Who does not know the name of the great king of Mewar, Maharana Pratap Singh? In the history of India, this name has always proved to be motivating for qualities like valour, bravery, sacrifice and martyrdom. Many brave warriors like Bappa Rawal, Rana Hamir, Rana Sang were born unto the Sisodiya family of Mewar and were given the title of ‘Rana’ but the title of ‘Maharana’ was only bestowed on Pratap Singh.
Maharana Pratap was born in 1540. Rana Uday Singh, the Second, of Mewar had 33 children. Among them, the eldest was Pratap Singh. Self-respect and virtuous behaviour were the main qualities of Pratap Singh. Maharana Pratap was bold and brave right from his childhood and everyone was sure that he was going to be a very valiant person as he grew up. He was more interested in sports and learning to wield weapons rather than general education.
During Maharana Pratap Singh’s time, Akbar was the Mughal Ruler in Delhi. His policy was to make use of the strength of Hindu kings to bring other Hindu Kings under his control. Many Rajput kings, abandoning their glorious traditions and fighting spirit, sent their daughters and daughters-in-law to the harem of Akbar with the purpose of gaining rewards and honour from Akbar. Uday Singh appointed before his death, Jagammal, the son of his youngest wife as his heir although Pratap Singh was elder to Jagammal but he was ready to give up his rights like Prabhu Ramchandra and go away from Mewar but the chieftains did not at all agree with their king’s decision. Besides they were of the opinion that Jagammal did not possess qualities like courage and self-respect which were essential in a leader and king. Hence it was collectively decided that Jagammal would have to sacrifice the throne. Maharana Pratap Singh too gave due respect to the wish of the chieftains and the people and accepted the responsibility of leading the people of Mewar.
Unbreakable Oath to free the ‘Motherland’
Maharana Pratap’s enemy had surrounded Mewar at all its’ boundaries. Shakti Singh and Jagammal, the two brothers of Maharana Pratap had joined Akbar. The first problem was to gather enough soldiers to fight a face-to-face war which would have required vast money but Maharana Pratap’s coffers were empty whereas Akbar had a large army, a lot of wealth and a lot more at his disposal. Maharana Pratap, however, did not get distracted or lose heart nor did he ever say that he was weak as compared to Akbar.
Maharana Pratap’s only concern was to immediately free his motherland from the clutches of the Mughals. One day, he called a meeting of his trusted chieftains and made an appeal to them in his serious and lustrous speech. He said, “My brave warrior brothers, our Motherland, this holy land of Mewar, is still under the clutches of the Mughals. Today, I take an oath in front of all of you that till Chittod is freed, I will not have food in gold and silver plates, will not sleep on a soft bed and will not stay in the palace; instead I will eat food on a leaf-platter, sleep on the floor and stay in a hut. I will also not shave till Chittod is freed. My brave warriors, I am sure that you will support me in every way sacrificing your mind, body and wealth till this oath is fulfilled.” All the chieftains were inspired with the oath of their king and they too promised him that till their last drop of blood, they would help Rana Pratap Singh to free Chittod and join him in fighting the Mughals; they would not retreat from their goal. They assured him, “Rana, be sure that we all are with you; waiting only for your signal and we are ready to sacrifice our life.”
Battle of Haldighat
Akbar tried his best to bring Maharana Pratap under his clutches; but all in vain. Akbar became angry as no compromise could be arrived at with Maharana Pratap and he declared a war. Maharana Pratap also started preparations. He shifted his capital to Kumbhalgad in the Aravalli range of mountains which was difficult to access. Maharana Pratap recruited tribal people and people dwelling in forests in his army. These people had no experience of fighting any war; but he trained them. He appealed to all Rajput chieftains to come under one flag for Mewar’s independence.
Maharana Pratap’s army of 22,000 soldiers met 2,00,000 soldiers of Akbar at Haldighat. Maharana Pratap and his soldiers exhibited great valour in this battle although he had to retreat but Akbar’s army was not successful in completely defeating Rana Pratap.
Maharana Pratap and his faithful horse named ‘Chetak’ also became immortal in this battle. ‘Chetak’ was seriously injured in the battle of Haldighat but to save his master’s life, it jumped over a big canal. As soon as the canal was crossed, ‘Chetak’ fell down and died thus it saved Rana Pratap, risking its own life. The strong Maharana cried like a child over the death of his faithful horse. Later he constructed a beautiful garden at the place where Chetak had breathed its last. Then Akbar himself attacked Maharana Pratap but even after 6 months of fighting the battle, Akbar could not defeat Maharana Pratap and went back to Delhi. As a last resort, Akbar sent another great warrior General Jagannath in the year 1584 with a huge army to Mewar but after trying relentlessly for 2 years, even he could not catch Rana Pratap.
Maharana Pratap used to take his family with him even when wandering in the jungles and valleys of the mountains. There always used to be the danger of the enemy attacking at anytime from anywhere. Getting proper food to eat was an ordeal in the forests. Many times, they had to go without food; they had to wander from one place to another without food and sleep in the mountains and forests. They had to leave the food and immediately proceed to another place on receiving information about the enemy’s arrival. They were constantly trapped in some catastrophe or the other.
Once the Maharani was roasting ‘bhakris (Indian bread)’ in the forest; after eating their share, she asked her daughter to keep the left over ‘bhakri’ for dinner but at that time, a wild cat attacked and took away the piece of ‘bhakri’ from her hand leaving the princess crying helplessly. That piece of ‘bhakri’ was also not in her destiny. Rana Pratap felt sorry to see the daughter in such state; he got angry with his valour, bravery and self-respect and started thinking whether all his fighting and bravery was worth it. In such a wavering state of mind, he agreed to call a truce with Akbar. A poet named Pruthviraj from Akbar’s court, who was an admirer of Maharana Pratap, wrote a long letter in the form of a poem to him in Rajasthani language boosting his morale and dissuading him from calling a truce with Akbar. With that letter, Rana Pratap felt as if he had acquired the strength of 10,000 soldiers. His mind became calm and stable. He gave up the thought of surrendering to Akbar, on the contrary, he started strengthening his army with more intensity and once again immersed himself in accomplishing his goal.
Devotion of Bhamashah
There was a Rajput chieftain serving as a minister in the regime of forefathers of Maharana Pratap. He was very much disturbed with the thought that his king had to wander in forests and was going through such hardships. He felt sorry to know about the difficult times Maharana Pratap was going through. He offered a lot of wealth to Maharana Pratap that would allow him to maintain 25,000 soldiers for 12 years.
Maharana Pratap initially refused to accept the wealth offered by Bhamashah but at his constant insistence, he accepted the offering. After receiving wealth from Bhamashah, Rana Pratap started receiving money from other sources. He used all the money to expand his army and freed Mewar except Chittod which was still under the control of the Mughals.
Maharana Pratap was lying on the bed made of grass even when he was dying as his oath of freeing Chittod was not still fulfilled. At the last moment, he took his son Amar Singh’s hand and handed over the responsibility of freeing Chittod to his son and died in peace. There is no comparison in history to his fight with a cruel emperor like Akbar. When almost the whole of Rajasthan was under the control of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, Maharana Pratap fought for 12 years to save Mewar. Akbar tried various means to defeat Maharana but he remained unbeatable till the end. Besides, he also freed a large portion of land in Rajasthan from the Mughals. He underwent so much of hardship but he preserved the name of his family and his Motherland from facing defeat. His life was so bright that the other name for freedom could have been ‘Maharana Pratap’.
~ Author Unknown