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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

ACTUAL Struggle between Mughal - Rajput Forces - Course of War Before the Jauhar and Saka | Battle of Chittor Part-4 | With explained Portraits from Akbarnama

Hi All,

We have already gone through 3 articles in the Chittor Battle Series, & in the last article we read about the battles which happened BEFORE the main Battle of Chittor, i.e., the 'Saka' in February 1568. Mewar was a big state. We saw that, along with Chittor, which was the capital of Mewar, the other regions  which faced (simultaneous) attacks were - Mandalgarh, Udaipur, Kumbhalgarh, Rampur, Bijolia, etc.

Now that the detailed background of this war is clear, let's discuss one of the most awaited events in which almost all of you had expressed interest. Many of you wanted to know how this battle was ACTUALLY fought and how the two sides engaged in combat for 5 months before the ultimate 'annihilation'.

In the part-5 post, which will come later, i will discuss the events following the fall of the commander of Chittor - Jaimal and the consequent Jauhar and Saka conducted by the Rajput women and defenders of the Fort of Chittor.

In this post, i am giving a description of the course of the Battle of Chittor. This is part-4 in the series.This includes all the events BEFORE the Jauhar and Saka in Chittor. I have tried to be as brief as possible. In the end, 3 BIG portraits from Akbarnama have been posted with detailed explanations. It is important to read this post, to understand the cause of doing Jauhar and Saka by the Rajputs - which will come in next post..

Other Posts in this Series

Here are the links to the previous parts of the Chittor Battle Series. Please do read these before reading the present post.  

1. Why did Akbar attack Chittor ? | Part-1

2. Preparation of Rajputs - Battle of Chittor | Part-2

3. Battles BEFORE the Battle of Chittor - At Kumbhalgarh, Rampur, Udaipur, Mandalgarh | Part-3

5. Mughal Record of Jauhar of Rajput Women & Saka of Rajput Warriors at 3rd Siege of Chittor(1567-68) + Mughal Victory Followed by Massacre of Rajput Civilians | Battle of Chittor Part-5 | With Portraits from Akbarnama & personal pictures of Chittor Fort

6. DETAILED Rajput Record of Jauhar, Saka & Massacre of Rajputs at 3rd Siege of Chittor(1567-68) | Description of Rajput Warriors & OLD pictures of Chittor Fort | Battle of Chittor Part-6

7. Fatehnama-i-Chittor, Comparison & Pictures of Mughal-Rajput Weapons, Assessment of Akbar and Maharana Pratap, Old Portraits of Udaipur & Path for the Future Struggle of Mughals - Mewar | LONG Detailed Concluding Assessment..Last Post on Battle of Chittor Part 7

History of Jaimal and Patta | HEROes of the 3rd Siege of Chittor

Battle of Chittor - The Course of War

" No one ever saw such a battle, Nor ever heard of such from the experienced ones, What shall I say of this battle and engagement, I cannot mention one item out of a hundred thousand. "     ---- By Abu'l Fazl in Akbarnama describing the Battle of Chittor

Let's read the description of the course of the war by the court chroniclers of Mughal Emperor Akbar. My explanations are in purple. I have made this post easy to follow by suitable explanations.

I. In Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh: By Mulla Abu'l Qa'adir Badayuni 

Reference: "The Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh of Badayuni, Vol.-2, Page-103 (Ranking, Haig, Lowe, Calcutta,1925)"

=> The Emperor ordered Sabats & trenches to be constructed, & gradually brought it close to the walls of the fort of Chittor. A sabat is a structure which is covered on the top & from sides. The width of a Sabat was such that 10 horsemen could easily ride abreast in it & its height was so great that a man on an elephant with spear in hand could pass under it. 

Trench warfare is a form of land combat using occupied fighting lines consisting largely of areas dug in the earth, in which troops are significantly protected from the enemy's attack mainly from a fortified location and are substantially sheltered from their artillery.  

Many Mughal soldiers were killed by the musket & cannon balls of the Rajput defenders of Chittor. Their dead bodies were made use of, instead of bricks and stones, by embedding them into the walls of the Sabats.!

