Monthly Archives: June 2008

RANA PRATAP AND THE HOUSE OF MEWAR- III

Maharana Rana Pratap (born in 1540) was the eldest son of Udai Singh. Though Pratap had not incurred the displeasure of his father in his lifetime, yet Udai Singh had willed that Jagmal, his second son from his favourite wife should succeed him. When the nobles came to know about the decision of Udai Singh after his death in 1572, they took a collective decision not to abide by the will of Udai Singh and instead crowned Pratap as the new Rana of Mewar on March 1572 at Gogunda.

Soon after taking over the reign of the kingdom, Maharana Pratap tried to consolidate those unorganized areas once again, which could be saved from Akbar’s hand. The genocide of 30,000 innocent people by Akbar after he vanquished Chittor had made Pratap and his subjects so much bitter that nobody could ever think of having some kind of pact with the Mughals. People considered that whatever Akbar did in Chittor was merely a sample of the extent of tyranny, which he could unleash.

Efforts for reconciliation

Pratap had not even been enthroned when Akbar began his efforts to win over the remaining parts of Mewar. Akbar would have attacked Mewar, had not the coronation of Pratap taken place in time. But Akbar changed his policies when the fame of the self-respecting and resolute character of the new king reached him. He tried to arrive at a pact through peaceful method.

The first emissary sent by Akbar for reconciliation with Pratap was Jalal Khan Korchi. This was six months after Pratap’s coronation. Korchi, however could not succeed. Akbar then chose Kunwar Man Singh, who had become a relative of Akbar through marriage alliance. In April 1573, Man Singh proceeded from Ahmedabad and returned in June to give the report of his failure to the emperor. In September –October, Akbar sent Bhagwan Das to Pratap, but even he could not move Pratap from his firm stand. Then Akbar sent his cleverest Hindu courtier Todal Mal, but in vain. Dr. Ashirvadi Lal has very clearly observed that Pratap had agreed to accept the supremacy of Akbar during 1572-73 only on the condition that he would never be forced to present himself in the Durbar. The pact could not be finalized due to obduracy of Akbar.  Some senior nobles had tried to conciliate with Akbar when he had besieged Chittor during the reign of Udai Singh on the terms that Mewar would accept the supremacy of the Mughal empire, the internal freedom of Mewar would remain intact and the Maharana would not have to present himself at the Mughal Durbar. Udai Singh had also conciliated with Sher Shah on somewhat these terms. During the reign of Pratap’s son Amar Singh, a pact was negotiated with Jahangir on these terms only. Thus Akbar had lost two opportunities to conciliate with Mewar on honourable terms, first before the battle of Chitor and second before the battle of Haldighat. After the battle of Haldighat in 1576, Pratap had determined not to conciliate with Akbar on any terms.

Pratap’s reluctance for Pact with Akbar

The Rajput chiefs who had submitted to Akbar had to surrender their possessions to the emperor, and receive them back as a jagir for the Mansab to which they were appointed. Their lands were imperial jagirs in theory and they were liable to be tossed from place to place by imperial orders. Their armies and strength were at the command of the emperor and if he liked the emperor could change the line of succession. It was essential for a chief, who submitted, either to be present at the imperial court himself or to keep his eldest son in attendance on the emperor. Along with all these came another unwritten injunction. Almost every prince who had submitted had made the path of imperial forgiveness easy by matrimonial alliance with Akbar or one of the royal princes. Thus Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jaipur had all pocketed their traditional pride and given princely daughters of their houses to Akbar. There were also other minor indignities like mounting guard on the imperial camp and keep standing when in court, etc. Hence for Pratap, sacrificing his principles and surrendering the independence of his house to the upstarts of yesterdays was out of question.

Battle of Haldighat

Rana Pratap had been ruling whatever had been left to him of Mewar for about four years now when Akbar made up his mind to invade Mewar once more and terminate its independence. Akbar was in the habit of visiting Ajmer almost every year after the birth of Prince Salim on August 30,1569. This visit always served two purposes; it was an act of pious pilgrimage and it enabled the emperor to have a sharp eye on Rajputana. This time Akbar left Fatehpur for Ajmer on February 17, 1576, where he reached on March 18. About a fortnight was spent in discussing plans and on April 3 Man Singh was appointed to command expedition against Pratap.

