Monthly Archives: July 2008

RANA PRATAP AND THE HOUSE OF MEWAR- V

In 1584 Raja Jagannath Kachhwaha was made the governor of Ajmer and sent with strict instructions to attack Mewar. After roaming around Mewar for two years Jagannath left Mewar in1587 in utter disappointment. This was the end of the conflict between Pratap and Akbar. The reason for this truce is considered to be Akbar’s involvement somewhere else. It is possible, but there remained no doubt in the mind of Akbar that it was impossible to defeat Pratap alive and he had perhaps lost the urge to kill him.

Akbar could hardly get anything in Mewar. All his efforts of twelve years proved futile. Akbar sent his forces under different commanders to capture or kill Pratap and dominate Mewar several times but none of the military campaigns succeeded. After the return of the forces under the command of Jagganath Kachhwaha, for eleven years, till the death of Pratap, Mewar did not face any aggression. Within a year Pratap regained control of the whole of Mewar except Chittor, Mandalgarh and a small territory of its eastern part, which remained under Mughal influence.

Gradually peace and administration were established in the whole kingdom. Women and children began moving fearlessly. Special attention was paid towards the development of farming and deserted farms once again turned green. Attention was paid to education and healthcare service as well. Many places which had been vacated earlier at the command of the Maharana and which were devastated by the enemies began to be rehabilitated again.  Pratap felicitated those nobles who had shown exemplary courage during war by decorating them with higher titles and granting them larger estates. He also established a new capital, Chawand and built a few small palaces for himself there. Gradually a township emerged there.

Respected even by enemies

On 19 January 1597, Pratap died at the age of 57. The cause of his death is uncertain. Still it is said that he stretched the bow so heavily while hunting a lion that his intestine got affected when he was bending a part of this body. Indeed it was a strange twist of fate that the warrior who spent most of his life while combating the enemies, died not in the battleground but after getting sick while hunting. He was cremated on the bank of a small nullah at the Bandoli village, located about one and a half miles from Chawand village.

Pratap’s life was such that even his enemies respected him. When the news of his death reached Akbar, he felt sorry. The famous Rajput bard Dursa was in attendance at the court and he at once expressed his feelings in a verse

“O Pratap, you kept your horses unbranded, your head unbowed, your fame untarnished. You were strong enough to carry on your work against heavy odds. You never participated in the Nouraz festival, nor did you mount guard on the imperial presence down the Jharoka Darshan (the salutation balcony). You attained a very high place in this world. On hearing of your death, O Pratap, Akbar’s eyes were dimmed and his tongue stuck in his throat, for you had really won after all.”

The courtiers were thunderstruck on hearing this supreme tribute to Pratap’s memory and awaited with baited breadth some manifestation of Akbar’s wrath on the impertinent bard’s head. But Akbar praised the bard’s composition and rewarded him.

Pioneer in war strategies

Maharana Pratap has many first to his credit. He was the pioneer in following the ‘scorch earth policy’, so that the enemy could gain nothing by conquering his country. We know that the Russians followed the same policy, when Napoleon attacked their country, resulting in he losing half a million men. Secondly, Pratap believed in the maxim ‘one step backward, two step forward’ and never hesitated to withdraw from the battlefield if the situation turned overwhelming, so that he could recoup and re-launch his struggle. Normally the Rajputs used to fight to the finish and considered withdrawing from the battlefield as a cowardly act. For example, the Hindushahi ruler, Jaipal after his defeat and capture by Mahmud had committed suicide, as he could not bear the disgrace. This act had demoralized his people. Thirdly Pratap waged guerrilla warfare to browbeat the enemy. The Marathas in their fight against the Mughals adopted this strategy.

For Pratap, freedom and self-respect was uncompromiseable. He can be compared to the Ganga ruler Shivamara II who refused to accept the suzerainty of the Rashtrakutas (considered as one among the four greatest empire reigning at that time) and had to spend over two and a half decades in imprisonment. Even after his release Shivamara II refused to barter his self-respect and died fighting against the Rashtrakutas in a battlefield.

Pratap, an icon for freedom fighters

Had Pratap desired so, he would have spent his life comfortably by entering into an alliance with Akbar. But he did not do it. He deliberately chose a sacrificial path for himself, his family, his subjects and nobles. Not only this, he himself became such an icon of inspiration that all his followers tolerated the travails with a smile. Pratap was among those people who won despite their failures. Even today his name is first among those who have sacrifices their lives for independence. Pratap saved himself from the urge to sacrifice his life, which is not a small matter. The prevalent Rajput tradition was to sacrifice one’s life in case of failure. But had Pratap not left Haldighati, he would not have been revered as a great freedom fighter even after centuries. It was more important to save oneself and continue to fight instead of sacrificing one’s life in the battleground. This was also the view of Veer Savarkar who sought the pardon of the British for getting released from the cellular jail in Andamans so that he could play an active role in eradicating social evils and consolidating the Hindu society.

RANA PRATAP AND THE HOUSE OF MEWAR- IV

Although a battle had ended in the Haldighati, the conflict still continued. Not only this, the stories of the Haldighati spread across the country. Especially in Delhi, Bengal and South India, the stalwart Mughal warriors used to spend several nights telling the stories of the Haldighati and the bravery of Pratap when they congregated in the evenings. This is a testimony of how the eminence of Pratap spread across the country so instantly after the battle of Haldighati.