After a long time, the Sabats & trenches were brought up to the foot of the Chittor fort, and they undermined two towers which were close together, and filled the mines with gunpowder (baarud), in order to blast the walls of the Fort to secure entry of Mughal soldiers in it. A group of Mughal soldiers of well-known bravery, fully armed & accoutred, approached the towers & waited till the towers should fall & then they would enter the fortress.

But, by an accident, though the two mines were fired at one & the same moment, the fuse of one mine, which was shorter than the other took effect soon, and the fuse of the latter, which was longer, hung fire, so that one of the two towers of the Fort was blown up from its foundations and heaved into the air, and a great breach was made in the castle (Chittor Fort). 

Seeing the breach, the Mughal soldiers who were ready to enter the Chittor Fort, rushed towards the breach, forgetting that the second mine was still hung up due to it's long fuse. Meanwhile, Mughal soldiers engaged in a hand-to-hand struggle with the Rajput defenders & as this was going on, suddenly the second fuse went off and blew the other tower.

Badayuni says -> " The second fuse blew the other tower which was full, both of friends (Mughals) and foes (Rajputs), from its place and lifted it into the air. The soldiers of Islam (refers to Mughal soldiers) were buried under stones, some of 100 mann and some of 200 mann in weight, and the stony-hearted infidels (refers to Rajput soldiers) in similar manner flew about like 'moths in that flood of fire'. "  { 1 mann = 38 Kg approx. }

Those stones were blown as far as three or four koss { 1 koss = 3.2 Km approx. } , and a cry of horror arose from the people of Islam (referring to the Mughal army) and from the infidels (refering to the Rajput defenders) :—

    "This stream* flowed to Paradise, that** to Hell,
      Though the blood of Guebre and of an unbeliever both flowed in one place."

    "And a happy day was it for the vultures and crows
      (Glory to Him who multiplied food for his creatures!) "

The manner in which the above 4 lines have been composed by Badayuni are sufficient to describe that horror of the explosion. Soldiers and stones flying in air for as far as 10-15 kilometers.!! 
* -> Badayuni says death of Mughal soldiers leads them to heaven.
** -> Badayuni says death of Rajput soldiers leads them to hell.
Though, blood of both parties flows at the same place.!
At last, he talks of vultures in the sky circling the bodies of the dead soldiers.!


Nearly five hundred warriors, most of them personally known to the Emperor, were slain and attained martyrdom: and of the Hindus who can say how many! Night by night, the infidels, mustering up force, kept building up the wall of the fortress from the ruins of these towers. 

Among the people killed in the explosion, many were personally known to Akbar. Nearly 500 Mughal warriors were killed. And, the number of Rajputs killed can not be ascertained. Also, he mentions, every day, the breach which was made by the Mughal soldiers was built up by the Rajputs at night. 

After waiting for a considerable time, six months, more or less, at last on the night of Tuesday 25th of Shaban in the aforesaid year ( 22nd/23rd February 1568), the Imperial troops advancing from all sides made a breach in the wall of the fortress and stormed it. The fierce face of Jaimal became visible through the flashing of the fire of the cannon and guns, which was directed against the soldiers of Islam. 

Here, Badayuni talks of the night when the FINAL breach was made in the Chittor Fort and Mughal forces stormed into the fort from all sides. The same night, Jaimal was hit by a bullet from the musket of Akbar. The duration of the siege mentioned here is approximately 6 months.!!!


II. In Tabaqat-e-Akbari: By Nizam-ud-din Bakshi 

Reference: "The Tabaqat-e-Akbari of Nizam-ud-din Bakshi (excerpt from KCB, John, Vol.-5, Page-324/325, London, 1873)"

=>  The fort of Chittor is seated on a hill, which is about 1 koss in height (approx. 3.2 Km), and has no connection with any other hill. The length of the fortress is 3 koss (approx 10 kms), and the width half a koss (approx 1.6 kms). It contains plenty of running water. Under the Emperor's orders, the ground round the fort was portioned out among the different amirs.

A brief description of the Chittor Fort. Later, we are told that the Fort was divided among different officers who were then tasked with breaching the fort. 

