THE MIGHTY GOHILS
Bardic tales and genealogical records suggest that the Gohil Rajput clan ruled over Saurashtra (Kathiawar) in present day Gujarat, India, in ancient times. Alexander Kinloch Forbes wrote in his Ras-Mala, “The Gohil Rajputs of the solar race to which belonged Ramchandra and the Vallabhi dynasty, migrated to Mewar after the destruction of Vallabhi (in Kathiawar)”. They were also known as Guhilputra, the name being derived from ‘guhu’, which means cave. The founder of the Gohil clan, Muhideosur Gohadit (Guhil) was born in a cave in 542 A.D. after the fall of Vallabhi, and so the dynasty came to be known as the Gohils. He became chief of a hilly tract of forests near modern Idar in north Gujarat in 556 A.D., and held sway till he died around 603 A.D., leaving behind a dynasty that, in the centuries to come, gave rise to kingdoms in Rajputana, Saurashtra and Gujarat, Central India and the Deccan, and from which also emanated the Ranas of Nepal.
Guhil’s main descendants were:
Bappa Rawal or Kalbhoj, who captured Chittor Fort and founded the kingdom of Mewar in 734 A.D.
Salivahan, son of Narvahan, King of Mewar, and 11th in descent to Bappa Rawal, who migrated with part of the Gohil clan from Mewar in 973 A.D., leaving behind his son Shakti Kumar with the rest of the clan. They settled at Juna Khergarh, which they made their capital on the Luni River (present-day Bhalotra near Jodhpur) in Marwar. There is still a village there called ‘Gohilon ki Dhani’. For two and a quarter centuries, the Gohil thus ruled Mewar as well as Marwar.
The Gohils of Mewar were attacked by Ala-ud-din Khilji’s army in 1303 in which all the women committed Jauhar and the men were killed in battle. Thereafter Hamir Singh Gohil, a descendant 13 generations apart, was brought from Mount Sisoda where he lived, and installed in Chittor. The Gohils of Mewar then assumed the name Sisodia. They shifted their capital to Udaipur in 1559.
The Gohils ruled Marwar for 20 generations till the early years of the 13th century. They were displaced by the Rathores, who were driven out of Kannauj (in modern Uttar Pradesh) following the invasion of Muhammad Ghori and the establishment of the Slave dynasty. In 1211, the Rathores founded the kingdom of Marwar, which later came to be known as Jodhpur.
The Gohils under their chief Mohodas then marched back to Saurashtra after nearly five hundred years, to the court of the great Chalukya ruler Sidhraj Singh. They were granted a jagir in modern Gohilwar, thus becoming governors of the Chalukyas.
The ‘Ruling Princes and Chiefs of India’ published by The Times of India in 1930 states that: “No single portion of the vast and vulnerable land of Ind is wrapt deeper in the fascinating glamour of immemorial legend, tradition and romance than is Kathiawar, the ancient territory of the Vallabhi kings. To Kathiawar journeyed the mighty Gohils, that historic Rajput tribe whose very name signifies ‘the strength of the earth’, centuries before Norman William fought Saxon Harold at Senlac. Originally, as it would seem, vassals of the Vallabhi kings, the Gohils, by degrees conquered the greater portion of Kathiawar, until they permanently rooted themselves in the soil of Saurashtra. They were fighters ever, these men – warriors to the bone and marrow. Sejakji – Ranoji – Mokhdaji – what memories of raid and foray, of pitched battle, of fierce siege do these names not recall! It was Mokhdaji, it may be remembered, who took Gogha from its Mohamedan defenders and made of Perim a royal capital. Mighty in physical stature as he was in deeds of derring do, he died fighting against Muhammad Tughlaq on Gogha soil, leaving behind him a name never to be forgotten in the annals of Saurashtra.”
To the Gohils were born valiant warriors like Maharana Sanga and Maharana Pratap, the rulers of Mewar who by then had assumed the name Sisodia, and the legendary Maratha King Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, all of whom refused to bow to the might of the Mughals. The kingdoms that stemmed from the Sisodias of Mewar were Dungarpur, Banswara, Pratapgarh and Shahpura in Rajasthan, and Barwani in Madhya Pradesh. A branch of the Sisodias also migrated north and became the powerful Rana prime ministers of Nepal. In Maharashtra the Gohils assumed the name Bhonsle and founded kingdoms like Kolhapur, Satara, Nagpur, and Sawantwadi. In the south they founded the kingdom of Thanjavur.
Back in Saurashtra, Sejakji (Sahajigji) was twenty-third in descent to Salivahan. He was chief of the Gohil clan from 1240, governor, commanding officer of King Kumarpal’s army and right-hand man of the Solankis, a branch of the Chalukyas. Sejakji befriended Rah (Rao) Mahipal, King of Saurashtra, whose capital was Junagarh, and married his daughter Valumkunverba (Amarkunvari) to Khengar (Kawat), the heir apparent (Jayamal) of Saurashtra. Sejakji received Shahpur along with 24 villages in jagir, in the midst of which he founded a capital in 1250, naming it Sejakpur after himself. He added 40 villages by force of arms, and died in 1254.
Somraj succeded as chief after the death of Sejakji, whose other two sons Shahji and Sarangji received jagirs in Mandvi and Arthilla, which later became the kingdoms of Palitana and Lathi. Part of folklore is the stirring tale of Hamirji Gohil, a 16-year-old and newly-married chieftain of Lathi, who sacrificed his life in 1401 defending the Somnath temple from the attack of Muzaffar Shah. Hamirji Gohil’s cenotaph still stands at the entrance to the temple.
Mulraj, brother of Somraj, was governor of Sorath. He died in 1290, by when had also carved out an independent principality Ghoga, with capital at Piram (or Pirambet), an island in the Gulf of Cambay, near present day Bhavnagar.
Ranoji became Gohil chief in 1290. He established a new Gohil capital at Ranpur but was expelled from there and slain by Muslim invaders in 1309.
Mokhdaji succeeded his father Ranoji and conquered Umrala from the Kolis, and wrested back Piram (Ghoga) from the Muslims. He succumbed to sword wounds inflicted in battle by the army of Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq in 1347.
Mokhdaji married (i) Sarviya princess of Hathasani in Kathiawar. Their son Dungarsinhji succeeded as chief, and later his descendant Bhavsinhji founded the capital city of Bhavnagar in 1723, (ii) Parmar princess of Rajpipla, daughter of Chokrana, ruler of Junaraj (Old Rajpipla) in the western Satpuras, which was earlier part of the Imperial kingdom of Ujjain. The son of Mokhdaji Gohil and the Parmar princess, Samarsinhji, succeeded to the gadi of Rajpipla on the death of his maternal grandfather Chokrana, who had no male issue. Samarsinhji assumed the name of Arjunsinhji.
Arjunsinhji became the first Gohil Rajput ruler of Rajpipla State around the middle of the 14th century. The Gohils of Rajpipla continued to worship the deity of the Parmars, Shri Harsiddhi Mataji.
The Gohil dynasty managed to retain a tenuous hold on the hill tracts of the Satpuras with the help of the Bhils, the local tribals, through diplomacy, grit, courage and, at times, submission. Whenever the opportunity arose, the rulers allied themselves with other Hindu chiefs to expand their territory. Through all the turbulent years the Gohil kingdom of Rajpipla survived despite being hemmed in by such powerful Muslim kingdoms as Gujarat, Malwa and Khandesh, and the Bahamani Kingdom, and later the Gaekwars. The Gohil clan ruled over Rajpipla for six centuries until merger with the Indian Union in 1948.