Mughal and Rajput Wars: Akbar and Maharana Pratap

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Akbar the Great (1556-1605)

Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar was born on October 14, 1542 in Umarkot, Sindh to Mughal emperor Humayun and his wife Hamida Banu Begum. Akbar, the third Mughal emperor of India, was coronated on February 14, 1556, at the age of thirteen when his father Humayun died of an accident. He started the rule under the regency of Bairam Khan, one of the ministers of Humayun. Just after his coronation, Hemu, the Hindu military chief of the Afghan Sultan Mohammad Adil Shah, captured Delhi and Agra and ascended the throne as Vikramaditya. Hemu was determined to drive out the Mughals from India. However, in November 1556, the Mughal Army leaded by Bairam Khan defeated Hemu in the Second Battle of Panipat and regained control over Delhi and Agra. Under the guidance of Bairam Khan, Akbar's authority was gradually consolidated and extended. In 1560, he dismissed Bairam Khan and took complete control of the empire. Bairam was ordered to make Hajj to Mecca. (On the way to Mecca, Bairam Khan was assassinated by an Afghan at Patan, in 1561)

Akbar was a very efficient ruler and he extended the Mughal power over most of the India subcontinent; He expanded the empire to Malwa (1562), Gujarat (1572), Bengal (1574), Kabul (1581), Kashmir (1586), and Kandesh (1601). He defeated the Rajputs (The Hindu Rulers of Rajasthan) but they were allowed to hold their ancestral territories. However, they must acknowledge Akbar as emperor, paid tribute and supplied troops when required. Akbar also entered into matrimonial alliances with the Rajputs. Thus he married Hira Kunwari (Jodha Bai) the daughter of Raja Bharmal of Amber (Jaipur) on January 20, 1562. When he married Hindu princesses, their fathers and brothers became members of his court and were elevated to the same status as his Muslim fathers and brothers in law. He displayed great respect towards other religions and also repealed the pilgrimage tax on Hindus in 1563. He encouraged the Hindus to practice their own religion. All restrictions on the building of places of worship were removed. He also stopped 'Jizya' (a tax on non-Muslims) in 1564. During his reign, the public services were open to all on merit, without discrimination on the basis of caste. A large number of Hindus were employed in the Mughal army. He regularly participated in the festivals of the Hindus. He made efforts of the abolition of Sati and child marriage and also encouraged widow remarriage among Hindus.

Navaratnas in the Court of Akbar:

Abul Fazal:  He was the vizier of Akbar, and author of the Akbarnama, the official history of Akbar's reign in three volumes, (the third volume is known as the Ain-i-Akbari)

Faizi: He was the Malik-ush-Shu'ara (poet laureate) of Akbar's Court. He was the elder brother of Abul Fazl.

Miyan Tansen: Akbar's court musician.

Raja Birbal: Akbar's Prime Minister

Raja Man Singh: He was a trusted general of Akbar and was the grand son of Akbar's father-in-law Bharmal.

Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khan: He was a poet and son of Bairam Khan.

Raja Todar Mal: He was Akbar’s Finance Minister.

Fakir Aziao-Din & Mullah Do Piaza: Were Akbar's Chief Advisers.

Siege of Chittorgarh (1567)

Akbar tried to persuade Rana Udai Singh, the ruler of Mewar to accept the Mughal sovereignty like his fellow Rajputs, but he resisted Akbar. As a result Akbar decided to conquer Chittorgarh, (Chittor Fort) the capital of Mewar. In 1567 Akbar laid siege to the Chittor Fort. At the request of his councilors, Rana Udai Singh and his family escaped before the capture of the fort and moved to the nearby Aravalli Hills where he founded the the city of Udaipur. Jaimal and Patta, two brave army chiefs of Mewar were left behind to defend the fort along with 8,000 Rajput warriors. The Mughal cannons could not break the thick stone walls of the fort. Finally they dig two tunnels and planted mines. Jaimal and Patta showed excessive courage and bravery and defended the fort for more than four months. Akbar, after a siege of four months and twenty days, successfully conquered Chittorgarh in 1568. Instead surrendering to the Mughals, the Rajputs fought till their end. The Rajput women were performed the sacred rite Johar. (Sacrifice) The Mughal forces massacred 30,000 inhabitants of  the Chittorgarh Fort. Akbar then ordered the heads of his enemies to be displayed upon towers erected throughout the region in order to demonstrate his authority. 

Maharana Pratap: Rider of the Blue Horse ( 1568-1597)
Maharana Pratap Memorial
Maharana Pratap Memorial at Moti Magri, Udaipur
Rana Pratap Singh, born on May 9, 1540 at Kumbhalgarh, was the eldest son of Maharana Udai Singh and his wife Rani Jeevant Kanwar. Rana Udai Singh had wished his favorite son Jagmal, to succeed him but his senior nobles wanted Pratap to be their king. In 1572, Rana Udai Singh passed away and Pratap Singh became the Maharana. Pratap was a true patriot. He did not want to fight with Akbar but never accepted Akbar as the ruler of India. He considered Akbar as a cruel king who had massacred 30,000 Rajputs in the Siege of Chittorgarh. It was his dream to reconquer Chittorgarh, his motherland. Pratap Singh had made his descendants Vow that he would give up all comforts of palace life until Chittor is freed from the Mughals. On the other hand, Akbar had control over Chittor however, not on the kingdom of Mewar.