When the siege of Chittor had been carried on for some time, the Emperor ordered the construction of sabats and the digging of mines. About 5000 builders, carpenters and stonemasons were collected and began their work of constructing sabats on two sides of the fort. 

This description is similar to that of Badayuni's. Note that 5000 people were collected to construct the Sabats and mines.  

A sabat is a kind of wall which is begun at musket-shot distance (from the fort), and under the shelter of its planks, strongly fastened together and covered with raw hides (skin of animals / used as leather), a kind of way is conducted to the fortress. The Fort's walls are then battered from the Sabats with guns and, a breach being made, the brave assailants rush into the fort. 

While the Sabat was in course of construction, the Rajput garrison kept up such a fire of guns and muskets that hundreds of men were killed daily, although they covered themselves with shields of bull-hide. Corpses of the killed men were used in the walls of the sabats like bricks. Despite resistance from the Rajput garrison, the sabat was completed, and carried close to the fort.

The miners also carried their mines to the foot of the walls and having constructed mines under two bastions which were near together, they filled them with gunpowder. A party of men of well-known bravery, fully armed and accoutred, approached the bastions, ready to rush into the fort as soon as a breach was made by the explosion of the mines. Fire was applied to both mines at the same time, but the match of one was shorter than the other, and that made the explosion first. The bastion was blown into the air, and a large breach was effected. The Mughal storming party at once rushed to the breach and were about to enter when the second mine exploded and the bastion was blown up. Friends and foes, who were contending in the breach, were hurled into the air together, and those also on whom the stones fell perished.

This was also mentioned in Badayuni's account. 

It is notorious that stones of 200 manns were carried to a distance of three or four koss from the walls and bodies of men who had been burnt were found. A great number of the Emperor's attendants were slain and nearly 500 picked soldiers were killed by blows from the stones. A large number of the infidels also perished.

The amount of gunpowder used to create the breach in the Fort through mines must have been huge, as the blast was powerful enough to hurl dead bodies of men and stones weighing 200 manns to a distance of ~13 Kms from the site of the explosion.!!!.  Abul Fazl (see below in 3rd point) says that more than 7500 kilograms of gunpowder was used to blow away the walls of Chittor Fort.!!!.

After this disaster, the pride of the Emperor be­came still more intent upon the reduction of the fort of Chittor. A
sabat which had been laid down in the battery of Shuja'at Khan was now completed. On the night of Tuesday, 25th Sha'ban, 975 Hijri ( 22nd/23rd February 1568), the Imperial forces assembled from all sides, launching continuous assaults and the walls being breached, a grand struggle began with the Rajputs

After the explosion, Akbar became even more intent on reducing the Fort of Chittor. Finally, in February 1568, after months of continuous fighting, the walls of the Fort were breached and then began a "grand struggle".

Jaimal, commander of the fortress, came into the breach to encourage his men. The Em­peror was seated in a gallery, which had been erected for him on the sabat, and he had a musket in his hand. The face of Jaimal was discernible by the light which was cast upon the spot by the fire of the guns and muskets.

The Rajput commander Jaimal Rathore came to encourage his men to fill the breach. Akbar was seated on the Sabat with his musket in his hand. It is said that from the same musket he fired a shot which hit Jaimal.

III. In Akbarnama : By Abu'l Fazl 

Reference: "The Akbarnama of Abu'l Fazl, Vol.-2, Page-462 onward (Beveridge, Sr-910, ASB, Calcutta,1907)"

 This is a DETAILED account of the war and very informative. Abu'l Fazl's account looked quite hostile towards the Rajput defenders of Chittor, which was a surprise for me.

