Chahamanas of Shakambhari
6th century–1192
Coin of the Chahamana ruler Vigraharaja IV, c. 1150 – c. 1164. Obverse: Rama standing left, holding bow; "sri ra ma" in Devanagari. Reverse: "Srimad vigra/ha raja de/va" in Devanagari; star and moon symbols below. of Chahamanas of Shakambhari
Coin of the Chahamana ruler Vigraharaja IV, c. 1150 – c. 1164. Obverse: Rama standing left, holding bow; "sri ra ma" in Devanagari. Reverse: "Srimad vigra/ha raja de/va" in Devanagari; star and moon symbols below.
Approximate territory of the Chahamanas of Shakambhari circa 1150–1192 CE.[1]
Approximate territory of the Chahamanas of Shakambhari circa 1150–1192 CE.[1]
• 6th century
Vasudeva (first)
• c. 1193–1194 CE
Hariraja (last)
• Established
6th century
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Tomara dynasty
Ghurid dynasty
Chahamanas of Ranastambhapura
Today part ofIndia

The Chahamanas of Shakambhari (IAST: Cāhamāna), colloquially known as the Chauhans of Sambhar or Chauhans of Ajmer, were an Indian dynasty that ruled parts of the present-day Rajasthan and neighbouring areas in India, between the 6th and 12th centuries. The territory ruled by them was known as Sapadalaksha. They were the most prominent ruling family of the Chahamana (Chauhan) Rajput clan.[2]

The Chahamanas originally had their capital at Shakambhari (present-day Sambhar Lake Town). Until the 10th century, they ruled as Pratihara vassals. When the Pratihara power declined after the Tripartite Struggle, the Chahamana ruler Simharaja assumed the title Maharajadhiraja(King of Kings). In the early 12th century, Ajayaraja II moved the kingdom's capital to Ajayameru (modern Ajmer). For this reason, the Chahamana rulers are also known as the "Chauhans of Ajmer".

The Chahamanas fought several wars with their neighbours, including the Chaulukyas of Gujarat, the Tomaras of Delhi, the Paramaras of Malwa and the Chandelas of Bundelkhand. From 11th century onwards, they started facing Muslim invasions, first by the Ghaznavids, and then by the Ghurids. The Chahamana kingdom reached its zenith under Vigraharaja IV in the mid-12th century. The dynasty's power effectively ended in 1192 CE, when the Ghurid invader Muhammad of Ghor defeated and executed Vigraharaja IV's nephew Prithviraj Chauhan.


According to the 1170 CE Bijolia rock inscription of Someshvara, the early Chahamana king Samantaraja was born at Ahichchhatrapura in the gotra of sage Vatsa.[3] Historian R. B. Singh theorizes that the Chahamanas probably started out as petty rulers of Ahichchhatrapura (identified with Nagaur), and moved their capital to Shakambhari (Sambhar) as their kingdom grew. Later, they became the vassals of the Imperial Pratiharas.[4]

Several mythical accounts of the dynasty's origin also exist. The earliest of the dynasty's inscriptions and literary works state that the dynasty's progenitor was a legendary hero named Chahamana. They variously state that this hero was born from Indra's eye, in the lineage of the sage Vatsa, in the solar dynasty and/or during a ritual sacrifice performed by Brahma.[5] A popular medieval account classifies the dynasty among the four Agnivanshi Rajput clans, whose ancestors are said to have come out of sacrificial fire pit. The earliest sources to mention this legend are the 16th century recensions of Prithviraj Raso. Some colonial-era historians interpreted this myth to suggest a foreign origin of the dynasty, speculating that the foreign warriors were initiated into the Hindu society through a fire ritual.[6] However, the earliest extant copy of Prithviraj Raso does not mention this legend at all. Instead, it states that the first ruler of the dynasty was Manikya Rai, who is said to have been born from Brahma's sacrifice.[7]


The core territory of the Chahamanas was located in present-day Rajasthan. It was known as Sapadalaksha (IAST: Sapādalakṣa) or Jangala-desha (IAST: Jangaladeśa).[8][9]

The term Jangladesha ("rough and arid country") appears to be older, as it mentioned in the Mahabharata.[10] The text does not mention the exact location of the region. The later Sanskrit texts, such as Bhava Prakasha [hi] and Shabdakalpadruma Kosha [hi] suggest that it was a hot, arid region, where trees requiring little water grew. The region is identified with the area around Bikaner.[11]

Visaladeva inscription on the Delhi-Topra pillar, 12th century.

