Glories of Maharana Pratap Singh
By Swami Abhayananda Tirtha
Pratap, eldest of 25 brothers and 29 sisters, was born at Kumbhalgarh [now in Rajsamand District of Rajasthan] to Maharana Udai Singh II and Maharani Javanta Bai Songara . In 1568, during the reign of Udai Singh II, Chittor was conquered by the Mughal emperor Akbar. Maharana Pratap never accepted Akbar as ruler of India, and fought Akbar all his life. Akbar first tried diplomacy to win over Maharana Pratap but nothing worked. Akbar sent a total of six diplomatic missions to Pratap, seeking to negotiate the same sort of peaceful alliance that he had concluded with the other Rajput chiefs. Pratap roundly rebuffed every such attempt displaying his vanity. Pratap maintained that he had no intention to fight with Akbar but he could not bow down to Akbar and accept him as the ruler. Some scholars argue that there was some possibility that Maharana could have become friends with Akbar, but in the siege of Chittor Akbar had killed 27,000 civilians. This left a lasting impression on Maharana’s mind and he decided he could not bow to such an injustice and cruelty.
Battle of Haldighati
On June 21, 1576 (June 18 by other calculations), the two armies met at Haldighati, near the town of Gogunda in present-day Rajasthan. While accounts vary as to the exact strength of the two armies, all sources concur that the Mughal forces greatly outnumbered Pratap’s men (1:4), with 20,000 Rajputs against a Mughal army of 80,000 men commanded by Raja Man Singh. In the short period in which the war lasted, Pratap’s men essayed many brave exploits on the field. Folklore has it that Pratap personally attacked Man Singh: his horse Chetak placed its front feet on the trunk of Man Singh’s elephant and Pratap threw his lance; Man Singh ducked, and the mahout was killed. However, the numerical superiority of the Mughal army and their artillery began to tell. Seeing that the battle was lost, Pratap’s generals prevailed upon him to flee the field (so as to be able to fight another day). Meanwhile, riding his trusty steed Chetak, Pratap made good his escape to the hills.
But Chetak was critically wounded on his left thigh by a Mardana (Elephant Trunk Sword) while Pratap had attempted to nail down Man Singh. Chetak was bleeding heavily and he collapsed after jumping over a small brook few kilometers away from the battle field. When Pratap’s general donned Pratap’s clothing and armor, it went unnoticed, thanks to the chaos of the war, but for two Turk knights from the Mughal army. They could not communicate it with others in their group, due to the linguistic barrier (the appropriate language would have been Persian, Marwari or Arabic, given the composition of the Mughal army). They immediately followed Pratap without wasting time. The moment they started chasing him, Pratap’s younger brother Shakti Singh, who was fighting from the Mughal side, (he had some disputes with Pratap at the time of Pratap’s coronation; hence he had defected and gone over to Akbar’s court) realized that his own brother was under threat. Pratap’s general’s sacrifice had already been discovered by him. He could not help but react against a threat to his own brother. He followed the Turks, engaged them in single combat and killed them. In the meanwhile, Chetak collapsed and Pratap saw his brother Shakti Singh killing the two Mughal riders. Saddened by the loss of his beloved general and horse, he embraced his brother and broke into tears. Shakti Singh also cried and asked for his brother’s pardon, for having fought as his enemy. Pratap pardoned him (later on he was given a huge estate near Chittor). Shakti Singh then offered him his own horse and requested him to get to a safe place. This incident is famous in Rajasthani folklore, a song “O Neele Ghode re Aswar” (O Rider of the Blue Horse)mentions it.
The impact of the battle on the Mughal army was also significant. In terms of numbers the Mughal army suffered heavier losses. This was also because of the intensive arrow showers by the Bhil tribes of the surrounding mountains who had sided with Pratap. To honor their contribution, a Bhil warrior was placed next to Pratap in the Royal Coat of Arms of Mewar.
Before the Battle of Haldighati started, Man Singh Kacchwaha was out hunting with a few hundred retainers. Pratap’s Bhil spies reported this to him at his camp a few kilometers away. Some of Pratap’s nobles suggested that they seize the opportunity to attack and kill Man Singh. Pratap refused, demonstrating his sense of rectitude.
In another incident, the womenfolk of Abdur Rahim Khankhana, a Mughal officer, fell into the hands of Pratap’s son, Amar Singh. At this point of time, Khankhana was actually on the march against Pratap, and was camping at Sherpur in order to make preparations for an assault against Pratap. Notwithstanding all this, Pratap commanded his son Amar Singh (eldest of 17 sons and 5 daughters) to arrange for the safe conveyance of the Mughal ladies to their camp. Khankhana was so affected by this incident that he refused to campaign against such a chivalrous monarch. He petitioned Akbar to be relieved of his post and was subsequently (in 1581) appointed guardian of Akbar’s own son, Salim. Also it is believed that the slogan “ Jo dridh rakhe dharm, ne tahi rakhe kartar ” was spoken by Abdur Rahim Khankhana, who is also known as “Rahim das” in Tamil poetry.
A 90 kg weight sword was used by Rana Pratap. Rana Pratap use to carry two swords with him always. Before any fight he used to offer one sword to his opponent if he is not armed. The 2nd sword was to intimidate the enemy. Rana Pratap is known for his ability to be a weight lifter. And fighting with 2×90 Kg swords was a piece of cake for him. His height was around 7.5 feet and had a broad look.
But unfortunately our present day government is least bothered with the fact that the great Kshatriya Kings like Maharana Pratap hardly get their deserved place in the text books of our CBSE and ICSE board. The mentioned things about this great fighter leaves the student with the thought that he was just a small ruler in the Mewar area of Rajasthan who gave some resistance to the so called ‘Great Mughal Rule’.
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