Man Singh left Ajmer and entered Mandalgarh where he restrained himself from engaging with Pratap for nearly two months. On one hand he was waiting for the whole army to arrive to ensure the safety of the routes of the transit of the soldiers and on the other hand, he wanted to provide another opportunity to Pratap to have a rethinking. He must have done so in consultation with Akbar. This is an example of tackling the Mewar issue through peaceful means by Akbar and Man Singh’s cooperation in it.

Pratap came to Gogunda from Kumbhalgarh after receiving the news that Man Singh had reached Mandalgarh. Here he consulted his nobles regarding the imminent battle. Pratap wanted to combat Man Singh in Mandalgarh itself. But his nobles advised that Man Singh should be combated from behind the shield of mountains as he had come with the imperial army. Secondly, Mandalgarh was on the way to Ajmer where the probability of getting reinforcements was more. Pratap accepted this advice.

 A true Kshatriya

Another example of how Pratap was following the tradition of Mewar to work on the advice of the nobles surfaced just before the battle. One day, Man Singh went for hunting along with a few of his friends. Pratap got the information about it. Some of his nobles advised that it was the right opportunity to catch and kill the enemy. There was another group of nobles prominent among whom was Bari Sadariwalon ka Jhala Veera. They said that it was improper for a true Kshatriya to kill an enemy by deception. Pratap also had the same thing in mind and Man Singh was not attacked. After returning from Mandalgarh, Man Singh put up his camp at Melila near Khamnaur.

The battle between Pratap and Man Singh is famous as the battle of Haldighati. This is about 11 miles northwest of Nathdwara and is an unwieldy mountain range between Gogunda and Khamnaur. Its name comes from the colour of its soil, which is as yellow as turmeric (Haldi in Hindi). But in reality, the battle did not take place within the valley and was fought at the entrance of the valley and the field, which is located between the valley and Khamnaur village.

The Mughal army had light but modern cannons. They did not have heavy field guns, as it would have been difficult to drag that along in the hilly region. There were no cannons in the army of Rana. The main weapons of his army were swords, spears and bows and arrows. It was a strange co-incidence that a Rajput, Jagganath was leading the frontal contingent of Man Singh whereas Hakim Sur, a Muslim Pathan was leading the frontal contingent of Pratap’s army.

Pratap took the initiative and on June 18, 1576 issuing from behind the Haldighati, he made a frontal attack on the Mughal army which lay on the plains to the northwest of the foot-track at the northern entrance of the ghati. So desperate was the charge that the Mughal vanguard and left wing were scattered and its right wing and center were hard pressed. But the Rana’s army was very small in number and he had no reserve or rear guard to back up his initial success. In his attempt, therefore to break the enemy center and right wing he hurled his war elephants against them. But the arrows and bullets from the other side proved too much for the death-defying Sisodia heroes. The imperial reserve now arrived in person to assist Man Singh. The Rana was now surrounded by the enemy and was about to be cut off. But Bida Jhala snatched the crown from Pratap’s head, rushed to the front and cried out that he was the Rana. The enemy crowded round him and the pressure on Pratap was released. At this critical time some faithful soldiers seized the reins of the Rana’s horse and took him safely to the rear of the line. Bida fell fighting loyally to save his master. At this Rana;s men lost heart and turned away from the field leaving a large number of their dead behind. The battle of Haldighati was over. The loss on both sides was very heavy, the Rana losing nearly half of the entire force. The imperial troops were so much exhausted that they could not think of pursuing the Rana and passed the dreadful night in apprehension of a surprise attack. The Rana evacuated Gogunda and Man Singh made arrangements for its occupation.

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RANA PRATAP AND THE HOUSE OF MEWAR- II

Generosity towards a foe whose enmity is implacable, whose hated is unquenchable, whose ideals are low, whose one aim is to destroy all who oppose him, to whom destruction of an alien is enjoined by his faith, is an act of folly, suicidal in its effect, and fatal to the cause of the nation. But the latter-day Hindu judges an act not by its consequences but only by its theoretical character. This fatal defect in the character of the Hindus led to their political subjection to people of much inferior moral caliber and much lower civilization, such as those that came from the northwest.  

