RANA PRATAP AND THE HOUSE OF MEWAR- I

With the ideologically bankrupt political leadership at the helm of affairs, it is natural that we Hindus have developed a sense of despondency and clamour to seek refuge in alien ideals. It is in this gloomy atmosphere, that a study of the ideals and achievements of the rulers of Mewar will restore our self-confidence and determination to face all eventualities in life. Among the rulers of Mewar, Rana Pratap’s struggle against the alien forces to lead a respectable life is a source of inspiration to all of us who are unaware of the values of freedom and independence. Rana Pratap is a balm to the hurt pride of Hindus and his ideals, a ray of hope to the skeptics who are lamenting the lost glory of Hindus. This monograph is an attempt to present the heroic deeds of the rulers of Mewar by consulting books, many of which are half a century old and not available in the market.

“If ever a man fought against fearful odds and pulled through them, it was Rana Pratap. Men have shrunk back from the very thought of adversity, while Pratap, a prince among men invited it. Comfort and luxury have been hugged by thousands of this world’s heroes; Pratap scorned them when they had to be bought at the cost of his independence. Persia, England, Baghdad and Arabia felt honoured in sending costly embassies to the court of the great Mughal, Akbar, but Pratap was content with sending his word of defiance and the result was that “there is not a pass in the Aravalli that is not sanctified by some deed of Pratap, some brilliant victory or more glorious defeat,” writes Sri Ram Sharma. Along with Shivaji he proved that not even centuries of Mohammadan domination could kill the spirit of a proud race.                                                                                  

Origins of the dynasty:

Rana Pratap belonged to the Sisodia clan of Rajputs ruling over Mewar. The princes of Mewar are styled as Ranas. The title ‘Rana’ was assumed in consequence of a victory gained over the prince of Mandor, the original possessor of the title, who surrendered it, together with his life and capital to the Mewar prince. With the exception of Jaisalmer, Mewar was the only Rajput state that outlived 800 years of foreign domination.

 The founder of the royal dynasty at Mewar was Kanaksen, fifty- sixth in descent from Sri Rama, the King of Ayodhya. Rama had two sons, Lava and Kusha, of which the former is said to have built Lahkot (modern Lahore) and from whom the Sisodias claim descent. In 145 A.D. Kanaksen is said to have migrated from Lahkot to the peninsula of Saurashtra. There he set up his capital at Birnagara, which he captured from a chief of the Paramara race. Later we find his successors ruling from Ballabhiputra. In 524 A.D. the Sakas sacked Ballabhiputra and a favorite wife of the Rana was the sole survival. She posthumously delivered a child in a mountain cave and placed the child in the hands of a Brahmin lady before committing sati. The child was named as Guha i.e. ‘cave born’ and later was placed as the ruler of Idar by the Bhils of Aravali range. However the traditional history of the kingdom of Mewar begins in 728 A.D. when Bappa Rawal(tenth in descent from Guha) wrested the ancient and strategic fort of Chittor from Man Singh Mori and moved his capital from Nagda to that ancient fort. When Mohammed Ghori invaded India in 1191, Sumer Singh, who had married a sister of Prithviraj Chauhan III is said to have been reigning at Chittor and fought for Prithviraj as an ally.

 Fall of Chittor

Eight in descent from Sumer Singh was Rana Ratna Singh, who had to face the attack of Allahauddin Khilji. It is said that his principal motive was to secure Padmini, the peerless queen of the reigning king Ratna Singh, and reputed to be the most beautiful and accomplished woman in the country. Although Alauddin’s ambition to establish his claim to be the ruler of the whole of India and his realization of the fact that as long as Mewar remained independent he would not be able to make good that claim were enough reasons for undertaking the expedition, there is evidence, to believe that the Sultan did covet the fair Padmini. After a siege of five months Chittor was finally conquered. The Rajput women performed the rite of jauhar to save their honour and the exasperated Alaudding gave brutal orders for the slaughter of his brave enemies. Amir Khusrau, who was an eyewitness, says that 30,000 Rajputs were killed in one day. The victorious Sultan left Delhi after appointing his eldest son, Khizr Khan, governor of Chittor and naming it Khizrabad. In 1311 Khizr Khan abandoned his post and the Sultan was obliged to appoint in his place a friendly chief named Maldeva, who was expected to pay a tribute of Delhi. Soon after the death of Ala-ud-din, Rana Hamir, the head of the junior branch of the Guhilot ruling family, drove away Maldeva and recovered possession of his ancestral state and its capital Chittor. After his death in 1364, Kshetra Singh succeeded him, and ruled up to 1382. He was followed by Lakha and after him Mokala who was assassinated in 1431.