=> As His Majesty (the Mughal Emperor) was very desirous of taking this fort of Chittor, which was famous for its height and strength, the gallant spirits of the army were continually rushing upon it and daringly attacking it. Thus acted Khan Aalam and Adil Khan. But as terrestrials cannot reach celestials, so these efforts were abortive. H.M. was very solicitous about this and was continually forbidding those intrepid men and saying that such mode of attack should not be called courageous. Rather it was to be called rashness which the wise regarded as remote from moderation, and as blamable. But those men were overcome by rashness and did not give ear to these wise counsels and were continually rushing to the ambit of the fort, with the result that many had the cheek of their courage stained with red wounds. Many also drank the wholesome cup of martyrdom, for the arrows and bullets which those rank-breakers (Mughal soldiers) discharged passed off after grazing the surface of the walls and battlements, while those which the ill-fated garrison discharged reached men and horses. 

Abu'l Fazl tells us that Akbar was desirous of taking this fort known for its strength. He also says that Adil Khan, Khan Aalam and others attacked the fort in order to take it by force but were unsuccessful and many Mughal soldiers died in these reckless forays. Later, Akbar decided to wait and continuously forbade his men from launching frontal attacks. Still his men did not listen and attacked the fort. These actions did not yield any fruit and they were repelled from the Fort by the defenders.

Accordingly an order was issued that proper spots should be selected and that there the walls and bastions of the fort should be mined, and that then these mines should be filled with gunpowder and set on fire. When the walls and bastions had thus been destroyed, brave men could enter. 

Also that at one place a covered way (sabat) should be made. The servants of the Court girded up their loins of effort for these two works. Though there were many batteries, for the holy warriors ( fighters in 'Jehad' / slayer of infidels) had made various shelters and enclosures for their protection all round the fort, there were three principal batteries. 

The first battery was the Shahinshah's special battery and was opposite the Lakhauta Gate (one of the entrance doors to the Fort of Chittor). It was here that the miners worked.

It was under the charge of 
- Hasan Khan Chaghatai, 
- Pattar Das, 
- Qazi Ali Baghdadi, 
- Ikhtiyar Khan Faujdar, and 
- Kabir Khan;  

The second battery was under the charge of 
- Shuja'at Khan, 
- Raja Todar Mal, 
- Qasim Khan Mir Barr-u-Bahr.  

The Mughals in this battery constructed, during the height of the rains, a covered way(Sabats) of the length of a bow shot, from the middle of the hill to the summit where the fort was situated. 

The third battery was under the charge of 
- Khwaja Abdul Majid Asaf Khan, and 
- Wazir Khan, and many other noted heroes. 


A battery is a unit of guns, mortars, 'rockets', etc.  so grouped in order to facilitate better artillery firing as well as to provide dispersion for the constituent gunnery crews and their systems. See the image below, for representational purpose.

As to send for large mortars from the magazines would cause great delay, a large mortar (see the above pic) which could throw a ball of half a mann was cast in the Emperor's presence. 


A magazine is a place to store artillery ammunition. Since it would have taken time to send for the large mortars from Agra, a mortar that could throw a ball weighing half a mann was cast then and there only.

I found the following paragraph of Abu'l Fazl quite hostile towards the defenders of Chittor. I have marked some words in bold.

When the Rajput garrison became aware of this fact, which never had entered into their ideas, the smoke of astonishment suffused "their obfuscated brains", and they recognised that the foundation of their destruction had been laid, and that there would be daily progress to this 'consummation'

As they were helpless, they had recourse to craft and sent Sanda Silahdar and Sahib Khan and made use of entreaties and lamentations. They offered to enroll themselves among the subjects of the sublime court and to send a yearly present. 

Several of the (Mughal) officers approved of this offer to the Emperor and made representations to this effect to the Emperor. They (the Mughal officers) advised that in accordance with this agreement they should withdraw from this difficult task (of capturing the fort), but the Emperor did not accept this view and made the coming in of the Rana personally a condition of release from the siege

This offer has not been mentioned in any other record apart from Abu'l Fazl's. Neither Badayuni nor Nizam-ud-din Ahmed has mentioned this offer. Whatever be the truth, Abu'l Fazl says that, despite requests of all the Mughal officers to abandon the siege of Chittor, the "sovereign majesty" did not agree with the demand. 

Rajput tradition maintains that Emperor Akbar was adamant about the personal surrender of Ranas of Mewar at his feet.

