Battle of Haldighati
The Battle of Haldighati was a battle fought on 18 June 1576 between cavalry and archers supporting the Rana of Mewar, Maharana Pratap; and the Mughal emperor Akbar's forces, led by Man Singh I of Amber. The Mughals were the victors and inflicted significant casualties among the Mewaris but failed to capture Pratap, who escaped.
|Battle of Haldighati|
Painting of the traditional account of the battle by Chokha of Devgarh, 1822
|Kingdom of Mewar||Mughal Empire|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
The grim Siege of Chittorgarh in 1568 had led to the loss of the fertile eastern belt of Mewar to the Mughals. However, the rest of the wooded and hilly kingdom was still under the control of the Rana. Akbar was intent on securing a stable route to Gujarat through Mewar; when Pratap Singh was crowned king (Rana) in 1572, Akbar sent a number of envoys entreating the Rana to become a vassal like many other Rajput leaders in the region. When the Rana refused to personally submit to Akbar, war became inevitable.
The site of the battle was a narrow mountain pass at Haldighati near Gogunda in Rajasthan. Maharana Pratap fielded a force of around 3,000 cavalry and 400 Bhil archers. The Mughals were led by Raja Man Singh of Amber, who commanded an army numbering around 5,000–10,000 men. After a fierce battle lasting more than three hours, Pratap found himself wounded and the day lost. While a few of his men bought him time, he managed to make an escape to the hills and lived to fight another day. The casualties for Mewar numbered around 1,600 men. The Mughal army lost 150 men, with another 350 wounded.
The Battle of Haldighati was a futile victory for the Mughals, as they were unable to oust Maharana Pratap. While they were able to capture Gogunda and nearby areas, they were unable to hold onto them for long. As soon as the empire's focus shifted elsewhere, Pratap and his army came out of hiding and recaptured the western regions of his dominion.
After his accession to the throne, Akbar had steadily settled his relationship with most of the Rajput states, with the exception of Mewar, acknowledged as the leading state in Rajasthan. The Rana of Mewar, who was also the head of the distinguished Sisodia clan, had refused to submit to the Mughal. This had led to the bloody Siege of Chittorgarh in 1568, during the reign of Udai Singh II, ending with the loss of a sizeable area of fertile territory in the eastern half of Mewar to the Mughals. When Rana Pratap succeeded his father on the throne of Mewar, Akbar dispatched a series of diplomatic embassies to him, entreating the Rajput king to become his vassal. Besides his desire to resolve this longstanding issue, Akbar wanted the woody and hilly terrain of Mewar under his control to secure lines of communication with Gujarat.
The first emissary was Jalal Khan Qurchi, a favoured servant of Akbar, who was unsuccessful in his mission. Next, Akbar sent Man Singh of Amber (later, Jaipur), a fellow Rajput of the Kachhwa clan, whose fortunes had soared under the Mughals. But he too failed to convince Pratap. Raja Bhagwant Das was Akbar's third choice, and he fared better than his predecessors. Rana Pratap was swayed sufficiently to don a robe presented by Akbar and sent his young son, Amar Singh, to the Mughal court. This was, however, deemed unsatisfactory by Akbar, who wanted the Rana himself to submit to him in person. A final emissary, Todar Mal, was sent to Mewar without any favourable outcome. With diplomacy having failed, war was inevitable.
Rana Pratap, who had been secure in the rock-fortress of Kumbhalgarh, set up his base in the town of Gogunda near Udaipur. Akbar deputed the Kachhwa, Man Singh, to battle with his clan's hereditary adversaries, the Sisodias of Mewar. Man Singh set up his base at Mandalgarh, where he mobilised his army and set out for Gogunda. Around 14 miles (23 km) north of Gogunda lay the village of Khamnor, separated from Gogunda by a spur of the Aravalli Range called "Haldighati" for its rocks which, when crushed, produced a bright yellow sand resembling turmeric powder (haldi). The Rana, who had been apprised of Man Singh's movements, was positioned at the entrance of the Haldighati pass, awaiting Man Singh and his forces.[a] The battle commenced three hours after sunrise on 18 June 1576.
Mewari tradition has it that the Rana's forces numbered 20,000, which were pitted against the 80,000-strong army of Man Singh. While Jadunath Sarkar agrees with the ratio of these numbers, he believes them to be just as exaggerated as the popular story of Rana Pratap's horse, Chetak, jumping upon Man Singh's war elephant. Satish Chandra estimates that Man Singh's army consisted of 5,000 men, a figure which included both the Mughals and the Rajputs.
