Written By Vardhan Gaur (Grade 6)
A gloom spread all over the Rajput camp. Pratap Singh 1 or famously known as Maharana Pratap had just breathed his last breath. What followed was the fighting of many bloodthirsty wars and other key events in history which have eventually led to today’s world.
Part 1: Fighting the Mughals and living the life of a warrior
Now, let’s rewind a little bit, to a day that was full of happiness and peace. The date read, 9th May 1540 and the birth of a lovely boy, with eyes of fire, brought joy in the rather gloomy camp of the Rajputs, a fierce clan, which at that time were fighting the Mughals to drive them out of the Rajput’s rightful motherland, Rajasthan. As the days passed, Pratap Singh, the name given by his parents, grew up to be a self-believing boy with unprecedented valour and determination. He believed that with bravery and determination he would be able to liberate his motherland from the strong and fierce Mughals. After the death of his father, Pratap became the king of the Rajputs.
To start a campaign that should ultimately lead to victory, a warrior needs to play his first move smart. In order to make the Mughals aware of his presence, Pratap Singh had the major task of capturing important forts that were stationed in important places. To put a dent in the trade of the Mughals, Pratap Singh and his army of roughly 30,000 soldiers defeated the armies of the Mughals, who had about 50,000 soldiers. Even though Pratap was defeated in numbers, none of the enemy’s fort defences could outmatch his bravery.
After capturing key forts and strengthening his army, Pratap had gained the attention of Akbar. Akbar was, at that time, the emperor of the Mughals. He quickly realised that subduing Pratap wouldn’t be that easy. Consequently, Akbar had one card left to play before the situation could mean a full-fledged war. He decided to send his able commander Man Singh, a Rajput king who surrendered to Akbar and then became one of the 9 jewels in his court, to sue for peace with Maharana Pratap.
But Man Singh’s attempt proved futile. In fact, Maharana Pratap chose to take Man Singh’s proposition as a special invite to the battlefield. Historians believe that he said “Meet me on the battlefield and bring the emperor”. Man Singh left Pratap’s residence with anger and relayed the message to Akbar. Akbar knew this meant only one thing, war. Consequently, what followed was one of the most famous battles in Indian history, The battle of Haldighati.
Part 2: The Battle of Haldighati
It was significantly clear that Pratap was outmatched in terms of forces. Man Singh had 11,500 people in all (Including Musketeers, Gunmen) On the other hand, Pratap roughly had 3,500 soldiers and an unknown number of elephants. What’s more, Pratap’s army consisted of no Musketeers or cannons! Even with this disadvantage, Pratap urged his soldiers to fight on. The battle started with Pratap attempting a major cavalry attack by moving in his elephants and main force on the forefront. Man Singh did the same and the battle became fierce. Historians describe the bloodthirsty elephant fights with immense detail.
By now, Pratap had lost about 1000 of his men! However, Man Singh had lost about 5000 and was quickly losing grip. When all looked good for the Rajputs, Man Singh attempted a sly strike on the right and left flank. This move surprised Pratap and forced his soldiers to focus on the flanks. Using the immediate confusion to his advantage, Man Singh called in his Musketeers to shoot Pratap’s elephants. The elephants fell one by one, at the feet of Man Singh’s Musketeers.
Wasting no time, Man Singh then forced Pratap to make a hasty retreat into the nearby Forest. Pratap’s brave archers volunteered to stay behind and defend Pratap’s getaway. Soon, Man Singh brought down what remained of Pratap’s army and secured the Haldighati Pass.
While retreating from the battlefield, Pratap had to cross a big river, his horse Chetak made a huge jump of about 12 – 13 meters and brought Pratap to the other side. However, In the process, he got himself badly injured and after a few hours, succumbed to his wounds. Chetak was probably the only reason Pratap was able to escape miraculously. Chetak is considered to be a hero in Rajasthan and there is a memorial at the spot where he is believed to have passed away.
Part 3 – A Warrior’s Death
After escaping from the Battle of Haldighati, Pratap and his family hid in the forest and lived on wild berries and hardly any water. Even with all these difficulties, Pratap refused to bow to Akbar. Akbar thought he had got rid of Pratap once and for all, so he moved Man Singh out of Rajasthan. Using Akbar’s assumption to his advantage, Pratap decided to not give up and attack again. But it was going to be tough to regain his territory.
Fortunately, Pratap had convinced the Bhil Tribe to join his army. However, what Pratap really needed was funding for his army and its weapons.
Stressed upon this problem, Pratap lay in great thought and even considered surrendering to Akbar. Fortunately, Bhamashah, a Rajput warrior gave 2,00,00,000 gold coins and 25,00,00,000 silver rupees to Maharana Pratap. He attacked Mughal army camps and partially financed Pratap from the gained wealth.
With wealth not a problem, Pratap’s combined forces of the Bhil’s and the Rajput army attacked countless Mughal camps around the region of Chittor and Udaipur. He liberated cities like Udaipur, Chawand, Dungarpur and Ranthambore from Mughal Rule. However, when everything seemed right, Pratap suddenly fell ill.
Lying on his deathbed he told his son (Amar Singh I) not to submit to the Mughals and continue to fight for freedom. While he had captured most of Mewar back, he could not fulfil his dream of liberating Chittor from Mughal rule. Even as he was dying, he refused to sleep on a bed and continued sleeping on the hard and rocky floor. After some time, the time came for him to depart the world and on 19th Jan 1597, he died.
Part 4 – An Inspiration
Pratap was determined, resilient and had strong core values that helped him fight the Mughals. He inspires me because of these factors and that helps me never give up. In his time, Pratap was also the only king in Rajasthan who did not bow to Akbar and that makes him unique and brave. Furthermore, I have visited the Maharana Pratap museum in Udaipur and have seen Pratap’s sword, spear, shield and other weaponry. Also, I have visited the Chetak circle (A circle with Chetak’s statue) in Udaipur many times.
Meaning of the quote – “ Apart from one’s friends and family, the one who thinks about his state is the true citizen “
Maharana Pratap displayed renowned bravery, supreme leadership and portrayed valour. He lived and breathed his last with the spirit to fight and the willingness to never give up. Maharana Pratap’s legacy stands high amongst the greatest warriors of India. He is and was an inspiration to many other warriors of India, like Shivaji – who looked up to Pratap and said “He is a great inspiration and leader”. He has played a major role in Indian history and is looked upon by many Indians all over the world. And this is why I strongly believe he is the epitome of bravery.
Featured Image Courtesy – OpIndia