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The Ruler of Mewar
Born May 9, 1540
Birthplace [kolyari[Kumbhalgarh]], Juni Kacheri, Pali
Died January 19, 1597 (age 57)
Predecessor Maharana Udai Singh II
Offspring 3 sons and 2 daughters
Royal House Sisodia, Suryavanshi Rajput
Father Maharana Udai Singh II
Maharana Pratap or Pratap Singh (May 9, 1540 – January 19, 1597) was a Hindu Rajput ruler of Mewar, a region in north-western India in the present day state of Rajasthan. In popular Indian culture, Pratap is considered to exemplify the qualities like bravery and chivalry to which Rajputs aspire, especially in context of his opposition to the Mughal emperor Akbar. The struggle between Rajput confederacy led by Pratap Singh, and the Mughal Empire under Akbar, has often been characterised as a struggle between Hindus and the invading hordes of Muslims, much on the same lines as the struggle between Shivaji and Aurangzeb a little less than a century later.
Maharana Pratap was a staunch patriot. Pratap is said to have lamented that “If there had been no Udai Singh between himself and Rana Sanga, he would not have let Turks master Hindustan.” He saw Mughals as foreigners who had invaded India and that is why he refused to surrender. His own father Udai Singh had condemned the house of Man Singh for their marriage with unclean foreigners and Pratap Singh himself said that he would call Akbar only a “Turk” and not an emperor. Also Pratap Singh’s dogged resistance, even when he had to wander in the jungles of Aravallis and his persistent refusal to surrender even after being reduced to starvation while pursuing Haldighati, do not point to a person who fought for power politics, but rather to a person with a sacred mission. His own vow giving up all comforts of palace life till he recaptured all his kingdom from Mughals and his lifelong observance of that vow also speak of his steadfast patriotism and determination rather than power politics. Similar kinds of observation can be pointed out to his repeated refusal to accept lucrative offers from Akbar in shape of jagirs and suberdaris
Maharana pratap was the greatest warrior of Rajputs. In 1568, during the reign of Udai Singh II, Chittor was conquered by the Mughal Emperor Akbar after the third Jauhar at Chittor. However, Udai Singh and the royal family of Mewar escaped before the capture of the fort and moved to the foothills of the Aravalli Range where Udai Singh founded the city of Udaipur. Rana Udai Singh wanted Jagmal, his favourite son, to succeed him but his senior nobles wanted Pratap, the eldest son, to be their king as was customary. During the coronation ceremony, Jagmal was physically moved out of the palace by the Chundawat Chief and Tomar Ramshah and Pratap was made the King, the Rana of Mewar. Folklore has it that Pratap did not want to go against the wishes of his father but Rajput nobles convinced him that Jagmal was not fit to rule in the troubled times of the day; but it is quite possible that what occurred was a bitterly contested struggle for succession: something characteristic of most South Asian kingdoms of the age.
Though the chief reasons for resentment between Pratap Singh and Akbar, two very visionary rulers is unclear, it is now largely agreed that it had to do with disagreements over the status of Mewar within the Mughal Empire, were it to at all accept Mughal suzerainty. The tensions were further characterised by the fact that Babur and Rana Sanga, grandfathers to Akbar and Pratap respectively, had earlier bitterly contested the control over the Gangetic plains and the Doab. It is evident that there were had been some measures of reconciliation, such as acceptance of ambassadors and representatives between the two courts. However, none of these could ever be taken to any logical end.
Chittorgarh Fort which Rana wanted to reclaim. Also seen is Vijay Stambha along with Gaumukh Reservoir.
Chittorgarh (Chittor fort), Pratap’s ancestral home, was under Mughal occupation. Living a life on the run, the dream of reconquering Chittor (and thus reclaiming the glory of Mewar) was greatly cherished by Pratap, and his future efforts were bent towards this goal. In essence Pratap remained king of the whole of Rajputana (now Rajasthan) and the lands surrounding it except Chittor.
Nearly all of Pratap’s fellow Rajput chiefs had meanwhile entered into the vassalage of the Mughals. Even Pratap’s own brothers, Shakti Singh and Sagar Singh, served Akbar. Indeed, many Rajput chiefs, such as Raja Man Singh of Amber (later known as Maharaja of Jaipur) served as army commanders in Akbar’s armies and as members of his council. Akbar sent a total of six diplomatic missions to Pratap, seeking to negotiate the same sort of peaceful alliance that he had concluded with the other Rajput chiefs. This is clearly evidential of the ends sought by each of the two rulers: for Akbar, having an independent or semi independent kingdom, within his otherwise consolidated empire was politically unsound and militarily dangerous; for Pratap Singh, on the other hand, to accept vassalage with little in return was a political suicide, and a steep fall for Mewar in the region’s power structure
Battle of Haldighati
Main article: Battle of Haldighati
On June 21, 1576 (June 18 by other calculations), the two armies met at Haldighati, near the town of Gogunda in present-day Rajasthan. While accounts vary as to the exact strength of the two armies, all sources concur that the Mughal forces outnumbered Pratap’s men.