The term Sapadalaksha (literally "one and a quarter lakhs" or 125,000) refers to the large number of villages in the area.[12] It became prominent during the Chahamana reign. It appears that the term originally referred to the area around modern Nagaur near Bikaner. This area was known as Savalak (vernacular form of Sapadalaksha) in as late as 20th century.[10] The early Chahamana king Samantaraja was based in Ahichchhatrapura, which can be identified with modern Nagaur. The ancient name of Nagaur was Nagapura, which means "the city of the serpent". Ahichchhatrapura has a similar meaning: "the city whose chhatra or protector is serpent".[13]

As the Chahamana territory expanded, the entire region ruled by them came to be known as Sapadalaksha.[10] This included the later Chahamana capitals Ajayameru (Ajmer) and Shakambhari (Sambhar).[14] The term also came to be applied to the larger area captured by the Chahamanas. The early medieval Indian inscriptions and the writings of the contemporary Muslim historians suggest that the following cities were also included in Sapadalaksha: Hansi (now in Haryana), Mandore (now in Marwar region), and Mandalgarh (now in Mewar region).[15]


The Harshnath temple was commissioned by the Chahamana rulers

The earliest historical Chahamana king is the 6th century ruler Vasudeva. According to a mythical account in Prithviraja Vijaya, he received the Sambhar Salt Lake as a gift from a vidyadhara (a supernatural being).[16] Little is known about his immediate successors. The 8th century Chahamana ruler Durlabharaja I and his successors are known to have served the Gurjara-Pratiharas as vassals. In 10th century, Vakpatiraja I made an attempt to overthrow the Gurjara-Pratihara suzerainty, and assumed the title Maharaja ("great king").[17] His younger son Lakshmana established the Naddula Chahamana branch. Vakpatiraja's elder son and successor Simharaja assumed the title Maharajadhiraja ("king of great kings"), which suggests that he was a sovereign ruler.[18]

Simharaja's successors consolidated the Chahamana power by engaging in wars with their neighbours, including the Chaulukyas of Gujarat and the Tomaras of Delhi. The dynasty's earliest extant inscription (973 CE) is from the reign of Vigraharaja II.[12] During the reign of Viryarama (r. c. 1040 CE), the Paramara king Bhoja invaded the Chahamana kingdom, and probably occupied their capital Shakambhari for a brief period.[19] Chamundaraja restored the Chahamana power, possibly with the help of the Naddula Chahamanas.[19]

The subsequent Chahamana kings faced several Ghaznavid raids. Ajayaraja II (r. c. 1110–1135 CE) repulsed a Ghaznavid attack, and also defeated the Paramara king Naravarman. He moved the kingdom's capital from Shakambhari to Ajayameru (Ajmer), a city that he either established or greatly expanded.[20][21] His successor Arnoraja raided the Tomara territory, and also defeated the Ghaznavid ruler Bahram Shah in the Slaughter of Turushkas near Ajmer.[22] However, he suffered setbacks against the Gujarat Chaulukya kings Jayasimha Siddharaja and Kumarapala, and was killed by his own son Jagaddeva.[23]

Bisaldeo temple commissioned by Vigraharaja IV

Arnoraja's younger son Vigraharaja IV greatly expanded the Chahamana territories, and captured Delhi from the Tomaras. He also defeted Ghaznavid King Khusrau Shah in Vigraharaja IV's first war against the Muslims.[24] His kingdom included parts of the present-day Rajasthan, Haryana, and Delhi. It probably also included a part of Punjab (to the south-east of Sutlej river) and a portion of the northern Gangetic plain (to the west of Yamuna).[25] His 1164 CE Delhi-Shivalik pillar inscription claims that he conquered the region between the Himalayas and the Vindhyas, and thus restored the rule of Aryans in Aryavarta. While this is an exaggeration, it is not completely baseless. The inscription was originally found in Topra village, near the Shivalik Hills (Himalayan foothills). Also, the exiled ruler of Malwa (Vindhyan region) possibly acknowledged his suzerainty. Thus Vigraharaja's influence extended from the Himalayas to the Vindhyas, at least in name.[26]

The last stand of the Rajputs, depicting the Second Battle of Tarain in 1192, against the forces of the Ghurid Empire.

