INDIAN FESTIVALS : Maharana Pratap Singh (1572 - 1597)
By A. K. Majumdar
Maharana Pratap

Raja Uday Singh left twenty wives and twenty-five sons, of whom the eldest was Pratap Singh. Before his death, however, he nominated his ninth son Jagmal as his successor. Jagmal actually ascended the throne while Pratap and the other nobles went to perform the funeral rites of the deceased monarch. On their return, however, the nobles forced Jagmal to abdicate and offer the throne to the rightful successor, Pratap Singh, and he accepted it. Jagmal went to Ajmer, joined Akbar, and received a portion of Sirohi, but later died fighting with its rightful chieftain.

Maharana Pratap Singh ascended the throne on 1 March, 1572, and the famous battle of Haldighat was fought in June, 1576. The Mewar army at the battle of Haldighat was quite formidable and in every way a match for the Mughal army. Evidently long time must have been spent to raise and equip this army, and get the support of Afghans like Hakim Sur Pathan, who fought for Mewar at Haldighat. But even more important was gaining the support of the Bhils, who from now on steadfastly helped the Maharanas of Mewar, and made possible the guerilla warfare after the battle of Haldighat. This broad imaginative policy not only served the cause of Mewar’s independence, but made its young king a real national leader. One can only imagine the flush of enthusiasm among the Bhils when for the first time they were recognized as fighting partners by the proud ruling Kshatriyas.

During this period, the Maharana was also planning the war against the Mughals. It is remarkable that after the battle of Haldighat, Man Singh could find no trace of the Maharana, his family or his nobles. Actually when Man Singh reached Gogunda, Maharana’s temporary capital, the day after the battle, the town was deserted, and soon the supply of the Mughal army was cut off and the soldiers had to subsist mainly on fruits. It is no doubt possible that from the battlefield, the Maharana had rushed to Gogunda, collected his family, found out an inaccessible hide-out, and then collected his men and begun to harass the Mughal army. It is, however, not unlikely that the Maharana had carefully planned his course of action in case he lost the battle of Haldighat. That is, he had learnt not to stake a kingdom on the outcome of a single battle, and this alone can satisfactorily explain the reason of his leaving the field before the battle was over at Haldighat.

The battle of Haldighat was fought on 21 June, 1576. The Maharana had originally taken his position in the ghati which could be reached by a narrow and rugged path about a mile and a half long. Man Singh waited for him in the plain below, and in the morning of 21 June the Maharana came out and attacked the Mughal army. As Man Singh had arranged his army in battle array, it is evident that the Maharana’s attack had lost the element of surprise. Still, in the first flush of attack, his army practically broke though the Mughal army, but the rout was stopped by Man Singh and a few intrepid officers. There was a personal encounter between the Maharana and Man Singh. But while Man Singh, on an elephant, ducked and avoided the Maharana’s javelin, Pratap’s famous horse, Chetak, which had placed its forelegs on Man Singh’s elephant, was struck by the sword which the huge beast carried in its trunk. Chetak immediately turned and fled, and with his last breath carried his master out of danger.

The Maharana’s army seems to have followed him, but we do not hear of captives. The total number of dead was, according to Badauni, five hundred, of whom 120 were Muslims and the rest Hindus. As considerable number of Hindus fought on the Mughal side, it would appear that the casualties on each side were almost equal.

Akbar was not satisfied with the results of the battle. He was vexed with Man Singh for “having abandoned the pursuit of the Rana, and so allowing him to remain alive.” Later (September, 1576) when the news arrived of the distressed state of the army of Kokandah (Gogunda), the emperor sent for Man Singh, Asaf Khan and Qazi Khan, to come alone from that place and on account of certain faults which they had committed, he excluded Man Singh and Asaf Khan (who were associated in treachery) for some time from the court. Though Man Singh was restored to favour, the condition in Mewar being far from satisfactory, Akbar himself left for Gogunda from Ajmer on 11 October, 1576, with a large army. But before he left, the roads of ingress and egress from the Rana’s country were closed. The Maharana retired before the Mughal army into the hills and Qutb-ud-din Khan, Raja Bhagwan Das, Man Singh and other imperial officers were sent in pursuit to capture him. As Narayan Das of Idar had joined the Maharana, another army was sent against him. Idar was occupied after a stubborn fight.

Akbar himself came to Mohi (near Nathdwara) and appointed officers to guard that place and Madariya (near Chitor). Similarly, brave men were appointed to other places in order that whenever that wicked strife-monger (Rana Pratab) should come out of the ravines of disgrace, he might suffer retribution. But the army which was sent against the Maharana was unsuccessful, and its two commanders, namely, Qutb-ud-din Khan and Raja Bhagwan Das returned to Akbar who was at this time in Udaipur. They were at first censured but later pardoned, and soon after another force was dispatched to Gogunda under Bhagwan Das. Man Singh, Mirza Khan (the future Khan Kharan) and others. Presumably the Maharana had recaptured Gogunda. However, Abu-‘I-Fazl adds: “By the great attention of the Shahinshan that country was cleared from the thorn-brake of rebellion, and adorned by just subjects.” But from subsequent events it appears that this expedition, though it may have cleared the Gogunda region for the time being, had produced little effect on the adversary.

Apparently, after occupying the Gogunda region the commanders returned to the court but Akbar could not be satisfied so long as the Maharana was not captured or killed. So in March, 1578, he sent another army under the overall command of Shahbaz Khan, Mir Bakshi, to capture the fort of Kumbhalgarh, where the Maharana was living at the time. Shahbaz Khan sent back to court Raja Bhagwan Das and Man Singh, and unexpectedly arrived near the fort, and occupied Kelwara, a town about three miles from Kumbhalgarh and at the foot of the mountain.

By the end of 1584, however, the Maharana had succeeded in regaining his lost territories to such an extent that another expedition had to be sent under Raja Jagannath. Late in 1585, Jagannath attempted to surprise the Maharana, but the latter got timely information, and when Jagannath reached his residence, he found it empty. This indicates that the mountain passes and roads were under Maharana’s control to such an extent as to strike terror in the Mughal army.

This was practically the last expedition undertaken during Akbar’s reign against the Maharana. It is related that one day while hunting, the Maharana struck his own bow and was wounded. This wound proved to be fatal, and he died on 11 Magh Shukla, 1653 V. S. (29 January, 1597), at the age of fifty-eight.

  Bhavan's Books   Periodicals   Our Websites   Bhavan's (H.O), Mumbai
Online Bookstore
Locate A Store
Book Enquiry
Bhavan's Journal
Bhavan's Navneet
Navneet Samarpan (Gujarati)
Bharatiya Vidya
Astrological Journal
Gandhi Institute Website
Bhavans Kala Kendra
Bharatiya Sangeet & Nartan Shikhsapeeth
Jyotish Bharati
Bhavan's Library
Sanskrit Studies
Forthcoming Events
--: Bhavan - Chowpatty
--: Bhavan - Andheri