Maharana Pratap, a powerful Rajput ruler of Mewar, was born on May 9, 1540 in Rajasthan’s Kumbhalgarh to Maharana Udai Singh II and Rani Jeevant Kanwar. In 1576, he fought the popular battle of Haldighati with Mughal Emperor Akbar. It was highly outnumbered but Maharana fought with great courage. Though the four-hour long battle made it to history it is still unclear who won it. While some believe it ended in a draw, many believe it was Akbar who emerged as a winner. Who was greater in the Maharana Pratap vs Akbar battle is an ever going battle and has recently made headlines. Though both the leaders were great in their own right, comparison is always difficult.
Akbar’s expansion missions
In 1556, after defeating Sher Shah Suri’s kingdom, Akbar planned of stabilising the empire. He realised the importance of alliances with the Rajputs and among the many tactics marrying Rajput princess from Amer was the one. He was the one who came up with administrative machinery system also known as the Mansabdari system and this helped Mughal rule to stay long in India. According to the system, officials were given specific posts and Rajputs were given important military positions. To demonstrate his authority, Akbar came up with the ‘Siege of Chittorgarh’ in October 1567. During the carnage, 8,000 Rajputs in Chittogarh Fort were surrounded and besieged by 5,000 men which was later expanded to 80,000, which concluded in the expected victory of the Mughals. To avoid capture by Mughals, Rajput women created a Jauhar also read as Johar or Juhar and jumped into the flame.
Unsuccessful diplomatic missions
In 1572, when Pratap was throned as the King of Mewar, Akbar started his attempts to regain control of his kingdom. He even sent his messages of peace but Maharana was aware of Chittorgarh battle and was not someone who would melt with his sweet words. Several fellow chiefs of Maharana including his own brothers – Shakti Singh, Jagmal and Sagar Singh – served Akbar as commanders or members of his council. Akbar sent six diplomatic missions including his brother-in-law Bhagwant Das and his son Man Singh to Pratap for a peaceful alliance like he did with other Rajput chiefs, but of no use. Once Maharana even agreed for an alliance but it later failed as Pratap refused to be personally present at the Mughal court. By not falling prey to Akbar’s words, Maharana became the only king in the history who defied Mughals. And this resulted in the ‘Battle of Haldighati’ in June 1576.
Battle of Haldighati
The four-hour battle was between Maharana Pratap and Akbar led by Man Singh I. Akbar’s army had 80,000 soldiers while Maharana’s army consisted of 3,000 soldiers that included Rajputs, Afghans led by Hakim Khan Sur and a small contingent of Bhil tribals. Through Rajput’s zeal and patriotism, Maharana launched a direct attack on the Mughal and later to bring out a quick defeat launched an attack with elephants. Rumours of the Mughal emperor Akbar coming on the battlefield instilled a sense of courage in the Mughal troops and they surrounded Maharana’s army and at the time when Maharana would have certainly been killed, the Naik of Jhala took the crown off Maharana’s head and put it on his own head posing as Maharana and got himself killed. Grabbing an opportunity Rana aimed his spear on Man Singh but unfortunately it pierced his Mahout’s body. The Mughal army once again surrounded Maharana but his favourite horse ‘Cheetak’ help him to rescue successfully but died as it had sustained injuries. The winner of the battle is still not clear as Mughals suffered heavy casualties and Maharana escaped unhurt. Later Maharana regained control over most of his kingdom.
End of saga
The saga ended nearly 18 years after Maharana’s death. Over the years, due to several battles Mewar was damaged financially as well as in manpower. In 1615, Amar Singh I, eldest son and successor of Maharana Pratap, to avoid further loss entered into a treaty with Shah Jahan (on behalf of Jahangir). According to the treaty the Ruler of Mewar need not be bound to be present
at the Mughal court, instead a son or brother would serve the Mughals. Hence, Prince Bhim served Shah Jahan. Also, there won’t be any matrimonial relations between the Ranas of Mewar and Mughals. And the most important, the Chittorgarh fort would never be repaired as they feared of it being used in any future rebellion. Later, Jahangir as a goodwill gesture gifted Chittorgarh fort and the territories around Chittor to Amar Singh I.
Epitome of patriotism
On January 29, 1597, at the age of 57, Maharana died due to injuries sustained in a hunting accident. His birth anniversary also known as Maharana Pratap Jayanti is celebrated on third day of Jyestha Shukla phase as a full-fledged festival. Maharana Pratap will always be remembered as an epitome of patriotism, heroism and for his spirit of independence.