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More than 400 years after his death, Maharana Pratap is still revered as the supreme symbol of Rajput valor. The indomitable warrior refused to bow to Mughal Emperor Akbar as he fought alone and unaided to preserve his kingdom’s independence. Maharana Pratap Jayanti is observed on May 9 every year to celebrate the birth of the 13th Rajput king of Mewar – Pratap Singh I.
Maharana Pratap was born on 9th May 1540 in Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan. His father was Maharana Udai Singh II and his mother was Rani Jeevant Kanwar. Maharana Udai Singh II ruled the kingdom of Mewar, with his capital at Chittor. Maharana Pratap was the eldest of twenty-five sons and hence given the title of Crown Prince.
Early Life of Maharana Pratap :
Maharana Pratap was born into a Hindu Rajput family to Udai Singh II and Jaiwanta Bai. His younger brothers were Shakti Singh, Vikram Singh, and Jagmal Singh. Pratap also had 2 stepsisters: Chand Kanwar and Man Kanwar. He was married to Ajabde Punwar of Bijolia and he had married 10 other women and was survived by 17 sons and 5 daughters including Amar Singh I. He belonged to the Royal Family of Mewar. After the death of Udai Singh in 1572, Rani Dheer Bai wanted her son Jagmal to succeed him but senior courtiers preferred Pratap, as the eldest son, to be their king. The desire of the nobles prevailed. Udai Singh died in 1572, and Prince Pratap ascended the throne as Maharana Pratap, the 54th ruler of Mewar in the line of the Sisodia Rajputs.
Maharana Pratap’s Horse Name :
Chetak or Cetak is the name given in traditional literature to the horse ridden by Maharana Pratap at the Battle of Haldighati, fought on 18 June 1576 at Haldighati, in the Aravalli Mountains of Rajasthan, in western India. According to tradition, the horse was called Chetak. Although wounded, he carried Pratap safely away from the battle, but then died of his wounds. The story is recounted in court poems of Mewar from the seventeenth century onwards. The horse is first named Cetak in an eighteenth-century ballad, Khummana-Raso.
Maharana Pratap’s Elephant Name :
Maharana Pratap’s elephant name was Ramprasad. Ramprasad was with Maharana Pratap, since his (elephant’s) childhood. He was considered to be the best among all the Mewari elephants. In a war, no mahawat used to control him. He used to fight wars on his own. It is said that a sword of 85 kg was tied to the trunk of Ramprasad; a result of which he used to tear many elephants and horses apart. In the battle of Haldighati, Ramprasad single-handedly killed 13 elephants of Akbar’s army. His bravery caused a lot of fear in the enemy camp. Such was the fear in the enemy camp that Man Singh ordered his soldiers to capture only Ramprasad and Maharana Pratap.
Badauni, who had seen the Battle of Haldighati live writes that he had never seen such a sight in which an elephant was fighting without a Mahawat. Seeing the bravery and intelligence of this elephant, he understood why Akbar wanted to capture Ramprasad alive. Badauni further writes that to capture Ramprasad they organized a Chakravyuh of seven elephants with a total of 14 Mahawats sitting on them. Only then do they manage to tie Ramprasad’s legs with iron chains.
Then, after capturing him; he was presented before Akbar as per his orders. Akbar, on seeing the height and size of the elephant was surprised. Akbar, then ordered that from now on Ramprasad would be his personal elephant and changed Ramprasad’s name to Peerprasad. (A great example of secularism by Akbar). He ordered his men to take care of Ramprasad(I will not use Peerprasad) and to put a royal gaddi on the elephant’s back. After a week, he would go for a ride on Ramprasad’s back.
After getting the royal order, everybody began to take care of Ramprasad. Some started feeding him with sugarcane and some brought watermelon and bananas for him and some gave water to him. But Ramprasad refused to eat anything and even drink water. He could feel that he was in the enemy’s kingdom. He just used to wait for Maharana Pratap to come and pat him with love on his head. That’s why he would continuously look at the main gate of the palace. When he didn’t eat anything for three days then Akbar ordered his men to forcefully feed him and still, he didn’t eat anything. Then, Akbar ordered his men to torcher him. After 18 days of torcher, he collapsed on the floor and gave up his life.
