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Prithviraj Chauhan was a Rajput king who ruled the kingdoms of Ajmer and Delhi in northern India in 12th century; he was one of the last independent Hindu kings to sit upon the throne of Delhi. Also known as Rai Pithora, he was a Rajput king hailing from the Chauhan dynasty. Born as the son of Someshwar Chauhan, the king of Ajmer, Prithviraj started displaying signs of his greatness at an early age. He was a very brave and intelligent child blessed with sharp military skills. Even as a young boy he could accurately hit targets only on the basis of its sounds. After the death of his father in a battle in 1179, Prithviraj Chauhan succeeded the throne. He ruled over the twin capitals of Ajmer and Delhi which he had received from his maternal grandfather, Arkpal or Anangpal III of the Tomara dynasty. As the king he set out on several campaigns to expand his territories and became well-known as a valiant and courageous warrior. His battles with Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori are especially well-known as is the story of his elopement with Sanyukta, the daughter of Raja Jaichand of Kannauj.

Prithviraj Chauhan was born in 1149 as the son of Someshwar Chauhan, the king of Ajmer, and Karpuri Devi.

He grew up to be an intelligent, brave and courageous young man. This impressed his maternal grandfather, Arkpal or Anangpal III of the Tomara dynasty, who named him as his heir.

Someshwar Chauhan died in a battle in 1179 and Prithviraj succeeded him as the king and ruled from the twin capitals of Ajmer and Delhi. Upon becoming the king he set out on several campaigns in order to expand his territories.

His initial campaigns were against the smaller states of Rajasthan which he easily conquered. Then he launched an expedition against the Chandelas of Khajuraho and Mahoba. He was successful in defeating the Chandelas and was able to acquire significant booty from this campaign.

In 1182 he launched an attack on the Chaulakyas of Gujarat. The war raged on for years and he was finally defeated by the Chaulakya ruler Bhima II in 1187.

He also led a military campaign against the Gahadvalas of Kannauj for control over Delhi and the upper Ganga doab. Even though he was able to expand and defend his territories through these campaigns, he also isolated himself politically from his neighboring states.

Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori attacked the fortress of Bhatinda in East Punjab, which was on the frontier of Prithiviraj Chauhan’s domains, in 1191. Chauhan appealed to Kannauj for help but was refused any aid. Undaunted, he marched to Bhatinda and met his enemy at Tarain and a fierce battle between the two forces ensued. This came to be known as the First Battle of Tarain.

Prithiviraj won the battle and captured Muhammad Ghori. Ghori begged for mercy and being the benevolent king that he was, Prithviraj decided to release him. Several of his ministers were against the decision of granting mercy to the enemy, but Prithviraj respectfully released Ghori.

The decision to release Ghori proved to be a big mistake as Ghori set about reassembling his army for another battle. Ghori returned to challenge Chauhan in 1192 with an army of 120,000 men in what came to be known as the Second Battle of Tarain. Prithviraj’s army consisted of 3,000 elephants, 300,000 horsemen, and considerable infantry.

Ghori knew that Hindu warriors had a custom of battling only from sunrise up to sunset. So he divided his troops into five parts and treacherously attacked in the early morning hours when the Rajput army was unprepared for the battle. The Rajput army was ultimately defeated and Prithviraj Chauhan was taken a prisoner by Ghori.

Prithviraj Chauhan led the Rajput army in the Battles of Tarain fought in 1191 and 1192 against the Ghurid force led by Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori. He won the first battle and captured his enemy whom he later on released. Chauhan was defeated at the second battle following which he was captured.