MAHARANA PRATAP THE GREAT
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
Military men and women who have faced the wily enemy across the borders and have been in the line of fire are indeed great admirers of Maharana Pratap Singh of Mewar. The sixteenth century scion of the House of Sisodias had faced the enemy, Moghul king Akbar, minor Sultans of Malwa, Gujarat and Vibhishans among the Rajput royal houses in the then Rajputana. Indeed he had the solid support of chieftains around Mewar and, of course, enjoyed the unflinching loyalty of the jungle tribes of Bhils who always protected flanks of the great Maharana in distress. The greatness of the giant among men, Pratap Singh, Maharana of Mewar lies in his leadership and capacity to motivate men in adversity and manage money and material in both war and peace. He worked with single minded devotion to duty as a Defender of the Faith, as a king of men and women who looked up to him to defeat the overwhelmingly large enemy forces and save their Mewar Desh and Hindu Dharm from annihilation. Maharana Pratap did not fail in his duty to protect and defend the Honour of his country and its people.
Maharana Pratap had inherited the qualities of grit and determination, the uncommon mental make up that inspired him to put Service to his subjects before physical and mental comforts of the Self and sustaining the moral courage that in turn built boldness in his personality to face severe odds and Never Say Die. Above all, it was his spirit of Patriotism that inspired him to put at stake all he had for his beloved motherland, Mewar.
Patriotism made Maharana of Mewar, Pratap Singh Ji, a Great King who rose high to meet the challenge of the mighty Moghuls and not surrender his country, its honour and not submit daughters of Mewar to foreign barbarians to be ravished. Almighty Ishwar stood by Maharana Pratap and help came to him from unexpected quarters at the least expected time. Maharana Pratap was never cowed down by cowardice shown by his brother kings of the Houses of Jaipur, Jodhpur and other minor vassals who bent backwards to lick the feet of invading Moghul kings of Delhi.
Honour, Duty, Country – loyalty to people and rising above narrow minded sectarian interests were flowing in the blue blooded veins of Maharana Pratap as he had inherited them from his ancestors – Bappa Rawal downwards through, Rana Kumbha who built Vijay Stambh in the Chittor fort after vanquishing the Sultan of Gujarat decisively.
The Moghul rulers of Delhi were no angels. The House of Sisodiyas of Mewar had been waging war with them for three generations without giving up for good. Babur had misinformed classes and masses that he invaded Hindustan at the invitation of Maharana Sangram Singh of Mewar, commonly known as Rana Sangha. Had it been so, Rana Sangha would not have fought a bitter battle against Babur where the latter broke his wine glasses of gold to convince his army that he would be a true adherent of Islam thereafter. Did he keep his word? Moghuls are mum on it.
Humanyu, Babur’s son, was constantly on the run after being defeated by Sher Shah Suri. He found shelter in the Hindu Royal House of Amarkot in Sindh where Akbar was born, protected by the Rajah of Amarkot when Humanyu was out of Bharat. Did Akbar or Bairam Khan repay this loyalty? Moghuls are mum.
Now, Maharana Pratap Singh Ji was doing his onerous duty to keep Mewar safe from the marauding Moghuls led by Akbar whom some ill-informed writers call the Great overlooking his massacre of the Hindus after capturing the Chittorgarh fort from Maharana Uday Singh II.
In the annals of bitterly fought battles, the Battle of Haldighati occupies a place of honour. I have had an opportunity to go there in mid-1980s while on an inspection visit to the Sainik School, Chittorgarh. I was indeed overwhelmed by the accounts of the Battle of Haldighati narrated by some knowledgeable lecturers of History. Hair raising accounts of the chivalry of Maharana Pratap mounted on his loyal war horse, Chetak, were heard by me and other tourists who chanced to be there.
