Ala-ud-din Khalji raided Chittorgarh and took its king Raja Ratan Singh as his prisoner. Rani Padmini was the wife of this same Raja Ratan Singh. Khalji pretended to befriend Ratan Singh, took his hospitality, and while exiting from Chittorgarh, took him prisoner by stealth and deceit. He sent this shameless message to Rani Padmini: “If you want to see your husband free, you must submit yourself to me.” Unfazed, Rani Padmini assembled five hundred palanquins with five hundred female helpers and a force of three thousand soldiers, went out and rescued Ratan Singh.
An enraged Ala-ud-din Khalji later returned with a massive force and waged war. Thousands of soldiers in Ratan Singh’s army perished because they stuck to the value that the enemy must be faced and fought head-on. Although they had the opportunity, they did not attack the enemy from the rear. All such instances show how the misplaced fidelity to Dharma on the part of our people became lethal for their own lives.
Rani Padmini and all the women together with children committed mass Jauhar in the vast field that lies between the Mahadeva and Krishna Temples in the Chittorgarh fort. The brave and indomitable Rajput soldiers applied their ashes and went out for their final, fatal battle and offered their lives.
There is no other country in the whole world that has even a remotely-similar example of women, children, and soldiers who regarded their lives as akin to dust. Which innate value motivated them to do this? However, apart from a sliver of regret that this elevating quality was not properly channelized, there is absolutely no fault in this unparalleled value.
The Muslims did not win because of valour but because of battle strategy and deceit. Had Hindus followed the same tactics, they would’ve remained unbeatable. Given this, the value of Kshatra that Krishna and Kautilya upheld is still the best.
Maharana Pratap Simha: The Peerless Warrior
Maharana Pratap Simha is the most dazzling gem of this Bharata’s spirit of Kshatra. He was the eldest of the twenty-three children of Udaya Simha. He was born in Kumbalgarh into the illustrious warrior-lineage of the Sisodia. Their family Deity was Ekalinga Swami. Maharana Pratap showed all signs of becoming a great warrior from his childhood.
When Udaya Simha died in 1572 CE, Jagamalla, the son of his youngest queen ascended the throne. However, when the populace rose in strong opposition against him, he fled in fear.
At a later period, Jagamalla along with his other brothers sided with Akbar. Shakti Simha was prominent among them. When he died, Maharana Pratap Simha said, “An evil man and a coward has died. Nobody needs to mourn him.” The only desire of Maharana Pratap till the very end of his life was this: he had to wrest Chittorgarh somehow. Because it was the heart of Mewar. Although after a prolonged and dogged fight, he was able to recover thirty-seven forts, he was still unable to wrest Chittorgarh. And so, he vowed that he would not sleep on a bed nor eat food in a plate until he recovered Chittorgarh. He lived accordingly, sleeping on a straw mat and eating from a plantain leaf. He told his son Amar Simha that Chittorgarh was the only goal. Chittorgarh was among the only three forts that he couldn’t wrest till the very end. The descendants of Maharana Pratap, to this day, place a leaf under their plate and a straw mat under their bed.
History has been truly unkind to Maharana Pratap Simha. Apart from mentioning the tale of his defeat at Haldighat, there is absolutely no light shed on his life of amazing valour.
A poet named Sheetal wrote and sang a poem on Pratap Simha. Upon listening to this, the Maharana gifted him his own royal turban. After this incident, no matter to which court Sheetal went, he would first remove Pratap Simha’s turban from his head and only then bow before the respective king. The reason: even the turban of Maharana Pratap Simha should not bow before anybody! This was the enormity and nature of respect that the Maharana commanded from people.
Towards the last years of his life, Akbar became bedridden owing to the depression that he was still unable to defeat Maharana Pratap Simha. In its wake, his son Salim had risen in rebellion as well. This additional sadness eventually culminated in his death. When we observe that even a powerful king like Akbar could not hold down Hindu kings by force, what remains to be said of other Muslim rulers?
Akbar arrived at Haldighat with a massive force of nearly two lakhs. But before he actually arrived there, he sent word through Man Singh, demanding that the Maharana accept his overlordship. But Pratap Simha thundered to Man Singh, “I won’t bow my head before Akbar like you.” Then Akbar offered to make Pratap Simha’s son a Sardar and said, “you can lord over your territory as my representative.” However, the Maharana rejected every single temptation that Akbar offered. In the end, he had to fight Akbar with a paltry force of twenty or twenty-seven thousand soldiers. Haldighat is a very narrow and cramped region in a valley. Although Pratap Simha fought with all his might, he was defeated. He stayed alive for nearly twenty years after this defeat. However, not one person taunted or humiliated him because he was defeated.
Rana Man Singh wore Pratap Simha’s pearl-studded crown on his head and facilitated his escape from the battlefield on his favourite horse, Chetak. Mistaking him for Pratap Simha, Akbar’s soldiers fell upon him together and mercilessly slaughtered him. Rana Pratap eventually reached Udaipur safely. His horse Chetak exerted all its energy to ensure his safe passage and died due to sheer exhaustion. Deeply moved, Pratap Simha built a grave and garden in its memory and grieved till the end of his life.
After the Battle of Haldighat, Pratap Simha changed his strategy and shifted his base to Kumbalgarh. There, he built up a formidable and undefeatable force of the Bhils and through them, incessantly tormented Akbar for the last twenty years of his life. He wrested a whopping thirty-seven forts from him. The people of Mewar on their own volition refused to allow Akbar and his representatives to set foot on their soil. They totally halted growing any kind of grain or food and in a manner of speaking, eviscerated the earth.
To be continued