Despite being an animal, he never allowed the Mughals to place royal gaddi on his back. He too didn’t give up his pride like that of his master Maharana Pratap. When Akbar heard this news; he placed his hands on his head and with grief said I couldn’t even force Maharana’s elephant to surrender; then how will I force Maharana Pratap to surrender in front of me?
This was the story of Maharana Pratap’s elephant Ramprasad.
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 honor 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 he was ready to give up his rights like Prabhu Ramchandra and go away from Mewar 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 accepted the responsibility of leading the people of Mewar.
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.
Battle of Haldhighati (1576) :
Soon after his coronation, Mughal emperor Akbar came to Mewar to establish a safe route to Gujarat through Rajasthan. Akbar offered him a chance to become a vassal but Maharana Pratap refused to surrender to him. The disagreement between the two rulers led to the famous Battle of Haldighati. Maharana Pratap’s army was outnumbered and after a grueling fight in a narrow mountain pass, the Mughals won the battle.
Despite the victory, the Mughals failed to capture Maharana Pratap or any other member of the royal family, and it remained a fruitless battle for the Muslim king. Maharana Pratap went on to reclaim his lost territories later in life and was succeeded by his eldest son Amar Singh I.
The famous battle of Haldighati was fought with 20,000 Rajputs against a Mughal army of 80,000 men commanded by Raja Man Singh. The battle was fierce though indecisive, to the Mughal army’s astonishment. Maharana Pratap’s army was not defeated but Maharana Pratap was surrounded by Mughal soldiers. It is said that at this point, his estranged brother, Shakti Singh, appeared and saved Rana’s life. Another casualty of this war was Maharana Pratap’s famous, and loyal, horse Chetak, who gave up his life trying to save his Maharana. 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.
With Rana Pratap able to make a successful escape, the battle failed to break the deadlock between the two powers. Subsequently, Akbar led a sustained campaign against the Rana, and soon, Goganda, Udaipur, and Kumbhalgarh were all under his control. The pressure was exerted by the Mughals upon Rana’s allies and other Rajput chiefs, and he was slowly but surely both geographically and politically isolated. The Mughals’ focus shifted to other parts of the empire after 1579, which allowed Rana Pratap to recover much of the lost territory in the western parts of his kingdom. Chittor and the rest of eastern Mewar continued to remain under Mughal control.
An Incident That Changes His Mind :
In one incident that caused him extreme pain, his children’s meal – bread made from grass – was stolen by a dog. It is said that this cut into Maharana Pratap’s heart deeply. He began to have doubts about his resolute refusal to submit to the Mughals. Perhaps in one of these moments of self-doubt – something each and every human being goes through – Maharana Pratap wrote to Akbar demanding “a mitigation of his hardship”. Overjoyed at this indication of his valiant foe’s submission, Akbar commanded public rejoicing and showed the letter to a literate Rajput at his Court, Prince Prithviraj.
An award-winning poet, Prithviraj (secret admirer) was also a gallant warrior and a longtime admirer of the brave Maharana Pratap Singh. He was astonished and grieved by Maharana Pratap’s decision and told Akbar the note was the forgery of some foe to defame the Mewar king. “I know him well,” he explained, “and he would never submit to your terms.” He requested and obtained Akbar’s permission to send a letter to Pratap, ostensibly to ascertain the fact of his submission, but really with a view to preventing it. He composed the couplets that have become famous in the annals of patriotism.
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.
The devotion of Bhamashah :
There was a Rajput chieftain serving as a minister in the regime of forefathers of Maharana Pratap. Bhamashah was very much disturbed by the thought that his king had to wander in forests and was going through such hardships. He felt sorry to know about the difficult time 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 was very happy and felt very grateful.
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 who was still under the control of the Mughals.
Last Wish of Maharana Pratap :
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 hardship but he preserved the name of his family and his Motherland from facing defeat. We pay tribute to his valiant memory.
How Did Maharana Pratap Died:
In January 1597, Rana Pratap Singh I, Mewar’s greatest hero, was seriously injured in a hunting accident. He left his body at Chavand, aged 56, on January 29, 1597. He died fighting for his nation, for his people, and most importantly for his honor.