Although the great officers were brought into straits by the long contest and endeavoured to get away from the dangerous place, they were not successful; and as the defenders did not know the bliss of service, they assembled on the walls and bastions and waged hot war

Mughal soldiers were exhausted by the long siege and wanted to abandon it and get away from this 'dangerous' place. The defenders, in contrast, waged a "hot war".

There were many dexterous artillerymen among them and they continually showered balls on the trenchers and other workmen. The latter protected themselves by shields of raw hides and laboured hard at making the covered way. But, in spite of all precautions nearly 200 men were killed daily. Day by day the sabat was pushed forward, and the mines advanced. The coin of presents was poured into the lap of the workmen's hopes, and silver and gold were reckoned at the rate of earth. 

There were many skilled artillerymen present on the side of the Rajputs. These were the Afghans soldiers, who were GREAT supporters of Maharana Pratap. In the battle of Haldighati, Hakim Khan Suri, an Afghani Pathan and a loyal friend of Maharana Pratap, fought shoulder to shoulder with him against the Mughal forces.

Many Mughal soldiers present in the trenches were killed daily by the Rajputs. But the skirmish and the construction of the Sabats was continued by paying the workers large amounts of gold and silver.

On two sides the workers produced a broad, mud wall (Sabats) such that (canon) balls could not penetrate it, and it was sinuous in shape as being for the destruction of those viperous and scorpion-like natures. {A hostile reference made to the Rajput defenders

The miners also drove their mines and brought them up to the foot of the fort. They made two excavations contiguous to each other under the wall of the fort and in one they put 120 manns and, in the other, 80 manns of gunpowder.

120 manns (equal to 4560 Kilograms)  and 80 manns (equal to 3040 Kilograms) of gunpowder (barud) were placed under 2 fort walls respectively to blow them away..!!!!. This amounts to more than 7500 Kilograms of gunpowder..!!!.

An order was given that the brave and enterprising should stand armed, and in readiness, and be on the watch so that when the mines were fired and the wall broken down, they should rapidly take possession of the fort. 

Mughal soldiers were instructed to be ready and enter the fort as soon as the walls were breached.

Depicts sappers laying mines during the siege of the fortress of Chitor in 1567. Mughal sappers are shown preparing covered paths called Sabats to enable the Mughal army to approach the fort of Chittor, while their opponents fiercely defend themselves by firing the muskets. On top left, ladies of the fort can be seen, watching the proceedings carefully. On the right of the painting, 3 Mughal canons with wheels can be seen firing on the fort, the smoke is clearly visible after the cannon balls cause destruction in the fort. These cannons have been placed on the hill - Chituri, details of which are present below. Copyright : V & A Museum

On the day of 17 December 1567, the gunpowder was set fire to. The bastion was pulled up from its foundation and sprung into the air with all the ill-fated soldiers who were on it. 

The match of the second excavation had not taken fire when the assailants, seeing that the wall had been demolished, rushed on heedlessly to the breach in order to enter by it. All at once the second mine exploded, and the troops who were entering, and also a body of their opponents who were preparing to prevent them, were involved in the catastrophe and their souls severed from their bodies by the fierce storm

This is the same explosion which we read about in the earlier two accounts, wherein many soldiers died.

Their limbs were blown here and there, and stones were carried for leagues. The report (sound) of the explosion extended to fifty kos and more (more than 160 kilometres!!!!), and astonished those who heard it

The noise of this explosion was heard as far as 160 kilometres.!!! Given the amount of gunpowder used = 7500 Kilograms +  , this measurement appears true.!!

Nearly 200 of the victorious troops ascended to heaven and among them there were about 100 men of note. About twenty of the latter were known to the king and among them were:

- Saiyid Jamal-ud-din, son of Saiyid Ahmad, who was distinguished by H.M.'s favour, 
- Mirak Bahadur, 
- Muham­mad Salh, son of Mirak Khan Kulabi, who was in his early youth a fiery spark of valour, 
- Hayat Sultan, 
- Shah Ali Ishak Aqa, 
- Yezdan Quli, 
- M. Biluc, 
- Jan Beg and Yar Beg
- brothers of Sher Beg Yesawal-Bashi and Mirak Bahadur. 

