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)

 

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