Haldighati is a narrow pass in the Aravali hills, a couple of hours drive from the Chittorgarh fort. The earth there is yellowish in colour and thus acquired the name, Haldighati. When the Moghul army commanded in name by Prince Salim but in actual fact by Raja Man Singh of Amer, present House of Jaipur. Not too long ago, Raja Man Singh had visited Maharana Pratap with a proposal of King Akbar asking Maharana Pratap to accept the suzerainty of the Mughal ruler and undergo ignominy of sending daughters of House of Mewar to Akbar’s harem. Man Singh’s family had succumbed to greed of loaves and fishes and had surrendered Jodha Bai to Akbar. A self-respecting man and ruler like Maharana Pratap viewed the proposal with disdain and chose not to host a lunch for Man Singh pretending to be suffering from a severe headache. Man Singh’s coming to battle of Haldighati was indeed an act of revenge.
18th June 1576 when the battle was joined, Maharana Pratap fielded 22,ooo soldiers comprising Rajputs, Bhils, and a handful of Pathans. The Mughals fielded 200, 000 men in arms, mostly Rajputs and Muslims. When Muslim troops were bewildered by presence of Rajputs on both sides of the dividing line, they were advised to kill both as they were Hindus. In the defile of the narrow valley, the Moghuls could not deploy their full might of artillery and cavalry. When Maharana’s mounted men came charging drunk on Patriotism, the Mughal infanteers ran helter skelter. Even the big horses and horsemen of Salim and Mansingh took to their heels. The first round of the battle went in favour of the Maharana’s troopers.
As per the original tactical plan of battle, the Maharana’s army was instructed to fight in the hilly defile and not chase the fleeing Moghuls. However, in the first flush of victory, Maharana himself and his cavalry could not restrain themselves and chased the withdrawing enemy. In the heat of the battle, they followed fleeing Moghul cavalry beyond defile and descended to the plains where a huge Moghul army was waiting to surround them and give battle afresh. Some strategists are of the opinion that it was a ruse of the wily Moghuls to draw the Maharana’s forces out in the open and beat them from a position of advantage.
Maharana Pratap astride his loyal mount, Chetak, was looking for Raja Man Singh to keep his promise of meeting him in the battlefield. He strode at the gallop, at trot and at canter looking for his arch enemy who was hiding in the distant rear to save his skin. Pundit Shyam Narayan Pandey has aptly described the Maharana’s hunt for Man Singh in these words:
“Rana doondhta Man Kahan, Chetak kahta Man Kahan;
Bhala kahta Man kahan……..”
But Man Singh was not to be found.
The war horse Chetak knew what its master was looking for. An elephant was sighted and the Maharana zeroed on it. Chetak closed in, stood on the rear legs giving required height to Maharana for thrusting his deadly lance towards to howdah which had Salim seated in it. The attack of Maharana was so fierce that the Mahaut of the elephant was killed on the spot and the elephant ran away from the battle field screaming. Man Singh was not to be found as he was hiding in the distant rear.
In the heat and dust of battle, Maharana Pratap Singh got separated from the bulk of his army. The Mughal soldiers surrounded him and mounted attack after attack on his body and the steed. Soon came forward a loyal chieftain of Maharana, Sardar Jhala. He appreciated the battle situation and removed the Shirastrn and dhwaj-symbols of royalty, from Maharana’s persona and assumed them on his head so that attackers took him to be the Maharana of Mewar. It was an act of loyalty and patriotism of Sardar Jhala that saved Maharana’s life but the chieftain made the supreme sacrifice for the king and the country.
Maharana of Mewar made a tactical retreat so that he could fight a battle another day. He was followed by his brother, Shakti Singh who had joined the Moghals to vanquish his own brother. But now his brotherly love and patriotism came to the forefront. He killed two Moghul horsemen who were chasing the Maharana and caught up with his brother to shed tears and apologize for his treachery. Chetak fell exhausted and soon breathed his last because of numerous wound sustained in battle. The Maharana of Mewar shed tears and cried for his Chetak like a child. He, however, moved forward to plan for another engagement with the Moghuls on another day.
