The brave children of Bharat Ma who fought the Mughals

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The brave children of Bharat Ma who fought the Mughals

Anupama Nair

I had written about Rana Sanga, who gave up his life against Babur. However, his ancestor Pratap Singh I, popularly known as Maharana Pratap never lost to Akbar and remained victorious till the end. He was given the title “Mewari Rana” and was notable for his military resistance against the expansionism of the Mughals and is well known for his participation in the Battle of Haldighati. Pratap Singh was unhappy he had not been to his beloved city Chittor since 156, as Akbar had control of Chittor but not the kingdom of Mewar. His home now beckoned to him. The pain of his father's death, and the fact that his father also had not been able to see Chittor again, troubled the young Maharana deeply. But he was not the only one troubled at this time. Akbar realized that his ambition of being the “Shehanshah-e-Hindustan” was doomed to failure,  so long as the people of Mewar supported their Maharana.

Akbar sent several emissaries to Mewar to get Rana Pratap to agree to sign a treaty, but Pratap was only willing to sign a peace treaty whereby the sovereignty of Mewar would be intact. In 1573, Akbar sent six diplomatic missions to Mewar to get Rana Pratap to agree to his orders, but Rana Pratap turned down each one of them. The last of these missions was headed by Raja Man Singh, the brother-in-law of Akbar. Maharana Pratap, was infuriated that his fellow Rajput was with someone who had forced the submission of all Rajputs. The lines were completely drawn now — Akbar understood that Maharana Pratap would never submit and he would have to use his troops against Mewar. Akbar’s course of action like any tyrant was first try with false promises of peace, if it did not work attack by treason.

In preparation for the inevitable war with the Mughals, Maharana Pratap decided to change the city of his administration. He moved his capital to Kumbhalgarh, where he was born. He commanded his subjects to leave for the Aravali mountains and leave behind nothing for the approaching enemy – and the war would be fought in a mountain terrain which the Mewar army was used to but not the Mughals. It is a testament to the respect the young king had amongst his subjects that they obeyed him and left for the mountains. The Bhils of the Aravalis also supported him. The army of Mewar now raided all the Mughal trade caravans going from Delhi to Surat. A section of his army guarded the all-important Haldighati Pass, the only way to get into Udaipur from the North. Maharana Pratap himself undertook several penances, not because his finances forced him to do so, but because he wished to remind himself, and all his subjects, why they were undertaking this pain — to win back their freedom, their right to exist as they wished. He made a promise to eat from leaf-plates, would sleep on the floor and would not shave. In his self-inflicted state of penury, the Maharana lived in mud-huts made from mud and bamboo.

The famous battle of Haldighati was fought in 1576, with 20,000 Rajputs against a Mughal army of 80,000 men commanded by Raja Man Singh. The battle was fiercely fought, and there was no decisive result which was a matter of great astonishment to the Mughals. Maharana Pratap's army was not defeated even though his army was surrounded by the Mughal soldiers. It is said that at this point, his estranged brother, Shakti Singh, appeared and saved the Rana's life. The greatest casualty of this war was the loyal, horse Chetak, who gave up his life trying to save his master. After the Battle of Haldighati, Akbar tried several times to take over the kingdom of Mewar but  failed each time.

Rattled by Pratap’s strength and valor, Akbar relinquished his obsessive pursuit of Maharana Pratap and took his battles into Punjab and India's Northwest Frontier. For the last ten years of his life, Maharana Pratap ruled in relative peace and eventually freed most of Mewar, including Udaipur and Kumbhalgarh, but not Chittor. “Maharana Pratap Singh called the light and life of the Hindu community. There were times when he and his family and children ate bread made of grass”.

Next I am going to talk about the greatest sons of Bharat Ma – Chattrapati Shivaji, who fought against the tyranny. Shivaji Bhonsle, also known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, was a great warrior king and a member of the Bhonsle clan. Shivaji carved out an “enclave from the declining Adilshahi Sultanate of Bijapur that formed the genesis of the Maratha Empire”.

It was his brave mother Jija Bai, who made her great son Chhatrapati. Right from his childhood, Jija mata would tell him about the lives of Shri Ram, Maruti, Shri Krishna and also stories from Mahabharata and Ramayana to make him pious and patriotic. Thus, she molded him into an ideal ruler by sowing seeds of devotion to the idea of Swaraj and Swadharma. She was not only a mother to Shivaji, but also a source of inspiration to her son.

Shivaji's army marched towards Konkan and Kolhapur. They seized the Panhala Fort, and defeated again the army of Bijapur under Rustam Zaman and Fazl Khan in 1659. In 1660, Adilshah sent his general Siddi Jauhar to attack Shivaji's southern border, in alliance with the Mughals who planned to attack from the north. At that time, Shivaji was living in Panhala Fort with his forces. Siddi Jauhar's army attacked Panhala, cutting off all supply routes to the fort. For the bombardment of the Panhala Fort, Siddi Jauhar had earlier, purchased grenades from the English East India Company at Rajapur to increase his efficiency, and also hired some English artillerymen to assist him in his war with Shivaji. The betrayal angered Shivaji, who retaliated by plundering the English factory at Rajapur and captured four men, who were released after some months. When Shivaji Maharaj was trapped for four months when Siddi Jauhar had besieged Panhala fort, Jija had shouldered the responsibility of Swaraj till Shivaji escaped from the besieged fort. Jija Bai led the Marathas who were fighting Shaista Khan thus protecting the idea of Swaraj.