A number of about forty who were, as they thought, protected in the defiles of the mountain and were waiting their opportunity, were overwhelmed by earth and bricks from the fort. 

Some Mughal soldiers were present in the nearby hills, waiting for orders to fire on the Rajput defenders. But, they were also killed in this explosion, such was the impact. 

Actually, near the Fort of Chittor, is a small hill called 'Chituri'. Since, the fort of Chittor was situated on a height, Mughal soldiers went to this hill in order to nullify the height advantage of Rajputs and attacked from there too. A well thought out plan.

Of the enemy (Rajputs), about forty were consumed by the wrath of God and sent to the abode of annihilation. When the catastrophe became known to the other (Mughal) combatants they advanced and engaged in battle. Their opponents (Rajputs) sacrificed their lives in one place, and in the other exerted themselves in raising up a wall, till in a short time they succeeded in building another broad wall as high as the former one. 

The battle continued despite the explosion at night. Rajputs managed to re-build a wall as high as the one which was breached in the explosion.

Illustration from Akbarnama of an incident when a mine exploded during the Mughal attack on the Rajput Fort of Chittor (Chittaurgarh) on 17th December 1567, killing many of the besieging Mughal forces. Top left - horses and soldiers can be seen flying in the air after the explosion. On top right - Rajput women in the Fort can be seen - the attendants are giving them the news of this explosion. On the center right, Rajput defenders can be seen holding swords in their hands, some are ready to shoot arrows, some are waving the saffron-yellow flag of Mewar in their hands. Bottom left - Attendants of Emperor Akbar can be seen giving him this news, behind him is his servant taking holding the royal tuman-togh in his service. Copyright : V & A Museum.

On the same day a mine was exploded in the battery of Asaf Khan, but it did not take fire properly. About thirty of the garrison were killed, but, though no injury was sustained by the imperial army, the progress of the siege was not advanced. 

The genius of the sovereign (Akbar) recognised the catastrophe as a cause of increased exer­tion on the 'doomed garrison' (defenders of Rajput camp), and strove more and more.

The writer has bestowed high praise on the Mughal Emperor and used demeaning phrases for the defending Rajput camp. I found Badayuni and Nizam-ud-din more neutral in their description of the battle. While it is natural to praise the Mughal Emperor, it is immature on the part of the historical chronicler to use demeaning phrases for the "defending enemy". This is something which one seldom finds in the writing of Abu'l Fazl.

Though some of the assailants had been slain, the devotion of the others increased, and though the garrison showed exultation, the Shahinshah was tranquil, for he knew that there had been a want of plan and gradual progress in regard to the siege, and he pointed out to the eager spirits that haste was not effective in matters of this kind. Patience and planning were necessary. For first, there was the strength of the position, secondly there was the strength of the fortifications, and thirdly there was the large supply of provisions and the number of fighting men. His mind fixed upon the completion of the Sabats, which was the best mode of capturing the fort, and he devoted himself more and more to this work. He frequently visited the sabat and went close to the fort and used to fire at those of the garrison who showed themselves. 

One day the Shahinshah came near the Lakhauta gate battery where the 'holy warriors' were engaged in prosecuting the siege under the protection of the wall. The men who were in this battery were admiring the skill and rare failure of one of the musketeers of the Chittor fort who had injured many of the ghazis. Abu'l Fazl says that the name of this seasoned musketeer was Ismail and he was shot dead by Akbar himself.

One day the Shahinshah came to the battery towards Chituri hill, which is a little hill near the Chittor fort, and was superintending the work. He was going slowly along at a place where many bullets and cannon-balls were coming. Suddenly a large cannon-ball fell near him and martyred twenty of the brave combatants, but by divine aid Shahinshah was unharmed. 

On another day a bullet struck Khan Aalam, who was standing near the King; it passed through his cuirass but when it came to his under-garments it was, by the Divine favour, cooled by his sweat. This too increased the confidence of the leaders of the holy war. One day a bullet struck Mozaffar Khan, but eventually did no harm. 

