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Tuesday, 17 July 2012

71) Inspirations from Indian History: The Legend of Maharana Pratap of Mewar: (09.05.1540-29.01.1597):

71) Inspirations from Indian History:
The Legend of Maharana Pratap of Mewar:

Maharana Pratap or Pratap Singh was a Rajput ruler of Mewar, in the Indian state of Rajasthan. During his lifetime, he inspired several legends of chivalry, bravery and is remembered primarily because he stood up to the might of the Mughal Empire and fought several battles with Mughal forces.

Early Life of Maharana Pratap:

Maharana Pratap was born on 9th May 1540 (some calculations place his birth as 24th May 1540) at Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan. His father Maharana Udai Sigh ruled Mewar with his capital at Chittor.

In 1568, when Pratap Singh was about 28, Chittor was surrounded by the Mughal forces, and Maharana Udai Singh decided to leave Chittor and move his family to Gogunda, rather than capitulate to the Mughals. Pratap wanted to stay back and fight the Mughals, but he was prevailed upon by the Nobles to leave Chittor, a decision which helped transform him into a legend in his later life.

After the fall of Chittor to the Mughal King Akbar, after a fierce defence of the fort , his father Udai Singh founded a city in the Aravalli Ranges named after him as Udaipur. His son Jagmal was nominated by him to succeed him as the Rana of Mewar, but his Nobles vociferously supported the claim of Maharana Pratap whose commitment to the Rajput cause was unwavering and his determination to win back the fort of Chittor, which was his ancestral home and to carry on the fight against the Mughals had several admirers in the Mewar court. Maharana Pratap thus became the 54th ruler of Mewar.

It is pertinent to note that the Rajputs under Maharana Pratap were fiercely independent and did not accept the suzerainty of the Mughal King Akbar, even though the Mughal Commander of the most well-known battle fought between Maharana Pratap and the Mughals at the Pass of Haldighati, Man Singh a Rajput himself, was a vassal of Akbar and two of Maharana Pratap’s own brothers Shakti Singh and Sagar Singh were also serving the Mughal King. Several other commanders of the Mughal Army that Maharana Pratap fought with in several other battles were Rajput rulers themselves.

 Both Maharana Pratap and Akbar were visionary rulers of that age and it seems that their differences mainly arose from the fact that Akbar was fearful of having an independent kingdom within the consolidated Mughal Empire, while Maharana Pratap was not willing to accept the Sovereignty of the Mughal King which would have led to the decline of the prestige of Mewar, which had been at war with the Mughals since the times of Rana Sanga, Maharana Pratap’s grandfather who had fought several battles to defend his kingdom against the Mughal King Babar.

It is also pertinent to note that although the battles between Maharana Pratap and the Mughals are generally portrayed as Hindu-Muslim battles, just as several Rajputs were fighting for the Mughals, similarly, several Afghan Muslims of present day Bihar and Bengal descended from the Lodhi dynasty fought for Maharana Pratap. In fact one of his most valiant infantry soldiers Hakim Khan Sur was a descendant of Sher Shah Sur’s dynasty. Both dynasties had been defeated by the Mughal Kings Babar and his grandson Akbar respectively.

 Thus, the enmity between Maharana Pratap and Akbar was more political and based on principles rather than being one of two religions clashing with each other.
He saw the Mughals as foreigners who had invaded India and had subjugated most of the Indian rulers either through war or through negotiated peace. 

On this principle, Maharana Pratap spurned several delegations (numbering at least six) that had come with lucrative offers of Kingdoms and honoured posts in return for accepting the sovereignty of the Mughal King.

The Haldighati Pass:

The Pass nestled in the Aravalli mountain ranges of the Indian state of Rajasthan is situated about 40 kilometres from the city of Udaipur. The pass is so named because of its “turmeric – coloured” yellow soil (Turmeric is called “Haldi” in Hindi).

 I remember that the first time I went to see this historic Pass was in 1970 when I went along with my Parents and my sister was only when I was about 12 years old, when my father had been invited as a Guest Professor in the Medical College at Udaipur. 

I remember that I took several pictures with my black and white Agfa Click III camera, because I had always been fascinated by stories of the historic battle fought between the Mughal forces under Man Singh a Rajput General serving under Akbar, the Mughal Emperor of New Delhi and the Rajputs under the command of Maharana Pratap of Mewar, in 1576.

 One of the pictures taken by me in 1970, showing the beginning of the Haldighati Pass from one end. 

We had also brought back a packet of the turmeric coloured soil which I had in my possession for several years.