Shivaji’s greatness and love for Swaraj reached the ears of the cruelest Mughal emperor Aurangzeb who wanted to add the parts of Maratha Empire to his own. For expansion of  his idea of  Swaraj, conflict with the Mughals was inevitable. Aurangzeb chose Shaista khan, to be the Viceroy of the Deccan, ordering him to invade and annex Shivaji dominions. Shaista khan left Ahmednagar in 1660 and arrived in Pune. He decided to capture the fort of Chakan to obtain supplies. Though the killedar of the fort of Chakan, Firangoji Narsala offered a strong resistance to Shaista khan’s army, the Mughals captured the fort of Chakan. Shaista khan captured Swaraj's territories Pune and Supe and set up a camp at Lal Mahal in Pune.

The Mughal army began to destroy the regions around Pune. Shaista Khan adopted the strategy to occupy as much of Shivaji Maharaj’s territories as possible. Forces were dispatched to invade the Konkan region below the Ghats, Kalyan and Bhiwandi were captured by the Mughal army. Shaista Khan appointed Kartalab Khan on an expedition to the North Konkan. Shivaji defeated Kartalab Khan in Umbarkhind. He left Netoji Palkar to defend the North Konkan and he himself marched southwards and captured Dabhol, Chiplun, Sangameshwar, Rajapur, Palavani and Shringarpur.

Even after two years, Shaista Khan still would not think of leaving Pune. Shivaji Maharaj devised a bold plan, to drive away Shaista Khan. He raided Lal Mahal and in this raid, Shaista Khan lost his fingers. He was forced to leave Pune and shifted his camp to Aurangabad. The successful attack on Shaista khan resulted in the people believing the capabilities of Shivaji. He then devised a plan of attack on Surat. The Subedar of Surat could not put up any resistance to the Maratha army. Shivaji Maharaj obtained enormous wealth from Surat. The Surat campaign was a stunning blow to emperor Aurangzeb’s prestige. Shivaji then built  forts Suvarnadurg,  Sindhudurg and Vijaydurg. He also built a fort named Padmadurg on a small island near Rajpuri in order to counter the power of the Mughals.

The greatest achievement of Shivaji was to inculcate the spirit of independence in his people. Shivaji Maharaj’s personality and message are as relevant today as they were in the past. “Shivaji breathed new life into a moribund race that for centuries had resigned itself to abject serfdom and led them against Aurangzeb, a powerful Mughal ruler. Above all, in a place and age stained by religious savagery, he was one of the few rulers who practiced true religious tolerance.

Budelkhand Kesri, Maharaja Chhatrasal  was a warrior who chose to turn against the “cruelest and a man who killed millions for his sport”, Aurangzeb and seek to establish his  own kingdom in Bundelkhand. His father had raised “the banner for freedom” a generation earlier but was killed in battle with the Mughals but only after killing the favorite of the emperor, Abu Fazal. Chhatrasal also raised the banner of revolt against the Mughals in Bundelkhand at a young age of 22, with only an army of 5 horsemen and 25 swordsmen. During the first ten years of his revolt, he conquered a large tract of land between Chitrakoot and Panna on the east and Gwalior on the west. His domains stretched from Kalpi in the north to Sagar, Garah Kota and Damoh in the south.

Chhatrasal was a disciple of Pran Nathji and accepted him as his guru and accepted Pranami Dharma.  It was Swami Pran Nathji who told Raja Chhatrasal Bundela, regarding Diamond mines of  Panna  and  thus  strengthen  his  financial position.  He also persuaded Chhatrasal to make Panna his capital and arranged his coronation there. When Aurangzeb introduced Jaziya, the freedom loving people of Bundelkhand refused to pay and fight for freedom. As a result, deadly struggle which eventually spread over nearly fifty years, ensued with wave after wave of Mughal and Pathan attacks over the land. The atrocities of the Mughals against the innocent people of my country, only deepened the intensity of the people of Bundelkhand, to fight for freedom and vengeance of the killing of their own.

People who came to collect Jaziya were killed to send a message that they will not pay the tax. Aurangzeb himself led a huge expedition to Bundelkhand to capture them, but was forced to retreat without achieving any lasting success, leaving behind trails of horror and destruction, but still failing to subdue Chhatrasal and the Bundelas. With great happiness I would like to tell you, from then onwards the Maratha attacks began to shake and almost caused the disintegration of the Mughals and, after the death of Aurangzeb, the Bundelas steadily began to gain ground over their adversaries. The cream of the Mughal generals were sent one after the other to subdue the Bundelas but all their campaigns ended up in failure.

Chhatrasal, who was always inspired by the Hindu Hriday Samrat Shivaji’s call of Swaraj and Swadharm wanted to meet him. Shivaji was already the most celebrated and heroic Hindu figure of his times, who had faced the Mughals on equal terms and whose exploits and achievements, courage and idealism had won for him respect throughout India. Chhatrasal offered to serve Shivaji in latter’s war against Aurangzeb. But Shivaji suggested to him to start hostilities against Aurangzeb in Bundelkhand where he would gain many adherents. “Illustrious Chief! Conquer and subdue your foes. Recover and rule your native land …”.

These great sons of Bharat Ma did not bow to the tyrannical Mughals and fought hard to free Bharat Ma from their clutches.









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