Pratap Singh I, also known as Maharana Pratap (c. 9 May 1540 – 19 January 1597), was a Sisodia dynasty king of Mewar. Pratap became a folk hero for his guerrilla warfare against the Mughal Empire’s expansionism under Akbar, which inspired later rebels against the Mughals, including Shivaji.
Maharana Pratap: Early life and accession
Maharana Pratap is regarded as one of India’s most powerful warriors. Standing 7 feet 5 inches tall, he would carry an 80-kilogram spear and two swords weighing a total of 208 kilograms. He’d also be wearing 72 kilograms of armor.
He was married to Ajabde Punwar of Bijolia and had 10 other wives, leaving 17 sons and 5 daughters, including Amar Singh I. He was a member of the Mewar Royal Family.
Rani Dheer Bai wanted her son Jagmal to succeed Udai Singh after his death in 1572, but senior courtiers preferred Pratap, the eldest son, to be their king. The nobles’ desire triumphed. When Udai Singh died in 1572, Prince Pratap ascended to the throne as Maharana Pratap, the 54th ruler of Mewar in the Sisodia Rajput line.
Jagmal vowed vengeance and left for Ajmer to join Akbar’s armies, receiving the town of Jahazpur as a Jagir as a reward for his assistance.
Military Career of Maharana Pratap
In sharp contrast to other Rajput rulers who accommodated and formed alliances with the various Muslim dynasties in the subcontinent, Pratap Singh’s state of Mewar distinguished itself by refusing to form any political alliance with the Mughal Empire and resisting Muslim dominance. The Battle of Haldighati resulted from the conflicts between Pratap Singh and Akbar.
The bloody Siege of Chittorgarh in 1567-1568 resulted in the Mughals capturing the fertile eastern belt of Mewar. The rest of the wooded and hilly kingdom in the Aravalli range, however, remained under Maharana Pratap’s control.
When Pratap Singh was crowned king (Maharana) in 1572, Akbar sent a number of envoys, including one from Raja Man Singh of Amer, pleading with him to become a vassal like many other rulers in Rajputana. When Pratap refused to submit to Akbar personally, war became unavoidable.
On June 18, 1576, Pratap Singh fought against Mughal forces led by Man Singh I of Amer in the Battle of Haldighati. The Mughals won and inflicted significant casualties on the Mewaris, but they were unable to capture Pratap.
The battle took place in a narrow mountain pass near Gogunda, modern-day Rajsamand in Rajasthan. Pratap Singh led an army of 3000 cavalries and 400 Bhil archers. Man Singh of Amber led the Mughals, who commanded an army of around 10,000 men. Pratap was wounded and the day was lost after a fierce battle that lasted more than three hours. He was able to flee to the hills and fight another day.
The Mughals’ victory at Haldighati was futile because they were unable to kill or capture Pratap or any of his close family members in Udaipur. While sources claim that Pratap was able to escape, Mansingh was able to conquer Gogunda within a week after Haldighati ended his campaign. Following that, in September 1576, Akbar himself led a sustained campaign against the Rana, and soon, Gogunda, Udaipur, and Kumbhalgarh were all under Mughal control.
Following rebellions in Bengal and Bihar, as well as Mirza Hakim’s incursion into Punjab, Mughal pressure on Mewar eased after 1579.
Following this, Akbar dispatched Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khanan to invade Mewar, but he was stopped at Ajmer.
In the Battle of Dewar in 1582, Pratap Singh attacked and occupied the Mughal post at Dewar (or Dewar). As a result, all 36 Mughal military outposts in Mewar were automatically destroyed.
In 1584, Akbar dispatched Jagannath Kachhwaha to invade Mewar. Akbar moved to Lahore in 1585 and stayed for the next twelve years, keeping an eye on the situation in the northwest.
During this time, no major Mughal expeditions were sent to Mewar. Taking advantage of the situation, Pratap defeated Mughal forces in Mewar (except for its former capital), Chittorgarh, and Mandalgarh. During this time, he also constructed Chavand, a new capital near modern Dungarpur.
Many poets, artists, writers, and artisans had sought refuge at Maharana Pratap’s court in Chanvand. During Rana Pratap’s reign, the Chavand school of art flourished.
Maharana Pratap sought refuge in the Chappan region and began attacking Mughal strongholds. By 1583, he had successfully captured western Mewar, including Dewar, Amet, Madariya, Zawar, and Kumbalgarh fort. He then established Chavand as his capital and built a Chamunda Mata temple there. For a short time, the Maharana was able to live in peace and began establishing order in Mewar. From 1585 until his death, the Rana reclaimed a large portion of Mewar.
During this time, citizens who had migrated out of Mewar began to return. There was a good monsoon, which helped revive Mewar’s agriculture. The economy began to improve, and trade in the region began to increase. The Rana was successful in capturing the territories west of Chittor, but he was unable to realize his dream of capturing Chittor itself.
Death of Maharana Pratap
Pratap died on 19 January 1597, at the age of 56, from injuries sustained in a hunting accident in Chavand. His eldest son, Amar Singh I, succeeded him. Pratap told his son on his deathbed not to submit to the Mughals and to reclaim Chittor.