A new book dispels some myths on Maharana Pratap

Published : November 16, 2018 17:07 IST

At a time when the government seems keen to rewrite medieval history, ostensibly to right some perceived wrongs, the publishing industry is doing its bit to dispel some of the myths and project bare facts. Following the books on Akbar, Aurangzeb, Jahangir and Shivaji, there is now a book on the Rajput king Maharana Pratap. The writer, Rima Hooja, is an archaeologist and historian from Rajasthan.

Maharana Pratap: The Invincible Warrior, published by Juggernaut, pulls no punches when it comes to depicting the famed Battle of Haldighati (1576) and dispelling many a fairy tale associated with him.

Haldighati, meaning turmeric valley, so called because of the turmeric-yellow colour of the soil in the region, is said to be a battle between Akbar, the greatest Mughal emperor, and Maharana Pratap, the bravest Rajput. Yet, as Hooja, candidly points out, the two never met. The famous battle was fought between two Rajputs, Pratap and Man Singh, the latter representing the Mughal emperor.

Quoting the historians Lloyd Rudolph and his wife Susanne in their introduction to Kesri Singh’s book on Haldighati, Hooja writes, “Man Singh of Amber was all that Pratap refused to be: commander of conquering Mughal armies, governor of Mughal provinces, an honoured figure at the Mughal court... which was solicitous to preserve his loyalty.”

Man Singh fought for expanding the Mughal empire by subsuming smaller kingdoms, Pratap fought to safeguard a small kingdom’s sovereignty. Without putting it in as many words, Hooja says that the Battle of Haldighati was just another political battle. To see shades of Islam on the march or Hinduism putting a spanner in the path would be foolhardy. The medieval Indian battles were all political. Alliances were formed for aggrandisement of empires and kingdoms, not popularising faith.

Interestingly, Hooja reserves more than a little corner for Maharana Pratap’s famed horse Chetak, which is said to have continued to gallop even after being badly injured in the battle that Pratap lost and barely escaped with his life. It is at this point that some historians tend to romanticise the battle by adding a meeting between Pratap and his estranged brother Shakti/Sakat Singh. It is claimed that as Pratap fell off the dying horse, he was rescued by his brother, who was ashamed of his own conduct of helping the Mughals in front of his brother. Hooja quotes the historian G.N Sharma to say that Shakti Singh probably died fighting on the Mewar side during the siege of Chittor in 1567-68. This and other fairy tales are laid to rest by Hooja in the book, which has just hit book stalls across the country.

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