According to Al Badayuni, who witnessed the battle, the Rana's army counted amongst its ranks 3,000 horsemen and around 400 Bhil archers led by Punja, the chieftain of Merpur. No infantry are mentioned. Man Singh's estimated forces numbered around 10,000 men. Of these, 4,000 were members of his own clan, the Kachhwas of Jaipur, 1,000 were other Hindu reserves, and 5,000 were Muslims of the Mughal imperial army.
Both sides possessed war elephants, but the Rajputs bore no firearms. The Mughals fielded no wheeled artillery or heavy ordnance, but did employ a number of muskets.
Rana Pratap's estimated 800-strong van was commanded by Hakim Khan Sur with his Afghans, Bhim Singh of Dodia, and Ramdas Rathor (son of Jaimal, who defended Chittor). The right wing was approximately 500-strong and was led by Ram Sah Tonwar, the erstwhile king of Gwalior, and his three sons, accompanied by minister Bhama Shah and his brother Tarachand. The left wing is estimated to have fielded 400 warriors, including Bida Jhala[b] and his clansmen of Jhala. Pratap, astride his horse, led some 1,300 soldiers in the centre. Bards, priests, and other civilians were also part of the formation and took part in the fighting. The Bhil bowmen brought up the rear.
The Mughals placed a contingent of 85 skirmishers on the front line, led by Sayyid Hashim of Barha. They were followed by the vanguard, which comprised a complement of Kachhwa Rajputs led by Jagannath, and Central Asian Mughals led by Bakhshi Ali Asaf Khan. A sizeable advance reserve led by Madho Singh Kachhwa came next, followed by Man Singh himself with the centre. The Mughal left wing was commanded by Mulla Qazi Khan (later known as Ghazi Khan) of Badakhshan and Rao Lonkarn of Sambhar and included the Shaikhzadas of Fatehpur Sikri, kinsmen of Salim Chisti. The strongest component of the imperial forces were stationed in the pivotal right wing, which comprised the Sayyids of Barha. Lastly, the rear guard under Mihtar Khan stood well behind the main army.
Due to the disparity between the two armies, the Rana chose to mount a full frontal assault on the Mughals, committing all of his men. The desperate charge initially paid dividends. Hakim Khan Sur and Ramdas Rathor ran through the Mughal skirmishers and fell upon the vanguard, while Ram Sah Tonwar and Bhama Shah wreaked havoc upon the Mughal left wing, who were forced to flee. They took refuge with their right wing, which was also being heavily pressured by Bida Jhala. Both Mulla Qazi Khan and the captain of the Fatehpur Sikri Shaikhzadas were wounded, but the Sayyids of Barha held firm and earned enough time for Madho Singh's advance reserves to enter the fray.
After spooking the Mughal left wing, Ram Sah Tonwar manoeuvred himself towards the centre to join his commander. He was able to shield Pratap Singh successfully until he was slain by Jagannath Kachhwa. Soon, the Mughal van, which was being sorely pressed, was bolstered by the arrival of Madho Singh, elements of the left wing which had recovered, and remnants of Sayyid Hashim's skirmishers from the front. In the meantime, the two centres had clashed, and the fighting had become more conventional as the momentum of the Mewari charge was spent. The Rana was unable to directly meet Man Singh and was mostly pitted against Madho Singh Kachhwa. The Dodia clan leader, Bhim Singh, did get to take on the Mughal commander atop his elephant and was killed.
Looking to break the deadlock and regain momentum, the Maharana ordered his prize elephant, the "rank-breaking Lona" into the fray. Man Singh's riposte was to send in Gajmukta ("pearl among elephants") to confront Lona head-on. The men on the field were thrown around as the two mountain-like animals clashed against each other. Lona appeared to have the upper hand when its mahout was wounded by a bullet and he had to turn back. Another elephant by the name of Ram Prasad, the head of the stable and an animal much praised in Akbar's court, was pushed in to replace Lona. Two imperial elephants, Gajraj and Ran-madar, were sent in to relieve the wounded Gajmukta, and they charged at Ram Prasad. The driver of Ram Prasad was also wounded, this time by an arrow, and he fell off his mount. Husain Khan, a Mughal faujdar, leapt from his own elephant onto Ram Prasad and made the enemy animal a Mughal prize.
