Born on 9th May, 1540 at Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, Maharana Pratap is a symbol of Rajput valor, gallantry and diligence. He was a standalone fighter against Mughal supremacy and fought all his life to free his homeland, Mewar Rajputana, from their control. Worshiped by his men, Maharana Pratap led from the front and despite losing the Battle of Haldighati to Mughal Emperor Akbar he did not surrender and continued to fight till the end. Rana Pratap, as he is popularly known, is a legend that has been narrated from one generation to the next, but there are some things about this brave warrior that many people may not have heard. This list captures the life and times of Maharana Pratap.
1. As a child, he was brave and fearless.
Barring small pockets of resistance, the Mughals had subjugated much of North India when Maharana Pratap was born. Sensing a responsibility towards Mewar, even as a kid, Pratap trained hard in martial arts and weaponry fighting. The brightest and strongest among the princes, the Rajput royals expected a lot from the boy which he lived up to in later life.
2. He proved to be the legitimate successor.
Not the favorite son of Udai Singh, it was his younger brother Jagmal and not Pratap, who was the picked as successor to the Mewar throne. Regardless of the dying king’s wishes, senior nobles of the Mewar court chose Pratap as the legitimate successor and crowned him king.
3. Maharana Pratap had 11 wives.
In keeping with the tradition of the royal families of the medieval times, Maharana Pratap had 11 wives. Maharani Ajabde Punwar was his favorite. He had 17 sons and 5 daughters.
4. Tall and handsome, he was a tough warrior.
Historical records show that Maharana Pratap was about 7 feet, 5 inches tall and when in battle gear would wear armour that weighed around 110 kg. Preserved at the City Royal gallery museum in Udaipur are 2 heavy swords and a heavy spear that Maharana Pratap once used.
5. His battle skills were exemplary.
Stories about Maharana Pratap’s bravery still resonate in Rajasthan. In one battle, a Mughal army solider sneaked up on him to assault him from behind but the Maharana caught the movement from the edge of his eye. A powerful swing of the sword felled both the soldier and his horse, goes the tale.
6. Not by stealth or treachery, he faced his enemies in upfront battles.
Raja Man Singh, a Rajput King but a Mughal commander, was out on a hunt and could have been an easy victim for an ambush by Mewar troops. Maharana Pratap resisted the temptation, and is said to have remarked that he preferred to face his opponents on the battleground.
7. Upheld the dignity of women.
One one occasion Amar Singh had taken some Muslim women as trophy hostages after a battle. Maharana Pratap rebuked his son for doing so. The women were freed and sent home with dignity.
8. Maharana Pratap effectively used guerilla warfare tactics.
Up against a much better equipped and powerful army, Maharana Pratap, with just a few soldiers, caused much damage to the Mughal forces. The guerrilla tactics he used proved very successful in checking the advance of enemy forces as well as in keeping the flag of freedom flying over large territories of Mewar throughout his lifetime.
9. Lived by a pledge to free the homeland.
The strong fort of Chittor was the heritage of Mewar house and had been overrun by Mughal forces. Pratap made a pledge that he would sleep on a bed of straw and eat out of leaf plate till Chittor was reclaimed. Pratap battled the Mughals for many years, but could not win back Chittor. However, he lived by his pledge. In his honor, till date, many Rajput’s place a leaf under their plates and straws under their bed.
10. He never accepted Emperor Akbar’s supremacy.
Rana Pratap declined several offers of peace. He had vowed never to accept the supremacy of the Mughals and of Emperor Akbar. Declining a life of comfort and luxury in exchange for freedom, Rana Pratap battled the occupying Mughal forces all his life.
11. At Haldighati, Maharana Pratap waged battle against a much larger army.
June, 1576, Rajput forces under Maharana Pratap attempted to recapture Chittor and fought a very heroic battle in Haldighati. A force of 22,000 Rajput warriors were able to hold up a 2 lakh strong Mughal army on the battlefield. Badly outnumbered, the Rajput’s lost the battle but the valor with which Rana Pratap’s army fought won praise and admiration even from the enemy Mughal forces led by commanders Raja Man Singh and Asaf Khan.
12. His war horse, Chetak, died to save Rana Pratap.
Injured in the Haldighati battle, it was the loyalty of Chetak, Rana Pratap’s horse that saved his life. Put to the task of jumping across a wide moat, the horse carrying the injured warrior made the leap of his life. Chetak managed to cross the canal with his front legs clinging to the bank that saved his master. Rana Pratap survived to carry on the fight against Akbar’s forces but the horse died from falling into the canal but not before the injured warrior had successfully crossed over to safety.
13. Not one to give up, Rana Pratap continued to fight.
The battle of Haldighati did not shake Pratap’s resolve to win freedom for Mewar. Living in jungles with his family, he regrouped with trusted fighters like Bhamshah and recaptured much of the territory that had been overrun by the Mughal army.
14. The Mughal court wanted to win over Maharana Pratap.
For the Mughal army, Rana Pratap, was a sworn enemy but strategists in Akbar’s court were all praise for his bravery and battle skills. Sheikh Rehmur Khan, a noble and military strategist in Akbar’s court is said to have remarked in the emperor’s open court, “If you could win over Maharana Pratap & Jaimal Mertiya, then no one can stop you from from subjugating the whole of Hindustan.”
15. Till his very last breath, Maharana Pratap dreamed of Chittor’s freedom.
Barring Mewar, Akbar, by way of matrimonial alliance or battle, won over all Rajput kingdoms. Only Mewar and its ruler Maharana Pratap persistently fought the Mughal forces to keep their proud tradition of freedom alive. Till the end, the fighting Rajput dreamed of freeing Chittor from the Mughals. As his dream began to fade, Rana Pratap, lying on a death bed made of straw, bound his son Amar Singh to a pledge of liberating Chittor.