Maharana Pratap Singh & Akbar | Facts & the History

Maharana Pratap Singh & Akbar shall always be remembered for their relationship in Indian History. Rana Pratap was the man of principles and Akbar wanted rule over his sovereign.

Akbar wanted to win over Mewar, which were the states of Rana Pratap.

Akbar and the Rajputs:

After his accession to the throne, Akbar had steadily settled his relationship with most of the Rajput states, with the exception of Mewar, acknowledged as the leading state in Rajasthan. The Rana of Mewar, who was also the head of the distinguished Sisodia clan, had refused to submit to the Mughal. This had led to the Siege of Chittorgarh in 1568, during the reign of Udai Singh II, ending with the loss of a sizeable area of fertile territory in the eastern half of Mewar to the Mughals. When Rana Pratap succeeded his father on the throne of Mewar, Akbar dispatched a series of diplomatic embassies to him, entreating the Rajput king to become his vassal. Besides his desire to resolve this longstanding issue, Akbar wanted the woody and hilly terrain of Mewar under his control to secure lines of communication with Gujarat.

Akbar sent messengers to Rana Pratap:

The first emissary was Jalal Khan Qurchi, a favored servant of Akbar, who was unsuccessful in his mission. Next, Akbar sent Man Singh of Amber (later, Jaipur), a fellow Rajput of the Kachhwa clan, whose fortunes had soared under the Mughals. But he too failed to convince Pratap. Raja Bhagwant Das was Akbar’s third choice, and he fared better than his predecessors. Rana Pratap was swayed sufficiently to don a robe presented by Akbar and sent his young son, Amar Singh, to the Mughal court. This was, however, deemed unsatisfactory by Akbar, who wanted the Rana himself to submit to him in person. A final emissary, Todar Mal, was sent to Mewar without any favorable outcome. With diplomacy having failed, the war was inevitable.

Battle of Haldighati

Rana Pratap, who had been secure in the rock-fortress of Kumbhalgarh, set up his base in the town of Gogunda near Udaipur. Akbar deputed the Kachhwa, Man Singh, to battle with his clan’s hereditary adversaries, the Sisodias of Mewar. Man Singh set up his base at Mandalgarh, where he mobilized his army and set out for Gogunda. Around 14 miles (23 km) north of Gogunda lay the village of Khamnor, separated from Gogunda by a spur of the Aravalli Range called “Haldighati” for its rocks which, when crushed, produced bright yellow sand resembling turmeric powder (Haldi). The Rana, who had been apprised of Man Singh’s movements, was positioned at the entrance of the Haldighati pass, awaiting Man Singh and his forces. The battle commenced three hours after sunrise on 18 June 1576.

Akbar’s Large Forces:

Mewari tradition has it that Rana’s forces numbered 20,000, which were pitted against the 80,000-strong army of Man Singh. While Jadunath Sarkar agrees with the ratio of these numbers, he believes them to be just as exaggerated as the popular story of Rana Pratap’s horse, Chetak, jumping upon Man Singh’s war elephant. Satish Chandra estimates that Man Singh’s army consisted of 5,000-10,000 men, a figure which included both the Mughals and the Rajputs.

According to Al Badayuni, who witnessed the battle, Rana’s army counted amongst its ranks 3,000 horsemen and around 400 Bhil archers led by Punja, the chieftain of Merpur. No infantry are mentioned. Man Singh’s estimated forces numbered around 10,000 men.  Of these, 4,000 were members of his own clan, the Kachhwas of Jaipur, 1,000 were other Hindu reserves, and 5,000 were Muslims of the Mughal imperial army.

Both sides possessed war elephants, but the Rajputs bore no firearms. The Mughals fielded no wheeled artillery or heavy ordnance but did employ a number of muskets.

Rana Pratap’s estimated 800-strong van was commanded by Hakim Khan Sur with his Afghans, Bhim Singh of Dodia, and Ramdas Rathor (son of Jaimal, who defended Chittor). The right-wing was approximately 500-strong and was led by Ramshah Tanwar, the erstwhile king of Gwalior, and his three sons, accompanied by minister Bhama Shah and his brother Tarachand. The left wing is estimated to have fielded 400 warriors, including Bida Jhala and his clansmen of Jhala. Pratap, astride his horse, led some 1,300 soldiers in the center. Bards, priests, and other civilians were also part of the formation and took part in the fighting. The Bhil bowmen brought up the rear.