With the loss of their war elephants, the Mughals were able to press the Mewaris from three sides, and soon their leaders began to fall one by one. The tide of the battle had shifted, and Rana Pratap soon found himself wounded by arrow and spear. Realising that the day was lost, Bida Jhala seized the royal umbrella from his commander and charged at the Mughals, claiming to be the Rana himself. His sacrifice, and that of 350 other soldiers who stayed behind and fought to buy time, allowed their Rana and half of their army to escape. The bravery of the Rajputs and the fear of ambush in the hills meant that the Mughals did not give chase, and this allowed Pratap Singh to fight another day.
Ramdas Rathor was one of those slain on the field after over three hours of battle. The three sons of Ram Sah Tonwar—Salivahan, Bahan, and Pratap Tonwar—joined their father in death. In toto, the Mewari army counted 46% of its total strength, or roughly 1,600 men, among the casualties. Only 150 of the Mughals met their end, with another 350 wounded.[c]
With Rana Pratap able to make a successful escape, the battle failed to break the deadlock between the two powers. Subsequently, Akbar led a sustained campaign against the Rana, and soon, Goganda, Udaipur, and Kumbhalmir were all under his control. Pressure was exerted by the Mughals upon the Rana's allies and other Rajput chiefs, and he was slowly but surely both geographically and politically isolated. The Mughals' focus shifted to other parts of the empire after 1579, which allowed Rana Pratap to recover much of the lost territory in the western parts of his kingdom. Chittor and the rest of eastern Mewar continued to remain under Mughal control.
Haldighati is often claimed to have been a battle for Rajput or even Hindu honour against the Muslim Mughals. However, considering that both sides featured the Hindu Rajputs, and the Mewar army was also served by Hakim Khan Sur's Muslim Afghans, any arguments concerning religious conflict have little credence. According to Satish Chandra, the Battle of Haldighati was, at best, "an assertion of the principle of local independence" in a region prone to internecine warfare. Honour was certainly involved. But it was the honour of Maharana Pratap at stake, not Rajput or Hindu honour.
- Sarkar and a few other sources prefer to call the spur Haldighat rather than Haldighati.
- Sarkar also names him Bida Mana.
- According to Sarkar, "On the generally accepted calculation that the wounded are three times as many as the slain, the Mewar army that day endured casualties to the extent of 46 per cent of its total strength." Assuming that the total strength being spoken of here is 3,400, 46% would give a figure of 1,564 which has been rounded to 1,600.
- de la Garza 2016, p. 56.
- Sarkar 1960, p. 75.
- Chandra 2005, pp. 119–120.
- Sarkar 1960, pp. 75–77.
- Chandra 2005, p. 120.
- Sarkar 1960, p. 80.
- Sarkar 1960, p. 77–78.
- Sarkar 1960, p. 77.
- Sarkar 1960, pp. 78–79.
- Sarkar 1960, p. 78.
- Abu'l-Fazl. "PHI Persian Literature in Translation". persian.packhum.org.
- Sarkar 1960, pp. 79–81.
- Royal Asiatic Society.
- Sarkar 1960, pp. 80–81.
- Sarkar 1960, pp. 81–82.
- Sarkar 1960, pp. 80–83.
- Chandra 2005, pp. 120–121.
- Sarkar 1960, p. 82.
- Sarkar 1960, p. 83.
- Chandra 2005, pp. 121–122.
- Chandra 2005, pp. 121.
- Eraly 2000, p. 144.
- Sarkar, Jadunath (1960). Military History of India. Orient Longmans. pp. 75–81.
- Chandra, Satish (2005). Medieval India (Part Two): From Sultanat to the Mughals. Har-Anand Publications. ISBN 9788124110669.
- Eraly, Abraham (2000). Emperors of the peacock throne : the saga of the great Mughals (Revised ed.). New Delhi: Penguin books. ISBN 9780141001432.
- de la Garza, Andrew (2016). The Mughal Empire at War: Babur, Akbar and the Indian Military Revolution, 1500-1605. Routledge.
- Charley, Nancy. "The Elephants in the (Reading) Room – Royal Asiatic Society". royalasiaticsociety.org. Royal Asiatic Society. Retrieved 17 July 2017.
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Mughal-era historians on the battle
(Rana Pratap is referred to as Rana Kika in many of these sources.)