Bhilwara, located in the state of Rajasthan, India, has a rich and fascinating history that spans several centuries. Situated in the Mewar region, Bhilwara has been influenced by its political environment, geography, and the diverse communities that have inhabited the city over time.
Bhilwara is known for its vibrant textile industry and has earned the sobriquet of the "Manchester of Rajasthan." However, before delving into the industrial era, let us journey back in time to understand the early origins of Bhilwara. The region that encompasses modern-day Bhilwara has a history dating back to ancient times, with evidence of human habitation found in the form of megalithic structures and prehistoric rock paintings. The Bhil tribe, after which the city is named, has been an integral part of the region's heritage and culture.
The recorded history of Bhilwara begins during the medieval period, when it was under the rule of the Rajputs. The region witnessed the rise and fall of several Rajput clans, including the Guhilots of Mewar and the Kachwaha rulers of Amber. Bhilwara's strategic location in the heart of Rajasthan made it a coveted territory for these Rajput rulers, and its fortunes were often shaped by the political dynamics of the time.
During the 12th and 13th centuries, Bhilwara came under the dominion of the Guhilot Rajputs, who established their capital in Chittorgarh. The city thrived under their rule, with trade and commerce flourishing along the prominent trade routes that passed through Bhilwara. The political stability and patronage of the Guhilots contributed to the growth of the city's population, attracting merchants and artisans from different parts of India.
In the 16th century, Bhilwara witnessed a shift in power as the Mughal Empire began to expand its influence in the region. Under the Mughals, Bhilwara became a part of the larger province of Ajmer, and the city experienced a cultural and architectural transformation. Mughal influence is evident in the grand palaces and mosques that were constructed during this period. The Mughal era brought a fusion of Persian and Indian aesthetics, which can still be seen in some of the architectural remnants of that time.
The decline of the Mughal Empire in the 18th century saw a power vacuum in the region, with several Rajput clans vying for control. The Kachwaha rulers of Amber emerged as prominent contenders and established their authority over Bhilwara. This period witnessed a resurgence of artistic and cultural activities, with the Kachwahas fostering a patronage for the arts.
The 19th century marked a significant turning point in Bhilwara's history with the advent of British colonial rule. The British recognized the city's potential for textile production due to its suitable climate and availability of raw materials. The industrial revolution in England had created a high demand for Indian textiles, leading to the establishment of textile mills in Bhilwara. This transformed the city's economic landscape and attracted a large number of migrants from neighboring regions, primarily from Rajasthan and Gujarat.
The rise of the textile industry brought about a rapid increase in Bhilwara's population. As people migrated in search of employment, the city saw a surge in its inhabitants, which continued throughout the 20th century. The population of Bhilwara grew from a modest number to around 3.6 million by 2021.