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.

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