(Last Updated on : 27/01/2012)
Haldighati Battle took place on June 18,1576 between the imperial forces of Mughal emperor Akbar and Rajput king of Mewar Maharana Pratap Singh I. The battle only lasted for four hours and was an indecisive battle, which signified, an `inglorious success` for the Mughals and `a glorious defeat` for Mewar. But still the battle of haldighati is remembered as most memorable episodes in Rajput annals.
History recounts that Haldighati battle was not fought in one day. By the mid Fifteen hundred century, Emperor Akbar had forced all Rajput kingdoms to become the part of his empire except Mewar. He could not make this leading Rajput force under his obedience. Akbar then changed his tactics. Throughout 1573, Akbar sent a series of emissaries to Rana Pratap with the proposal of peace treaty. Pratap singh agreed to sign the treaty but with the conditions of his own terms that he would not become submissive to any other rulers, particularly to any foreigner. And Mewar would not give up its independence. Akbar could not admit this rule. He was frustrated and humiliated and gathered the armies together and Mughal general Asaf Khan led the army. Rana Pratap`s enemy Raja Man Singh of Amber also took part in this mission to destroy Mewar. On May 3, 1576 the Mughals proceeded south towards the village of Haldighati, where in a pass Pratap singh was waiting for the Mughal army in his temporary capital of Kumbhalgarh. Local tribal communities Bhils were also incorporated in this battle of Haldighati.
On June 18,1576 The Mughal army started to move. Before sunrise when the dawn broke, Bhil watchers saw the huge army of Mughal crossed the river and gathered near Khamnor. Pratap Singh moved his army at the neck of the Haldighati Pass. The Rajput Army halted and waited for the right moment to strike. Rana Pratap was a legendary warrior who looked impressive with his helmet, chain-armor over a white tunic. Rana Pratap sat proudly on his horse Chetak. Chetak was a handsome white Arab stallion that was his closest ally in many battlefields. The horse was adorned with colorful and beautiful flexible armors that ended in a mask that resembled a fantastic elephant head. This was designed to terrify the enemy army and protect the horse from enemy`s war elephants with an assumption that elephants would think it as an elephant and would not harm another elephant. With one hand Pratap gripped his huge sword and with other hand he hold the ancient banner of the house of Mewar. The banner had crimson background with the golden face of Sun God at the center.
With the advent of the day the Mughal army came even nearer. Ground trembled by the march past of the huge Mughal army and hence began a terrific battle, the battle of Haldighati. Soon, a cloud of dust rose over the distant tree lines, covering the morning sun. Maharana Pratap led his army direct into a larger phalanx of troops under Qazi Khan. His war elephants covered the rear portion. An immediate panic spread among the Mughal army. As the youth group of Mewar started to attack with the arrows on the Mughal force, the fighters were waffled and then stumbled back across the rocky terrain. The poisoned thorn bushes cut into their clothing and skin. The retreating army collided headlong with the youth warriors. A total chaos prevailed, horses screamed in fear, swords broke off, muskets cracked, arrows were strike off from the bows and the other sounds that could be heard of was either war cry or death howl.
A band of Mughals turned and fled but they clashed straight with a line of Rajput troops entering from the right. There were many deaths and wounded from both sides and the ground turned scarlet by the blood flow at the battle of Haldighati. Rana Pratap and his group came out of the narrow pass but clashed directly with Qazi Khan and the Sheikhzadas of Sikri. The result was a fierce battle, the enemy army was broken and fled away but they did not stop until they reached within the 16 kilometers of the river. There they were confronted by the rear guards. The Mughal army reformed for a new assault. Already Rana Pratap and chetak had sustained several wounds but fearlessly he hold high his crimson banner and led his men deeper into the enemy army troop. A wall of Emperors war elephants were brought forward to stop the advancement of Mewar`s war elephants, thereby halting his persisting victory charge. An isolated musket ball killed the mahout of a Mughal elephant. The elephant was out of control and ran wildly trampling all in its path. There was also an impact in opposing elephants and they attacked the unprotected flesh with their sword like tusks attacking from different corners Pratap and his troop entered into the heart of the enemy and tried to encounter Man Singh and his heavy artillery. The loss of this artillery neutralized Mughal`s advantage over Mewar.
Above the din and bustle of the battle of Haldighati, Rana Pratap could hear a familiar war cry and spun back to look at. He found Man Singh was standing in his Elephant`s howdah and encouraged his men to stop the advancement of Mewar army. Pratap advanced towards Man Singh. No weapon could stop his proceedings. He made his way through the Mughal generals. Chetak halted and threw up dust but collided with the armor plate of the elephant. The horse stood against the huge beast in his rear legs. Man Singh was partly covered by his Mahout but Pratap surged his lance towards the Howdah. The weapon passed through the elephant`s driver`s body killing him instantly and broke the howdah`s metal plates. Man Singh was disappeared. Pratap thought that he had killed Man Singh and cried out for the triumph. The driverless elephant moved around in a panic and the broadsword attached to its trunk cut through the tendons of one of the hind legs of Chetak.
Pratap did not know about this wound of Chetak`s. He forced Chetak to rejoin his men. The horse now had the use of only three legs but he advanced valiantly out of great zeal. Man Singh was simply hiding behind the Howdah`s railing for protection. After a few moments he struggled down through the elephant`s neck and tried to control his panicked army. The imperial cavalry now rushed to guard their commander and surrounded Pratap. A Mughal officer, Bahlol Khan charged the Maharana. Pratap gathered his energy for an almighty blow. His heavy sword sliced through the headpiece of Mughals and the body of Mughals but soon Chetak`s condition worsens. The other Mughals now found Pratap on their grip. Still Pratap continued the battle of Haldighati, with great effort and forced his way back to the main body of Mewar`s force though Chetak was limping and stumbling. Suddenly a great din of kettledrums was heard from the rear of the imperial ranks. Pratap forced his way through the muddled dead bodies. The Rajputs suddenly found that the Mughals were making their entry and Man Singh followed closely the head of soldiers and horsemen.
Rana Pratap attempted one more time to destroy the Rajput traitor in the Haldighati Battle. One of his officers Jhala Man of Sadri, snatched the royal flag of Mewar from Pratap`s hand and was determined to fight the rear guard until the other part of Pratap`s army reached to protect them. He yelled at his army "Ride swiftly to safety!" Pratap took a wise decision though he was reluctant to utter this. He ordered the remaining of his village chiefs to take their men to the village Koliyari, where arrangements were previously made to treat the wounded.
Jhala waved the Sun-God banner and rallied his men to meet the enemy`s counterattack. The remainder of the Mewar army disappeared into the cover of hills. Pratap made his way to an outcrop of rock. He tried to look back at the swirling dust that came out of the battlefield. For sometime he was able to follow the progress of his crimson banner. And then, to his extreme agony, he fell. His attendant took Pratap`s bridle. Chetak was now limping badly and Rana Pratap fainted from the loss of blood as he had sustained seven severe wounds from musket, sword and lance.
Pratap was saved by his brother Sakta. Chetak, after carrying his master safely to his destiny, died. Pratap joined the remainder of his men after recovering a bit from the wound. The battle of haldighati continued in guerilla manner. The battle was significant for the tenacity displayed by Rajputs and Bhils and the art of defensive mountain warfare. Maharana Pratapsingh established a great example of courage and bravery in the battle of Haldighati.