The battle of Khanua (17th  March 1527)

In the first battle of Panipet, Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi and established himself at Delhi. Prior to the battle, Rana Sanga is said to have entered into an understanding with Babur, agreeing to attack Ibrahim from the side of Agra, while Babur attacked him from the north. The invader, after he had occupied Delhi and Agra, accused the Rana of bad faith. Sanga on the other hand, accused Babur of having occupied Kalpi, Dholpur and Bayana, which according to the terms of understanding, were to go to him. But this could not be said to have been the main cause of the rupture between them. Rana Sanga, who had thought that Babur, like his ancestor Timur and so many other invaders, would retire after plundering the country, was disillusioned and awakened to a sense of danger when he saw that the Mughal intruder had not only occupied the country but decided to stay on thus depriving him of his ambition of re-establishing indigenous rule at Delhi.

Rana collected a powerful army and marched on to Bayana and defeated its governor, Mahdi Khwaja. Babur dispatched Muhammad Sultan Mirza with a body of light horse to the relief of Bayana and began making preparation for a final contest with the Rajputs. This force was unable to come into contact with the garrison at Bayana and was struck with terror and brought to Babur, the stories of Rajput bravery and exploits. By this time Babur had reached Sikri and sent 1500 troops to reconnoiter his adversary’s position. These were badly defeated and repulsed with great slaughter and loss of their standard. Babur was in a highly precarious position and had to strain himself to raise the morale of his troops to fight against the Rajputs.

At Khanua the two armies came face to face and Babur arranged his army in the following fashion. In front there were nearly one thousand gun carts arranged in one long line and tied together by iron chains. In between every set of two linked carts sufficient gaps of about 60 to 70 yards were left, to enable a hundred horsemen to sally out. The artillery was posted in a line between the rows of carts and was commanded by Nizam-ud-din Ali Khalifa. Behind the artillery were arrayed the mounted troops divided into center, right wing and left wing with the tulghuma or flanking parties on the extreme right and left of the main line. Babur took his stand in the center.

The Rana’s army was divided into the four traditional divisions- advance guard, center, the right and the left wing. The battle began at about nine in the morning of 17th March,1527 with a shot from Ustad Ali’s mortar which threw a large stone ball with a terrific noise and frightened the Rajputs. Even the elephants could not stand before it. Notwithstanding the fearful onslaught caused by the Mughal artillery, the valiant Rajputs “by their repeated attacks reduced Babur’s men almost to their last gasp”. Victory seemed to hang in the balance, and if it inclined any way, it was in favour of the Rajputs. But the Mughal artillery proved too much even for the death-defying Rajput heroes. Babur won the day. Rana Sanga was wounded and removed senseless from the battlefield and died heartbroken in January 1528.

The battle of Khanua, which lasted for ten hours, was one of the most memorable battles in Indian history. Hardly was any other battle so stubbornly contested with its issue hanging in the balance till almost its very end.

Sanga was the last of the Indian sovereigns under whom all the Rajput tribes combined to repel the foreign invader. Though leaders arose in later times and heroes performed deeds of unsurpassed valour, waged great wars, and defied the might of the mightiest empire of those times, yet never again did a Rajput  arise who commanded the willing homage of the entire Rajput race and led the chivalry of Rajputana, composed of all the various Rajput tribes, to contest the crown of India with the invaders from Central Asia, whose kindred had overrun the Whole of Southern Europe.

The times in which Sanga lived were no piping times of peace or of peaceful development. They were troublous times of strife and hostility, of perpetual warfare, of heroic deeds and valourous feats, and above all, of strenuous endeavours for the maintenance of national life. Noble ideals inspired men to activity, duty and achievement. High character was held in greater esteem than cleverness or high position; honour was prized above money or advancement. Weakness, cowardice, servility were despised and spurned. Courage, manliness, valour were demanded by the times and were encouraged and appreciated. Sturdy manhood was the order of the day.

