Jai Singh II of Amber

Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh (November 3, 1688 – September 21, 1743) was the Rajput ruler of the kingdom of Amber (later called Jaipur). He was born at Amber (now Jaipur), the capital of the Kachwahas. He became ruler of Amber at the age of 11 after his father Maharaja Bishan Singh died on 31 December 1699. On 21 April 1721, the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah bestowed upon him the title of Saramad-i-Rajaha-i-Hind and on 2 June 1723, the emperor further bestowed him the titles of Raj Rajeshvar, Shri Rajadhiraj and Maharaja Sawai."Sawai" means one and a quarter times superior to his contemporaries. These titles adorn his descendants even to this date. He had a great interest in mathematics, architecture and astronomy.


Reign: 1688–1743
Born: November 3, 1688
Birthplace: Amber, India
Died: September 21, 1743
Royal House: Kachwaha of Jaipur
Predecessor: Bishan Singh
Successor: Ishwari Singh

When Sawai Jai Singh sat on the ancestral throne at Amber, he had barely enough resources to pay for the support of 1000 cavalry—this abysmal situation had arisen in the past 32 years, coinciding with the reign of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. The Jaipur kings had always preferred diplomacy to arms in their dealings with the Mughals, since their kingdom was located so close to the Mughal power centers of Delhi and Agra. Under Aurangzeb, successive Kachawaha Rajas from the time of Ramsingh I were actually deprived of their rank and pay despite years of close alliance with the Emperors of Delhi. Two of their chiefs, Jai Singh I and Kunwar Kishan Singh, died in mysterious circumstances while campaigning in the Deccan.

Six months after his accession, Jai Singh was ordered by Aurangzeb to serve in his ruinous Deccan Wars. But there was a delay of about one year in his responding to the call. One of the reason for this was that he was ordered to recruit a large force, in excess of the contingent required by his mansab. He also had to conclude his marriage with the daughter of Udit Singh, the nephew of Raja Uttam Ram Gaur of Sheopur in March, 1701. Jai Singh reached Burhanpur on August 3, 1701 but he could not proceed further due to heavy rains. On September 13, 1701 an additional cut in his rank (by 500) and pay was made.[2] His feat of arms at the siege of Khelna (1702) was rewarded by the mere restoration of his earlier rank and the title of Sawai (Sawai-meaning one and a quarter, i.e. more capable than one man). When Aurangzeb’s grandson Bidar Bakht deputed Sawai Jai Singh to govern the province of Malwa (1704), Aurangzeb angrily revoked this appointment as jaiz nist (invalid or opposed to Islam).

The death of Aurangzeb (1707) at first only increased Jai Singh’s troubles. His patrons Bidar Bakht and his father Azam were on the losing side in the Mughal war of succession—the victorious Bahadur Shah continued Aurangzeb’s hostile and bigoted policy towards the Rajputs by attempting to occupy their lands. Sawai Jai Singh formed an alliance with the Rajput states of Mewar (matrimonially) and Marwar, which defeated and expelled the Mughals from Rajputana. Aurangzeb’s rule of excluding Rajputs from the administration was now abandoned by the later Mughals—Jai Singh was appointed to govern the important provinces of Agra and Malwa. In Agra he came into conflict with the sturdy Jat peasantry.He served three Mughal emperors. All Jaipur kings served the Mughals and British because they did not want to fight them.

Sawai Jai Singh and the Marathas

The Kachwaha ruler was appointed to govern Malwa three times between 1714 and 1737. In Jai Singh's first viceroyalty (subahdar) of Malwa (1714–1717), isolated Maratha war-bands that entered the province from the south (Deccan) were constantly defeated and repulsed by Jai Singh. In 1728, Peshwa Baji Rao defeated the Nizam of Hyderabad, part of the Mughal Deccan (treaty of Sheogaon, February 1728). With an agreement from Baji Rao to spare the Nizam’s own domains, the Nizam allowed the Marathas a free passage through Berar and Khandesh, the gateway into Hindustan. The Marathas were then able to plant a permanent camp beyond the southern frontier of Malwa. Following the victory of the Peshwa’s brother, Chimaji Appa, over the governor of Malwa Girdhar Bahadur on 29 November 1728, the Marathas were able to convulse much of the country beyond the Southern borders of the Narmada.

