Rana Gurdan Saini -Rajput General

Gurdan Saini (Hindi: गुरदान सैनी) was a Rajput warrior and military general who fought and died heroically in the battle of Ranthambore between the Turk forces of Jalaludin Khilji and Rajput forces of Rana Hamir Dev in the 14th century CE. Sometimes the same person is also referred as Gurdas Saini by historians.

A Highly Regarded Rajput General
 
 "Saini was a great general and had led several expeditions into the country of Malwa

-History of the Khaljis, A.D. 1290-1320: A. D. 1290-1320, pp 28 Kishori Saran Lal, Published by Asia Publishing House, 1967

Gurdan Saini was the commander-in-chief of the Rajput army of Rana Hamir. He was regarded by his contemporary Turk historians as the most experienced Rajput warrior in the army of Rana Hamir. According to Amir Khusro , Khilji dynasty's royal poet-scholar , Gurdan Saini led victorious campaigns in Malwa and Gujrat for Rana Hamir. Gurdan Saini also led the Rajput forces in the battle of Ranthambore where he was slain while leading a charge against the Turk army.

Noted historians Henry Miers Elliot and John Dowson in their work "The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians. The Muhammadan Period" citing Miftah al-Futuh , a work by Amir Khusro, provide the following account of this distinguished Saini general in the Sisodia Rajput army of Rana Hamir :

"The rai was in affright, and sent for Gurdan Saini, who was the most experienced warrior amongst the 40,000 rawats under the rai, and had seen many fights among the Hindus. "Sometimes he had gone with the advance to Malwa ; sometimes he had gone plundering in Gujarat." The Saini took 10,000 rawats with him from Jhain, and advanced against the Turks, and, after a severe action, he was slain. Upon which the Hindus fled, and in the pursuit many were slain and many taken prisoners..."
 
The account of this Saini general who commanded a force of 10,000 elite Rajput fighters and achieved martyrdom almost reads like a eulogy even from a hostile Turk source.

Gurdan Saini's Martyrdom: Turning Point of the Ranthambore Battle

From Amir Khusro's account it is very clear that Gurdan Saini was highly regarded as a warrior by both Rajputs and his Turk adversaries. As soon as he was slain in a pitched battle, Rajput soldiers lost their morale and were either slain or taken captives. This is obvious from the following verse of Miftah al-Futuh :
 
"Upon which the Hindus fled, and in the pursuit many were slain and many taken prisoners..."

Background

" The above group of Yadavas came back from Sindh to Brij area and occupied Bayana in Bharatpur district. After some struggle the 'Balai' inhabitants were forced by Shodeo and Saini rulers to move out of Brij land and thus they occupied large areas.." ”
— Encyclopaedia Indica: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Volume 100, pp 119 - 120
 
One fact that is self-evident that he was most certainly a Rajput as Rajputs customarily did not fight under the command of non-Rajputs.
 

Surasena Yadava Lineage

 
Gurdan Saini was likely linked with the famed Yaduvanshi Surasenas of Mathura, some of whom are said to have disperesed to  submontane  Punjab after the Turk invasion of Mathura. The term 'Surasena' (also spelt Shurasena) is a Sanskrit version of Prakrit 'Shoorsaini'. 'Shoorsaini' is the full version of the term 'Saini'.
 

Rana Mall :  Another  Saini General in Rana Hamir's Army

 "The Shura Rajputs , of whom Hammira's minister and commander, Ranamalla, was one, probably represented the ancient Surasenakas "
 
-Rajasthan Through Ages , pp 13, Dr. Dasharatha Sharma, MA , D.Litt , Rajasthan State Archives, Bikaner, 1966
 
The Shoorsaini or Surasena lineage of Gurdan Saini is also strongly suggested by the fact there was another commander in Rana Hamir's army , namely, Rana Mal, who belonged to this ancient Yadava lineage.
 
Shoorsaini lineage of Yaduvanshi kshatriyas had held the area around Mathura from the ancient time as their customary theo-political seat claiming continuity from Lord Krishna and his elder sibling Lord Baldeva. The ancient Greek ambassdor Megasthenes left following description of this ancient royal clan which he  described as Sourasenoi in Greek:
 
"This Herakles is held in special honour by the Sourasenoi, an Indian tribe, who possess two large cities, Methora and Cleisobora"
 
                                                          -Indica, Arrian
Some translactions of Indica describe the Sourasenoi as the Surasenians.
 

