Prithviraja III (IAST: Pṛthvī-rāja; reign. c. 1178–1192 CE ), popularly known as Prithviraj Chauhan or Rai Pithora in the folk legends, was a king from the Chahamana (Chauhan) dynasty. He ruled Sapadalaksha, the traditional Chahamana territory, in present-day north-western India. He controlled much of the present-day Rajasthan, Haryana, and Delhi; and some parts of Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. His capital was located at Ajayameru (modern Ajmer), although the medieval folk legends describe him as the king of India's political centre Delhi to portray him as a representative of the pre-Islamic Indian power.
Early in his career, Prithviraj achieved military successes against several neighbouring Hindu kingdoms, most notably against the Chandela king Paramardi. He also repulsed the early invasions by Muhammad of Ghor, a ruler of the Muslim Ghurid dynasty. However, in 1192 CE, the Ghurids defeated Prithviraj at the Second battle of Tarain, and executed him shortly after. His defeat at Tarain is seen as a landmark event in the Islamic conquest of India, and has been described in several semi-legendary accounts.
- Before he reached Tarain again, Muhammad Ghuri had sent a messenger from Lahore asking Prithviraja “to embrace the Musalman faith and acknowledge his supremacy.” Firishta reproduces as follows the letter which Prithviraja wrote to him from the field of battle: “To the bravery of our soldiers we believe you are no stranger, and to our great superiority in numbers which daily increases, your eyes bear witness… You will repent in time of the rash resolution you have taken, and we shall permit you to retreat in safety; but if you have determined to brave your destiny, we have sworn by our gods to advance upon you with our rank-breaking elephants, our plain-trampling horses, and blood-thirsty soldiers, early in the morning to crush the army which your ambition has led to ruin.” The language of this letter is the typical Rajput language - full of kshamãbhãva (forgiveness) emanating from perfect confidence in one’s own parãkrama (prowess).
- Firistha, Prithviraja's letter cited in S.R. Goel, (1994) Heroic Hindu resistance to Muslim invaders, 636 AD to 1206 AD. ISBN 9788185990187 , quoting Ram Gopal Misra, Indian Resistance to Early Muslim Invaders Upto 1206 A.D. (1983) and Firistha.
- Dr. Misra observes: “Prithviraja could have now easily consummated his victory by chasing and annihilating his routed enemy. But, instead, he allowed the defeated Muslim army to return unmolested. This magnanimity, though in accord with the humane dictums of the Hindu Shastras, was completely unsuitable against a ruthless enemy who recognised no moral or ideological scruples in the attainment of victory. The Hindus lacked the capacity to comprehend the real nature of their ruthless adversaries and the new tactics needed to encounter their challenge to Indian independence.”
- Indian Resistance to Early Muslim Invaders Upto 1206 A.D. by Ram Gopal, Quoted from S.R. Goel, (1994) Heroic Hindu resistance to Muslim invaders, 636 AD to 1206 AD.
- The respected historian and first-rate scholar D.C. Ganguly presents a pithy but melancholic analysis of this cost.
Prithviraja was evidently a general of high order, but he lacked political foresight. It was a grave defect with the Indian chiefs that in their fight with the Muslims they always chose to be on the defensive. The result was that their adversaries, even when they were defeated, could escape annihilation if they could only withdraw from the battlefield. Prithviraja was not free from this drawback. At this time the rule of the Maliks of Ghur was not firmly established in the Punjab. Prithviraja ought to have pursued the disabled Sultan … after his victory in the first battle of Tarain, and made an attempt to root out the Muslim rule there…. The defeat of Prithviraja in the second battle of Tarain not only destroyed the imperial power of the Chahamanas, but also brought disaster on the whole of Hindustan. The morale of the ruling princes and the people completely broke down, and the entire country was seized with panic.
- Majumdar, The History and Culture of the Indian People,, Vol. 5, 113. in Sandeep Balakrishna - Invaders and Infidels_ From Sindh to Delhi_ The 500-Year Journey of Islamic Invasions. Bloomsbury India (2020)