Upon Sawai Jai Singh’s second appointment to Malwa (1729–1730), as a far-sighted statesmen, Jai Singh was able to perceive a complete change in the political situation, during the twelve years which had passed since his first viceroyalty there. Imperial power had by then been crippled by the rebellion of the Nizam of Hyderabad as well as the ability of Peshwa Baji Rao to stabilize the internal situation of the Marathas, which resulted in their occupation of Gujarat and an immense increase of their forces. Nonetheless, in the name of the friendship between their royal ancestors, Sawai Jai Singh II, was able to appeal to Shahu to restore to the imperialist, the great fortress of Mandu which the Marathas had occupied a few weeks earlier (order date 19 March 1730). By May, Jai Singh was recalled back to Rajputana to attend more pressing matters, which thus resulted in his two years disassociation from Malwa.

In 1732, Jai Singh was for the last time, appointed Subahdar of Malwa (1732–1737), during which time he advocated Muhammad Shah, to compromise with the Marathas under Shahu, whom greatly remembered the kindness and relationship between the late Mirza Raja (Jai Singh I) and his own grandfather, Shivaji. For this sensible advice, coupled with anti-Jai Singh rhetoric at the Mughal court at Delhi, as well as Muhammad Shah’s inability to assert his own will, Jai Singh was removed from his post while the Mughals decided on war. In this regard, Sawai Jai Singh II was practically the last subahdar of Malwa, as Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah, who replaced him in 1737, met with most discomfiting failure at the hands of the Peshwa, resulting with the ceding of the whole of Malwa to the Marathas (Treaty of Duraha, Saturday 7 January 1738).

Exploiting the decadence of the Delhi government, the Persian raider Nadir Shah defeated the Mughals at Karnal (13 February 1739) and finally sacked Delhi (11 March, same year). Through this period of turmoil Jai Singh remained in his own state—but he was not idle. Foreseeing the troubled time ahead, Sawai Jai Singh II, initiated a program of extensive fortification within the thikanas under Jaipur, to this date, most of the later fortifications abound the former Jaipur state, are attributed to the reign of Sawai Jai Singh II.

Sawai Jai Singh’s armed forces and his ambitions in Rajputana

Jai Singh increased the size of his ancestral kingdom by annexing lands from the Mughals and rebel chieftains—sometimes by paying money and sometimes through war. The most substantial acquisition was of Shekhawati, which also gave Jai Singh the most able recruits for his fast expanding army.

According to an estimate by Jadunath Sarkar; Jai Singh's regular army did not exceed 40,000 men, which would have cost about 60 lakhs a year, but his strength lay in the large number of artillery and copious supply of munitions which he was careful to maintain and his rule of arming his foot with matchlocks instead of the traditional Rajput sword and shield - He had the wisdom to recognize early the change which firearms had introduced in Indian warfare and to prepare for himself for the new war by raising the fire-power of his army to the maximum, he thus anticipated the success of later Indian rulers like Mirza Najaf Khan, Mahadji Sindhia and Tipu Sultan. Sawai Jai Singh's experimental weapon, the Jaivana which he created prior to the shift of his capital to Jaipur, remains the largest wheeled cannon in the world. In 1732, Sawai Jai Singh, as governor of Malwa undertook, to maintain 30,000 soldiers, in equal proportions of horsemen and foot-musketeers. These did not include his contingents in the Subahs of Agra and Ajmer and in his own dominions and fort garrisons.

The armed strength of Jai Singh had always made him, the most formidable ruler in Northern India and all the other Rajas looked up to him for protection and the promotion of their interests at the Imperial court.The fast-spreading Maratha dominion and their raids into the north had caused alarm among the Rajput chiefs—Jai Singh called a conference of Rajput rulers at Hurda (1734) to deal with this peril but nothing came of this meeting. In 1736 Peshwa Baji Rao imposed tribute on the Kingdom of Mewar. To thwart further Maratha domination Sawai Jai Singh planned a local hegemony, to form under the leadership of Jaipur, a political union in Rajputana. He first annexed Bundi and Rampura in the Malwa plateau, made a matrimonial alliance with Mewar, and intervened in the affairs of the Rathors of Bikaner and Jodhpur. These half-successful attempts only stiffened the backs of the other Rajput clans who turned to the very same Marathas for aid, and consequently hastened their domination over Rajasthan! After Sawai Jai Singh’s death in 1743 (he was cremated at the Royal Crematorium at Gaitore in the north of Jaipur), these troubles were inherited by his less capable son Ishwari Singh.

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