Maharana showed his prowess as a master strategist of the guerilla warfare when he moved into the Aravali hills. Moving from peak to peak, dale to dale, Maharans Pratap gave no respite to the Moghul troopers and kept them on their toes. Of course, he suffered from privations and penury but did not lose heart. Some accounts speak of his plans to move to the Sind province to garner military support from the Rajput princes there. Lieut Colonel James Todd, a great researcher and historian of Rajputana subscribes to this theory. In his monumental work entitled, “ Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan”, Col Todd is very appreciative of the grit and determination of Maharana Pratap to carry on his Patriotic Mission despite adverse circumstances.
BHAMA SHAH OPENED HIS PURSE
Bhama Shah had been a minister of the Sisodia kings for a long time. He, with the dint of merit and hard work had amassed a fortune. Now was the time for Bhama Shah to open his purse and let Maharana Pratap use it to carry on with campaign to keep Mewar free from clutches of the Moghuls of Delhi. Despite reluctance of Maharana Pratap to accept his generous offer of monetary help, Bhama Shah persisted and made sure that the King of Mewar utilized his generous offer to raise an army afresh and reconquer the fortresses from the Mughal forces and make Mewar an independent land of the Brave. Utilising the donation of that great philanthropist, Bhama Shah, Maharana raised an army of 25,000 soldiers and trained them in the art of warfare before equipping them with war horses and weaponry to match the Moghul army. The patriot Bhama Shah had donated enough money to sustain that Mewar Army for 12 years without drawing from the State Exchequer.
Maharana Pratap did exactly that and fulfilled the wishes of Bhama Shah. It was a dream come true.
PERSONALITY OF PRATAP JI
Maharana Pratap Singh also patronized fine arts and music whenever he was not engaged in fighting battles against the treacherous Moghuls of Delhi. The Maharana was quite humane and believed in the principles of war followed by the Rajputs, especially not sexually abusing women of the enemy forces. Once his son, Prince Amar Singh captured some royal women from the family of Rahim, Khan-e-Kanan who was a son of Bairum Khan, the mentor of King Akbar. Maharana had the women returned to Ramim’s palace unharmed. Rahim, also a poet, was so overwhelmed with the generosity of Maharana Pratap that he declined to join any Moghul military campaign against Maharana Pratap.
Maharana Pratap was loyal to his father, King Uday Singh II of Udaipur. His father had nominated his younger brother, Jagmall, a son of the youngest wife of Rana Uday Singh, to be king of Mewar. However, Pratap Ji accepted his father’s decision as a loyal son, despite being the first in the line of succession to the throne. However, the Rajput chieftains did not brook this injustice and physically removed Jagmall from the throne. They beseeched Pratap Ji to become the Maharans and that he accepted.
Born on Shukla Paksh Tritiya ,commensurating with 9th May 1540, Pratap Singh Ji had ascended thr throne of Mewar on 1st May 1572 at the age of 32 years. Although under political expediency Pratap Ji had solmnised eleven marriages but his first lawfully wedded wife, Maharani Ajabdeh took precedence and was with her darling husband through thick and thin. Their first born son, Kunwar Amar Singh had succeeded his illustrious father on his untimely demise on 29th January 1597, age 57 years, as the Maharana of Mewar but suffered from the ignominy of contracting a Peace Treaty with King Jehangir of Delhi. Of course, Maharana Amar Singh was exempted from making a personal presence in the Delhi durbar nor go through the insult of sending Rajput princesses of Mewar to the Moghul harem. After signing the Peace Treaty, Maharana Amar Singh was so overtaken by grief that he never made a public appearance thereafter.
Maharana Pratap Singh Ji was always true to his word. He never let down a friend and never stabbed a foe in the back. His personality is an ideal one to be emulated by the new generation of boys, irrespective of the Faith they subscribe to. He was a fierce warrior, a mellowed patriarch and a doting father to his 17 sons and five daughters. He treated all alike.
Once a battle was joined, he asked for no quarters and gave none. Maharana Pratap Singh Ji fought a battle against his enemies like a Dharm Yudh. Indeed Maharana Pratap was the BRAVEST OF THE BRAVE.
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