Maharana Sanga was a worthy grandson of the celebrated Maharana Khumba. If he failed to drive out the Turk invaders from India, it was not due to want of ability in him, but to the deterioration of Hindu national character, to the spirit of disunion and exclusiveness then, as now, rampant in Hindu society.

After the death of the Rana Sanga, Rattan Singh followed him, followed by Vikramaditya.

Humayun refuses help

During the minority rule of Rana Vikramaditya, the ruler of Gujrat, Bahadur Shah attacked Chitor. Rani Karnavati, mother of Rana Vikramaditya appealed to Humayun for assistance and sent him a rakhi, indicating that it was now his duty, as a brother, to save his sister (the Rani) from the clutches of an enemy. But Humayun thought it sinful to attack Bahadur Shah while he was fighting with an infidel like the Rana. Chitor fell after a heroic resistance (March 8, 1535). The women committed the fearful rite of jauhar. Later a usurper Banbir had Vikramajit murdered and planned to kill the infant Uday Singh. But Uday Singh’s life was saved and in 1541 he ascended the throne of Mewar. Within four years of the coronation of Uday Singh, Sher Shah proceeded towards Chittor. The situation was not such as to enable the kingdom for a direct confrontation. When Sher Shah reached up to Jahajpur, Udai Singh handed over the keys of Chittor fort to him. The ploy worked well. Chittor was not attacked and the sway of Udai Singh over his kingdom remained intact. Sher Shah’s representative in Chittor did not interfere much and after the death of Sher Shah, he was driven away from there.

Till then, the entire Mewar would be put to stakes for the protection of a fort at an open place. The policy was altered. A new capital was developed at Udaipur, which was surrounded by mountains and was more secure than Chittor.

Akbar’s claim of overlordship

After establishing himself firmly on the throne, Akbar embarked upon an ambitious design of conquering northern India and making himself the real emperor of the land. Without reducing Mewar, the premier state in Rajasthan, the ruler of which was universally acknowledged as the head of the Rajputs in the country, Akbar could not establish his claim of overlordship over north India. Mewar lay on the route to Gujrath, which could not be easily conquered, as the lines of communication between Delhi and Ahmadabad could not be safe without establishing imperial control over Chitor. Moreover, Udai Singh had given shelter to Baz Bahadur, the ex-king of Malwa. Besides, Akbar wanted to teach a lesson to other Rajput kings by capturing Mewar. Till then, Amber had joined hands with the Mughal emperor but Jodhpur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, etc. were still outside his sphere of influence. All these factors led Akbar to attack Chittor in October 1567.

When the news of the proposed attack reached Mewar, the nobles observed that there had been a huge loss of men and materials during the previous battles as a result of which the power of the kingdom had fallen. A battle with Akbar would further augment the losses. Hence they insisted that the king along with his queens and princes should leave Chittor and hand over the responsibility of defending Chittor to Jaimal. Akbar failed to compel Chittor to surrender even after two months of siege. He got the weaker parts of the fort demolished by canons. Yet he could not get hold over the fort. By chance on February 23, 1568, Akbar fired a shot at Jaimal, who was directing defence operations and supervising the repair of a breach in the wall. This incident changed the fortunes of Mewar. As Jaimal was fatally wounded, the Sisodias were filled with despair, and their ladies committed jauhar during the night. The next morning the Rajputs decided to take up the offensive. But the brave Rajputs were overpowered by superior numbers and slain to a man. Akbar entered the fort the next day and ordered a general massacre, as the stiff resistance offered to his arms inflamed his wrath. These innocent civilian victims numbered thirty thousands.

Within two-three years of the fall of Chittor, Ranthambor, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer all surrendered before the might of Akbar. Following them, almost all other big and small kingdoms of Rajasthan also accepted the suzerainty of Delhi.

After leaving Chittor, Udai Singh stayed at Rajpeepal for four months. From there he had gone to Udaipur where sporadic attacks of the emperor’s army forced him to shift his base. He went to Kumbhalgarh and made it his capital. In 1570, he came to Gogunda in order to combat the emperor’s army more effectively. Thus Gogunda became the pro term capital of Mewar and there Udai Singh died and Pratap was enthroned. (to be concluded)