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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Calm Before the Storm - Efforts for Peace Between Akbar & Maharana Pratap | Prelude - Battle of Haldighati | Part-I

Imperialism and Independence were the two attributes - of which Mughal Emperor Akbar & Mewar Kesri MahaRana Pratap were strong pillars. A clash between them was inevitable.

We all know about the historic rivalry between Mughal Emperor Akbar and the Rajput King Maharana Pratap of Mewar. The Battle of Haldighati is perhaps the most famous battle that Maharana Pratap fought against the Mughal forces led by Raja Man Singh. (It is a known fact that Akbar and Maharana Pratap never came face-to-face on the battlefield. One reason for this may be that Akbar rarely ever led the Mughal forces himself.) The other reason why this battle is famous is because, of all the full - fledged wars fought by Akbar's forces, Haldighati was the only one where the Mughals suffered serious reverses and it became evident that they had chinks in their armour and were not invincible.

The outcome of the battle of Haldighati was indecisive. Both parties claimed victory in their accounts but none had the strength to pursue and vanquish the other immediately after the fierce assault, as we will see in the succeeding articles on the Haldighati battle. The Rajputs retreated and so did the Mughals, fearing a surprise retaliatory attack from the Rajputs in tandem with the Bhils of Mewar hills. From Akbar's perspective, this war was a failure, as he could not achieve his objective of eliminating Maharana Pratap despite fielding a carefully selected and well-chosen unit of his army under his best and highly celebrated general Raja Man Singh of Amer.

This article marks the beginning of the series of articles, which will talk about the Battle of Haldighati, just like a detailed series was posted regarding the Battle of Chittor. 2 other articles, 
related to Haldighati, have been previously posted on this blog. Their links are :

1. Rare Stone Inscription about the Battle of Haldighati Discovered near Udaipur this year
2. Chetak and Maharana Pratap | Eternal Legend ~ An Unforgettable Tale | With Pictures from Haldighati Museum

What is relatively little known is that prior to the Haldighati battle, Akbar tried to win over Maharana Pratap by sending proposals for treaties 4 times through his closest confidantes! Whether he was really trying for peace, was trying to subjugate Mewar easily, or was trying to prove that Pratap was an obstinate man not in favour of peace, is a matter of debate. The Mughals had much to gain by reaching a peaceful agreement with the Mewar Rajputs, as they had reasons to believe that once Pratap crossed over to the side of the Mughals, other kingdoms that had been dithering so far, would follow suit too. The Mewari submission would imply the superiority of the Mughal forces and the Rajputs' inability to stand upto the Mughals. There are some historians who believe that Akbar was trying to establish a unified Hindustan and that Pratap was an impediment to this process. But the notion of a unified Hindustan may be quite modern and,  in my opinion, Akbar may simply have been trying to establish the Mughal empire over as large an area of Hindustan as possible and this cannot be compared with the idea of a modern nation-state.

The memorable scene from the Battle of Haldighati - Maharana Pratap on his horse Chetak charges against Raja Man Singh who is seated on an elephant. 
The full-size picture is present at the end of this article.
The Rajputs of Mewar, on the contrary, were so embittered by Akbar's carnage in Chittor (1567-68) that the idea of any kind of pact with the Mughals was anathema to them. {Refer to the blog series on the Battle of Chittor for complete details.} Moreover, the pre-condition of a "personal homage" to the Mughal Emperor was not acceptable to them. They fully believed that what Akbar had unleashed in Chittor was merely a prelude to the extent to which he could go if he laid his hands on Mewar.

You all are invited to share your opinion about this issue as well as other views about the article.

This article presents an overview of all the 4 attempts made by Akbar to reach an agreement with Maharana Pratap, after the latter ascended the throne of Mewar (1572) and before the battle of Haldighati (1576) was fought. History shows that all these embassies of Akbar were received with due regard by the Maharana but none could bring the desired result of a long-lasting truce between the two rivals.

The Mughal-Rajput 'Peace' Talks

1. Through Jalal Khan Qurchi (September - November, 1572):

Within 6 months of Maharana Pratap becoming the ruler of Mewar, Akbar sent a treaty through Jalal Khan, a clever and trusted courtier, in September 1572. The talks went on till November 1572, but the Mughal team had to return disappointed.