References

1. "In the Punjab in the sub- mountainous region the community came to be known as 'Saini'. It maintained its Rajput character despite migration." Castes and Tribes of Rajasthan, pp108,Sukhvir Singh Gahlot, Banshi Dhar, Jain Brothers, 1989

2. "The Sainis trace their origin to a Rajput clan who came from their original home near Muttra [sic] on the Jumna, south of Delhi, in defence of Hindus against the first Muhammadan invasions." The land of the five rivers; an economic history of the Punjab from the earliest times to the year of grace 1890, pp 100, Hugh Kennedy Trevaskis, [London] Oxford University press, 1928

3. Comprehensive History of India : The Delhi Sultanat, A.D. 1206-1526, pp 318, Kallidaikurichi Aiyah Nilakanta Sastri, Indian History Congress, 1957

4.^  "Consequently, a severe fight took place in which the Hindu commander Gurdan Saini met a heroic death "upon which the Hindu's fled, and in the pursuit many were slain and many taken prisoners". Disintegration of North Indian Hindu states, C. 1175-1320 A.D. pp 136, Ashok Kumar Srivastava,Gorakhpur : Purvanchal Prakashan ; New Delhi, India : Distributed by D.K. Publisher's Distributors, 1990

5. Early Chauhān dynasties : a study of Chauhān political history, Chauhān political institutions, and life in the Chauhān dominions, from 800 to 1316 A.D., Dasharatha Sharma , pp 125, Publisher: Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass, 1975.

6. Ranthambhore beyond tigers , S. S. Chaudhary, pp 20, Udaipur : Himanshu Publications : Distributed by Arya's Book Centre, 2000.

7.Survey of Kheechi Chauhan history : with biographical notes, pp 38, Author: Akhtar Hussain Nizami; Raghunath Singh Kheechi; Gopal Singh Kheechi; P R Purohit; Kheechi Chauhan Shodh Sansthan. Publisher: Indroka, Jodhpur : Kheechi Chauhan Shodh Sansthan, 1990.

8. "Saini was a great general and had led several expeditions into the country of Malwa and Gujarat" History of the Khaljis, A.D. 1290-1320: A. D. 1290-1320, pp 28 Kishori Saran Lal, Published by Asia Publishing House, 1967

9. A Study of the Cahamana Inscriptions of Rajasthan, Anita Sudan,pp 79, Published by Research Publishers, 1989

10. A Comprehensive History of India : The Delhi Sultanat, A.D. 1206-1526 / edited by Mohammad Habib and Khaliq Ahmad Nizami, pp 318, Kallidaikurichi Aiyah Nilakanta Sastri, Indian History Congress Published by Orient Longmans, 1957

11.Studies in Medieval Rajasthan History,pp 20 By Manjit Singh Ahluwalia, Published by [Aligarh?], 1970, Original from the University of Michigan, Digitized 2 Nov 2006, 56 pages

12. The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians. The Muhammadan Period (1871) ,pp 541, Henry Miers Elliot and John Dowson , Trübner and co.,

13. " Before the formation of Bharatpur state the capital of Sinsinwars was at Sinsini. Sinsini earlier was known as 'Shoor saini' and its inhabitants were known as 'Saur Sen'. The influence of Saur Sen people can be judged from the fact that the dialect of the entire north India at one time was known as 'Saursaini'. Shoor Sain people were Chandra Vanshi kshatriyas. Lord Krishna was also born in vrishni branch of Chandravansh. A group of Yadavas was follower of Shiv and Vedic God in Sindh. Some inscriptions and coins of these people have been found in 'Mohenjo Daro'. ' Shiv Shani Sevi' words have been found engraved on one inscription. Yajur Veda mentions 'Shinay Swah'. 'Sini Isar' was found on one gold coin. Atharva Veda mentions 'Sinwali' for Sini God. The above group of Yadavas came back from Sindh to Brij area and occupied Bayana in Bharatpur district. After some struggle the 'Balai' inhabitants were forced by Shodeo and Saini rulers to move out of Brij land and thus they occupied large areas.", Encyclopaedia Indica: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Volume 100, pp 119 - 120, SS Sashi, Anmol Publications, 1996/ Alternate Secondary Source:
http://www.bharatpuronline.com/history.html

14. "Surasena refers to an ancient region named after a Jadu raja who is believed to have lived before Krishna. Bayana (near Mathura) from where the Jadus ruled ..." Against History, Against State: Counterperspectives from the Margins, pp 54, Shail Mayaram, Published by Permanent Black, 2004