Nearly all Rajputs such as Raja Man Singh of Amber were serving as commanders in Akbar's armies and members of his council. Even Pratap's own brothers, Shakti Singh and Sagar Singh were serving Akbar. Akbar had 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 Rajputs, but Pratap turned down each of them. The last of these missions were headed by Raja Man Singh. Finally, Akbar realized that Maharana Pratap will never submit and he decided to use his army against Mewar.

Akbar then tried to turn the people of Chittor against their king so they would not help Pratap. He appointed Sagar Singh, a younger brother of Pratap to rule Chittor. However, Sagar, regretting his own treachery, committed suicide with a dagger in the Mughal Court. Shakti Singh, Pratap's younger brother is said to have warned his brother of Akbar's actions.

Battle of Haldighati (1576)

Finally, Akbar attacked Pratap at Haldighati near Gogunda on 18th June, 1576 with an army of 80,000 men led by his general Raja Man Singh. The battle lasted for only four hours. The Mughal army was numerically superior but Pratap had the brave leaders with him: Jhala Bida, Hakim Khan Sur, Poonja Bhil (leader of Bhil warriors), Raja Ram Shah of Gwalior, Rawat Netsi of Kanod, Kishandas Chundawat of Salumber, Bheem singh Dodiya, Ramdas Rathore of Badnore, Shankardas Rathore of Kelwa, Jhala Maan of Sadri, Ram Singh Sandoo, Jaisa Barhat, Keshav Barhat and his brave and mighty steed Chetak (Chetak had a blue tinge) to led his battle against the Mughals. He had the very strong support from the Bhils, the tribes of Mewar and they fought with him in the battle. Pratap used the tactics of guerrilla warfare against the Mughal army. During the battle, Pratap tried to attack Man Singh; Man Singh was seated on an elephant. Chetak placed his front feet on the forehead of Man Singh's elephant and Pratap threw his lance, however, Man Singh managed to escape. But Chetak was critically wounded on his left thigh by an Elephant Trunk Sword while Pratap tried to attack Man Singh. Mughal army and their artillery finally succeeded in surrounding Pratap.

The Death of Chetak:

Pratap Singh and Chetak attacking Man Singh
Pratap's generals prevailed upon him to escape from the battle field as there would still be hope for Mewar while he was alive. To facilitate Pratap's escape, Jhala Maansingh, one of his generals put on Pratap's crown and armour, and took his place in the battlefield. The Mughal soldiers mistook him as Maharana and killed him while the injured Pratap managed to escape with the help of Chetak. The wounded Chetak, ran through the mountains, carrying Pratap. But Chetak was heavily bleeding and to save his master's life it jumped over a stream. As soon as the stream was crossed Chetak fell down and died. Pratap cried like a child over the death of his faithful horse. (Later Maharana erected a monument for Chetak at the place where he fell)

Chetak Smarak, Udaipur

While Pratap's general put on Pratap's clothing, two Turk knights of the Mughal Army noticed this and they followed Pratap. Shakti Singh, who was fighting from the Mughal side, saw this. He followed the Turks and killed them. Saddened by the loss of his beloved general and Chetak, he embraced his brother and broke into tears. Shakti Singh then offered him his own horse and requested him to escape. 

Living in the jungles, sleeping on straw and eating on leaf plates, the warrior king, his family, and his subjects continued their struggle to recapture their motherland. Pratap resumed the guerrilla warfare tactics. Akbar made repeated attempts to conquer Udaipur, but never succeeded. Meanwhile, Akbar lost lot of money and men, mostly because of the intensive arrow showers by the Bhils. Pratap also received much assistance from Bhama Shah, one of the generals of Mewar. Bhama Shah has gifted his property and also a collection of 25 Lakh rupees and 20000 gold coins during financial crises. (Later he became the Chief - Minister of Pratap) After the victory in the battle of Dewair in 1582 Pratap was able to free most of his kingdom except Chittor.

In January 1597, Maharana Pratap was seriously injured in a hunting accident and died at Chavand, on January 29, 1597. On his death bed, made of grass, he handed over the responsibility of freeing Chittor to his son and successor Amar Singh. (Peace treaty was signed between Akbar's son Jahangir and Rana Amar Singh and Mewar was submitted to the Mughals in 1615)

Akbar was the greatest of the Mughal emperors in India. It was under his reign the Mughal empire reached its climax. He died in 1605, and his tomb is located in Sikandra, Agra.

So... who is the real hero; Akbar or Maharana Pratap?

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