First attempt at establishing 'peace' between Akbar and Pratap by sending Jalal Khan Qurchi to the Maharana's court in 1572

It should be noted that when this embassy reached the Maharana's court, Akbar was close by, in Ahmedabad, Gujarat - undertaking a campaign against the rulers of that place. This embassy may, therefore, have been a tactical plan of Akbar to ensure a safe and shorter passage for Mughal forces back to Agra, via Rajputana including Mewar. 

Another reason for sending the embassy may have been to showcase Akbar's might and unquestioned strength and provide a subtle warning to the newly crowned Pratap to buckle under or face the consequences. There was an underlying hint in the proposal that if he did not fall in with the wishes of the Mughal emperor, he may be dethroned and Prince Jagmaal, his step-brother, may be installed in his place. Jagmaal, at this point, had the support of Akbar. Under these circumstances, the credibility of Akbar's desire to establish genuine peace with Mewar is debatable.

Jalal Khan Qurchi is described as "an unrivalled and an intimate courtier of Mughal Emperor Akbar" by Shah Nawaz. Qurchi was the one who introduced Badayuni to Akbar's court and was Badayuni's patron. He was also deputed to bring Tansen to the Mughal court in 1562-63. (Akbarnama, Beveridge, Vol-II, Pg-279/280). Jalal Khan met his end in November 1575. He was slain in a skirmish while attempting to capture Rao Chandrasen Rathore of Marwar, on Akbar's orders. Rao Chandrasen had aligned with Maharana Pratap against Akbar. (Akbarnama, Persian, Vol-III, Pg-159)

2. Through Raja Man Singh of Amer (June 1573):

This was a clever diplomatic plan of Akbar. After the failure of the first embassy, Akbar now sent a treaty through Raja Man Singh, hoping that Pratap would listen to a fellow Rajput. This was a well thought out action. If this embassy also failed then, this would be treated as an insult to Raja Man Singh and cause a split among the Rajputs, which would have been a satisfactory fallout for Akbar.

Akbar was sure that Pratap would never accept his offer, considering the carnage at Chittor and the conditions under which Akbar wanted a 'peace' treaty with him. Some scholars believe that these embassies were simply Akbar's attempts to show Pratap as an obstinate person who was against truce while he was trying his best to advocate peace.

By Jodha Bai, we mean Mariam-Uz-Zamani / Harka Bai / Heer Kunwari / Heer Bai. She was also a distant relative of Maharana Pratap and he considered her his sister.

Raja Man Singh met Pratap in Udaipur in June 1573, soon after his victory in Sholapur. Even though the samant of Salumbar asked Pratap not to meet Man Singh, Pratap met him in an atmosphere of goodwill. Pratap treated Man Singh as a guest in his palace and paid him due respect, as per Rajput customs. However, Pratap refused to accept subjugation to the Mughals or Akbar as his sovereign and pay a visit to the court at Agra. Raja Man Singh also had to return empty-handed. (Akbarnama, Beveridge, Vol-III, Pg-87 ; Iqbalnama-i-Jahangiri, Persian, Vol-II, Pg-262)

Mewar accounts state that Raja Man Singh kept an exceedingly large force at Ajmer when he came to meet Pratap, as a show of strength.

Raja Man Singh was received with respect. But all his attempts to make Pratap pay homage to Akbar at Agra and accept Mughal suzerainty failed. 

There are a number of myths associated with the meeting between Maharana Pratap and Raja Man Singh, such as the story that Pratap refused to eat with Man Singh. Abu'l Fazl has also given an interesting version of the meeting, which is dismissed by most historians as a 'figment of imagination to suit the imperial prestige'. These legends will be discussed in a separate article.

There is also a myth that Akbar deputed his eldest son - Prince Salim, against Maharana Pratap in the Battle of Haldighati, which is also dismissed by historians. Salim was just under 7 years when the battle of Haldighati took place and was too young to be sent to the battlefield. 

3. Through Raja Bhagwan Das of Amer (September-October, 1573) :

Raja Man Singh's father and 
Akbar's brother-in-law, Raja Bhagwan Das met Pratap in September - October, 1573, after Akbar's victory in Ahmedabad. To show his strength to Pratap, Raja Bhagwan Das conquered Badnagar, Rawalia, etc. on his way. 

