Maharana Pratap (1540 – 1597) and his chetak

Pratap Singh (9th May 1540 – 29 January 1597) popularly known as Maharana Pratap the ruler of Mewar, present day Rajasthan. He was the eldest son of Maharani Jaiwanta Bai and Udai Singh II. He belonged to the Sisodia clan of Rajputs. Maharana Pratap Singh is widely regarded as a fearless warrior and ingenious strategist, who successfully fought the Mughals and safeguarded his people until his death. He was succeeded by his eldest son Amar Singh I.

Accession: In 1568 during the reign of Rana Udai Singh II Chittorgarh Fort was conquered by the Mughal emperor Akbar after the third Jauhar at Chittor. However, Udai Singh and the royal family of Mewar had left before the fort was captured and moved to the foothills of the Aravalli Range where Udai Singh had already founded the city of Udaipur in 1559. Rani Dheer Bai wanted her son Jagmal to succeed Udai Singh but the seniors in the royal court preferred Pratap, as the eldest son, to be their king. The desire of the nobles prevailed.

 

Conflict with the Mughals: Nearly all of Pratap's fellow Rajput chiefs had meanwhile entered into the vassalage of the Mughals. Even Pratap's own brothers, Shakti Singh, Jagmal and Sagar Singh, served the Mughal emperor, Akbar. Indeed, many Rajput chiefs, such as Man Singh I of Amer (later known as Maharaja of Jaipur) served as army commanders in Akbar's armies and as members of his council. 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. The first three missions were led by Jalal Khan Qurchi, the fourth by Raja Man Singh, the fifth by Raja Bhagwan Das, and the sixth by Todar Mal. The fifth mission of Bhagwan Das was fruitful in that the Rana agreed to put on a robe presented by Akbar and he sent his son Amar Singh I to the mughal capital. The missions failed, however, since the Rana refused to personally present himself in the mughal court. Since no agreement could be reached at, all out war between Mewar and the Mughals became inevitable.

 

Battle of Haldighati (1576): In 1576, Akbar deputed Man Singh I and Asaf Khan I to lead a force against Maharana Pratap. The Rana advanced with a force numbering almost half the Mughal numbers and took a position near Haldighati which was at the entrance of a defile. In Pratap's army the main commanders were Gwalior's Ram Shah Tanwar and his three sons,Rawat Krishnadasji Chundawat, Maan Singhji Jhala and Chandrasenji Rathore of Marwar. His army also included Afghans lead by Hakim Khan Sur and a small contingent of Bhil tribals headed by Rao Poonjaji fighting alongside him. Anticipating the mughal attack, the Rana had also devastated the entire region up to Chittor to prevent the Mughal forces access to food and fodder. The Mughals were then guided by Pratap's brother Shakti Singh that what was the way they could face Pratap in open and with minimum casualties.



The Battle of Haldighati was fought on 18 June 1576 for around 4 hours. It was primarily fought in the traditional manner between cavalry and elephants since the Mughals found it difficult to transport artillery over the rough terrain. In a traditional fight, the Rajputs were at an advantage; their impetuous attack led to a crumbling of the Mughal left and right wings and put pressure on the center until more reserves of the Mughal army arrived and resulted in a Rajput retreat. The heat, and fear of ambush in the hills, resulted in the Mughals deciding not to pursue the Rajputs into the hills. Thus this battle failed to break the existing stalemate. This fight can be viewed as an assertion of local independence arising from local and regional patriotism. 

Maharana Pratap and his forces were heavily outnumbered by the Mughals and to change the odds to his side, Pratap mounted on his horse Chetak, attacked Raja Man Singh. Raja Man Singh ducked and hence this final gamble of Mewar turned against them as Chetak's leg got deeply wounded in the process of attack on Raja Man Singh's war elephant and Pratap got injured and fell unconscious due to the blow by the elephant. The Mewari enthusiasm was shattered. Man Singh Jhala understood the situation and so he exchanged his armour with Pratap's armour to confuse the Mughals. Rana got enough time to run away from battle very fast and seeing the Mughals following him, he forced Chetak to cross the famous pass of Haldighati with a big and a long leap for which Chetak is remembered. Chetak succumbed to his injuries. Maharana Pratap is said to have been heartbroken at the demise of his stallion and his best friend Chetak who had saved his life and also the future of Mewar.