15."During the Mahabharata age the region around Mathura was ruled by the Surasena dynasty." The Quarterly Review of Historical Studies, By Institute of Historical Studies (Calcutta, India),Published by Institute of Historical, Studies., 1983, Item notes: v.22, Original from the University of Michigan, Digitized 29 Aug 2008

16. "Surasena was a Yadava. One of his descendants could, therefore, call himself a Yadava or a Surasena as he liked..." Chauhān Dynasties: A Study of Chauhān Political History, Chauhān Political Institutions, and Life in the Chauhān Dominions, from 800 to 1316 A.D., By Dasharatha Sharma, pp 103, Published by Motilal Banarsidass, 1975

17."In Jullundhur the Sainis are said to claim Rajput origin...and lived principally in the Muttra district. When Mahmud of Ghazni invaded India their ancestors came into Jullundur and settled down there...". See pp 346 of Denzil Ibbetson, Edward MacLagan, H.A. Rose "A Glossary of The Tribes & Casts of The Punjab & Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa", 1990. Note: This account tallies with Cunningham's account of the ruling Surasena (Saini) Yadavas of Mathura region prior to the Turk invasion. See pp 57, REPORT OF A TOUR IN EASTERN RAJPUTANA IN 1882-83 , VOLUME XX, A. Cunningham, Archaeological Survey of India, Published by Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, 1885 ,Item notes: v.20 1882-1883, Original from the University of Michigan

18. "As Bhadanaka-desa was almost coterminous with Surasena janapada, we may designate the Apabhramsa of the area as Sauraseni Apabhramsa..." Early Chauhān Dynasties: A Study of Chauhān Political History, Chauhān Political Institutions, and Life in the Chauhān Dominions, from 800 to 1316 A.D., By Dasharatha Sharma, pp 103, Published by Motilal Banarsidass, 1975

19. People of India: Haryana, Saini, pp 430 , Kumar Suresh Singh, Madan Lal Sharma, A. K.
 Bhatia, Anthropological Survey of India, Published by Published on behalf of Anthropological Survey of India by Manohar Publishers, 1994

20. "The Shura Rajputs , of whom Hammira's minister and commander, Ranamalla, was one, probably represented the ancient Surasenakas [sic]", Rajasthan Through Ages, A comprehensive and authentic history of Rajasthan prepared under the orders of the Government of Rajasthan, pp 13, Dr. Dasharatha Sharma, MA , D.Litt , Rajasthan State Archives, Bikaner, 1966

21. Arrian, Indika, viii, Methora is Mathura ; Growse (Mathura, 3rd ed. 279) suggests Cleisbora is Krisnhapura , 'city of Krishna', ANNALS AND ANTIQUITIES OF RAJASTHAN, James Tod, Vol. 1, pp 36, Oxford University Press, 1920

22. Rajasthan , Kumar Suresh Singh, B. K. Lavania, Dipak Kumar Samanta, S. K. Mandal, N. N. Vyas, pp 845, Anthropological Survey of India

23. W.Chichele Plowden , ( 1883 ), The Indian Empire Census of 1881 Statistics of Population Vol. II. , Calcutta , Superintendent of Government Printing India, pp 243-258, 294

24. There is well recorded account about how Rajputs escaped conversion to Islam and genocide by the Turks by claiming to be Malis in the captivity of Sahabuddin Ghori after the defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan. See 'Rajasthan', pp 614, by Kumar Suresh Singh, B. K. Lavania, Dipak Kumar Samanta, S. K. Mandal, N. N. Vyas,1998, Anthropological Survey of India

 

 

 

 

 

 
Gurdan Saini commanded the Sisodia Rajput force of Raja Hamir Dev against Turks in 14th Century CE. He is described by poet-scholar Amir Khusro in Miftah al-Futuh as the most feared Rajput warrior  among the Turks on the day of the battle of Ranthambore. His death was was the turning point of the battle. Rajput force fell into disarray as soon he was slain after a 'severe action'.

 

"The rai was in affright, and sent for Gurdan Saini, who was the most experienced warrior amongst the 40,000 rawats under the rai, and had seen many fights among the Hindus. "Sometimes he had gone with the advance to Malwa ; sometimes he had gone plundering in Gujarat." The Saini took 10,000 rawats with him from Jhain, and advanced against the Turks, and, after a severe action, he was slain. Upon which the Hindus fled, and in the pursuit many were slain and many taken prisoners..."


'THE HISTORY OF INDIA , AS TOLD BY ITS OWN HISTORIANS. THE MUHAMMADAN PERIOD ' by H. M. Sir Elliot, John Dowson , pp 541 , Alibris