Maharana Pratap: the descendant of Rama
न भीतो मरणादस्मि केवलं दूषितो यश
These principles have been a guiding light to the Ikshvaku clan (the clan of Rama). This righteous clan is believed to have trickled down as Sisodia Rajputs of India. However, amongst the myriad of brave men and heroes of this clan, a few stood out the way Maharana Pratap did.
In history, multiple Rajput families have existed including Sisodias. Notable heroes amongst them were Bappa Raval in the 8th century CE, who established the Mewar kingdom of Sisodias. Centuries later Rana Rawal Ratan Singh, the husband of the legendary queen Padmavati, ruled Mewar. This clan saw legends like Rana Hammir, Rana Kumbha. However, a few generations down the line, this clan saw the fierce warrior Rana Sanga, who braved Babur, in the face of defeat. Nevertheless, the ways of time are genetics are beautiful for, years later, Rana Sanga’s own grandson i.e. Maharana Pratap, would take on Babur’s world-famous grandson: Akbar. Moreover, the iconic poet and saint Meerabai was Pratap’s Aunt.
Hence, we can see that Maharana Pratap’s predecessors were an eclectic mix of bravery, piety and devotion. No wonder he was a man with a character and inner strength which enabled him to defy the then emperor Akbar, while his contemporaries were surrendering their swords to the imperial throne. However, adversities test your mettle, by tempting people to surrender to the path of unrighteousness. Having said that, let us see how Maharana Pratap responded to temptation like that.
Maharana Pratap and Man Singh
As aforementioned, most of Maharana Pratap’s contemporaries surrendered to Akbar’s imperial sweep; foremost amongst them being Raja Man Singh. Being a brave warrior and an astute statesman, Man Singh rose to become a commander of the Mughal royal forces. Later on, he made into the elite list of Akbar’s Navaratna. Hence, in order to persuade Maharana Pratap to accept Akbar’s overlordship, the latter sent Raja Man Singh. However, Maharana Pratap refused to budge. Furthermore, in an act of defiance, Maharana Pratap sent his son Amar Singh to receive Man Singh. Being a King, this was an act of open insult to Man Singh since he expected reception from the Maharana himself. Hence, this event triggered a bitter rivalry between the two Rajputs, thus culminating into the historical Battle of Haldighati.
Before Haldighati: a forsaken opportunity
It is a known fact the Maharana was worsted in the battle of Haldighati. However, it would have been a different history, had he forsaken his righteousness before the war.
It so happened that before the battle, Mansingh, with a force of 80000 camped in a village called Mojera near Haldighati (Haldighati was a mountain pass consisting of yellow soil). Furthermore, the Maharana, with a force of 20000 secretly moved from Kumbalgarh to Khamnore, south to Mojera, right under Man Singh’s nose. So secret were his movements, that Man Singh did not get a whiff about it.
One night, one of Maharana’s scouts came with a piece of news that Raja Mansingh was hunting in a nearby village with only 1000 soldiers. Everyone in the camp saw an opening including the Maharana himself. Being impatient to test their mettle, they drew their swords to dispatch Mansingh for his heavenly abode.
The higher calling
However, when the brave warriors were about to march, an old chief named Bida Jhala spoke up, “Your majesty, we will obey every order of yours. However, please reconsider this prospect of an unrighteous battle.”
“What’s unrighteous about this, venerable Bida Jhala?” the Maharana said.
“Firstly, it’s dark now. Being Rajputs, we are not supposed to conduct a night raid. Secondly, the enemy is on a leisurely hunt, unaware and underprepared. Furthermore, Man Singh is a fellow Rajput and deserves to be treated fairly. Pray, do not fall into the trap of temptations. If you do so, will you be able to higher ground than the Mughals?” said the old chief with great conviction.
Maharana Pratap fell into deep thought. Bida Jhala continued, “Please remember my Lord. Your bear the legacy of the great Bappa Rawal, the legendary Rana Sanga. Your forefather Rana Rawal Ratan Singh was chivalrous to his arch-enemy Allaudin Khilji. Above all, you are a descendant of Lord Rama, who spared an unarmed Raavana! ”
The old chief struck the chord. Maharana turned to everyone and declared, “Bida Jhala is right. Let’s not fall to conceit like our enemy, even if it means defeat. Let’s stick to our principles.”
Bida Jhala sacrificed his life for Maharana Pratap in Haldighati. Moreover, Pratap lost the battle and his kingdom(to retain it later). However, he earned lasting respect for patriotism and righteousness. Last but not least, he earned the respect of his arch-enemy Akbar. It is a famous story that years later when Akbar received the news of Maharana’s death, he had tears in his eyes, for he had lost a worthy enemy.