumher

Mughal Emperor Alamgir II and his disloyal courtier Siraj ud-Daulah were having a factional dispute. Suraj Mal had sided with Siraj. Alamgir asked for the help of the Holkar Marathas of Indore. 

Khanderao Holkar, son of the Maharaja of Indore, Malhar Rao Holkar, laid a siege on Suraj Mal’s Kumher in 1754. While examining the troops on an open palanquin in the battle of Kumher, Khanderao was hit and killed by a cannonball from the Bharatpur army. 

The siege was lifted and a treaty was signed between Jats and Marathas, which later proved helpful for Suraj Mal in strengthening his rule.

Legacy of Suraj Mal

His large cenotaph is at Kusum Sarovar, Govardhan, Uttar Pradesh. His imposing chattri is flanked on either side by two smaller chattris of his two wives, "Maharani Hansiya" and "Maharani Kishori".

His large cenotaph is at Kusum Sarovar, Govardhan, Uttar Pradesh. His imposing chattri is flanked on either side by two smaller chattris of his two wives, “Maharani Hansiya” and “Maharani Kishori”

These memorial chattris were built by his son and successor Maharaja Jawahar Singh. The architecture and carving are in the pierced stone style and the ceiling of cenotaphs are adorned with paintings of the life of Krishna and Suraj Mal. His court poet Sūdan recorded his biography in Sujān Charitra.

Famous institutes named after him include Maharaja Surajmal Institute of Technology and Maharaja Surajmal Brij University, Bharatpur.

Suraj Mal and Abdali

After his victory over Dattaji on 10 January 1760, Ahmad Shah came to Delhi and called upon Raja Surajmal to pay him tribute and join his camp.

On such events Surajmal always played a humble role, pleading that he was a petty zamindar. He informed the Shah that he would easily pay his share to the lawful Government of Delhi at the fixed time of payment. If the Durrani stayed in India and assumed supremacy, he would obey him as his legal master. 

At the time of demand, he held no money as his country had been ruined by the repeated movements and destruction of Marathas and Afghans. It was not in Durrani’s nature to allow such resistance. 

He attacked Surajmal’s fort of Dig on 6 February 1760*. After a short, while he understood that it would need a very long period to reduce a strongly supported, largely garrisoned, and heavily provisioned fortress. In such cases, he did not make it a matter of prestige. He quietly raised the siege and marched in pursuit of Malhar Rao.

Having routed the Maratha chief at Sikandarabad on 4 March 1760, Ahmad Shah marched upon Koil (modern Aligarh) which belonged to Raja Surajmal, and invested in the Jat fort of Ramgarh. It was commanded by Durjansal. The fort was well-garrisoned and fortified, and large stocks of provisions had been stored therein. 

The fort could have resisted for long, but the qiladar was disheartened at the occupation of the entire upper Ganga Doab by the Afghans, and to save himself from the massacre he submitted in a fortnight or so.

In popular culture

In 2019, film director Ashutosh Gowarikar decided to make the Hindi-language film Panipat where Surajmal was one of the characters in the movie. 

The film was surrounded by controversies, with several disturbances organized by the Jat community to which Suraj Mal belonged. Raja Surajmal of Bharatpur is reportedly shown as having denied help to the Maratha army, one of the factors leading to the Marathas’ final defeat. 

The film is based on the Third Battle of Panipat fought between the Maratha Empire and the Afghan king Ahmad Shah Abdali. Members of the Jat community have protested against the film and several theaters in Rajasthan have decided not to screen the film, which was still released, barring few theaters.

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