The Mughals placed a contingent of 85 skirmishers on the front line, led by Sayyid Hashim of Barha. They were followed by the vanguard, which comprised a complement of Kachhwa Rajputs led by Jagannath, and Central Asian Mughals led by Bakhshi Ali Asaf Khan. A sizeable advance reserve led by Madho Singh Kachhwa came next, followed by Man Singh himself with the center. The Mughal left wing was commanded by Mulla Qazi Khan (later known as Ghazi Khan) of Badakhshan and Rao Lonkarn of Sambhar and included the Shaikhzadas of Fatehpur Sikri, kinsmen of Salim Chisti. The strongest component of the imperial forces were stationed in the pivotal right-wing, which comprised the Sayyids of Barha. Lastly, the rearguard under Mihtar Khan stood well behind the main army.

Due to the disparity between the two armies, the Rana chose to mount a full-frontal assault on the Mughals, committing all of his men. The desperate charge initially paid dividends. Hakim Khan Sur and Ramdas Rathor ran through the Mughal skirmishers and fell upon the vanguard, while Ram Sah Tonwar and Bhama Shah wreaked havoc upon the Mughal left-wing, who were forced to flee. They took refuge with their right-wing, which was also being heavily pressured by Bida Jhala. Both Mulla Qazi Khan and the captain of the Fatehpur Sikri Shaikhzadas were wounded, but the Sayyids of Barha held firm and earned enough time for Madho Singh’s advance reserves to enter the fray.

A depiction of the traditional account of the battle by the painter Chokha, 1810 – 1820.

After spooking the Mughal left-wing, Ram Sah Tonwar maneuvered himself towards the center to join his commander. He was able to shield Pratap Singh successfully until he was slain by Jagannath Kachhwa. Soon, the Mughal van, which was being sorely pressed, was bolstered by the arrival of Madho Singh, elements of the left-wing which had recovered, and remnants of Sayyid Hashim’s skirmishers from the front. In the meantime, the two centers had clashed, and the fighting had become more conventional as the momentum of the Mewari charge was spent. Several Rajput writers and Abul Fazl talk of a face-off between Rana and Man Singh However according to Jadunath Sarkar the Rana was unable to directly meet Man Singh and was mostly pitted against Madho Singh Kachhwa. The Dodia clan leader, Bhim Singh, did get to take on the Mughal commander atop his elephant and was killed.

Looking to break the deadlock and regain momentum, the Maharana ordered his prize elephant, the “rank-breaking Lona” into the fray. Man Singh’s riposte was to send in Gajmukta (“pearl among elephants”) to confront Lona head-on. The men on the field were thrown around as the two mountain-like animals clashed against each other. Lona appeared to have the upper hand when its mahout was wounded by a bullet and he had to turn back. Another elephant by the name of Ram Prasad, the head of the stable and an animal much praised in Akbar’s court, was pushed in to replace Lona. Two imperial elephants, Gajraj and Ran-Madar, were sent in to relieve the wounded Gajmukta, and they charged at Ram Prasad. The driver of Ram Prasad was also wounded, this time by an arrow, and he fell off his mount. Husain Khan, a Mughal faujdar, leaped from his own elephant onto Ram Prasad and made the enemy animal a Mughal prize.

With the loss of their war elephants, the Mughals were able to press the Mewaris from three sides, and soon their leaders began to fall one by one. The tide of the battle had shifted, and Rana Pratap soon found himself wounded by arrow and spear. Realizing that the day was lost, Bida Jhala seized the royal umbrella from his commander and charged at the Mughals, claiming to be the Rana himself. His sacrifice, and that of 350 other soldiers who stayed behind and fought to buy time, allowed their Rana and half of their army to escape. The bravery of the Rajputs and the fear of ambush in the hills meant that the Mughals did not give chase, and this allowed Pratap Singh to fight another day.

Ramdas Rathor was one of those slain on the field after over three hours of battle. The three sons of Ram Sah Tonwar—Salivahan, Bahan, and Pratap Tonwar—joined their father in death. according to Jadunath Sarkar, the Mewari army counted 46% of its total strength, or roughly 1,600 men, among the casualties. According to Abul Fazl 150 of the Mughals met their end, with another 350 wounded while the Mewar army lost 500 men.

There were Rajput soldiers on both sides. At one stage in the fierce struggle, Badayuni asked Asaf Khan how to distinguish between the friendly and enemy Rajputs. Asaf Khan replied, “Shoot at whomsoever you like, on whichever side they may be killed, it will be a gain to Islam.” K.S. Lal cited this example to estimate that Hindus died in large numbers as soldiers for their Muslim masters in medieval India.

