Maharana Pratap remains one of our most iconic leaders and kings. But did you know that he almost wasn’t king? Here’s an excerpt from ‘Maharana Pratap The Invincible Warrior’ by Rima Hooja.
The horses were saddled and waiting at the outskirts of the rugged fort of Gogunda, nestled in the hills of Mewar. Everything was ready for Prince Pratap’s quick and quiet departure. But before he left, there was one last thing to do. Bending down to gather up some earth from the ground, he applied a pinch on his forehead, and tied the rest in a piece of cloth which he tucked away in a corner of his turban. Wherever fortune would take him, he would carry the soil of his beloved Mewar with him.
Within the ramparts of Gogunda, the funeral rites of Mewar’s ruler and Pratap’s father, Maharana Udai Singh II, were taking place. As the eldest son, and widely regarded as the most able and gifted, the thirty-one-year-old Prince Pratap should have succeeded him, but the dying Rana had declared that his chosen heir was Pratap’s younger half- brother, Prince Jagmal, born of his favourite wife. Prince Pratap, refusing to squabble over the throne of Mewar with his half-brother – a move which could have plunged Mewar into civil war – decided to leave quietly with his small retinue, while everyone was busy with the royal funeral. But even as he gathered up the reins and mounted his horse, several of his father’s senior courtiers and kinsmen suddenly arrived and stopped him.They told Prince Pratap that he was the people’s favourite as well as theirs, and that as Maharana Udai Singh’s eldest son he was now their king.
Despite his privileged upbringing, Prince Pratap never enjoyed his father’s affection as a boy because of Maharana Udai Singh’s preference for the children of the queen he loved best – his Bhattiyani clan wife, Dheer Bai. No doubt the Rana’s favourite wife put pressure on him to declare her own son Jagmal as his heir, but Udai Singh’s indifference to Pratap may also have sprung from his reluctance to acknowledge that Jagmal was a pale shadow to Pratap, and that Udai Singh’s eldest son was a better warrior and rider, a keener student, a wiser decision maker, more courteous and even-tempered and far better liked by the nobles as well as the common people. In his eagerness to please Dheer Bai, Rana Udai Singh was perhaps blind to the virtues of Pratap and the faults of Jagmal.
As a result, Pratap did not receive from his father the respect and privileges that were his due as the eldest son and heir apparent. For example, when Pratap was living in Chittor as a youth (according to a later text, the Amarsar, written in the reign of Pratap’s son, Maharana Amar Singh by Pandit Jivadhar7) arrangements were made for Prince Pratap to live in a village near the sprawling base of Chittor’s fort. He was attended by just a small contingent of ten Rajputs. This was scarcely the norm for the firstborn son of the ruler of Mewar, who would normally have lived in the designated Kunwar-pada Ro Mahal (palace of the prince) within Chittor fort, and had a much larger retinue attending on him. The rations allocated to him from the royal stores were frugal, barely enough for his men and himself. Pratap fell into the habit of eating his meagre meal sitting alongside his men. His ability to take hardship in his stride would be to his advantage in later years, when he would have to live in conditions of severe adversity.
Continue reading about the conquests of this incredible ruler as ‘Maharana Pratap: The Invincible Warrior’ becomes free on 13th October 2021 as part of #ReadersChoice!