In the history of Rajputana in particular and India in general, Rana Pratap occupies a place of prominence.
It goes to his credit that Akbar, the Great Mughal emperor failed to subdue him with all the power at his command.
Rana’s spirit of freedom has a few parallels in Indian history. Rana Pratap was the son of Udai Singh and grandson of Rana Sanga, the ruler of Mewar. He succeeded to the throne of his father in 1572. Chittor, the capital of Mewar had already been captured by the Mughals in 1568. Thus Rana was without a capital, without resources and his claim eclipsed by reverses yet he continued the fight for the honour of Mewar.
Akbar sent a series of missions to Rana Pratap to persuade him to accept Mughal suzerainty and to pay personal homage. Rana Pratap considered these conditions humiliating. Akbar sent a strong Mughal army under the command of Raja Man Singh and Asaf Khan to attack Mewar. Rana Pratap had a very small army of 3000 horse men. A ferocious battle took place at Haldighati on June 18, 1576. The charge of Rana was so fierce that the Mughal army felt desperate.
It was a hand-to-hand fight from morning till mid-day. Rana Pratap was at his best. The onslaught by the Rana’s army threw the Mughal forces into disarray. In the meanwhile with the fresh Mughal reinforcements the tide of the battle turned against the Rajput’s. Rana Pratap was hard pressed and encircled from all sides. Rana’s life was endangered. Seeing this Bida Jhala one Rajput noble decided to save the life of his leader. He thought of a plan and snatched away the crown from Rana’s head and put on his own head.
The Mughal army took Jhala as Rana and encircled him. This gave an opportunity to some of Rana’s followers to carry Rana to a safe place. The Rajputs were defeated. The Battle of Haldighati did not break Rana’s spirit. Far from making him give up resistance, it stiffened Rana’s attitude and gave him fresh confidence. On the contrary he took an oath, “So long as I do not recover Chittor, I shall sleep on the ground, shall eat out on leaves (not in utensils) and shall not turn my moustaches.” He observed the vow throughout his life.
Pratap spent nearly four years wandering about in the mountains and jungles of western Mewar and acquired intimate knowledge of every nook and corner of the territory. The brave stand of his troops against the most powerful monarch convinced him that he could continue his struggle. Thereafter he decided to change his war strategies. Henceforth he decided to adopt guerilla warfare.
On the other hand Akbar also exerted relentless pressure on the Rana. The Rana was hunted from forest to forest and from valley to valley. The Rana underwent great hardships but with the support of the Bhil chiefs, he continued his fight.
For about twenty five years, struggle went on between Rana Pratap and Akbar. Before his death in 1597, Rana Pratap managed to recover practically the whole of Mewar except Chittor. He built a new capital at Chaunar near Dungarpur.
Unfortunately Rana Pratap sustained some internal injury while trying to tie the string of a hard arrow and the great warrior died in 1597 at the age of 57 years. Maharana Pratap’s struggle for the independence of Mewar and his successful struggle against Akbar constitutes a glorious saga of Rajput valour and spirit of sacrifice.