With Rana Pratap able to make a successful escape, the battle failed to break the deadlock between the two powers. Subsequently, Akbar led a sustained campaign against the Rana, and soon, Goganda, Udaipur, and Kumbhalgarh were all under his control. Pressure was exerted by the Mughals upon the Rana’s allies and other Rajput chiefs, and he was slowly but surely both geographically and politically isolated. The Mughals’ focus shifted to other parts of the empire after 1579, which allowed Rana Pratap to recover much of the lost territory in the western parts of his kingdom. Chittor and the rest of eastern Mewar continued to remain under Mughal control.

According to Satish Chandra, the Battle of Haldighati was, at best, “an assertion of the principle of local independence” in a region prone to internecine warfare. Honour was certainly involved. But it was the honour of Maharana Pratap at stake, not Rajput or Hindu honour.

As said above Mughal pressure on Mewar relaxed after 1579 following rebellions in Bengal and Bihar and Mirza Hakim’s incursion into the Punjab. In 1582, Maharana Pratap attacked and occupied the Mughal post at Dewair (or Dawer). In 1585, Akbar moved to Lahore and remained there for the next twelve years watching the situation in the north-west. No major Mughal expedition was sent to Mewar during this period. Taking advantage of the situation, Pratap recovered Western Mewar including Kumbhalgarh, Udaipur and Gogunda. During this period, he also built a new capital, Chavand, near modern Dungarpur.

Reportedly, Pratap died of injuries sustained in a hunting accident at Chavand on 19 January 1597, aged 56. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Amar Singh I.

Before analysing Pratap’s qualities, it should be understood that he was himself a special person. No contemporary or any other king equal to him had the same conduct and character as he had, and no one got so much success as he achieved. Due to his extraordinary patriotism, bravery, and determination of character, Pratap became a symbol of Indian cultural tradition and its protector also.

Akbar wept when Poet Charan Dursa recited a poem:

Akbar was Maharana Pratap’s biggest enemy, but this fight of his was not due to any personal enmity, but a battle of principles. Despite being an imperialist, Akbar had many good qualities. He was extremely sad to hear of Maharana Pratap’s death, because in his heart he was an admirer of Maharana’s good qualities. On getting this news, Akbar was mysteriously silent. This reaction of his was not hidden from his courtiers, but nobody could say anything. At that time, a courtier of his, Charan Dursa Ora, read a poem in praise of Pratap. All the courtiers believed that now Charan Dursa would be a subject of Akbar’s wrath. All of them waited for Akbar’s decision with fear and curiosity, but nothing like this happened. Akbar called Charan near himself and asked him to repeat the poem (Chappan) again. Charan repeated his ‘Chappan again which was as follows —

Ash lego ar daag, paag lego or nami.
Go aara govrai jiko bahto dhur bami
Navroje nah gayo, nago aatasha navli,
Na go jharokha heth, jeth dunian dehli,
Gahlot rana jiti gayo, dashan mund rashnan dasi.
Nishas muk bhariya nayan, to mrit shah Pratap si.

The meaning of this poem in the Marwari language is — One who never put a spot on his horses by sending them into the royal army (in the royal army, the horses were marked with a spot, one who never put his turban before anyone. one who always used to sing joking poems about his enemies, one who was able to take the load of the whole of India on his left shoulder, one who never went to Narauj, who never went to the royal camps, and that Akbar whose balcony was famous in the whole world, he never came under that also. A Gahlot (Maharana Pratap) like this went to his death victorious. That is why there are tears in Emperor Akbar’s eyes also, he had bitten his tongue in surprise. Oh, Pratap! This has happened due to your death.

On hearing this Chappan, Akbar told Charan, “You have expressed my feelings very well.” He gave Charan gifts also.

What better proof of anybody’s greatness can be there that his enemies also praise him. By Maharana Pratap’s death, not only Mewar’s but a glorious chapter of Indian history is completed.

Dr. Gupinath Sharma’s following words are worth mentioning —

“On Pratap’s death. a complete era has come to an end. From the Raj put political arena, an able and magical person has gone away. With his political farsightedness, he established friendly ties with his neighboring states and with cleverness diverted the attention of the Mughals from Mewar and to these states. This plan was successful and Mewar had to face a divided army, which was sent against Rajasthan. Being an idealist, he bore what his destiny had in store for him with fortitude. With bravery and success, he taught his soldiers a lesson of dedication towards their work, gave inspiration to his subjects to be idealistic and taught them to respect the enemies”.

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