Statue of Maharana Pratap of Mewar on his Chetak horse, commemorating the Battle of Haldighati, City Palace, Udaipur.
However, the numerical superiority of the Mughal army and their artillery began to tell. Seeing that the battle was favouring Akbar and with the huge amount of death of soldiers on both sides, Pratap’s generals prevailed upon him to flee the field so as to be able to fight another day. Myths indicate that to facilitate Pratap’s escape, one of his lieutenants, a member of the Jhala clan, donned Pratap’s distinctive garments and took his place in the battlefield. He was soon killed. Meanwhile, riding his trusty steed Chetak, Pratap was able to successfully evade captivity and escape to the hills. However, Chetak was critically wounded on his left thigh by a mardana (Elephant Trunk Sword, with spear of weight 263 kg.) while Pratap had attempted to nail down Man Singh. Chetak was bleeding heavily and he collapsed after jumping over a small brook a few kilometres away from the battle field. A famous couplet narrates this incident of the battle:
Aage nadiya padi apaar, ghoda kaise utare paar Rana ne socha is paar, tab tak chetak tha us paar
English Translation :
Lies the boundless river ahead, How will the horse cross it? While Rana thought on his side, Chetak was that side!
The battle of Haldighati has commanded a lasting presence in Rajasthani folklore, and the persona of Pratap Singh is celebrated in a famous folk song “O Neele Ghode re Aswar” (O Rider of the Blue Horse).
A monument to Chetak is at the site of the steed’s death. The impact of the battle on the Mughal army was also significant.
Maharana Pratap continues to inspire generations of Indians.
Rana Punja Bhil
Rana Punja was the chief of the Bhil tribesman, and one of the most trusted and respected leaders who fought along the side of Rana Pratap, in the famous battle of Haldi Ghati (1576 AD). Even after the battle of Haldi Ghati, Rana Punja and his tribesman came forward time and time again, to fight for the freedom of Mewar. Because of such selfless devotion and loyalty, the name of Punja was given a prefix ‘Rana’ which is the original form of address for the Maharana himself. The entire Bhil tribe, even today, is highly regarded by the citizens and the Mewar family. At the time of succession, a Bhil tribesman must honour the new Maharana with a tilak (marking on the forehead) of his own blood. It is only then that the new Maharana will be universally recognised as successor. The Bhils are also represented on the Mewar Coat of Arms, standing side by side with a Rajput.The Bhils formed most of the Maharana Pratap’s army
Jhala Man Singh
Jhala Man Singh (also known as Jhala Sardar) set an example of extraordinary valour, bravery and sacrifice in the struggle for freedom. In the battle of Haldighati in 1576, upon seeing Maharana Pratap wounded (three wounds were inflicted, sword, spear and shot by a musket) and unconscious on his horse, Chetak; Jhala immediately took the Crown and royal emblem of Pratap, thus confusing the enemy into thinking that he was Pratap and took the entire attack of the Mughal hordes upon himself. Ultimately he lost his life to save the life of Pratap . It is because of this sacrifice that Pratap continued to fight on against the Mughals and eventually reestablish and liberate all of Mewar except Chittor.
In present day Udaipur, the descendants of Jhala still carry the emblem of Mewar as their coat of arms as conferred upon them by Maharana Pratap.
Raja Ram Shah Tomar of Gwalior was married to a daughter of Rana Udai Singh and sought refuge in Mewar after he lost Gwalior to the Mughals. He, along with 300 of his men, fought the battle of Aliphatic. His only remaining son was sent to Bikaner so the line could survive; everyone else gave up their life for the cause of Warmer.
Bhim Singh Dodia
Bhim Singh Dodia, was one of the Mewar nobles who took part in Maharana Pratap Singh’s war council at Gogunda (1576) prior to the Battle of Haldighati.
Charan Kesa And Jaisa
Two Charan warlords from the Soniana Village of Mewar, fought in the vanguard of Pratap’s Army and were subsequently killed in action. Seven others Charans also laid down their lives for the cause.
The Bargujars were cousins and main allies of Maharana Pratap during his difficult period of struggle against the foreign invaders. Many left Rajasthan after this, and migrated south towards Maharashtra.
Bhama Shah (or Bhamashah)
Bhamashah made a mark in the history of Mewar. Son of Bharmal Kawadiya and born 450 years ago, he set an example of honesty, faith and duty. He was not only Pratap’s treasurer, but also fought like a soldier when the need arose. Maharana Pratap was able to properly maintain his army of 25,000 soldiers for 12 years only because Bhamashah had gifted not only his property, but also a collection of 25 lakh rupees and 20,000 gold coins from Maalpura during a financial crisis. Bhamashah also served Maharana Amar Singh. Thereafter his son Jeev Shah was treasurer of the Maharana. At the time of his death, Bhamashah asked his wife to hand over the detailed record of royal treasury to Maharana Amar Singh; then he left for heavenly abode.
