The Prithviraj Raso (Hindi: पृथ्वीराज रासो, Rajasthani: पिरथबीराज रासो) or Prithvirajaraso, is an epic poem composed by court poet, Chand Bardai, on the life of Prithviraj III, a Chauhan king who ruled Ajmer and Delhi between 1165 and 1192. Chand Bardai claimed to be contemporary of Prithviraj Chauhan.
The Prithviraj Raso is a semi-historical, semi-legendary account that depicts the bravery of Prithviraj Chauhan. The legend exaggerates the historical events for dramatic effects. Scholars consider it historically unreliable.
According to tradition, the Prithviraj Raso was composed by Chand Bardai, Prithviraj's court poet (raj kavi), who accompanied the king in all his battles, and completed by Bardai's son Jalhana. As court poet, Chand Bardai had the traditional occupation of composing poems and ballads in praise of his patron and based loosely on historical incident.
Over time, the Prithviraj Raso was embellished with the interpolations and additions of many other authors. Only a small portion of the existing texts is likely to have been part of the original version. Several versions of the Prithivraj Raso are available, but scholars agree that a small 1300-stanza manuscript in Bikaner is closest to the original text. The longest available version is the Udaipur manuscript, which is an epic with 16,306 stanzas. The language of the texts available today largely appears to be post-15th century and to be based upon the seventeenth-century compilation of Amar Singh of Mewar.
Many events and battle details narrated in Prithviraj Raso do not agree with other contemporary accounts found in both Hindu and Muslim sources (See Battle of Tarain).
According to the epic poem or ballad, Prithviraj was a king, who, after ceaseless military campaigns, extended his original kingdom of Sambhar (Shakambara) in present-day Rajasthan to cover Rajasthan and eastern Punjab. He ruled from his twin capitals of Delhi and Ajmer. His fast rise aroused the envy of the then powerful ruler of Kannauj, Jaichand Gahadvala, and caused ill-feeling between the two.
The upcoming svayamvara of Sanyogita spread far and wide and became the subject of much discussion among the nobility. Sanyogita, daughter of Jaichand, secretly fell in love with Prithviraj. She met Prithviraj at the temple of Koteshwar. She was disguised as Nandini and Prithvi was disguised as Surya. He was on a mission to save the temple deity from sabotage by his archrival and king of Gujrat, Bhimdev Solannki. Prithviraj had heard of Sanyogita's unmatched beauty in a poem and decided to meet her in disguise. However, Sanyogita, who had seen a portrait of Prithviraj, could see through his disguise and decided to meet him personally. She disguised herself to avoid recognition, and hence their secret affair began. Her father got wind of this affair and resolved to have her safely wed at an early date. He arranged a Swayamvara, a Hindu ceremony where a maiden selects a husband from a number of suitors who assemble at the invitation of her guardian. Jaichand invited many princes of high rank and heritage, but deliberately did not invite Prithviraj. To add insult to injury, Jaichand had a statue of Prithviraj made and placed at the door of the venue, thus parodying Prithviraj as a doorman. Prithviraj came to hear of this. He made his plans and confided them to his lover, Sanyogita.
On the day of the ceremony, Sanyogita emerged from an inner chamber, entered the venue of the Swayamvara, and walked straight down the hall past the assembled suitors, reached the door and garlanded the statue of Prithviraj. The assemblage were stunned at this brash act, but more was to follow: Prithviraj, who had been hiding behind the statue in the garb of a doorman, emerged, put Sanyogita upon his horse and the two eloped. This incident resulted in a string of battles between the two kingdoms, and both of them suffered heavily. The Chauhan-Gahadvala feud led to the weakening of both kingdoms. Prithviraj was a Hindu ruler and defeated Muhammad Ghori at the first battle of Tarain.
The book also gives accounts of bravery of several noble chiefs like Jaitra Rai, Devrai Baggari, Balibhadra Rai, Kuranbh Ram Rai, Prasang Rai Khichi and Jam Rai Yadav who were war allies or associates of Prithviraj.