Abu'l Fazl says that these incidents were a proof that the divine help was on the side of the "Ghazis / Holy Warriors" fighting the "Holy War / Jehad" against the infidels of Chittor. The complete description by Fazl can be read in Akbarnama. 

A farman of Mughal Emperor Akbar issued after the war, which will posted in coming posts, indicates that the Mughal army was fighting the battle to propagate the cause of Islam, under the banner of Jehad against the infidels of Chittor - a case of invoking religion to attain political ends.

The work of the construction of sabats was accomplished under the supervi­sion of Raja Todar Mal and Qasim Khan Mir Barr-u-Bahr. Excellent quarters were constructed on the top of the sabat, and the Shahinshah stayed in them for two nights and one day before the work was completed, and directed the operations. 

The (Mughal) combatants strung up their hearts to the taking of the fort from all sides and destroyed its walls. The besieged Rajputs also displayed admirable bravery. 

His Majesty personally put his heart into the conflict and kept up a fusillade. He took up a place on the sabat and watched the spectacle of the brave-hearted defenders (Rajputs) and of the chain-breaking tigers (Mughals). During these two nights and a day those gallant men so engaged in conflict that they took neither sleep nor food. The strength of both the combating sides was exhausted, but none stopped fighting.

At length on the morning of 23 (or 24) February 1568, that sky-based fortress was conquered. The account of this glorious event is that on the previous night, the fort was attacked from all sides, and several breaches were made in its walls. There were manifest indications that the fortress was ruined. Near the sabat, brave men of the conquering (Mughal) army had pressed forward and had destroyed much of the solid wall of the fort

Half of the night had passed when the Rajput garrison crowded into the breach and, while part of them gave them­selves up to destruction, the other brought muslin, cotton, wood and oil and were filling up the breach so that when the ghazis should approach they should set fire to the heap and prevent anyone from entering into the fort. 

The Rajputs tried their best to repair the fort walls, though they were attacked from all sides.

At this time His Majesty perceived that a person clothed in a cuirass known as the hazar mikhi (thousand nails), which is a mark of chieftainship among them, came to the breach and superintended the proceedings. It was not known who he was. His Majesty took his gun named 'Sangram', which is one of the special guns, and aimed it at him. 

Mughal Emperor Akbar shoots Jaimal - Rajput commander of the Fort of Chittor from his matchlock called Sangram.

The left side depicts the Fort of Chittor. The muskets can be seen aiming at the Mughals entering in the Fort. Rajput defenders are trying their best to stop the Mughal army from entering the Fort with their spears as seen in the picture. While Mughals are forcing their way in large numbers in the Fort, along with armoured elephants.

The right side depicts the Sabat of the Mughal camp. On top most storey Akbar can be seen with a matchlock in his hand. Mughal soldiers are also firing from the muskets from inside the Sabats as can be seen.

Mughal army succeeded in approaching the ramparts by constructing covered defences called Sabats. As Akbar was surveying the battle from his apartments constructed on the top of Sabats, he took aim with his gun at a figure in the Rajput Fort whose studded blue coat indicated that he was a leading enemy soldier. The shot hit the target, who was discovered to be the Rajput hero Jaimal Rathore.

The covered lines of attack built by the Mughals allowed the army, including armoured elephants (centre left) to approach the walls of the fortress (shown in upper left). Akbar is shown on top right, holding the gun called Sangram with which he has just shot a figure in a studded coat. Jaimal, the general of the enemy army, in blue colored clothes and white beard can be seen in the arms of his soldiers on the top left, in an injured position.
Copyright : V & A Museum.



From all the accounts, it can be seen that the battle of Chittor was long and hard. Both the sides fought with a single-minded determination to win the battle at any cost.

For the Rajputs, it was a do-or-die battle to save the fort and the honor/independence of Mewar.

For the Mughals, it was both a Jehad  as well as an opportunity to capture the entire Rajputana and bring it under Mughal sovereignty. This is a well-known instance where Emperor Akbar proclaimed himself a ghazi and asked his army to fight the "infidels" for victory of Islam. A shockingly bitter farman of Emperor Akbar after he emerged victorious in the battle will be posted later in this series.

