Meaning Of Jauhar - Ancient Indian Burning Ritual

In a culture that puts pride above their lives, committing suicide is considered one of the most honored ways to escape being captured and humiliated by their enemies. Many versions of such cultures have been recorded worldwide, such as Seppuku in Japan, until the mass suicide of the Jews in Mesada.

On the other hand, the northern Indian region has something similar to be said the Rajput caste has longed to practice their own unique way of protecting their dignity which is known as Jauhar. It was taken from the Sanskrit word, "jau" which translates to live, and "har' meaning lost.

The Jauhar ritual is not something usually performed by warriors after they lose and is instead done by the women of Rajput. Generally speaking, they will perform this ritual at night time a day before being ambushed by their enemies(this is of course when they knew that the odds are stacked against them).

The women will be in their wedding gowns as they gathered all the little ones to jump together into the blazing fire pit while the monks are reciting the rituals around them. 

The fire pit was believed to purify the women who are willing to sacrifice themselves and their families from being caught and getting raped, tortured or turn into slaves which is the meaning of Jauhar. By doing this it will ensure that their bloodlines are clean from any forced marriage.

The next day, the remaining warriors and men will rub the ashes of these women on their foreheads before going out to battle to their death. Jauhar is somewhat different than the Sati culture which raised controversy in India where the widows were forced to jump into the fire while the burning ceremony of their deceased husband was being conducted.

Since Jauhar is done voluntarily without any force, it was looked up to and considered much honorable. One of the earliest records found regarding Jauhar was during the conquest of Alexander the Great.

One of the cities in North India with a population of 20,000 people at the time was seen to be in hopelessness after hearing about the arrival of the Macedonian army. The fire was set all over the city and together with their family members, they performed the Jauhar by jumping into the flame to avoid being kept as captive and turn into slaves.

The most popular Jauhar ritual in India's history will be in the 14th century when the Chittorgarh Fort in Rajasthan was occupied by an army led by Sultan Alauddin Khilj.

The Jauhar ceremony involved thousands of women as they followed the footsteps of their queen, Padmavati who killed herself to avoid giving herself in before the fortress fell into the enemy's hands.

This event was later told as stories to later generations as one of the legends seen as an example of a person who is looked up to and respected by all the Rajput women. Queen Padmavati is not only seen as an icon among the Rajput caste but there were also many poems and arts being made to commemorate her.

According to the story told by Padmavati herself, Sultan Alauddin wanted to conquer the fortress as he heard of a beautiful queen living in Chittorgarh Fort and wished to own her. But Padmavati will never let such a thing occur and decided to perform the Jauhar.

The ancient Jauhar ceremony can also be heard in India today as a movie inspired by the story of Padmavati was made by the name "Padmaavat" and was launched in early 2018.

However, the people did not take it very well as the Rajput caste said that the movie did not feature the actual story of what truly happened and was seen as an act to insult Queen Padmavati.

Due to this, as many as 2,000 women from the Rajput caste threatened to perform the Jauhar themselves if the film was approved and aired in all cinemas throughout the country. Most cinemas however refused to air the movie which showed how sacred Queen Padmavati is.


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