He was a braveheart who never gave up fighting for his freedom and independence of the State of Mewar. The battles he fought against the might of Mughal emperor, Akbar, through victory and defeat, are the stuff of inspiring legend ever since they happened some 500 years ago.
Born May 9, 1540, patriotic Pratap exemplifies bravery, chivalry and sacrifice through the struggle between the Rajput confederacy he led and the invading alien hordes. His was a Hindu nationalist’s crusade against relentless Muslim aggression, much in the mould of Prithviraj Chauhan, brothers Harihar and Bukka, and later of Guru Gobind Singh, Chhatrapati Shivaji and Chhatrasal Bundela’s against powerful armies of the same religious, cultural and administrative enemy.
Maharana Pratap perceived Mughals as foreigners who had invaded India and, though smaller in resource, he refused to surrender to guile, entreaty or threat even in his defeat. His own father, Udai Singh, had condemned the house of Man Singh for their marriage with unclean foreigners and Pratap Singh continued to address Akbar as ‘Turk’ and not an emperor. Pratap’s resistance did not falter upon his army’s defeat in the Battle of Haldighati when, on the run, he had to wander in the hilly woods of Aravalis and his family was reduced to starvation.
In perspective, Maharana Pratap’s was a sacred mission rather than a wager for power. He remained true lifelong to his vow of not indulging in the comforts of palace life till he had recaptured his entire kingdom from the Mughals. The conciliatory offers he received from Akbar were lucrative and beyond precendent, in terms of jagirs and subedaris, but within the Mughal suzerainty. There were others around him who agreed for far less; but not Pratap. He turned away six diplomatic missions while his own brothers and several chieftains entered vassalitude for a lifetime guarantee of much wealth and status. The sole goal that Pratap breathed, woke up and slept with, was to recover his ancestral seat of Chittor.
Pratap pursued his guerrilla war from his hideout in wilderness of the Aravallis. He raided the outlying check-posts, fortresses and encampments of his adversary, some of whom were Hindu vassals appointed by the Mughal in the wake of Pratap Singh’s defeat at Haldighati. He was much assisted by Bhamashah who, along with his brother Tarachand, plundered Mughal territories in Malwa and offered large booty to Pratap to carry on his fight against the Mughals. The Bhil tribals of Aravalli hills provided Pratap with their support in war and with their help and expertise in living off the forest during his exile.
With the fund at his disposal, Pratap organised a major attack — Battle of Dewar — in which he gave a crushing defeat to his foes and was able to regain much of the lost territories of Mewar, except Chittor.
Pratap’s Mayra Cave hideout was spacious enough to serve as his armoury. It had a stable for the horses and a kitchen in which, legend reads, his family also had to partake pancakes made of grass because there was nothing else to satiate their pangs of hunger.
His life is an inspiration as a giant spirit and a leader of men, who never moved away from honesty, freedom and truth.