Mughal and Rajput Wars: Akbar Vs Maharana Pratap

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Rajput policy of Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar: Akbar was very much impressed by the chivalry and faithfulness of the Rajputs (Hindu rulers of Rajasthan). He realized that the support of Rajputs was necessary to establish a large and stable empire. He treated them with honour and equality. The Rajputs were allowed to hold their ancestral territories, but they should acknowledge the Mughal sovereignty, pay him regular tribute, supply troops when required, and conclude a marriage alliance with him. Raja Bharmal of Amber was the first of the Rajputs entered into the service of Akbar. 

When Raja Bharmal Kachwaha was threatened by Sharafuddin Husain, Mughal governor of Mewat, he visited Akbar's court and paid his respects. Raja Bharmal accepted Akbar’s suzerainty and gave his daughter in marriage to him on Jan 20, 1562. His son Bhagwan Das and grandson Man Singh were given high positions in the Mughal court. Akbar followed the same policy towards the other Rajput chiefs. His Rajput wives were allowed to practice their own religion. He abolished the Pilgrimage tax in 1563 and Jizya in 1564. A large number of Hindus were employed in the Mughal army. On the contrary, he invaded the Kingdoms of those Rajput rulers who did not accept his sovereignty. Rana Udai Singh of Mewar, Rao Surjan Hada of Ranthambore and Ramchandra Singh of Kalinjar were few of them.

Siege of Chittorgarh (1567-1568)

Akbar tried to persuade Rana Udai Singh, the Sisodiya ruler of Mewar, to accept Mughal sovereignty, but he resisted Akbar. As a result Akbar decided to conquer Chittorgarh, the capital of Mewar. In 1567, he laid siege to Chittor fort. At the request of his nobles, Rana Udai Singh and his family escaped to the nearby Aravalli hills, where he founded the the city of Udaipur. Jaimal Rathore and Fatah Singh, two brave army chiefs of Mewar, were left behind to defend the fort along with 8,000 Rajput warriors. Jaimal and Fatah showed excessive courage and bravery and defended the fort for more than four months. After a siege of four months and twenty days, the fort fell into the hands of Mughals in 1568. The Rajput women of Chittor preferred "Jauhar" (immolation) than surrendering to Mughals. The Mughal forces massacred 30,000 inhabitants of the fort.

Rao Surjan Hada of Ranthambore submitted to Mughals after the fall of Ranthambore fort in 1569. Akbar then attacked Kalinjar fort, and Ramchandra also surrendered to him (1569). After the fall of Ranthambore, which was the most powerful fortress of Rajasthan, the Rajputs of Bikaner, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer also submitted to Akbar. Thus by 1570, the whole of Rajputana, except Mewar, came under the Mughal Empire. 

Maharana Pratap Memorial at Moti Magri, Udaipur
Maharana Pratap, Rider of the Blue Horse (1572-1597)

Pratap Singh, the eldest son of Maharana Udai Singh and his wife Rani Jeevant Kanwar, was born on May 9, 1540 at Kumbhalgarh. Though Udai Sigh wanted his favorite son Jagmal to succeed him, nobles of the court placed Pratap on the throne after his death in 1572. It was Pratap's dream to recapture Chittor, his motherland, which was under the control of Mughals. The brave grandson of Rana Sanga, made his descendants vow that he would give up all comforts of palace life until Chittor is freed from Mughals.

On the other hand, Akbar had control over Chittor but, not on the Kingdom of Mewar. Akbar had sent a total of six diplomatic missions to Pratap, make him to submit, however, Pratap turned down each of them. Raja Man Singh and Raja Bhagwan Das also tried to negotiate with Pratap but were unsuccessful. Akbar, now realizing that Pratap would never submit, decided to invade Mewar. 

Struggle for Independence - Battle of Haldighati: (1576)

Battle of HaldighatiThe Battle of Haldighati (in Rajasthan) was fought between Maharana Pratap and the Mughal army of Akbar lead by Raja Man Singh at Haldighati on 18 Jun, 1576, which lasted for only four hours. The Mughal army was numerically superior but Pratap had with him the bravest leaders and his faithful steed Chetak (Chetak had a blue tinge) to led his battle against the Mughals. He used the tactics of guerrilla warfare and he had the very strong support from the Bhils of Aravallis under Rana Poonja. During the battle, Pratap tried to attack Man Singh; who 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. When Jhala Man, one of Pratap's generals, saw their King wounded and Chetak faltering, requested Pratap to flee off from the field as there would still be hope for Mewar while he was alive. He put on Pratap's crown and armour, and took his place in the battlefield. The Mughal soldiers mistook him as Pratap and soon killed him; while the injured Pratap managed to escape with the help of Chetak. Chetak was heavily bleeding, but to save his master's life, it jumped over a stream.

Shakti Singh Saves Pratap: Pratap's own brothers, Shakti Singh, Jagmal Singh and Sagar Singh were serving Akbar. Two Mughal soldiers recognized Pratap, when he left the battlefield, and they were following him. Shakti Singh saw this. He followed the soldiers and killed them.

Death of Chetak: Seeing his master safe, Chetak fell down and died. Saddened by the loss of his general and Chetak, he embraced his brother and broke into tears. Shakti Singh offered his own horse and requested him to escape. A memorial was built in honour of Chetak, the Chetak Smarak, at the spot where he breathed his last. 

Akbar captured Udaipur in 1576. He made repeated attempts to make Pratap submit, but never succeeded. Living in the Aravalli jungles, sleeping on straw and eating on leaf plates, Pratap continued his struggle. During this period military campaigns were taken up under the leadership of Bhagwan Das, Man Singh, Todarmal and Shahbaz Khan. Pratap could make their efforts unsuccessful through the tactics of guerrilla warfare. During this time Pratap received much financial assistance from his Prime Minister, Bhama Shah. By 1582, he was able to recover most of his lost kingdom except Chittor. He established his new capital at Chavand in 1585.

Death of Maharana Pratap (1597): On Jan 19, 1597, Maharana Pratap died of injuries sustained in a hunting accident. On his death bed, he handed over the responsibility of freeing Chittor to his son and successor Amar Singh. Akbar is believed to have shed tears on the death of a King he could not defeat.

Notes:

Pratap's grand father Maharana Sangram Singh (Rana Sanga) had fought with Babur in the Battle of Khanwa (1527).

Maharana Pratap never submitted to Mughals. But after his death, peace treaty was signed between Emperor Jahangir and Rana Amar Singh; and Mewar was submitted to Mughals in 1615.

Raja Man Singh was one of the Nine Gems at the court of Akbar. 

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