Akbar was more disturbed and less satisfied on hearing the news of this army’s victory. He could not tolerate the fact that Rana Pratap could not be killed or captured. Pratap was staying in Kotyari village after the battle of Haldighati. After the departure of Man Singh he came to Gogunda and drove off the remaining Mughal soldiers. Pratap moved further and established his base in Kumbhalgarh once again. Pratap consolidated his alliances with the neighbouring kingdoms, obtained their assistance in creating troubles in the Mughal occupied territories and augmented his own strength. Pratap should be praised for his accomplishments despite those territories being sealed by the Mughals, but even more worthy of commendation are those who without bothering about the backlash from the emperor Akbar readily agreed to lay their lives for Pratap for the ‘freedom struggle.’ Earlier Pratap’s father-in-law, the king of Idar, Narayandas had accepted the suzerainty of Akbar. But now even he began attacking those territories adjoining Gujarat, which were under the imperial control. The king of Sirohi, Rao Surtan and the Nawab of Jalore, Taj Khan also started plundering and rioting on either side of the Aravali range and creating troubles in the Mughal territories close to Gujarat. Akbar become aware of the gravity of the situation and decided to break the friends of Pratap. Jalore and Sirohi were attacked and forced to submit. Narayandas of Idar was defeated but later with the assistance of Pratap fought and defeated the Mughal forces.

Akbar in Mewar

On 11 October 1576 Akbar proceeded from Ajmer to Gogunda to take on Pratap. The frontal contingents were sent ahead of the emperor everyday so that the army of Mewar could not attack him directly. Before Akbar could reach Gogunda, Pratap had gone to the mountains and Akbar made his headquarters there. He sent his men to follow and find Pratap but they returned empty handed. Akbar tried to establish his military posts from northeastern corner of the western mountain range to southeastern corner up to Udaipur so that Pratap could be trapped in the mountain region and be forced to surrender. Akbar stayed in and around Mewar for six months. He himself tried and found that capturing Pratap was not going to be an easy task at all. On 12th May 1577, Akbar returned to Fatehpur sikri.

First attack of Shahbaz Khan

After the departure of Akbar, Pratap came down from the mountains and started attacking the imperial posts and he also blocked the way to Agra via Mewar. Imperial police posts of Udaipur and Gogunda were lifted and officer of Mohi police post was killed. Akbar got irritated when he heard that Pratap had raised his head again. He was in Meerut and from there itself sent a ferocious army under the command of Shahbaz Khan along with a number of nobles, including Man Singh, Bhagwan Das, etc. to Kumbalgarh with a view to eliminate the Maharana completely.

Shahbaz proceeded towards Kumbhalgarh but to ensure that his arrangements were foolproof, he sent Raja Bhagwan Das and Man Singh back, considering that, being caste-fellows, they might turn hostile. Akbar did not say anything to Shahbaz Khan for tampering with his own scheme, which proves that he supported Shahbaz Khan to go to any length to take on Pratap. Shahbaz Khan went ahead and won the fort of Kelwara, located below Kumbhalgarh and from there started attacking the fort. The Rajputs told Pratap to leave the defence of Kumbhalgarh to them as if he died; there would be none to claim the authority to the Kingdom. Shahbaz Khan won Kumbhalgarh on 5th June 1578. This fort was built in 1452 and since then none of the enemies had captured it. After making necessary arrangements in Kumbhalgarh fort, Shahbaz marched towards Gogunda and captured it followed by Udaipur, both of which were plundered. He then followed the Maharana in the mountains but failed to capture him. He devastated Mewar and vandalized the places wherever he went and established fifty Mughal military posts there. He roamed around Mewar for three months and later returned to Akbar empty-handed.

After the departure of Shahbaz Khan, the Maharana came out of the mountains, attacked the imperial military posts and recaptured a large territory of Mewar. His forces started attacking the Mughal posts up to Malwa. As if this was not enough, the Rana sent his forces against the rulers of Banswara and Dungarpur who had surrendered before Akbar and won.

Second attack of Shahbaz Khan

On hearing the news Pratap’s exploits, Akbar sent Shahbaz Khan from Punjab (in December 1578) to Ajmer along with a host of men with an instruction that they would be beheaded if they return without defeating Pratap. Pratap went back to the mountains when Shahbaz Khan reached Mewar. He followed Pratap for two-three months but failed to capture him. Once again he returned after deploying efficient personnel in the Mughal military posts. After his return, the Maharana once again set his position right.

Third attack of Shahbaz Khan

In October 1579, Akbar went for a pilgrimage to the mausoleum of Kwaja Muinuddin Chisti in Ajmer for the last time. His wishes had not yet been fulfilled in Mewar. Its pangs disturbed him so much that on reaching Sambher, he sent his forces under the command of Shahbaz Khan for the third time. Shahbaz Khan proceeded on 9 th November 1579 and stayed there till the middle of 1580. He applied all his might against Pratap. He removed the influence of the Maharana in the entire central Mewar. Pratap, as usual retreated to the mountains. Shahbaz Khan did not allow him to relax even in the mountains of Mewar. Pratap somehow protecting himself reached the mountain of Abu. The emperor had given strong orders to Shahbaz Khan while sending him to Mewar. He could not implement those orders and returned empty handed. Akbar got very angry with him and made Rustam Khan as the governor of Ajmer in his place. But Rustam Khan was killed within four months while suppressing an insurgence of the Kachwahas in Sherpura.

A taste of Rana’s chivalry

In 1580 Mirza Abdur Rahim Khan was appointed as the governor of Ajmer with an instruction to combat the Rana. But destiny was such that he got the glimpse of another greatness of Pratap. He proceeded towards Mewar and halted at Sherputa. His family was also with him. The eldest son of Pratap, Amar Singh attacked Sherpura and captured the Mirza’s family. When Pratap heard of it, he at once enjoined Amar Singh to free them and send them with all honour to Mirza. The Mirza’s heart was touched and the poet in him exclaimed-” Imperial possession would disappear but Dharm and the earth would always remain. The Rana trusting his gods has made his honour immortal” This fraternization rendered Abdur Rahim unfit for any more active service in Rajputana and he was later recalled.