Vigraharaja was succeeded by his son Amaragangeya, and then his nephew Prithviraja II. Subsequently, his younger brother Someshvara ascended the throne.[27]

The most celebrated ruler of the dynasty was Someshvara's son Prithviraja III, better known as Prithviraj Chauhan. He defeated several neighbouring kings, including the Chandela ruler Paramardi in 1182–83, although he could not annex the Chandela territory to his kingdom.[28] In 1191, he defeated the Ghurid Empire king Muhammad of Ghor at the first Battle of Tarain. However, the next year, he was defeated at the second Battle of Tarain by Muhammad of Ghor, and subsequently killed.[29]

Muhammad of Ghor appointed Prithviraja's son Govindaraja IV as a vassal. Prithviraja's brother Hariraja dethroned him, and regained control of a part of his ancestral kingdom. Hariraja was defeated by the Ghurids in 1194 CE. Govindaraja was granted the fief of Ranthambore by the Ghurids. There, he established a new branch of the dynasty.[30]

Cultural activities

Statue of Neminatha (Jainism), Chahamanas Dynasty, Narhar, Rajasthan, 11th century CE. National Museum, New Delhi.

The Chahamanas commissioned a number of Hindu temples, several of which were destroyed by the Ghurid invaders after the defeat of Prithviraja III.[31]

Multiple Chahamana rulers contributed to the construction of the Harshanatha temple, which was probably commissioned by Govindaraja I.[32] According to Prithviraja Vijaya:

Vigraharaja IV was known for his patronage to arts and literature, and himself composed the play Harikeli Nataka. The structure that was later converted into the Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra mosque was constructed during his reign.[38]

The Chahamana rulers also patronized Jainism. Vijayasimha Suri's Upadeśāmālavritti (1134 CE) and Chandra Suri's Munisuvrata-Charita (1136 CE) state that Prithviraja I donated golden kalashas (cupolas) for the Jain temples at Ranthambore.[39] The Kharatara-Gachchha-Pattavali states that Ajayaraja II allowed the Jains to build their temples in his capital Ajayameru (Ajmer), and also donated a golden kalasha to a Parshvanatha temple.[40] Someshvara granted the Revna village to a Parshvanatha temple.[36]

Victory scene, Chahamanas Dynasty, Sikar, Rajasthan, 10th century CE. National Museum, New Delhi.

List of rulers

Find spots of the inscriptions issued during the Shakambhari Chahamana reign.[42]
Prithviraja III, the most celebrated ruler of the dynasty

Following is a list of Chahamana rulers of Shakambhari and Ajmer, with approximate period of reign, as estimated by R. B. Singh:[43]

# Ruler Reign (CE)
1 Chahamana (mythical)
2 Vasu-deva c. 551 CE (disputed)
3 Samanta-raja 684–709
4 Nara-deva 709–721
5 Ajaya-raja I 721–734
6 Vigraha-raja I 734–759
7 Chandra-raja I 759–771
8 Gopendra-raja 771–784
9 Durlabha-raja I 784–809
10 Govinda-raja I alias Guvaka I 809–836
11 Chandra-raja II 836–863
12 Govindaraja II alias Guvaka II 863–890
13 Chandana-raja 890–917
14 Vakpati-raja 917–944
15 Simha-raja 944–971
16 Vigraha-raja II 971–998
17 Durlabha-raja II 998–1012
18 Govinda-raja III 1012–1026
19 Vakpati-raja II 1026–1040
20 Viryarama 1040 (few months)
21 Chamunda-raja 1040–1065
22 Durlabha-raja III alias Duśala 1065–1070
23 Vigraha-raja III alias Visala 1070–1090
24 Prithvi-raja I 1090–1110
25 Ajaya-raja II 1110–1135
26 Arno-raja alias Ana 1135–1150
27 Jagad-deva 1150
28 Vigraha-raja IV alias Visaladeva 1150–1164
29 Apara-gangeya 1164–1165
30 Prithvi-raja II 1165–1169
31 Someshvara 1169–1178
32 Prithviraja III (Rai Pithora) 1177–1192
33 Govinda-raja IV 1192
34 Hari-raja 1193–1194