Much later, in 2007, my wife and I, during a trip of Jaipur, Udaipur, Chittor and Ajmer, together with our friends Dennis and Maggie visited the Haldighati Pass and the plain field “Rakt Talai”. As we stood on the historic battle-field, my imagination ran riot and I imagined how fiercely the battle was fought over four centuries ago.

 Driving Through the long Haldighati Pass - present day:

The Pass is long and can be defended by a small Army, because a large Army cannot pass through it in a body

The battle fought between the Mughals and the Rajputs at the Haldighati Pass and the plain field later called “Rakt Talai”:

This legendary battle took place on 21st June 1576 (some calculations place the date as 18th June 1576) .The Mughal forces, (numerically placed at about 80000 - 20,000 cavalry, 60,000 infantry which included 4,000 Kachwaha Rajputs, 500 elephants and 150 pieces of artillery) were about 13.50  times the size of the Rajput forces (numbering about 6000 soldiers - 3000 cavalry, 2,000 infantry, 100 elephants, 100 spearmen and about 400 "Bhils" Tribals) made a foray through the narrow pass and were beaten back several times by the Rajputs who were skilled in Guerrilla warfare techniques.

 The Rajputs, fought on hard with their initial advantage pushing back the Mughals from their main camp at Badshah Bagh (Royal Garden) to the open plains of Rakt Talai (In Hindi, meaning “the Pond/Lake of Blood”) so named after the initial slaughter wreaked on the Mughals by the Rajput forces and, later, the hard fought pitched battle with losses on both sides on this ground. Accustomed to open plains warfare, the Mughals, fought back hard, taking advantage of their numerical superiority and their cannon, nevertheless, the outcome of the battle remained indecisive, with the moral advantage going to the Rajputs. 

Maharana on his well-trained Kathiawari breed warhorse known in History as “Chetak” personally slaughtered several enemy combatants. Because of Chetak’s Kathiawari Breed, Rana Pratap was also called the “Rider of the Blue Horse”. 

At one time he threw a spear at Man Singh the enemy commander who ducked in mortal fear in his seat on the elephant carrying him, instead the “Mahout” (Elephant Trainer) was killed instantly. Chetak was severely injured in this encounter in one of his hind legs; nevertheless, he helped an injured Maharana Pratap who was falling unconscious from 3 serious wounds (one each from sword, spear and musket shot), to make a strategic getaway with a small troop, when one of his generals, Jhala Manna or Jhala Maan Singh of Bari Sadri, firmly asked him to leave the battle field, because both he and his horse were severely injured and needed immediate medical attention. The Jhala chief literally snatched away Maharana Pratap’s Royal insignia drawing the Mughal forces towards himself, fought valiantly, driving back the Mughals and  slaughtering several opponents . Outnumbered and fighting valiantly to the very end, he passed into history as a Martyr.

The injured Chetak, severely exhausted, ran through the mountains carrying Maharana Pratap, jumped a stream, and only after safe ground was reached, the brave horse breathed his last.

Some Memorials at Rakt Talai and nearby areas:

Several memorials exist at Rakt Talai as well as nearby areas commemorating the valour of the Rajput Forces, and are a powerful reminder of the small force of Rajputs who took on the might of the Mughal Empire and left an indelible stamp of their bravery on history. It is interesting to note that although the battle-field was left in the possession of the Mughals, no memorials exist on this battle-field of any Mughal soldiers erected by the Mughal King, such was the state of mind of the Mughal forces, including the fact that a small troop under Maharana Pratap had caused considerable losses to their Army in the battle of Haldighati.

The memorial to the valour of Jhala Maan Singh. The “Maana Talaab” also is a reminder to his bravery.


A memorial to the Ram Shah Tanwar of Gwalior and his three sons who fell fighting bravely during the battle. Ram Shah was an uncle to Maharana Pratap and had come to stay in Mewar after losing Gwalior to the Mughals. He along with his 300 men and 3 sons were martyred at the battle of Haldighati. Only one son did not participate in the battle, so as to look after the family.

The memorial stone and tomb of Chetak reminding visitors of the loyalty to his master of this valiant horse who despite being fatally wounded in battle, died only after bringing Maharana Pratap to safe territory. This memorial was built by Maharana Pratap himself.

 A poem has been also, written by Shyam Narayan Pandey, titled “Chetak ki Veerta” (Chetak’s bravery/Valour), which is a tribute to the valiant manner in which Chetak conducted his Master across the battle-field. I remember that when I was studying in La Martiniere College Lucknow, I knew this poem by heart and was awarded full marks in poetry recitation in my class in 1972.