The two Rajput warriors met in Gogunda but again Pratap refused to accept the Mughal proposal and to accompany him to the Mughal court.

Raja Bhagwan Das was well received by Maharana Pratap. Like his son - Raja Man Singh, Bhagwan Das also took a huge force while coming for a 'peace' treaty.

Raja Bhagwan Das had brought Raja Narain Das of Idhar under Mughal suzerainty before coming to meet the Maharana. He had also captured the zamindar of a nearby area. These actions were a show of "power" to the Maharana.
Despite a cordial meeting with Raja Bhagwan Das, as per protocol, Pratap didn't agree to accompany him to the Mughal court at Agra to pay homage to Akbar.

4. Through Raja Todar Mal (December 1573):

Akbar sent the 4th and last treaty proposal through Raja Todar Mal in December 1573. Todar Mal was an able commander and a clever politician and Akbar had full faith in his abilities to bring Pratap under Mughal control. But Pratap was an equally clever politician and refused to fall in with the wishes of Akbar.

The 4th attempt of Akbar at persuading Pratap through Raja Todarmal also failed. Raja Todarmal was received respectfully, but Pratap did not agree to become a Mughal vassal or pay personal homage to Akbar at Agra.

Abu'l Fazl stated in the Akbarnama that the Maharana was servile to Raja TodarMal. This version is dismissed by almost all historians as an "imperial compulsion" of Fazl. Had this been true then there was no reason why Pratap refused to go to Agra and why the battle of Haldighati took place.


Possible Reasons Behind Akbar's Attempts at Truce with Mewar

The question that arises is why did Akbar keep sending his most trusted nobles to Pratap, despite the latter's clear stand on the matter ?  

Akbar was a master politician. Some historians believe that these missions were merely a ruse to create the image of a peaceful ruler who was being stubbornly opposed by Pratap. The biggest hurdle in this 'peace' settlement was Akbar's condition of Pratap's personal submission to him in the Mughal court at Agra. This was not acceptable under any circumstances to the Maharana.   

Equally revolting to Pratap was the idea of entering into a matrimonial alliance with the ruling Mughal family. Before the battle of Chittor, a proposal for matrimonial alliance between the Mughals and Mewar had been sent to Rana Udai Singh who had outrightly rejected it. Would it have been prudent on Pratap's part then to get a daughter of his house married to the Mughals to "protect" Mewar's interests? Could he accept such an alliance with someone who had unleashed one of the bloodiest massacres on his ancestral capital - the pride of Ranas - Chittorgarh, just a few years back ? The answer to these questions he could seek from the tradtional glory of his house which had ever stood to the 'purity', 'sanctity' & uncompromised freedom, since the times of Bappa Rawal (734 AD). Pratap would never go against the custom of his dynasty by marrying his daughter to a person from another community.

Those of you who have read the detailed blog articles posted under the Battle of Chittor series may recall that some Mewar nobles had approached Akbar, 3 months after the beginning of the Mughal seige of the Fort of Chittor, with a proposal for a peace treaty. Both the sides were almost exhausted by the war by then. The Rajput nobles had suggested that Mewar and the Mughal empire could co-exist peacefully without any mutual interference in each other's matters. Despite the advice of his generals to accept this proposal, an obdurate Akbar did not accept it because the Rajput nobles made it clear that Rana Udai Singh would not pay personal homage to Akbar. History witnessed the tragedy that unfolded subsequently. 

Possible Reasons for Maharana Pratap's Reluctance to Submit to the Mughals

Maharana Pratap had taken a clear stand that he would never present himself in the Mughal court and submit to Akbar's sovereignty. Indeed this stand was taken by the Mewar Rajputs across generations, whether it was Rana Udai Singh or Rana Amar Singh.

An interesting question comes up now. So just why were the Rajputs so against submitting themselves in front of the Mughal emperor if it ensured safety for their kingdom and its people? Was it a case of their personal ego overriding the interests of the public, or were there some issues which require a deep insight ?

Let us look at the scenario when a Rajput king accepted Akbar as his sovereign, to understand the answer to this question.

