Who was Maharana Pratap and what does history say about the Battle of Haldighati?

Historians believe the battle ended on an indecisive note and Maharana Pratap retreated into the hills.

After Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Padmavati’, it’s now the truth behind the Battle of Haldighati that has hit headlines. Now, you must wonder how a battle between Maharana Pratap’s army and Akbar’s forces fought way back in the 16th century is back in news. To set your doubts to rest, three ministers of the Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan reportedly came together to demand history books declare Maharana as the winner of this battle.

The series of events which led to this whole controversy are as follows. BJP MLA Mohan Lal Gupta started it off last week with his suggestion that history books be rewritten to protray Maharana Pratap as the winner of the battle. Former Minister for Higher Education and present Health Minister Kalicharan Saraf and School Education Minister Vasudev Devnani backed the proposal and were soon joined by Urban Development and Housing Minister Rajpal Singh Shekhawat. Now that you know what led to this chaos, we shall help you through the facts of the battle as cited in several reliable texts on history written by scholars on the subject.

In this battle fought in 1576, Akbar’s forces were led by the famous Man Singh 1 and among Pratap’s main commanders were Gwalior’s Ram Singh Tanvar and Mansingh Rawat. The Afghans in Pratp’s army were led by Hakim Khan Sur. If you notice carefully, this was one of the earliest examples of Hindu-Muslim unity and how armies did not seem to be bothered much with religious identity.

While there is some confusion among historians regarding Pratap’s army’s strength in numbers, most seem to agree Akbar’s army had 40,000 soldiers. There is also general agreement between historians about how Maharana’s army had less than half the number of people as Akbar’s.

As long as the war being fought in a traditional manner, the Rajputs were at an advantage but things changed with rumours of Akbar himself getting involved in the battle. The Rajput army, historians believe, retracted into the hills even though they had crippled the Mughal army. Thereafter, the Mughal army followed them into the hills but decided not to follow the Rajput army into the hills probably due to fear of ambush and the heat.

Not one to give up, Akbar decided to follow up this battle with Maharana Pratap. Man Singh captured Gogunda during the battle, only to have it recaptured by Pratap who made it his temporary capital. In continuation of the stalemate, Gogunda, Udaipur and Kumbhalgarh were occupied by the Mughals and Maharana retreated further into the hills.

As is clear by all of this, the battle ended on as indecisive a note as possible and it’s unclear who won. Prominent historian Satish Chandra puts it aptly when he says this battle could barele be considered a battle between Hindus and Muslims. He also says this was not an assertion of Rajput power over the Mughals but more about local independence. Who does not know every ruler wanted to keep his provinces to himself, right?

Higher Education Minster Kalicharan Saraf has said that Akbar was a foreign invader and Maharana clearly won the battle. While sentiments have always differed from history, it remains a fact that facts cannot be changed. Even though Akbar did come in from outside the country, he was anything but an invader. He did not ravage the country or strip it of all its gems and jewels and take off, unlike Mahmud of Ghazni’s attack on the Somnath temple.

It is common knowledge that Maharana Pratap was known for his valour and as Satish Chandra writes,
Rana Pratap’s defiance of the mighty Mughal empire, almost alone and unaided by the other Rajput states, constitute a glorious saga of Rajput valour and the spirit of self sacrifice for cherished principles.

This however does not mean Maharana Pratap won ever battle and that Akbar was the absolute villain India did not need. Whether the change indeed takes place or not in history books remains to be seen, but history so far agrees that the Battle of Haldighati failed to end the stalemate and remained indecisive.