 A miniature sheet of stamps brought out by the P & T Department, India, showing the Breeds of various Horses in India, including the "Kathiawari Breed" to which Chetak belonged.

The Rana Pratap “Gufa’ (cave), where Rana Pratap used to meet incognito with his Generals to carry on Guerrilla warfare against the Mughals. A poem “Rana Pratap Ki Talwar” is a tribute by Shyam Narayan Pandey to the valour of Maharana Pratap in battle, where the enemy combatants feared his dexterity at using his sword.

A gate opposite the cave leading to a field, keeping the memory of the legendary battle alive.

Maharana Pratap continued his guerrilla warfare and using the Aravalli Mountains as hideouts, several attacks were carried out on Mughal encampments with the help of committed soldiers skilled in Guerrilla warfare, including the Bhil tribals of the Aravalli Hills who provided support to Maharana Pratap both during war and also through their expertise to live off the forests for sustenance. He maintained an army of about 25000 soldiers, thanks mainly to the continuous efforts of Bhama Shah, his treasurer and benefactor.

Despite several attempts by the Mughal King Akbar, including one led by himself, when all his commanders had failed to capture Maharana Pratap, he continued to be a thorn in the Mughal Empire, using his famous Guerrilla warfare tactics to harass their troops with impunity.

 Death and Legacy:

Maharana Pratap passed away on 29th January 1597 (some calculations place his date of passing away as 19th January 1597) at Chavand from injuries sustained in a hunting accident. His son Amar Singh carried on his father’s mission to keep his territories free from Mughal Rule and fought 17 wars, whereafter, a conditional honourable peace settlement was negotiated by both sides.

He is held in high regard in Rajasthani/Marwari folklore.

There was an instance when Maharana Pratap's informers reported that Man Singh (the Mughal Commander at the battle of Haldighati) had been sighted with a few retainers in a hunting trip, and they advised immediate attack with the intent of killing Man Singh, but Maharana Pratap refused such an attack which militated against his sense of propriety and honour.

Again, there was an incident when the women of Abdur Rahim Khankhana’s camp (well known for his Hindi poetry), a Mughal Commander who was fighting against Maharana Pratap fell into the hands of the Rajputs, but  were honourably returned to the Mughal camp by Maharana Pratap. Abdur Rahim was so moved by this incident that he immediately requested the Mughal King to relieve him of his command, because he did not want to fight against such a chivalrous opponent and he was relieved of his command by Akbar's son Salim.

It is said that the numerically superior and well equipped  Mughal armies he fought against, were mortally afraid of his sudden and lightning attacks. Through his tactics of using scorched Earth strategies, evacuation of entire populations along potential advancing enemy army routes, poisoning of wells, use of mountain forts in the Aravalli Ranges, plunder and devastation of enemy territories, harassing raids on enemy camps, communication lines and supplies, helped him recapture most of Mewar  except Chittor by the time he passed away.

His skills at Guerrilla warfare are legendary and in a later time adopted by Malik Ambar of Ahmednagar in training the Marathas to fight against the Mughal Empire in similar techniques of warfare. His stand against the might of the Mughal Empire in Rajasthan and in a later time that of Chhatrapati Shivaji in Maharashtra helped bring about the downfall of the Mughal Empire.

Commemorative coin issued by Reserve Bank of India:

The Reserve Bank of India, to commemorate the life of Maharana Pratap, has brought out a one rupee coin in 2003 for general circulation issued by Hyderabad and Mumbai Mints. In addition Proof and Uncirculated coin sets were issued in Rs.100/- and Rs.10/- denominations. 

The obverse of the coin has the Lion Capital in the centre together with the words “Satyameva Jayate” (Truth always Prevails) which together form the emblem/Coat of Arms of India. The numeral “1” denoting the denomination of the coin is below the emblem. On the left periphery are the words “Bharat” and “Rupiya” in Hindi and on the right periphery are the words “India” and “Rupees” in English.

On the reverse of the coin is a portrait/image of Maharana Pratap in battle armour facing left, with his name spelt out both in Hindi and English. The year of issue 2003 is mentioned below his portrait. The life years of Maharana Pratap “1540-1597” are mentioned on the right hand side. This coin was minted at Mumbai mint. Notice the “diamond” mint mark below the year of issue. 

Posted on 11.03.2015:

 The above is a First Day cover issued on Maharana Pratap on 11.06.1967 by India Post.

