Founder of the Guhila Dynasty?
Bappa Rawal was a ruler from the Guhila clan of Rajputs that ruled the Mewar region of Rajasthan. He is considered the founder of the Guhila dynasty but these claims are disputed. He has been identified as a ruler from the Kalabhoja, Shiladitya and Khumana dynasties by different historians although there is no conclusive proof for either of these beliefs.
Bappa Rawal possibly captured the Chittor Fort either from the Arab invaders who had invaded north-western India in 725 CE or the Mauryans. The exact period in which Bappa ruled is not clear but it is believed that he established the Mewar Kingdom in 728 CE. His conquest of the fort was so impressive that historians believe he was wrongly regarded as the founder of the Guhila dynasty.
Ekalinga Mahatmya, a 15th century text states that Bappa was the ninth descendent of Guhadatta, the founder of the Guhila dynasty. There have been accounts in the bardic chronicles and in the Ekalinga Mahatmya that his father Nagaditya and other male family members were killed while fighting the Bhils of Idar. He somehow managed to escape by disguising himself and taking the help of two loyal Bhil aids. After making a successful escape, he lived with a Brahmin lady who took care of him and raised him.
Ekalinga Mahatmya also talks about Bappa having met a sage called Harit Rashi while he was tasked with taking care of cows by the Brahmin lady. This sage was to initiate him into a Shaivite order and also bless him with not only supernatural powers but also immortality. Bappa was eager to be initiated and decided to do as told by the sage. When Bappa made his way to the initiation site, he witnessed Harit Rashi ascend towards the sky. He was amazed beyond measure and couldn’t wait to have superpowers like the sage.
The sage told him to receive his spit in his mouth in order to achieve immortality. This shocked and disgusted Bappa for a moment. He hesitated and the spit fell on his foot instead of his mouth. Instead of immortality, he was blessed with the ability to remain unaffected by any weapon. With this ability, he killed the killers of his father and established the Mewar Kingdom.
According to David Gordon White, an Indologist, a similar legend was narrated about Gorakhnath and the Gorkha King Prithvi Narayan Shah. Al-Biruni, an 11th century writer also wrote about a similar legend in between alchemist Vyadi and King Vikramaditya.
As for his historicity, scholars such as D.R Bhandarkar, C.V Vaidya, G.H Ojha and Kaviraj Shyamdas believe that Bappa Rawal is not a proper noun but a title because Bappa translates to ‘father’ while ‘Rawal’ is a royal title. Bappa has been mentioned in some inscriptions from the Guhila dynasty but there are many where he is not. That is why Bappa Rawal as a name is considered just an epithet for a specific Guhila ruler out of the many that the dynasty saw. This led many scholars to identify him with different Guhila kings but there has been no conclusive evidence to any. G.H Ojha identifies Bappa with Kalabhija because he has been mentioned in the 977 CE Atpur inscriptions that Khumana was the son of Kalabhoja and in the Uparaganva inscription of 1404 CE, Khumana is called the son of Bappa Rawal. D.R Bhandarkar, on the other hand, thinks that Khumana was actually Bappa Rawal. No conclusive proof for either of these assumptions has been found.
A temple dedicated to him called the Shri Bappa Rawal Temple is located in Mathatha, Rajasthan.