Abu'l Fazl noted in the Akbarnama that a battle like that of Chittor was never seen by him or any of the experienced fighters in their lifetime. He writes ->" No one ever saw such a battle, Nor ever heard of such from the experienced ones, What shall I say of this battle and engagement, I cannot mention one item out of a hundred thousand. "     

While most wars in those days lasted a few days, some even just a few hours, this was one of those rare, long-drawn sieges which was fought as much in the mind as on the field. Emperor Akbar is known to this day for being a brilliant strategist in warfare.

The Emperor was adept at playing mind games with the Rajput defenders of the fort, waiting for a chance to make the defenders blink first. The supplies to the fort were cut off and a constant psychological pressure was maintained on the Rajputs in the fort.  Emperor Akbar was willing to wait patiently and accept heavy casualties, while his army slowly fortified batteries, sabats, mines and trenches around the fort. He well could do this because he had unlimited men, money and weapons at his disposal. Just how cold-blooded he could be in times of war can be gauged from the fact that he even used the bodies of his own soldiers in building the walls of the sabats, in place of bricks.

Encircled though they were by the mightiest army of the land at that time, the Rajputs did not flinch till the end. They might have recognised the strength of the Mughals but it never showed in the valour with which they fought. They managed to kill hundreds of Mughal soldiers every day through their artillery and arrows. It can be seen in the accounts given in this post how even the Mughals stopped to wonder at the rare occasion when a defender of the fort missed his mark. 

Such was the stiff resistance the defenders offered to the initial Mughal frontal attacks that the Emperor had to change tack and forbid frontal attacks.  He was forced to wait for nearly six months, as per Mughal chronicles, before his army could enter the fort. This shows the impregnability of the fort and the courage and fighting spirit of the defenders. It also highlights how just a few Rajput commanders - Jaimal Rathore, Patta Sisodia Chundawat, Isar Das Chauhan & Kalyan Singh Rathore(or, Kalla - nephew of Jaimal Rathore) - were able to match Emperor Akbar's strategies and tactics..

The Mughal army had to resort to extremely heavy use of gunpowder to breach the fort walls in the end (more than 7500 kg on a single occasion). The Rajputs not only managed to fend off the attacks for as long as they could but also kept repairing breaches in the fort walls almost immediately. Their efforts exhausted the Mughal soldiers so much that many of them wanted to leave the battle and go home (as per Fazl). It was the "religious fervour" of the Jehad and the lure of gold and silver that kept them going.

If, at last, the fort of Chittor was taken over by the Mughals, it was not due to lack of spirit shown by the fort's defenders.  A force of 5000-8000 Rajputs maintained the fort's defences and fought the much larger Mughal army, estimated at more than 60,000 by most liberal estimates, in addition to the 5000+ workers constructing the Sabats and mines, for six months, depending only upon the resources already present in the fort!!! Estimates vary as far as 85,000 Mughal soldiers.

Never in his lifetime did Emperor Akbar face such a long and stiff resistance from any other enemy.

In some ways, the victory of the Mughals was bittersweet. The Fort had to be destroyed in order to be taken over. It also marked the lowest point in Emperor Akbar's reign, which, to this day, remains a question mark on the noble and secular character of the Emperor,  mixing as he did "religion with polity" and unleashing the most brutal form of "religio-political suppression" to be explained in coming posts {From Mughal references}.

These were some of the points which need careful evaluation.

In Next Post:
The courage of defenders managed to find mention even in the chronicles of the victorious Mughals, though it was sometimes dressed in some "bitter words".  In the next post, we will see the culmination of the battle wherein thousands of Rajput women committed Jauhar and the Rajput men committed Saka by fighting till death, as well as the destruction in the fort and the brutal massacre of tens of thousands of unarmed Rajput civilians in the fort by the victorious Mughal army in the name of Jehad. This stigma has not left the otherwise noble name of Mughal Emperor Akbar even to this day.!

Thanks to Radhika for sharing her inputs, from her readings.
This article has been posted under the Rajputs and Mughals (Akbar) section of history_geek's BLOG.

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