  1. ^ Schwartzberg, Joseph E. (1978). A Historical Atlas of South Asia. Oxford University Press, Digital South Asia Library. p. 147, Map "d". Archived from the original on 5 June 2021. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  2. ^ * Hermann Kulke; Dietmar Rothermund (2004). A History of India. Psychology Press. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-415-32919-4. When Gurjara Pratiharas power declined after the sacking of Kannauj by the Rashtrakutkas in the early tenth century many Rajput princes declared their independence and founded their own kingdoms, some of which grew to importance in the subsequent two centuries. The better known among these dynasties were the Chaulukyas or Solankis of Kathiawar and Gujarat, the Chahamanas (i.e. Chauhan) of eastern Rajasthan (Ajmer and Jodhpur), and the Tomaras who had founded Delhi (Dhillika) in 736 but had then been displaced by the Chauhans in the twelfth century.
    • Brajadulal Chattopadhyaya (2006). Studying Early India: Archaeology, Texts and Historical Issues. Anthem. p. 116. ISBN 978-1-84331-132-4. The period between the seventh and the twelfth century witnessed gradual rise of a number of new royal-lineages in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, which came to constitute a social-political category known as 'Rajput'. Some of the major lineages were the Pratiharas of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and adjacent areas, the Guhilas and Chahamanas of Rajasthan, the Caulukyas or Solankis of Gujarat and Rajasthan and the Paramaras of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
    • Romila Thapar (2000). Cultural Pasts: Essays in Early Indian History. Oxford University Press. p. 792. ISBN 978-0-19-564050-2. This is curious statement for the Chahamanas were known to be one of the pre-eminent Rajput families regarded as..
    • Burton Stein (2010). Arnold, D. (ed.). A History of India (2nd ed.). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. p. 110. ISBN 978-1-4051-9509-6. Archived from the original on 12 July 2023. Retrieved 24 August 2021. "From the process of migration and metamorphosis of lowly groups into Rajputs new Rajput clans were formed some of these clans The Pratiharas, Guhilas and Chahamanas
    • David Ludden (2013). India and South Asia: A Short History. Oneworld Publications. p. 64. ISBN 978-1-78074-108-6. By contrast in Rajasthan a single warrior group evolved called Rajput (from Rajaputra-sons of kings): they rarely engaged in farming, even to supervise farm labour as farming was literally beneath them, farming was for their peasant subjects. In the ninth century separate clans of Rajputs Cahamanas (Chauhans), Paramaras (Pawars), Guhilas (Sisodias) and Caulukyas were splitting off from sprawling Gurjara Pratihara clans...
    • Peter Robb (2011). A History of India. Macmillan International Higher Education. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-230-34549-2. Muhammad of Ghor was another Afghan Turk invader. He established a much wider control in North India. The Rajputs were unable to resist him, following his defeat of Prithviraja III, king of Chauhans, a Rajput clan based southeast of Delhi
    • Satish Chandra (2007). History of Medieval India:800-1700. Orient Longman. p. 62. ISBN 978-81-250-3226-7. Archived from the original on 10 March 2023. Retrieved 14 June 2022. The rise of a new section called the Rajputs and the controversy about their origins have already been mentioned. With the break-up of the Pratihara empire, a number of Rajput states camne into existence in north India. The most important of these were the Gahadavalas of Kanauj, the Paramaras of Malwa, and the Chauhans of Ajmer
