The Ramachandra we don’t know – Did Alauddin Khilji ever reach Devagiri?

Barani writes,

At Bhilsan ‘Alauddin had heard of the elephants and wealth of Deogir and enquired about the routes to that place. He had resolved to collect a large army at Karra for an attack on Deogir without informing the Sultan. Find­ing the Sultan more kind and affectionate than ever, he applied for some delay in paying the dues (fawazil) of Karra and Oudh. ‘I have heard,’ he represented, ‘that within the boundaries of Chanderi and many regions adjoining it, the people are free and ignorant and entertain no apprehension of the army of Delhi. If I am allowed, I will invest the money due from me (fawazil) to the Diwan in enlisting new horse and foot. With these I will march to those territories and bring the enor­mous spoils that I win, together with dues of which I am postponing the payment, to the Sultan’s Diwan.’

Alauddin fitted out three or four thousand foot-soldiers (payaks) with whom he set out from Karra on an expedition to Deogir. Publicly, however, he gave out that he was going to plunder Chanderi and kept his plans about Deogir secret. He appointed as his deputy (naib) for Karra and Oudh my uncle Alaul Mulk, one of his chief associates. He marched by stages to Elichpur and thence to Ghati Lajura. Here all intelligence of him was lost. But Alaul Mulk kept on sending the Sultan regular reports from Karra. These contained vague statements that ‘Alauddin was busy in chastising and plundering rebels, and that he would send his own reports in a day or two. The Sultan, who had brought up ‘Alauddin (as a son), suspected no evil. But discerning men in the City and the Court concluded from ‘Alauddin’s continued absence, that he had gone out to seek his fortune in a distant land. This news, born of guess-work, soon spread among the people.
When ‘Alauddin arrived at Ghati Lajura, the army of Ram Deo under the command of his son, had gone on a distant expedition. The people of Deogir had never heard of Islam before this time, for the land of the Mahrattas had never been invaded by any (Muslim) king, khan or malik. And yet Deogir con­tained an enormous quantity of gold, silver, jewels, pearls and other valuables. When Ram Deo heard of the approach of the Muslim army, he collected together such troops as he could and sent them under one of his ranas to Ghati Lajura. It was defeated by ‘Alauddin, who entered Deogir. On the first day he captured thirty elephants and several thousand horses. Ram Deo then came and offered his submission. ‘Alauddin brought with him such enormous quantities of gold and silver, jewels and pearls, that though more than two generations have passed since then and much has been spent in every reign at the devolution of the Crown, a large part of those elephants, jewels, pearls and other goods is still left in the Treasury of Delhi.

For all practical purposes, this is what we know about Seuna Ramachandra. In synopsis, the story is that Alauddin Khilji, as the Governor of Karra, during an invasion, heard of Devagiri and decided to invade it. He suddenly landed in Devagiri when the army was away, caught the king by surprise and acquired a formal surrender before the armies returned. After that, he was a pliant vassal providing logistics for Alauddin Khilji’s southern expeditions. It seems there was a sort of rebellion which was crushed with no effort and Ramachandra was carted off to Delhi as a prisoner. After turning back, he never rebelled. His son and successor and after him, his son-in-law rebelled and were killed.

The question is, is this narrative correct? Or is it another spin off? While searching whether there are any Yadava accounts of Ramachandra’s forced visit to Delhi, I came across Purushottamapuri plates issued by Purushottama, a minister of Ramachandra. It seems to be the last authenticated grant of Ramachandra and the initial 18 verses in the grant talks about the achievements of the Seuna Yadava rulers. Two verses are dedicated to Ramachandra –

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Epigraphia Indica XXV

Synopsising, the grant says, Ramachandra subjugated Dahala(Kalachuris ruling from Tripuri near Jabalpur), Bhandagara(Bhandara), Vajrakara(Vairagarh near Gadchiroli), Palli(may be some hill tribes), Kanyakubja, Kailasa, Mahima(Mahim?), Sangama(Sangameshwar), Kheta(Khed) and last but not the least, Varanasi.
No Southern areas were mentioned, but what we see is, he is successful in Konkan, Western Maharashtra and Central Madhya Pradesh. Jabalpur to Varanasi is 400 odd km. A march that small is not a big matter. May be he raided or may be, he conquered. Another place to mention is Kanyakubja – Kannauj. Raiding it is also possible through Kalachuri territories. Did he send a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash, one can only conjecture.
This tells about a few things. Ramachandra came to the throne in 1271 AD. Forgetting what his predecessors did, the Yadava armies were active at least from around 1275 in North India. Karra is between Kannauj and Varanasi. Are we seriously saying the governor of Karra didn’t know about a Southern Army which defeated Muslim forces all around his headquarters a few years before he came? And then, the next question. Where exactly is the northern border of the Yadava Empire and how far is it from Devagiri? Kara to Aurangabad, for example, is around 1200 km and the route goes through the general area of Jabalpur.
Now, about the route Alauddin Khilji took. It’s Bhailasán > Elichpur > Ghati-lájaura > Deogír. This is what Amaravati District Gazetteer says, regarding this.

He marched from Kara to Canderi, and thence across the Satpudas to Ellicpur, where he halted for two days, explaining his presence by saying that he was one Malik- Ala-ud-din, who had been one of the nobles of the emperor of Delhi, but was now leaving his master with the intention of taking service with the raja of Rajamahendri in Telangana. His story served its purpose and he was not molested at Ellicpur, which he left suddenly at midnight, advancing by forced marches towards Devagiri.

Even this doesn’t stick. It should have been Raja of Warangal, not Rajamahendri. And if it is Raja of Rajamahendri, he is a subordinate of the Kakatiya ruler of Warangal, who is a clear enemy of the Yadavas. Prataparudra is already aggressive on Yadava border. Will the governor of Elichpur or the Yadava emperor consent the passage of a force of 10000, powerful enough to change the course of a war, but insufficient to run a campaign, to an enemy who has every chance to use them against the same Yadavas?
So, the question is, how did Alauddin Khilji maintain his position in Elichpur? Also, it is assumed that Ramachandra conquered Varanasi and then lost it – it’s not just a raid. On such a volatile border, is it possible that Ramachandra will leave the borders open without any security? Ramachandra’s achievements as a ruler are not mean. Is it that easy to reach the capital city of such a powerful kingdom undetected? Also, note, even according to Barani, Alauddin Khilji stopped at Elichpur for two days. Either it is not under Yadava rule, which is not the case, or it is conquered, meaning Yadavas are marshalling forces to block him and hence can’t reach Devagiri with a token force as such or as is mentioned in the gazetteer, asked for a passage, meaning he will be monitored. And if he changed his direction towards Devagiri, he will be cut down.
So, the question arises, what exactly happened? Did Alauddin Khilji ever reach Devagiri or did he capture the king in Elichpur or somewhere North when he is on a pilgrimage or on a hunting trip and then used him as a ransom for whatever wealth he got? The two day halt, is it possible, is for ransom negotiations? With kingdoms being eponymous to the capital city, capture of a fort can always be equated to capture of the capital city. And if Alauddin Khilji is bent on dethroning his uncle, a mere border raid won’t work – what he needs is toppling of a major kingdom. Going by the fact that 1308 Malik Kafur’s invasion of Devagiri against a ‘reclariant’ Ramachadra is that sanguine that Malik Kafur had to go back and get a new army to achieve his aims, can we expect that an alternate narrative is constructed to give Alauddin Khilji against his uncle?

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