Full Name: Maharana Pratap Singh
Born/Died: 1540 - 1597
Weapon Speciality: Spear, Sword, Shield
Notable Battles: Battle of Haldighati
The Maharana was born a prince into a Hindu Rajput family, and would go on to become King after his Fathers passing. The Rajputs were known to prepare all male children since birth for combat, even girls received self defence training. The word itself 'Rajput' meaning sons of kings. He was the eldest son of to Udai Singh II and Jaiwanta Bai and luckily was coronated over one of his younger brothers, Jagmal. The Mewar Principality stood in a mountainous region and it's warriors were known to be tough and fight using guerrilla tactics. They were largely made up light cavalry, but also still utilised war elephants.
Although the Chittorgarh Siege - 1567 had meant that the Mughals had taken some of the Eastern belt of Mewar, Rana Udai Singh II still controlled most of the wooded, hilly land of Mewar. Perhaps the geography making it easier for the native Rajputs to hold their ground against the Mughals. After Pratap's coronation in 1572, Akbar, Mughal emperor sent envoys to the new King, requesting that he became a vassal Mughal State and submit to Islam. Akbar had his eyes on Mewar so that he could get to Gujarat and it's trading ports to do business with the Ottomans and Safavids. Whilst many Rajput's submitted, Maharana Pratap both refused to become a vassal or to convert to Islam. Akbar reacted just as expected and sent Man Singh (another Hindu Rajput), up against the Maharana.
Battle Of Haldighati
Some reports put the Mughal numbers at 5 to 1 verses the Rajputs, Akbar didn't just want a battle. He sent enough men to crush the smaller principality, but his heavy artillery however was not so effective in the Mewar territory. Maharana Pratap gathered his war Elephants, 3,000 cavalry and 400 archers and chose the narrow mountain pass at Haldighati, hoping he could control the larger numbers of Mughals better. He actually made a full frontal charge at a huge Mughal force of up to 10,000 men. The battle raged on for 6 hours, Pratap loosing around half of his men. The Mughals shot even Hindu Rajputs on their own side as they were simply considered collateral damage. In the end a few hundred brave archers allowed the Maharana and about half of his forces to escape and live to fight another day.
The Rajput That Never Gave Up!
Pratap went into hiding for a few years following the defeat in Haldighati to much larger numbers, but he went on for decades being a thorn in the Mughals empire. He went on to recapture some his lost territory and perhaps fuelled rebellions in Bengal and Bihar. In 1582 Pratap then took Dewair off the Mughals, it seemed as though his tactics were working. Mewar was left alone by the Mughals for over a decade, allowing the Maharana to recover more land and to build a new capital for his people.
Historian, Satish Chandra noted that:
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. Rana Pratap's methods of sporadic warfare was later elaborated further by Malik Ambar, the Deccani general, and by Shivaji Maharaj
Painting of Maharana Pratap Singh by artist Raja Ravi Varma
Although there were indeed Hindu Rajputs on both sides of the battle, it's clear from the conversation below, that the Hindus were used as Cannon fodder by Mughal forces.
Badayuni asked Asaf Khan how to distinguish between the friendly and enemy Rajputs. Asaf Khan replied,
"Shoot at whomsoever you like, on whichever side they may be killed, it will be a gain to Islam"
Battle of Haldighati - 1576 by painter Chokha