    • Richard Eaton (2000). Essays on Islam and Indian History. Oxford University Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-19-565114-0. From Ajmer in Rajasthan, the former capital of the defeated Cahamana Rajputs – also, significantly, the wellspring of Chishti piety the post-1192 pattern of temple desecration moved swiftly down the Gangetic Plain as Turkish military forces sought to extirpate local ruling houses in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century
    • Upinder Singh (1999). Ancient Delhi. Oxford University Press. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-19-564919-2. The Tomaras ultimately met their destruction at the hand of another Rajput clan, the Chauhans or Chahamanas. Delhi was captured from the Tomaras by the Chauhan king Vigraharaja IV (the Visala Deva of the traditional bardic histories) in the middle of twelfth century
    • Shail Mayaram (2003). Against history, against state : counterperspectives from the margins. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 22. ISBN 0-231-12730-8. OCLC 52203150. The Chauhans (Cahamanas) Rajputs had emerged in the later tenth century and established themselves as a paramount power, overthrowing the Tomar Rajputs. In 1151 the Tomar Rajput rulers (and original builders) of Delhi were overthrown by Visal Dev, the Chauhan ruler of Ajmer
  3. ^ R. B. Singh 1964, p. 11.
  4. ^ R. B. Singh 1964, p. 89.
  5. ^ R. B. Singh 1964, pp. 10–12.
  6. ^ R. B. Singh 1964, p. 25-26.
  7. ^ Alf Hiltebeitel 1999, p. 447.
  8. ^ Har Bilas Sarda 1935, pp. 220–221.
  9. ^ For a theorized map of the Chahamana territory: Schwartzberg, Joseph E. (1978). A Historical atlas of South Asia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 147, map XIV.3 (d). ISBN 0226742210. Archived from the original on 5 June 2021. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  10. ^ a b c Har Bilas Sarda 1935, p. 217.
  11. ^ Har Bilas Sarda 1935, p. 214.
  12. ^ a b Cynthia Talbot 2015, p. 33.
  13. ^ Har Bilas Sarda 1935, p. 223.
  14. ^ Har Bilas Sarda 1935, p. 224.
  15. ^ Har Bilas Sarda 1935, p. 225.
  16. ^ Dasharatha Sharma 1959, p. 23.
  17. ^ R. B. Singh 1964, p. 100.
  18. ^ R. B. Singh 1964, p. 103.
  19. ^ a b Dasharatha Sharma 1959, pp. 34–35.
  20. ^ R. B. Singh 1964, pp. 131–132.
  21. ^ Dasharatha Sharma 1959, p. 40.
  22. ^ R. B. Singh 1964, p. 138-140.
  23. ^ R. B. Singh 1964, p. 140-141.
  24. ^ Dasharatha Sharma 1959, p. 60-61.
  25. ^ R. B. Singh 1964, p. 150.
  26. ^ Dasharatha Sharma 1959, p. 62.
  27. ^ R. B. Singh 1964, p. 156.
  28. ^ Cynthia Talbot 2015, pp. 39.
  29. ^ Iqtidar Alam Khan 2008, p. xvii.
  30. ^ R. B. Singh 1964, p. 221.
  31. ^ Dasharatha Sharma 1959, p. 87.
  32. ^ Dasharatha Sharma 1959, p. 26.
  33. ^ R. B. Singh 1964, p. 104.
  34. ^ R. B. Singh 1964, p. 124.
  35. ^ R. B. Singh 1964, p. 128.
  36. ^ a b Dasharatha Sharma 1959, pp. 69–70.
  37. ^ R. B. Singh 1964, p. 159.
  38. ^ Cynthia Talbot 2015, pp. 37–38.
  39. ^ Dasharatha Sharma 1959, p. 38.
  40. ^ Dasharatha Sharma 1959, p. 41.
  41. ^ Schwartzberg, Joseph E. (1978). A Historical atlas of South Asia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 37, 147. ISBN 0226742210. Archived from the original on 6 February 2022. Retrieved 2 May 2022.
  42. ^ Anita Sudan 1989, pp. 312–316.
  43. ^ R. B. Singh 1964, pp. 51–70.