-> Any Rajput king who submitted to Akbar had to surrender his possessions to the emperor and receive them back as a jagir for the Mansab to which he was appointed.

-> His land was in reality an imperial jagir and the Rajput king could be sent anywhere in the Mughal empire by imperial orders. Readers would be aware, for instance, how Raja Man Singh served Akbar in various places across the Mughal empire.

-> The Rajput king's army was at the command of the emperor and the emperor could even change the line of succession in the Rajput kingdom.

-> Besides rendering a personal homage to the Mughal Emperor, it was essential for the Rajput king either to be present at the imperial court himself or to keep his eldest son in attendance on the emperor.

-> Along with all these statutes came another unwritten injunction. Almost every Rajput king who submitted to Akbar had to enter into a matrimonial alliance with Akbar - this was a policy. For instance, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and, of course, Amer, established such matrimonial alliances with Akbar. {There were rare exceptions to this custom, such as the Hada (Chauhans) Rajputs of Ranthambore.}

-> There were also other minor indignities like mounting guard on the imperial camp and to keep standing when in court. {The Hadas were granted exemption from such practices too and were even allowed to carry their weapons in the Mughal court, an act that was forbidden for most nobles.}

Behind these rarest of rare exemptions granted to the Hada Rajputs is a deep story. Let us reserve it for another day. 

Returning to our present discussion, in the light of the above customs that were imposed on a Rajput vassal by the Mughals, would a highly self-respecting individual like Pratap have surrendered Mewar? Sacrificing his principles, surrendering the independence of his people and living a life of such indignity just to safeguard his kingdom was unthinkable for Pratap. He was an independent ruler and not ready to accede so many privileges to Akbar just to be able to continue to rule over his own kingdom. 

Just for the record, Pratap's son, Rana Amar Singh and Akbar's son, Jahangir reached an agreement after a few decades on the condition that Amar Singh would never present himself in the Mughal court. Before this treaty, Rana Amar Singh had also fought against the Mughals for 17 years (1597-1614), not including the wars he fought under his father's command. Thus it seems that the Mughals and the Mewar Rajputs could have reached a mutually beneficial pact before either the battle of Chittor or the battle of Haldighati, but for Akbar's personal desire to see the Mewar Rana bow to him.

In the meantime, while the negotiations for peace were going on, Pratap got valuable time to consolidate his kingdom, motivate his people to stand against the Mughals, increase his military strength and make future plans. He refused the Mughal overtures with great tact and intelligence. He was willing to go to any length to protect the independence of Mewar. By treating Akbar's embassies with utmost courtesy and respect, Pratap was buying time to prepare himself for any Mughal attack and ensured that any unwise / hasty act on his part did not prove deadly for Mewar.

Both sides did try in their own way to avert another Chittor, but a truce was impossible as their mutual interests of imperialism and independence clashed. 

We will see the measures taken by Maharana Pratap to strengthen Mewar, after coming to the throne in 1572 till the battle of Haldighati in 1576, in a separate article.

Ultimately, all proposals failed, as neither Akbar nor Pratap was willing to go back on their "principles" - Akbar wished to subdue Pratap and expand the Mughal empire, while Pratap wanted to retain the independence of Mewar at any cost. A fatal battle was the only option left and that is how the Battle of Haldighati became unavoidable.

The battle was truly symbolic of the raw courage, spirit of sacrifice, and loyalty of the Rajputs in their heroic defence of their motherland against a much stronger and powerful empire. After this battle, Pratap's resolve to resist the Mughals became stronger and he refused to consider a pact with the Mughals under any conditions.The civilians and tribals of Mewar were the real heroes of this struggle because it was their unconditional support to Pratap, which enabled him to unwaveringly wage the long and bitter struggle against the Mughals. History proves that in any movement / struggle, along with an able leader the faithful support of masses is equally important

As was mentioned in a previous post in the Battle of Chittor series {Link},

"Those who have the wealth of self-esteem live a long life.
For those who don't have self-esteem, what is the use of wealth and long life?"

The memorable scene from the Battle of Haldighati - Maharana Pratap charges against Raja Man Singh. Silver Slab.

Thanks to Abhay for his invaluable contribution to this post.
Article Category : Rajputs , Mughals(Akbar).

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