 Maharana Kumbha

Mokala’s successor was the famous Rana Kumbha Karan, popularly known a ‘Kumbha’. He was one of the greatest rulers of Mewar and one of the most famous and successful sovereigns in the entire country. Having increased his army and fortified his frontiers by building numerous forts, among which Kumbhalgarh is the most famous he carried on an instant warfare against the Sultans of Malwa and Gujrat. He built the famous Tower of Victory or Vijaya Stambha at Chittor in commemoration of his success against Malwa.

Rana Sangram Singh

The most famous of Rana Pratap’s ancestors was his grand father, Rana Sangram Singh (1509-1528 A.D). Popularly called as Rana Sanga, Mewar reached its zenith of its power and prosperity under his reign. He is styled Hindupat, or the “Chief of the Hindus”. Eighty thousand horses, seven Rajas of highest rank, nine Raos and 104 chieftains bearing the titles of Rawal and Rawat, with 500 war elephants, followed him into the field. The princes of Marwar and Amber (Jodhpur and Jaipur) paid him homage, and the Raos of Gwalior, Ajmer, Sikri, Raisen, Kapli, Chanderi, Bundi, Gagroon, Rampura and Abu served him as tributaries or held him as their chief. In 1517 A.D. Ibrahim Lodi marched against Mewar, but the Delhi army could not stand the onslaught of the Rajputs and fled followed by the Sultan himself, leaving a Lodi prince prisoner in the hands of Sanga. The prince was released after a few days on payment of a ransom. In this battle, the Maharana lost his left arm by a sword cut, and an arrow made him lame for life.

Rana Sanga and Mahmud II

The Rana’s contemporary at Malwa was Mahmud Khilji II. Though he was the Sultan, the real power was in the hands of a clique of Muslim nobles who wished to keep Mahmud a puppet in their hands. Their domineering conduct towards the king made him fear for his life and he fled from Mandu.  Mahmud later regained his throne with the help of Raja Medini Rai, a powerful Rajput chieftain of Malwa, who now became the prime minister of the state. Some disaffected persons, jealous of his increasing power and prestige began to intrigue against Medini Rai and appealed to Sultan Sikandar Lodi of Delhi and Sultan Muzaffar Shah II of Gujrat for help, representing to them that Malwa had been dominated by the Hindus and that the Sultan was such only in name. But once again Medini Rai overcame all opposition, vanquished the combination of the Sultans of Gujrat and Delhi and extricated Malwa from the difficulties that surrounded it. The disappointed and defeated nobles now began to sow distrust in the minds of Sultan Mahmud himself and to poison his mind against Medini Rai. They succeeded to persuade him to get his benefactor assassinated, but the plot failed and Medini Rai escaped. The Sultan later decided to invade the territory of Medini Rai and in A.D.1519 marched against Gagrone. As Medini Rai held this district along with others as a fief from Maharana Sanga, the latter resolved to punish Mahmud for this temerity for, while the latter’s conduct towards Medini Rai gave evidence of his ungratefulness and want of sense, this attack on Gagrone showed that he was incapable of appreciating the forbearance and restraint of the Maharana, and was quite unmindful of the rights of peaceful neighbours. In the ensuing battle the Sultan’s forces sustained a complete defeat and Mahmud was taken prisoner, wounded and bleeding. The Maharana had him removed with care to his own camp, where his wounds were carefully dressed and properly treated. He was then removed to Chitor, where he remained a prisoner for three months. The Maharana used to treat the Sultan with great courtesy and friendship, so far at times as to make him sit on a portion of own gaddi in the Darbar.  Later the Rana sent Mahmud back to Mandu by handing over half of his kingdom.

It is difficult to characterize this clemency of the Maharana as a piece of sound policy. Though the historian Abul Fazl gives unstinted praise to the Maharana, and Nizain-ud-din Ahmad, the bigoted author of Tabqati Akbari, extols this act as an act of unprecedented munificence and magnanimity, yet, judged by its political results, the act proved injurious to the national cause of the Rajputs. A true Rajput, however, is ordinarily incapable of taking a coldly political view of things. He is a hero, not a politician. Chivalry is his profession. His ideal is ” to die well in battle,” not” to win it”. The one aim of a true Rajput is “to make his mother’s milk resplendent,” to perform deeds of valour and “die a glorious death,” not to win a battle by skill, strategy or scheming. A true Kshtriya (Hindu warrior) never hits below the belt or behind the back, and warns the enemy before he attacks him. The ideals that nurture his soul are spiritual, not material; not ” of the earth, earthy”, they are higher, nobler than those, which animate other races or nations. They produce men of sublime character but not successful men of business. “To spare a prostrate foe is the creed of the Hindu cavalier,” says Colonel Tod,” and he carries all such maxims to excess.” He does not care of the grave consequences, which follow an act of political indiscretion. He displays whenever occasion occurs, generosity, magnanimity and charity to match his heroism in war, exhibiting an utter disregard of self, hoping thereby to leave an example of a life nobly ended, to be admired by posterity. (to be concluded)

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