Pratap retreated into the hilly wilderness of the Aravallis and continued his struggle. His one attempt at open confrontation having thus failed, Pratap resumed the tactics of guerrilla warfare. Using the hills as his base, Pratap continued small raids and skirmishes against the outlying check-posts, fortresses and encampments of his adversaries; some of whom included the Hindu vassals appointed by the Mughals in the wake of Pratap Singh’s defeat.
During Pratap’s exile, he received much financial assistance from Bhamashah, a well-wisher. The Bhil tribals of the Aravalli hills provided Pratap with their support during times of war and their expertise in living off the forests during times of peace.
Rana Pratap had 14 Ranis. Guhilot are descendants of Guha, Sisodia’s are descendants of Hamir Guhilot of Sisoda village and Ranawats are descendants of Rana Udai Singh. who under the changed strategic realities of the period, abandoned the vulnerable Chittaurgarh and established a new capital of Mewar at Udaipur. The patronymic change in name is usually followed by a major migration of population or battle.
Maharana Pratap died of injuries sustained in a hunting accident. He died at Chavand, on January 19, 1597, aged fifty-seven. It is said that as he lay dying, Pratap made his son and successor, Amar Singh, swear to maintain eternal conflict against the Mughals. Thus, his strained circumstances did not overpower Pratap even in his declining years. It is said that he also did not sleep on a bed because of a vow he took that until Chittor was freed he would sleep on the floor and live in a hut despite the fact that he had reconquered almost his entire kingdom from Akbar.
Maharana Pratap’s son, Amar Singh, fought 17 wars with the Mughals. After Mewar was depleted financially and in man-power he conditionally accepted them as rulers.
At this time, many menmbers of Maharana Pratap’s family of Sisodias band of loyal Rajputs became disillusioned by the surrender and left Rajasthan. This group included Rathores, Deora Chauhans, Pariharas, Tanwars, Kacchwaha and Jhalas. They are called “Rors” and settled mostly in Haryana, with some in Uttar Pradesh. Some of these families notably settled in outskirts of Haridwar. Some avoided using the surname Sisodia to avoid detection by the Mughal messengers. Various surnames were used like Singh,Rajput, Mehta etc. Most of them were known as Mehta in current Haridwar region of Uttrakhand. Local sources are well aware that this family was instrumental in removing a local Muslim ruler from a samll town Mohammedpura and renaming it as Jwalapur. The town exists with this name still.
Rajsthani, especially Marwari folklore has held Pratap Singh in much regard, most of which cannot be said to be unfounded. An incident, often recounted is one where, before the Battle of Haldighati started, Man Singh was out hunting with a few hundred retainers. Pratap’s Bhil spies reported this to him at his camp a few kilometers away. Some of Pratap’s nobles suggested that they seize the opportunity to attack and kill Man Singh. Pratap refused, demonstrating his sense of rectitude.
In another incident, the womenfolk of Abdur Rahim Khankhana, along with a Mughal officer, fell into the hands of Pratap’s son, Amar Singh. At this point of time, Khankhana was actually on the march against Pratap, and was camping at Sherpur in order to make preparations for an assault against Pratap. Nonwithstanding all this, Pratap commanded his son Amar Singh to arrange for the safe conveyance of the Mughal ladies to their camp. Khankhana was so affected by this incident that he refused to campaign against such a chivalrous monarch. He petitioned Akbar to be relieved of his post and was subsequently (in 1581) appointed guardian of Akbar’s own son, Salim. Also it is believed that the slogan Jo dridh rakhe dharm, ne tahi rakhe kartar was spoken by Abdur Rahim Khankhana, who is also known as “Rahim das” in Hindi poetry.
Most important of Pratap Singh’s legacy was in the military field – after Haldighati, he increasingly experimented and perfected guerrilla warfare and light horse tactics. His innovative military strategy- use of scorched earth, evacuation of entire populations along potential routes of enemy march, poisoning of wells, use of mountain forts in Aravallis, repeated plunder and devastation of enemy territories along with harassing raids on enemy baggage, communications and supply lines- helped him recapture most of Mewar (except Chittor) by time of his death and enabled him to successfully tackled vastly stronger armies of Akbar. Harassing warfare perfected by Pratap Singh would in due course was adopted by Malik Ambar of Ahmednagar  who taught and deployed local Marathas to fight invading Mughal armies, thus preparing them for future warfare against Mughals. Though Pratap Singh failed to overcome Mughals in his lifetime, indirectly and in long run, his military techniques paved way for downfall of Mughal empire.