Let’s find out who won the battle of Haldighati.
The battle of Haldighati is more than just a historical event. Its impact on Indian folklore is unparallel. Many stories, poems, and dramas came out of this battle. And each one of them created a ripple effect on the future. Even though Maharana Pratap lost the fight to Akbar’s forces, his bravery and honour were documented. And this depiction of valour is what inspired generations of Rajputs to fight and even die to protect their motherland.
The battle of Haldighati was long foreseen by the experts of that time. Two young and brave leaders were making their name known throughout India. On the Mughal side, an eighteen-year-old Akbar was trying to leave the shadow of his regent Bairam Khan. The Mughals had regained most of north India back from the Shuri dynasty. Now their eyes were set on western India, especially Gujarat. The coastal state of Gujarat had lots of important ports. The ports on the western coast of India were necessary for trade with Ottaman and Turkic empires.
Between the Mughals and the ports lay the Rajputs. Rajputs were a clan of warriors. Every single male child of this clan was trained as a soldier. The modern-day states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh were full of small Rajput clans. Among these, the biggest kingdom was the kingdom of Mewar. Mewar was led by King Uday Singh. His son Pratap Singh was of the same age as Akbar. With growing tensions between the Rajputs and the Mughals, these young leaders were bound to lock horns.
The Mughal empire was too big for most of the Rajput clans to fight. Hence many of them either surrendered or became an ally. Akbar expected the same response from the Mewar. Akbar was a diplomatic mastermind. He sent Maan Singh, a Rajput to negotiate with Uday Singh. Maan Singh was one of those kings who had surrendered. But Uday Singh refused to talk to him. For Uday Singh, a Rajput who had surrendered was not a real Rajput.
A few years passed after this event. Akbar was occupied with a rebellion in Northern India. During this while, Uday Singh too passed away from illness. His son Pratap Singh was made the new king. He was renamed as Maharana Pratap.
After the coronation of Maharana Pratap, Maan Singh was given the order to march on the Mewar kingdom. Pratap knowing well that he was outnumbered, chose Haldighati as his battlefield. Haldighati was a valley between two mountains. It was a perfect setup to curb the large Mughal army.
Pratap positioned archers in the front aiming for the small opening at the mouth of the valley. The flanks were made of cavalry and they attacked once the archers have created havoc in front of Maan Singh’s army. Maharana Pratap led his men on a beautiful white and blue coloured horse ‘Chetak’. Chetak was legendary. It was believed that harming Chetak was impossible because of his speed and anticipation.
All the tactics of Maharana were falling right and the Rajputs were winning. But Maan Singh too was a great tactician. He was leading the army from the back and while all this was happening he made the canons climb up to higher grounds. Now that they have a clear line of sight the canons started hunting the elephants. After the elephants fell, Maan Singh charged his own elephant regiment. The elephants crushed the Rajput’s cavalry and horses. Amidst the fallen was Maharana’s horse Chetak as well.
The Rajput army took this as a sign of inevitable defeat and retreated. One of Maharana’s most trusted ministers with a few others chose to stay behind to give others a way to escape. Maharana Pratap retreated to dense forests and continued fighting a guerilla war.
It is said that history is written by the victors. But the question is what is victory? Sometimes losing a battle but inspiring numerous future generations is also a victory. That is the legacy of Maharana Pratap. A man who stood alone, with his head high, against all odds preserving the warrior’s code of Rajputs.