Posted on 14.07.2017:

Yesterday, I received four coins from the India Government Mint, Hyderabad, booked through online orders in December 2016. One of the coins of Rs.10/- denomination commemorates “475th Birth Anniversary of Maharana Pratap”. The details of this coin contained in this album are as under:

The cover of the six page album containing the Rs. 10/- coin
It is inscribed “Smarak Sikka” (in Hindi) and “Commemorative Coin” (in English). Below this inscription is mentioned “Maharana Pratap Ki 475vin Jayanti -2015” (in Hindi) and “475th BIRTH ANNIVERSARY OF MAHARANA PRATAP - 2015” (in English).
The cover shows a statue of Maharana Pratap seated on his famous horse “Chetak”. I remember that when we had gone to Udaipur in 1970, this statue was being installed with great fanfare. Also see on the cover is a profile of Maharana Pratap facing left, wearing his battle gear.

                          The inner pages 2 & 3 of the coin album

The inner page 2 gives a brief description of Maharana Pratap’s life and protecting the territories of Mewar from Mughal onslaught:
“Pratap Singh, popularly known as Maharana Pratap was born on 9th May 1540 in North-western India i.e. in the present Rajasthan state. He was a valiant and illustrious legend of Indian history. His bravery, courage and sacrifices shall ever remain a golden chapter of Indian history. He was the eldest son of Maharani Jaiwanta Bai and Maharana Udai Singh. He ascended the throne of Mewar in 1572.
His kingdom was an eyesore for the Mughal emperor, who wished to bring it under his suzerainty. Maharana Pratap fought for its freedom to his last breath. He protected the Mewar region against repeated onslaughts of the Mughals.
The Government of India has released a Commemorative Coin on the occasion of 475th Birth Anniversary of Maharana Pratap on 09th May 2016”.
Page 2 also shows a full length profile of Maharana Pratap in his battle gear.

Page 3 shows the Obverse of the coin and mentions the specifications of the coin.

An image of the Obverse of the Rs.10/- coin on a stand-alone basis
It shows the name of the issuing country “Bharat” (in Hindi) on the left periphery in the centre and “India” on the right periphery in the centre. In the centre is the emblem of the Government of India, the Lion Capitol derived from the Ashok pillar emblem of the legendary “Samrat” (Emperor) of Ancient India “Ashok the Great”. Below the emblem is inscribed “Satyameva Jayate” (meaning “Truth will always Prevail”), a term coined by Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya, the founder of the Banaras Hindu University located at Varanasi in the Indian State of Uttar Pradesh.

                 This image shows Pages 4 and 5 of the coin album

Page 4 of the album shows the Reverse face of the coin and mentions the coin’s supplementary information
This page of the album also shows images of Maharana Pratap riding on his horse Chetak, reviewing the battle-readiness of his troops, before the legendary Battle of Haldighati. Another image of Maharana Pratap facing left is placed at the bottom right of this page.

             The Reverse of the Rs.10/-coin on a stand-alone basis
It shows Maharana Pratap standing ready for battle in his armour, spear in hand and bow on his left shoulder. On the outer upper periphery is mentioned “Maharana Pratap Ki 475vin Jayanti” (in Hindi) and on the lower periphery is inscribed “475th BIRTH ANNIVERSARY OF MAHARANA PRATAP” (in English). The year of issue “2016” is below Maharana Pratap’s left facing profile. The five pointed “Star” mint mark of the Hyderabad Mint is below the letter “R” on the lower periphery.
The specifications of this coin as described on Page 3 & Page 4 are:
Denomination of the coin: Rs.10/-; Outer Ring: (ALUMINIUM BRONZE): Copper – 92%, Aluminium – 6%, Nickel – 2%; Centre Piece: (CUPRO NICKEL): Copper – 75%, Nickel – 25%; Diameter: 27 mm; Weight: 7.71 grams. Year of issue: 2016.

Page 5 of the coin album shows Maharana Pratap in battle gear, spear in hand facing right.  A larger image of the Reverse of the coin has been placed on this page of top right.
There is also an image of a 200 Paise or Rs.2/- stamp issued on Maharana Pratap on 19th January 1998, shown standing in full battle gear, a spear in hand, facing left, which has inspired this coin image.

The Back Cover of the coin album describes the evolution of the Government Mint, Hyderabad and its present functions and capabilities

(The Re 1/- coin has been contributed for this post by Krishna Tonpe who has been a major contributor to my coin collection and has been procuring several missing pieces to help build up my collection. The First Day Cover is from the collection of Rahul Kumar, a Hyderabad based Numismatist) 


1) Jhala Mann Singh (Jhala Manna): The martyr of the famous Battle of Haldighati (1576): A Commemorative Postage Stamp of 500 Paise or Rs.5/- brought out in his honour on 18.06.2017