 Meanwhile, when Pratap was mourning Chetak's death, his brother Shakti Singh who had defected towards the Mughals, gave his horse to Pratap so that he could run away from the Mughal soldiers who were chasing him. Man Singh Jhala who wore Pratap's royal chhavri was misunderstood as Rana Pratap by Mughal soldiers who killed him. They thought they had managed to kill Pratap. Man Singh was shocked to see that it was not Pratap but his chieftain Man Singh Jhala who was killed. In the next three days he overran other parts of Mewar. Subsequently, the whole of Mewar except some of the Aravallis fell in Mughal hands. (See the individual section more about Battle of Haldighati, for detail)

 

After the Battle ofHaldighati: On the third day after the Battle of Haldighati, i.e. on 23 June 1576, Man Singh I conquered Gogunda which was later recaptured by Pratap in July 1576. Pratap then made Kumbhalgarh his temporary capital. After that, Akbar decided to personally lead the campaign against Pratap. In the process, Gogunda, Udaipur and Kumbhalgarh were occupied by the mughals, forcing the Rana deeper into the mountainous tracts of southern Mewar. Mughal pressure was exerted on the Afghan chief of Jalor, and the Rajput chiefs of Idar, Sirohi, Banswara, Dungarpur, and Bundi. These states, situated on the borders of Mewar with Gujarat and Malwa had traditionally acknowledged the supremacy of the dominant power in the region. Consequently, the rulers of these states submitted to the Mughals.

 

Resurgence: Mughal pressure on Mewar relaxed after 1579 following rebellions in Bengal and Bihar and Mirza Hakim's incursion into the Punjab. In 1585, Akbar moved to Lahore and remained there for the next twelve years watching the situation in the north-west. No mughal expedition was sent to Mewar during this period. Taking advantage of the situation, Rana Pratap recovered many of his lost territories including Kumbhalgarh,Udaipur,gogunda,Ranthambore and the areas around Chittor (but not Chittor itself). During this period, he also built a new capital Chavand, near modern Dungarpur. His successful defiance of Mughals using guerrilla strategy also proved inspirational to figures ranging from Shivaji to anti-British revolutionaries in Bengal. Maharana got a lot of money from Bhamashah who was given the title of DanShiromani Bhamashah. He used that money to rebuild his army. He built up a force of 40000 soldiers and he consolidated his position.

Royal Court: Maharana Pratap had a cabinet of able ministers, advisors and commanders including Bhamashah (treasurer) and Rao Poonja.

 

Personal life: Maharana Pratap's had 2 wives, out of whom, his first and favourite wife was Maharani Ajabde Punwar. Maharana pratap loved her throughout his life. She was the big support to Maharana Pratap. She was the shadow of Maharani Jaiwanta Bai, mother of Maharana Pratap. Maharani Ajabde loved Maharana Pratap unconditionally throughout her life. She was just like a backbone of Maharana Pratap. Unfortunately she died at the age of 48 and her death was the biggest shock for Maharana Pratap. He had 2 sons. Of his children, Amar Singh, who was born to Maharani Ajabde, was the eldest and who later succeeded him. The list of Queens and Sons is as follows:


S.No.
Queen
Son
1
Maharani Ajabde
Amar Singh I
2
Phool Kunwar
Chand Singh

Death & Legacy: Pratap died of injuries sustained in a hunting accident at Chavand, which served as his capital, on 29 January 1597, aged fifty-seven. A chhatri (Monument), at the site of Pratap's funeral in Chavand is an important tourist attraction. After his death, Amar Singh I succeeded him. He made Amar Singh I vow never to submit to the Mughals and win Chittorgarh back. Amarsingh, however, signed a treaty with Mughal emperor Jahangir in 1615.



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