Maharana Pratap: Mewar's greatest hero Born: May 9, 1540 in Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan Father's Name: Maharana Udai Singh II Mother's Name: Rani Jeevant Kanwar Died: January 29, 1597 in Chavand Maharana Pratap was born on May 9th 1540 in Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan. His father was Maharana Udai Singh II and his mother was Rani Jeevant Kanwar. Maharana Udai Singh II ruled the kingdom of Mewar, with his capital at Chittor. Maharana Pratap was the eldest of twenty-five sons and hence given the title of Crown Prince. He was destined to be the 54th ruler of Mewar, in the line of the Sisodiya Rajputs. In 1567, when Crown Prince Pratap Singh was only 27, Chittor was surrounded bythe Mughal forces of Emperor Akbar . Maharana Udai Singh II decided to leave Chittor and move his family to Gogunda, rather than capitulate to the Mughals. The young Pratap Singh wanted to stay back and fightthe Mughals but the elders intervened and convinced him to leave Chittor, oblivious of the fact that this movefrom Chittor was going to create history for all times to come. In Gogunda, Maharana Udai Singh II and his nobles set up a temporary government of thekindom of Mewar. In 1572, the Maharana passed away, leaving the way for Crown Prince Pratap Singh to become the Maharana. However, in his later years, the late Maharana Udai Singh II had fallen under the influence of his favorite queen, Rani Bhatiyani, and had willed that her son Jagmal should ascend to the throne. As the late Maharana's body was being taken to the cremation grounds, Pratap Singh, the Crown Prince decided to accompany the dead body of the Maharana. This was a departure from tradition as the Crown Prince did not accompanythe body of the departed Maharana but instead prepared to ascend the throne, such that the line of succession remained unbroken. Pratap Singh, in deferenceto his father's wishes, decided to let his half-brotherJagmal become the next king. However, knowingthis to be disastrous for Mewar, the late Maharana's nobles,especially the Chundawat Rajputs, forced Jagmal to leave the throne to Pratap Singh. Unlike Bharat, Jagmal did not willingly give up the throne. He swore revenge and left for Ajmer, to join the armies of Akbar, where hewas offered a jagir - the town of Jahazpur - in return for his help. Meanwhile, Crown Prince Pratap Singh became Maha Rana Pratap Singh I, 54th ruler of Mewar in the line of the Sisodiya Rajputs. In the course of the year 1573, Akbar sent six diplomatic missions to Mewar to get Rana Pratapto agree to the former's suzerainty 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 himself. Maharana Pratap, angered that his fellow Rajput was aligned with someone who had forced the submission of all Rajputs, refused tosup with Raja Man Singh. The lines were completely drawn now - Akbar understood that Maharana Pratap would never submit and he would have to use his troops against Mewar. With the failure of efforts to negotiate a peace treaty in 1573, Akbar blockaded Mewar from the rest of the world and alienated Mewar's traditional allies, some of whom were Maharana Pratap's own kith and kin. Akbar then tried to turn the people of the all-important Chittor district against their king so they would not help Pratap. He appointed KunwarSagar Singh, a younger brother ofPratap, to rule the conquered territory, However,Sagar, regretting his own treachery, soon returned from Chittor, and committed suicide with a dagger in the Mughal Court. Shakti Singh, Pratap's younger brother now with the Mughal army, is said to have fled the Mughal court temporarily and warned his brother of Akbar's actions. In preparation for the inevitable war with the Mughals, Maharana Pratap altered 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 - the war would be fought ina mountain terrainwhich the Mewar army was used to but not the Mughals. It is a testament to the young king's respect amongst his subjects that they obeyed him and left for the mountains. The Bhils of the Aravalis were completely behind him. The army of Mewar now raidedMughal 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 wishedto 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 foreswore that he would 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. In 1576, the famous battle of Haldighati was fought with 20,000 Rajputs against a Mughal army of 80,000 men commanded by Raja Man Singh. The battle was fierce though indecisive, to the Mughal army's astonishment. Maharana Pratap's army was not defeated but Maharana Pratap was surrounded byMughal soldiers. It is said that at this point, his estranged brother, Shakti Singh , appeared and saved the Rana's life. Another casualty of this war was MaharanaPratap's famous, and loyal, horse Chetak, who gave up his life trying tosave his Maharana.